Me: I’m not sure if it’s lack of strength or fear.
Coach: Welcome to parkour. It’s probably fear.
In case it is not evident from the title of this site, I am fat.
I have been fat my entire life.
It wasn’t until two years ago that I stopped thinking of fat as a bad thing, a limitation, a disability, a challenge to be overcome, or a temporary condition (thanks in no small part to this book), and it was only in the last few months that I’ve started to become really interested in exploring the capabilities of fat bodies.
As a result, I’ve started taking parkour classes, and since this is becoming a bit of an obsession and will probably become something I write about frequently, I thought I’d start by detailing some of the reasons I’m doing it.
1.Lack of role models – Like I said when I went rock climbing, there just aren’t enough images of diverse bodies doing physical activities.
When you’ve only ever seen thin, muscular bodies doing certain activities, it becomes easy to assume that other kinds of bodies can’t do those things. One of my goals for this year is to be able to do a handstand, so I’ve been actively seeking out images of diverse bodies doing them. As you might imagine, there are not many. (Check out My Name is Jessamyn and Supportive Yoga for two of them… okay, well, like… the only two. But they’re awesome!)
So since I’m down with my body looking like it does and putting pictures of it wherever I can, I figure I’m probably a good candidate to help fix this problem. It doesn’t hurt that I am fairly flexible, decently strong, generally able, and have a big dance and martial arts background. This combination of things leads me to believe that eventually in the not-too-distant future, I will be able to do more cool shit and post pictures of it on the internet.
And hopefully this will inspire more folks and we will have more diverse images of bodies doing things and more people will stop believing society bullshit about their limitations and so on and so forth.
2. Bodies can do cool shit. Bodies of all sizes, shapes, and abilities can do cool shit. Not all bodies can do all the things, obviously, but mine can run and jump and climb and swing and balance, and that’s all pretty freakin’ awesome.
When I used to be in theatre, I used to love climbing and working at heights (one of the many reasons I was an electrician and not a sound designer) and I seriously miss it now that I sit at a desk all day.
So it feels good to be running, jumping, climbing and moving in ways my body was designed to move. My body likes it.
In fact, it might like it too much, based on the amount of effort I have to exert at work not to go practicing on the office equipment.
3. Everything they told me was wrong. Many of the things I’ve blindly accepted in life based on the “common wisdom” are just completely wrong. And each time I prove one wrong, it feels really good and super empowering.
So why should I trust them when they tell me that there are limitations on my body due to its size?
I’m doing parkour because I’m choosing to believe that anything is possible and that many of the things I’ve always believed were inaccessible to me are actually achievable with a bit of work.
And, as I like to say, there’s only one way to actually find out…
4. There is a difference between a physical and a mental limitation. So first of all, kudos to the coach who told me in class yesterday that “it’s probably fear.” And the truth is, he’s right.
The limitations in my head are likely stronger and more lasting than the limitations of my strength and flexibility, but until I test them, I’ll never know for sure. And using my body weight as an excuse not to try? Well, that’s just not how I want to live.
Happily, the parkour philosophy is very much about challenging these mental limitations and overcoming fears in ways that feel really awesome and empowering, and the community has done an exceedingly good job at making me feel like I belong, regardless of ability. (More on that soon.)
I think it’s a match.
[That all being said, let me restate that it is nobody's job to prioritize health or physical activity in any way, and nobody has to try to overcome fear or push past their mental boundaries or learn to do handstands either. These are not my attempts to "be a good fatty" or to perform fitness activities in order to appear compliant with societal beliefs about how I should be actively attempting to change or manipulate my body in some way. I am doing parkour. I am also fat. I plan to continue doing parkour, and I fully expect to continue to be fat. Pushing limits and overcoming fear and just generally being an adrenaline junkie are just things I like to do and feel good about doing, and I have a healthy and able body that lets me do them. My choices are not intended as judgement on anyone else or as anything other than personal choices.]
So, here’s picture #1. It may look like I’m sweaty and tired and slightly annoyed (okay, those things are probably all true), but take into account the fact that I walked across the top of the rail that the guy in the background is folded over, then swung across the rail above the guy in the green shirt, landed on the one where I’m sitting and sat down… because yeah, my body can do that shit.
The conversation that is causing me to make that face at the coach was something like this:
Me: Wait, let me stand up so I look like I’m doing something cool.
Coach: You’re balancing on a rail.
Me: Oh, right.