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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 18, 2008

Extreme Exercise: How to Get a Great Workout without Leaving City Limits

By Worker Bee

Think working out in a city has to mean sucking exhaust while you jog on the side of a busy street? Not with these fun, and at times, extreme-alternative workouts.

Remember the scene in “Casino Royale” where 007 himself scales a crane and frantically tries to catch what we initially assume is some kind of extreme gymnast? Turns out that villain was actually a parkour artist (or traceur as they are also referred to). Founded by a guy called David Belle, parkour is all about accessing the seemingly inaccessible, usually to escape or evade pursuers (or dapper English gentlemen depending on your situation). Unlike free runners (more on that later) traceurs try to clear objects – be it barrels, bars, bollards or other barriers – in the simplest and most efficient method possible. Incorporate parkour type moves into your own workout by heading to a “quieter” edge of the city and dodging, jumping or vaulting over barriers and other obstacles, swinging through railings and climbing up low brick walls (just don’t scare the neighbors!)

Free Running:
If parkour is the nitty-gritty, rough-and-tumble mode of transport for escape artists, free running is the more graceful, aesthetically pleasing method of moving for the show-off in all of us. Although incredibly similar to parkour (with free running actually developed by a childhood friend of David Belle!) free running’s philosophy centers around the idea of getting from point A to point B using free-flowing movements that make you happy (and that look pretty). When out for a jog, add some free-running elements by leaping (arms outstretched) over cracks in the road, swinging yourself around lamp poles or just adding the odd cartwheel or forward rollover (we warned you in advance it could get extreme!)

You understand parkour, you sort of understand free running, now it’s time to master buildering! Often referred to as urban climbing, structuring and stegophily, buildering is defined as any act of scaling or climbing on the outside of buildings or other artificial structures. Buildering can also sometimes be confused with a separate “sport” known as bouldering, whereby buildings are still scaled, but this time in smaller, bite-size sections. Although not technically legal uhhh…anywhere, you can borrow from this physical art by jumping on and off low building ledges, scaling stairs two-at-a-time or jumping off porches and decks (just don’t get caught!)

Indoor Rock Climbing:
If you like the idea of buildering, but aren’t willing to break the law, perhaps indoor rock climbing is the sport for you! Giving you a welcome reprieve from the weight room, rock climbing is not only a full-body strength workout but, depending on your skill and the course you choose, can also increase flexibility and provide a great cardiovascular workout. To learn more about rock climbing events in your city visit

Think skateboarding is best reserved for trouble-making teens? Although it does convey a certain risk element – what with the high likelihood of incurring cuts, bruises and maybe the odd broken bone – skateboarding, to its credit, is a great cardiovascular workout and can also help improve coordination and balance. If you’re thinking of giving it a whirl, make like Tony Hawk (the God of skateboarding) and invest in a helmet and some serious knee and elbow pads. Also, if you’re a beginner, stay away from skate parks or other uneven surfaces – where studies suggest more than half of skateboard-related injuries take place – and opt for smooth surfaces such as quiet roads and large pavements.

Ultimate Frisbee:
Once the primary workout of greasy frat boys the nation over, Ultimate Frisbee has developed somewhat of a cult-following, with games-and even leagues-cropping up in the parks of most major towns and cities. Developed as sort of a combination of a classic Frisbee game and the most violent of football/rugby matches – depending, of course, on who you are playing with – Ultimate Frisbee is played on a rectangular shaped field with “endzones” at either end. The Frisbee is then tossed between players – who must stand still upon catching the Frisbee and have only 10 seconds to pass it along – with the goal of completing a pass in the defenses’ end zone. Although fouls can be called for physical contact, the games do tend to get a little rough so please plan accordingly (as in stock up on bandaids and have a medical professional on speed-dial!)

These extreme sports aren’t for everyone. As you can imagine after watching the videos, they are a great way to induce serious bodily harm, so be warned. With that said we think that, at the very least, they can provide motivation to be creative with your physical activity. What do you think? Do you prefer to keep adjectives like “ultimate” and “extreme” away from your exercise routine?

LexnGer Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Ultimate Frisbee

10 Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Workouts

Shoes are so passé.

Tips on Practicing Safety for Extreme Sports

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17 Comments on "Extreme Exercise: How to Get a Great Workout without Leaving City Limits"


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10 years 4 months ago
As a student of parkour myself, I can say that it is phenomenal in what can be developed. I actually wear my five fingers when I do this (although landing from a tree to soft dirt means stopping to shake out shoe crumbs). I’ve got a set of stairs that go up about 300 feet with a rail up each side with concrete pillars. I like to monkey walk it. It’s incredible balance training…being on all fours on a rail that slants up…great training for hands, forearms, core, and feet. Another thing to mention for great training in this thread… Read more »
Dave C.
10 years 4 months ago

I saw a video on the web not too long ago of what I believe was a competition on Japanese TV where the contestants complete the mother of all obstacle courses. Absolutely amazing!

Extreme running for me was maybe jumping a small creek in a cross-country race! 🙂 But I really did enjoy the two or three of those a year that used to appear on my running calendar. It broke the pattern of standard asphalt 10Ks.

Josey Wales
Josey Wales
10 years 4 months ago

It seems that a lot of folks have, especially guys have a sort of Spiderman complex. Now I like Spiderman too, but he has his flaws. Spidey certainly has had his issues with the ladies and he certainly has some sort of complex regarding splashy entrances, but hey that Spiderman for you.

Mike OD
10 years 4 months ago

Back in college we used to call it “Running from the cops at 3am…” It was a fun sport from what I remember and we all seemed to keep in shape!

10 years 4 months ago

Dave C, I believe the video you are referring to is called “Ninja Warrior.” It’s the Mecca of all obstacle courses, and you can watch it as a half hour show on the G4 network.

Speaking of Ninja’s, here’s some fun lovin’ parkour (free running?) action…

And then there’s this guy…

Always more fun when there’s a bunch of thugs chasing you.

5 years 5 months ago
Yea, it’s considered an exemtre sport I guess. The thing is, knowing your limitations, working within them, and being safe is stressed in the sport. Like most sports, there is always the possibility of injury, but it can be done safely without injury by building up to things slowly and gradually. Parkour is a sport where you constantly challenge yourself to do better. So going at your pace in your development is critical to your safety. When I started putting tutorials on the website I purposely started with the basics and in particular with the roll. For example, before people… Read more »
10 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the videos, I love watching those parkour guys. I wish they’d cast a Batman movie with someone like that instead of giving a big star a rubber suit, too many gadgets & a tank. :/

Dave c, that show is called Ninja Warrior and I freakin’ love it! I get so excited for the people who make it to the end, it must be exhilirating to even try the course.

Mel Practice
10 years 4 months ago

Awwwww, no mention of roller derby. 🙁

Dave C.
10 years 4 months ago


Yep, that’s the one!! Amazing stuff!

Jimmy Clark
10 years 4 months ago

This is my first time on this blog and I really like the content ; ) Have you guys checked out yet? It’s mainly for healthy weight loss, but they also get into some great nutrition and exercise advice.

10 years 4 months ago

Well, I know I’m late, but I’ll drop it in here anyway…

Some great video showing what ultimate frisbee has turned into:

I recommend “ECC 07 Trailer” and “UPA Club 07 DVD Trailer” for pretty solid sets of mens and womens highlights.

10 years 3 months ago

I would love to learn free-running, that is just so darn cool.

I’m a girl though, and, not being sexist towards myself, but do women have the physiological capacity to complete things like that?

As in… develop enough muscle, I suppose.

I’m 17 and I’m afraid it’s too late to learn ):

8 years 3 months ago
I know this is a old post, but I thought what the hell I’ll reply. I’m a girl (22) and I’ve been training parkour for about 3-4 months now. It definitely seems easier for young guys to learn this stuff faster, and there’s the difference with guys having stronger upper body and girls having stronger lower body. You can make up for it by conditioning and strength training. It takes a lot of commitment, that’s one thing that’s for sure. But girls can definitely do it. I’ve only trained kong vaults indoors on mats (as well as tic tacs). Instead… Read more »
9 years 1 month ago

Thanks for the link Mark! Great post.

7 years 11 months ago

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Jack Hanson
7 years 3 months ago

Well that is some exercise and it is really fun

4 years 11 months ago

mn lllolololololoolololoolol