Being Brave and Overcoming Obstacles

Why do we stop doing things that scare us? Not the things that will put us in grave danger, but rather the things that make us feel uncomfortable but could make us feel pretty darn good about ourselves if we successfully completed them. In the realm of physical activity, this is big issue. Often we stick to the basic jogging, riding, skiing because moving differently than we’re accustomed to is scary and fraught with danger.

In one of her blog posts BE BRAVE! “For big results, think small”, Julie Angel shares the importance of breaking the habit of letting fear stop you from moving. From trying something new. I had the pleasure of meeting Julie last year at the Art of Retreat in New York. I have already raved about her in my last post about the top females Move Me to Move.

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“It became clear to me during my first class that I had unknowingly developed a certain habit over the past 20 years. The habit of avoiding challenges and therefore facing my fears. On the surface I was cool calm and collected but inside I was scared of everything. I no longer knew how to be brave mentally and physically. I suddenly had to think about how to move, WTF! When did this start happening?” – Julie Angel (Photo by Anya Chibis)

She’s an author and a movement advocate. The above article ties in nicely with my “Fierce New Skill” of the month; the kong vault. So take this month and break out of that comfortable shell of yours. Try a new skill!

AthleteInspired

 

Parkour Athlete’s Packin’ Inspiration

Photo credit: Chad Bonanno and Tempest Freerunning

1.Luci Romberg

There are endless good things to say about this powerhouse. I have had a she-crush on her since I begun my parkour journey and throughout my stunt pursuits. I had the pleasure of creeping out, I mean meeting, Luci at the first North American Parkour Championships. She graciously accepted my decision for us to be friends.
She continues to have an incredible career as a professional stunt woman (being brought on as Melissa McCarthy’s permanent stunt double), continues to set the bar for female and male freerunners at international competitions, and headed up an female empowerment initiative called Tru Beauty.
Training with her will have you levelling up, hanging with her will have you laughing uncontrollably, and watching her success will have you inspired.
Click here for Luci’s Tru Beauty video.

2. Mandy Lam

Mandy spends her time writing grants and getting funding to introduce women to the sport of parkour. She focuses on the physical and psychological benefits of the discipline, as a lifestyle change. An exceptional climber and well-travelled traceuse, Mandy brings a cheerful calmness to her practice. She is a wonderful personal to engage in tête-à-têtes with because she strives to gain real connections with those who she trains with. It is these one-on-one discussions that put her on my list.
Meet Mandy in this video

3. Brandee Laird

She moves like no one I have ever met. Her strength and fluidity is beautiful while her bag of gadgets and juggling skills keep you mesmerized. She cares deeply about equality and increasing the level of acceptance in the sport. Brandee has poured a great deal of time into building up a thorough coaching apprentice program at Parkour Visions, as well as a curriculum that is accessible to the entire parkour community and beyond. Above and beyond all that, she is a beautiful soul with badass dance moves and is a hoot to train with…especially at night.
Click here for Brandee’s movement reel.

4. Melanie Hunt

One cannot spend time with this energetic and intelligent human without learning something. She is a full-time high-school English teacher at an international school in New York, as well as an American Parkour athlete and coach. We bonded over physical literacy and multi-disciplinary learning at the Art of Movement this past year. Her passion for higher learning, at any discipline, is immediately evident. Our world needs more teachers like this. The ones who fight for better education, for gender equality and walks (freeruns) their talk.
Here’s Melanie’s Facebook page.

5. Julie Angel

Julie’s publihsed works got me really pumped to revisit the basic movements of parkour and get in touch with the origins of the discipline. Many people who read her book felt compelled to return to a style and mentality of training that the founders of parkour embraced. I have never considered myself a ‘purist’ but Julie’s work birthed a new love for the movement. Then there’s her See & Do project and constructive approach to women in parkour is so well articulated. I often find myself reviewing my notes from our talks in New York. So many great things to be said about this brilliant woman.
Click here for the See&Do website.

6. Alice Popejoy

Mother, academic and coach. This mama defies parkour convention and is currently rocking a research job in Norway. She takes an avid interest in applying her research to the betterment of the parkour community. In a footnote, she is also an inspiration as an athlete. She went from not being able to do a push-up to overcoming her physical obstacles and becoming a solid practitioner and coach.
Follow Alice on Facebook:

7. Natalie Nikiforuk

If you need a person to lift heavy things, she’s your gal. One of the country’s strongest powerlifters in her weight class, this traceuse brings a lot of diversity to the table. I met Nat almost a decade ago and we’ve trained, performed and competed together in parkour ever since. We have both been referred to as “hobbyists” to the parkour world for our focus on multiple disciplines. Well Natalie, “The Hobbyist”, Nikiforuk not only lifts heavy things, she trains race horses for a living, takes her parkour training seriously and gives back the parkour community. Nat co-leads an annual women’s parkour event called Varkour Day, she designs logos and digital animation for community members and she is extremely passionate about increasing opportunities for women in parkour. We just shot our latest video, which we’re very proud of (considering we shot it over a weekend).
Here’s a link to our first parkour video:

8. Erica Madrid

I tend to have a bias towards former gymnastics, mostly because of how athletically versatile they are. From her early Art of Motion days, Erica’s gymnastics background has influenced her movement style in the parkour and freerunning world and was able to flow between the two disciplines quite well. The reason I admire Erica, is not just for her practice but for her perseverance with making parkour a performance art. She was recently cast in the new Cirque du Soliel show, Votla, which highlights parkour and freerunning (among other extreme sport movements) in a very artistically centred way. I can’t wait to see the show, if you can, check it out! (Click here for Volta teaser)

9. Lindsay Darlington-Rowat (PK Generations)

Some of the first female content I watched on YouTube. I remember writing down her parkour WOD’s and emulating them. I was also simultaneously hoping for a female community such as the one showcased in the UK scene. She was one of, if not the first female Level 2 ADAPT certified coach. The physicality required to pass the original gruelling coaching course was extremely impressive. I haven’t met her yet, but she is an impressive coach and athlete.
Here is one of my favourite challenges she posted.

10. Caitlin Pontrella

Caitlin’s passion for parkour runs deep. Not only was she a partner of the Movement Creative, she continues to organize some of the leading parkour community development events (ie. Art of Retreat). Caitlin has recently acquired her full Architect designation. Mad props to anyone who can balance a full professional load with a full recreational lifestyle. I want to know her secret to balancing such an intense workload. This lady really makes me want to move!
Check her website out: www.CaitlinPontrella.com

She inspire’s me to PK

Over the past two years, parkour has taken a backseat to various martial arts and my stunt training. The whole strengthen your weaknesses and maintain your strengths approach to building up a skill set. Being back in Calgary this winter has re-invigorated my parkour training. I have always enjoyed the community here and Varkour ladies make training so very enjoyable.

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As I continue to work on my building my business, I find myself needing the motivation to balance training with business’ing. To be honest, I’ve always preferred doing over talking about doing it. That being said, it’s pretty hard to be a coach or a leader if you do not have any students or peers to coach or lead.

I am fortunate to be influenced by so many strong female parkour practitioners who not only walk their talk, but manage to enrich their lives beyond parkour. What better way to reflect on the power-femmes in my life, but to put together a Top-10 list.

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So over the next couple of weeks I am going to highlight the parkour women who have inspired me, not only to move, but to give back to my community and to go after what I really want in life. Just a warning, this list does not just contain the “best” female parkour practitioners from all the lands. Those lists have been done and they’re so subjective. Skill alone does not an idol make. These lady freerunners have something in their practice (or outside of their practice) that gets me all fired up.

Feel free to share that well-rounded traceuse that lights your fire. I’d love to build a bigger list.

AthleteInspired

 

Working Out, Through Grief

Everyone experiences great loss in their lives. Some more unfortunately than others but everyone loses something or someone very important to us. It has a profound impact on us and how we deal with it can have an even more profound impact on our futures.

Aunt B8

Recently I lost my aunt. To call her an aunt is a misleading representation of our closeness. To myself and many of my 13 cousins, she was our babysitter, our camp counsellor, our social worker and the person many of us depended upon to make sense of the world. When my mother passed away, she was the person who swore to be there for me no matter what, to offer guidance & support while also calling me out on my sh*t. Her unconditional love for us, mixed with her dry wit and love for nature made her a very special person.

I find it quite fascinating how differently people cope with loss. I have known many who pretend they are fine and push onwards without acknowledging the pain that must be processed, I have known others who have literally drank themselves to death within a year, not able to manage what was now missing from their lives, and many more who have tried to mask their pain with substances, eating disorders, seclusion, sexual promiscuity or a neurotic work ethic that consumes them.

When my mother passed away over a decade ago, I did not have the tools and resources that I now have to cope. I gave into many of the above mentioned coping mechanisms but there was one thing that truly helped carry me through that period of emotional desperation. That was sport. It helped me then and is helping me now. Back then, only constant in my life was wresting. The sweat, tears and adrenaline of a physical workout granted me some sort of clarity and mental strength to slowly move forward.

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There has been quite a bit of research done on the benefits of high intensity physical activity on stress and grief management. Dr. Mercola explains in his article, “Sweating Out Sadness”, that high intensity exercise gives you a sense of control as it requires great internal focus. Not to mention the benefits of increased blood flow to the brain, release of endorphins (those happy neurotransmitters) and the sense of accomplishment that can help rebuild general motivation.

Now I am not saying that every single time you are feeling sad, down, low, unmotivated, paralyzed, impartial, etc., that you should get up and rock a 20-minute HIIT workout. That’s an unrealistic expectation that will just lead to feeling even more lost and disappointed. There have been days this past couple of weeks where just brushing my teeth, showing up for work or eating something other than chocolate & Skittles all day is considered a victory. I am talking about those moments when you feel like you want and need something to help you feel better. Those are the moments to try and get your sweat on. Just as the grief diary I will share at the end of the month will demonstrate, the actual process of processing typically looks much more like a 2 year olds’ drawing of a cat. It rarely is a straight inclining line.

The path to saying goodbye is probably filled with many ups, downs, happy moments when you think you should be sad, sad moments when you want to be happy, moments when you want to lash out at the nice barista who put just a bit too much foam in your cappuccino and flashing moments of your old content self. My best advice is not to rush it, to own your feelings whole heartedly and to do a little bit most days. Use the loss in order to strengthen you for the future. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of a small company called Facebook, wrote a beautiful piece about grief when her husband passed away. She does not touch on ‘sweat therapy’ but I leave you with this article and hope that it gives you some insight and that exercise becomes a helpful tool in your tool belt.

http://www.businessinsider.com/sheryl-sandbergs-essay-on-dave-goldbergs-death-and-grief-2015-6

AthleteInspired

Fear of failure…just another road block to success

How often do we fail at something before we start trying?  The times I most regret in sport, work and life are the opportunities I do not seize out of fear of failure or fear of what others may think. Great things await those who only fail when they give up.

Found this great article on Lifehacker that helps breakdown the barriers of “Taking the Plunge” and pursuing your passion. I lived this journey first hand when I went from my 9-5 plus some evenings and weekends career, to packing up my car and pursuing my passion for stunts.

The three strategies that Ash Read offered up were integral to my journey being a successful one. First off, I had to change my perception of failure and embrace that my version of success was going to take time, detours and some amount of ‘failure’. Secondly, I found myself a mentor. Well she found me but either way I was guided and supported by a very wise woman (big shout out to Amber Wright). Lastly, I broke my main goal down into doable chunks so that every little win was a reason to celebrate and the whole damn thing seemed less intimidating.

Basically, I grabbed life by the #ladybalz and it left me shooting the double guns. Take that fear of failure! Now you try it.

AthleteInspired

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The Skill Collector

They say it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a skill. There is something very noble and beneficial in that pursuit. Then there are the 10-mins every day to learn a new skill people. I call these the skill collectors. They typically do not ever master a skill but they can perform a variety of skills without much difficulty. The “Jack of all trades, Master of none”.

The existence of these two groups have become most evident as I journey deeper into the mysterious and wonderful world of stunts. Many performers break into the industry with a mastery of a certain discipline such as karate, kung fu, sword, motocross, horseback riding, gymnastics, you get the idea. Many others are more generalists who can perform at minimum, a basic level of falling, fighting, driving, acrobatics, etc. Almost all stunt performers are skill collectors who constantly pursue mastery. They’re a very inspirational bunch.

I am personally addicted to collecting skills. Not so much attaining the skills themselves, although they make incredible party tricks and icebreakers. I yearn more for that wave of euphoria you get when you nail that new trick for the first, third and tenth time. Especially after thinking, only weeks before, that there was no way you would ever be able to to learn it in the first place. That feeling over getting over the “can’t” and turning it into the “can too” is super powerful.

Have you ever had that moment? The one where you surprise yourself? Well I am not a master of many, if anything but I believe I come close with one skill. The cartwheel. It is my favourite skill in the whole wide world. I can do it fast, slow, over things, across things, with one arm, with no arms, I can even do them in circles until I fall over dizzy. It is the first skill that I want to share with everyone.

Here is the link to my first series of videos where I breakdown the cartwheel into super basics, provide progressions and then I will follow up with 2 workouts inspired by my favourite move that aims to strengthen the muscles required to perform a beautiful cartwheel.

Athlete Inspired – Cartwheel Tutorial

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As I try and teach the world the art of the cartwheel, I have chosen a new skill that I would like to add to my collection. Staff manipulation. Weaponry is a key part of any stunt performer’s arsenal. I have sought out the expertise of a mastery manipulator (her name is Michelle and she’s so frickin cool) and have been trying to practice the basics 10mins a day, most days of the week. I’ll track my progress and post something at the end of the month. I encourage you to brave that 12-megapixel lens of judgement and track your progress. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.

Athlete Inspired

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Michelle Smith is a badass staff manipulator. Check out her skills on YouTube.                  Learn from her at www.michellecsmith.com

 

 

An athlete truly inspired: a year in review and an exciting future

First stunt gag on Supernatural, doubling Emily Swallow (aka Amara)

Sitting in a coffee shop on my day off between filming and I can honestly say that I feel the pieces finally coming together. Between filming days. I giggle to myself every time I get to say that. As recently as I year ago, I was pining for the opportunity to be making my living as a stunt performer. Thanks to a brilliantly low Canadian dollar, thousands of hours of training, networking and manifesting my hopes and dreams IMDB has a page with my name on it!

The training, networking and hard work continues but, step-by-step I was able to go through the initial paces of getting paid for athletic, physical feats on film. I became a full ACTRA member, a member of StuntList (a vetted, online database for stunt performers), and now am able to make a living doing something I would happy pay to do. I am now liberated from working odd jobs, donating blood and organs for cash, couch surfing, eating out of restaurant dumpsters,etc (to my family reading this, please know it was never actually this bad. I still have all of my organs). A true testament to following your heart, taking calculated risks and being prepared for when the opportunity for success arises.

*Above photos from my experience with the Supernatural family in seasons 11 & 12

I continue to have a marvelous support network who help me live my dream. Even more who have helped me get to this point. Hopefully you know who you are because I’ve remembered to shower you with thanks, dramatic appreciation and a behind-the-scene glimpse of my set adventures.

The man in my life deserves a special shout out. He met me as I was starting this journey, fumbled with me through this maze of ups and downs, highs and lows, late nights, early mornings, rescheduled dates and rain-checked plans. I think we’ve had a blast these past couple of years and it’s about to get that much more adventurous. We will be embarking on a 4-month adventure based out of Calgary. Without hesitation he led the charge to pack up our old apartment, find accommodations in Calgary and will work out of Alberta while I try and rise to the challenge of my first lead stunt doubling job.

This leads me to the whole point of this post. To share my plan for 2017. My plan to give back and hopefully inspire others the way I have been inspired to pursue my passion for sport, performance and personal growth. I have a started a company and enlisted the help of my former boss, the woman who initially set me down this path, to help me inspire others to reach their goals, embrace their passions, and in the very least, learn the joys and benefits of training like a superhero.

I will continue to share my journey, discuss various topics that will hopefully get your minds and bodies in a frenzy and I will also be posting some videos on my YouTube channel to inspire you to test your limits and learn something new. So please like and share!

Stay tuned…

AthleteInspired