Christina Doll // City of Prince George
Are traditional gyms and team sports not your thing, or are you adventurous and want to try something new? Then you should sign up for classes at Olympus Freerunning, Prince George’s only parkour gym, where you can jump, climb, and roll your way to a higher level of health and fitness.
According to Riley Banzer, parkour is for everyone regardless of age or skill level because the challenges you set are your own and can range from balancing to leaping a 6 foot gap. “Parkour is essentially a defensive martial art, or it can be as simple as just a fun way to stay active. I like to describe it as full body confidence. Being able to trust your two feet to get you where you want to go. For some it can be emergency preparedness [such as] being able to jump out of the second story window of your house [if it] is on fire and not break your legs. But for the majority of practitioners, it’s a sport. And it’s a sport that is really starting to blow up,” says Banzer.
Opening a parkour gym has been Banzer’s dream since he started unknowingly practicing the sport. He used to play tag in an unfinished building and jump off the second floor scaffolding and do a parkour roll when he landed without realizing what he was doing. He soon discovered parkour on YouTube and began teaching himself additional moves at schools and on playgrounds. The lack of a proper training facility slowed down his progress, so he decided to build a parkour gym in Prince George to improve his skills and pass them on to others.
Olympus Freerunning opened just six months before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. He had to close the gym doors for the first six months of the pandemic and he says this almost ended his dream business before it had gotten off the ground. But Banzer says he refused to give up and found a way to keep Olympus Freerunning open: “Because I didn’t know just how long we were going to be closed, I decided that in order to save the business from being another COVID business casualty, I had to move it to a more affordable location. Conveniently, a spot opened up about two units down from me. Half the size and half the rent. This move I believe saved the business from going under in the first 6 months of the pandemic, and has allowed me to weather the storm up to now.”
Pre-pandemic, Banzer said the gym was frequented by lots of teens and adults and a large number of kids, but youth classes have become the more dominant gym patrons since Olympus Freerunning re-opened at its new location. He says once restrictions relax and he can get things back up to full speed, he hopes to host ninja competitions, fundraising events, chase-tag events, a battle bow league, and hopes to work with School District 57 to introduce the sport in schools.
If you want to try out parkour, check out the Olympus Freerunning website and register for a class or drop-in session.
About the author: Christina worked first as a radio journalist and then a public relations specialist in her hometown of Prince George for almost a decade before transitioning into her current role of Workforce Development Officer in the Economic Development Division at the City of Prince George. She has public and private sector experience in economic development, external and internal communications, marketing, social media and website management, event planning, and research. She has a passion for storytelling and for providing support to local businesses to help them grow and thrive.