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Try This! An off-the-wall workout

Most of us traverse the environment by walking. Not Michael "Frosti" Zernow — he prefers to vault, flip and catapult his way from A to B.

The Santa Monica-based professional parkour athlete and instructor has 10-plus years of experience, and it shows: The man defies gravity when in motion.

Parkour is a discipline developed in France that involves smoothly navigating over and around obstacles like walls, stairs and trees with jumps, climbs and acrobat-like moves. Zernow makes it look effortless, but it takes practice and discipline if you don't want to smack a wall, graze your knees on asphalt or otherwise end up at your local urgent care clinic. Once you've got the skills, parkour (also called free-running) is a blast you can do almost anywhere.

Since some moves can be tricky and require a level of athleticism, you may want professional instruction at the outset (classes are available at Tempest Freerunning Academy in Chatsworth, But here's an easy, explosive move — called a tic-tac — to get you started.

Why you should try it: Because it's fun. A tic-tac is usually done to jump over an obstacle and can help you climb higher. It instills body control, essential for parkour. The major muscles of the legs and core get a workout since they keep the body stable as it flies through the air.

What to do: Pick a spot on a wall, sturdy tree or lamppost that is at a comfortable and achievable height. Take a short running start and step onto the spot with the leg that's closest, putting your weight into it. Then push off with the same leg, like a billiard ball ricocheting off the side of a pool table.

Extend the other leg out for the landing, but don't just settle for any random landing spot — pick a specific place on the ground, and turn to face it to help guide your body there. Land on the balls of the feet, with knees bent, to avoid injuring the joints.

How much to do: Begin with one to two tic-tacs at a time, making sure you work both sides of the body. As you get stronger and more confident, add more.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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