35 episodes and 2 years later, Adam McClellan returns to Movers Mindset. Adam deserves a large measure of credit because he was willing to be the original guinea pig for this crazy experiment. Our first interview was a simple Q&A style but in this episode we have an in depth conversation about the cycles a community goes through, the nature of parkour, and the type of people who are drawn to it. Adam explores the intersection of parkour and business, and how the two coexist, before discussing the nuances of coaching children. He opens up about his knee injury and recovery, his thoughts on normalizing parkour to the public, and different ways to design a parkour gym.Continue Reading…
(This question is part of the “What are you doing?” project.)
I’m challenging myself a little bit by taking some of the obstacles that are around me and seeing if I can find something that’s kind of hard to do physically or mentally for me and using that to challenge myself. To see if I can grow from it.
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Adam McClellan discusses his work with Parkour Generations Americas, the parkour community in America, and his local community. He goes into his transition from martial arts to parkour, before delving into goal setting and how he motivates himself. Adam finishes by sharing people he draws inspiration from and why coaching parkour is so important to him.Continue Reading…
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.
Adam: …and I’m Adam McClellan.
Craig: …and this is Parkour, They Said.
Adam McClellan is a Director of the Americas branch of Parkour Generations, the largest professional parkour and coaching organization in the world. As an ADAPT qualified Level Two Coach, he is regularly invited to teach and speak at events. Adam hosts classes and workshops in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, which has become a hotspot of activity on the East Coast. He offers expert knowledge in coaching and inspiring [00:00:30] children, a specialization he has introduced into the ADAPT Level One course curriculum in the United States. Adam’s charismatic coaching talent makes a significant positive impact at each parkour event he attends.
Adam: Hey, Craig. Thank you.
Craig: What are you working on now? Let’s begin at the largest scale, the global scale, the Parkour Generations Americas scale, and we’ll work our way inward from there. So, can you give me a glimpse into some big-scale things you’re currently passionate about?
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. Right now, something we’re focusing on from the Parkour Generations Americas perspective is creating new partnerships [00:01:00] that create new senses of value with the people we’re working with. So we’re in contact with large fitness corporations and trying to create connections with governmental organizations, whether that be military, whether that be school-based, whether that be Parks and Recreation, but we’d like to create those connections and start taking the value that parkour has to offer and using that to increase the value that they can put into the work that they do as well.
Craig: Okay, so do you see the role of Parkour Generations [00:01:30] as a one-by-one, where you’re approaching individual school districts? You named a bunch of different types of organizations. Or do you see that the role would be to develop some sort of national standard, something that the school board hiring a PE instructor would look for the check mark for “This person can teach parkour”?
Adam: I think the answer is both. I think first, you need to make those connections and you have to build trust, and you have to gain a reputation. You start by doing small events or small partnerships or providing them assistance for free just helping out, being a friend. [00:02:00] Then from there, you gain that reputation that gives you the accreditation and authority to say “These are the decisions I think you should make.” All the way to the point of eventually creating real systems that people follow.
That’s how Parkour Generations made its way through the generations, if you will, is that they started off doing things right, earned respect, and now organizations such as the American Council of Exercise, the ACE as we call them, use the standard of ADAPT as a way to regulate whether or not a coach [00:02:30] is in fact qualified. We’ll walk our way through that process and go from small to big.
Craig: Terrific. All right, and from a more community-sized scale … I know there’s a big community in Boston and the community here in Lehigh Valley. What do you see those communities doing in the last year that’s been different from previously?
Adam: I think the big change that’s happening across America, not just in the community such as Boston like just here in Lehigh Valley, but all over the US is that we’re starting to realize that a rising tide lifts all boats. Through events like Art [00:03:00] of Retreat, which is a gathering of all the coaches and community leaders of the US, through events like that we’re coming together and realizing that we can all benefit by working together. While competition is natural and in some ways healthy, our focus is collaboration and helping one another first. That allows us to compete in healthier, happier ways where we can involve more people into the process of learning parkour.
That hasn’t always been the case. America has for a long time been divided, and there’s been lots [00:03:30] of political and cultural differences.
Craig: Right, it’s our strength and our weakness at the same time.
Craig: We’re really great at going off and doing our own thing, but then we don’t come back at the end of the day.
Adam: Yes. Not only I think you’re exactly right Craig, but I think we are starting to come back, and that’s something that doesn’t happen a lot. It’s something that I think is so powerful about the parkour community, especially now, is that you can go to someone who does exactly what you do, and you can appreciate what they do. You can go to their event, you can give them a handshake and a hug, and go “Wow, you did a really nice job,” and you can mean it. Versus in corporate America, if you meet [00:04:00] someone that does what you do and they do it really well, you probably don’t like them for it.
So that’s a powerful thing, and it’s starting to move across the American culture. That is very special to me.
Craig: Okay, and back down all the way to the personal scale. What are you working on now, maybe in terms of training or even in terms of learning, languages, martial arts? We can go further afield if you like.
Adam: Yeah, I think for me, it’s about explaining the community. That’s where I get my highest level of return on investment. Community is always [00:04:30] what it’s been about for me. I like training. Training is a passion of mine, but I like helping others to train even more, which is, as you said, a strength and a weakness within itself. What motivates me, what engages my passion, is creating an environment where the community is that much stronger and that much closer and tighter and more beneficial to the larger community around them.
To be more specific, the current focus is seeing if there is a way to indeed open up our own facility, our own gym, and what’s involved in that, not so that we can [00:05:00] only train indoors, and not so that we can run tons and tons of classes. That isn’t the goal. The goal is “Can we have a hub?”, a place where people can meet, and when you got to park your car somewhere, you can put it there. When you want to just be with your friends and get away from the rest of the world, that’s the place to go.
That’s the kind of place I want to create. It’s a community center for the parkour community and anybody who could even be associated with it or wants to join it or learn more about it. So, I would really like to create that space, metaphorically and [00:05:30] physically, and that’s a goal of mine in 2017.
Craig: Okay. Maybe on an even more personal scale, what are you up to these days? Are you working on kong-pre’s, or are you running, or are you completely swamped by the work-a-day job combined with the running the parkour community?
Adam: Yes, yes, and yes. I’m very passionate about all my professional pursuits, even the ones that aren’t necessarily related to parkour, and I enjoy those. Those are going very well. I work in the childcare industry in addition to doing [00:06:00] parkour-type stuff, and that’s rewarding. A thousand children walk in and out of our many doors all across Lehigh Valley every day, and knowing that you’re making a difference there is powerful. I enjoy my day job, so to speak. However, making a difference in the parkour community is really where my heart lies.
Over the course of many years of training, you have your ups and your downs in a lot of different ways. You might really be focusing on jumps, and you get good at jumps. Then you might really decide to focus on flips, and you’re good at flips, but now your jumps aren’t as good. It’s [00:06:30] a very difficult juggle. You can’t be perfect at everything. I think having focused on community development and international and national involvement, some of my personal training is harder to keep up. Trying new ways to train in the winter, I’m swimming, I’m going to the gym and trying some different weight training methods that I’ve never tried before, I’m trying some training at home, just the smaller personal stuff. I’ve spent so much time [00:07:00] training with other people that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be within yourself and do some of your own training.
So that’s been happening for me in the past few months. I think if I can focus on that through the winter and continue to develop my own sense of training within me, then by the time it’s the spring and the summer when everybody comes out of the woodwork, I’ll be back to where I want to be in terms of my own physical training and able to share it in the full way. So that’s what I’m thinking right now.
Craig: Well, that’s an interesting idea of cycles. A lot of people come to that idea after they’ve gone [00:07:30] through a couple of years of training in parkour. They realize that they need to do different things at different times of the year. We’re in the northern hemisphere here. It’s gray and winter outside, so we’re all looking for ways to do heavier lifting and keep motivated.
Craig: One thing that I wanted to bring up is I know you have a pretty extensive background in martial arts, in terms of the number of years you put into it, starting very young and continuing on. One question I had for you is it seems to me that at some point you had to step away from that and allocate less time to it. I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts or anything you wanted [00:08:00] to say about having to change the primary love of your life from one … They’re both physical activities, but they’re fundamentally very different.
Adam: They are, and what you just said, Craig, is wonderfully accurate. I really did have to flip the switch on the love of my life. Since I was a kid my father was in the Vietnam War, and his father, my grandfather, taught karate to the World War II troops. So he knew judo and some of the old-school basic karate that we see in the [00:08:30] old movies. He was a combat instructor and taught Asian martial arts to our guys so that they could have a better understanding of hand-to-hand combat. He taught my dad. My dad talked about that here and there. So as a kid I always thought “That’s super cool.” What kid doesn’t want to be a Black belt and doesn’t want to do karate?
I was always interested in it, and on top of that, I was bullied at school. I was very short. I was the second shortest person in my class. For what it’s worth, the shortest person in my class was my main bully, ironically. [00:09:00] Yeah, so of course, that affected me. So at age eight or nine, I want to say nine, my parents and I decided that we want to look at martial art schools.
We walked around. It’s pretty funny, in downtown Emmaus, there were two karate schools directly across the street from each other. We drove into the parking lot of one. We were walking up, and you know how schools have glass windows so that you can see the class from outside? I looked through the window, and I saw a girl who was probably a teenager, and she had a Purple belt [00:09:30] on. I knew enough to know that that was kind of a high rank. So like “I’m gonna watch her for a second.”
So I’m standing on the sidewalk looking through the window, and they were doing a drill. She was kicking a pad in front of her and a pad behind her, like a front kick and then a back kick. She just looked awful. She was terrible. It didn’t look cool at all, and I thought “I don’t think I want to learn here. That girl’s not very good.” So I told my dad “I want to go across the street and go to the other place.”
So I went to the other place. Lehigh Valley Martial Arts was the name of the school, and I met the instructor, Paul Miller. [00:10:00] It was awesome. I really liked him. I really liked the other instructors that were at the school. I liked the kids that I saw. So I ended up joining. I can thank that Purple belt for … Whoever that girl is out there, I appreciate it.
Craig: The anti-example.
Adam: The anti-example. Exactly. She was the perfect contrast for me. So I joined that school, and that was my passion. That was my dream as a kid. All I wanted to do was be a martial arts instructor. In my late teenage years, as I was in college, I was a martial arts instructor. I sort of [00:10:30] achieved my goal and was right on the edge, or the premise, of at least being a head instructor for my very own school. Right about when that happened I was also getting involved in parkour. It was a difficult choice, and I had to decide “Do I want to continue being a martial arts instructor, or do I want to take my parkour coaching career a little bit more seriously?”
I made the hard choice to do parkour. The [00:11:00] reason behind that is pretty straightforward. It’s pretty honest. It’s that the more I got involved in the martial arts culture and the martial arts community, the more I saw that it was largely driven by ego. You didn’t necessarily have to be really good to be a martial arts instructor. You didn’t even have to know what you were doing necessarily. You just had to look good and act tough, or be big and be large, and throw your weight around physically.
Craig: Play the part.
Adam: Or metaphorically. Exactly. You could really [00:11:30] act a martial arts instructor, and a quick Google search will show you that that happens across the world. Don’t get too much time Googling though, you’ll get depressed. The parkour community, on the other hand, I have yet to meet someone who I consider better than me that is not obviously better than me. Anyone out there who says they’re good at parkour, they can’t do one jump without it being shown one way or another.
Craig: Right. Movement makes it immediately obvious.
Adam: Right. Exactly right. It’s a transparent art. It’s a transparent skill. You could be a big [00:12:00] karate guy and wear whatever color belt you want to wear with however many stripes on it you want, and you can toss a guy around who’s psychologically conditioned to give into that. You can either convince yourself or everybody around you or both that you’re really good, but when it’s you versus a rail or you versus the empty space of a very large jump, you either are or are not. There’s no guessing. So that element of the parkour culture, which is a sense of humility versus your obstacles, as opposed to ego versus [00:12:30] your students, really drew me in the direction of parkour.
Craig: You touched on some of your goals before, so I want to circle back to talking about what your goals are.
Craig: You are obviously an extremely busy person. Do you set objective goals for yourself? By objective I mean “I’m gonna do 437 pushups in an hour by November 3rd.” Do you set objective goals, and how do you stay motivated on longer-term projects, whether they’re personal projects, work projects, PK Gen projects, and how do you measure your progress?
Adam: The answer to that is a surprising no, [00:13:00] and as much as any person will tell you that specific goal setting, smart goals starts with specific. So you should have specific goals set out, and there is absolutely truth to those methodologies. However, you have to know yourself, and you have to know what your motivations are. I happen to know that the more specific my goals are, the less motivated I get about them because I like to deviate from goals when I see an opportunity to do something a little bit different or a little bit better.
So I set broad goals. I say “I want [00:13:30] to be better at X,” for the purpose of example. I’d say “I want to be better at breathing while I’m moving. I want to be able to control my breath better during movement and not be panting and be out of breath. That’s a goal that I want to have accomplished soon.” I’ll set a goal like that for myself, and what that does is I’ll wake up in the morning and go “Okay, how do I want to go about this exactly?” I’ll say “Well, why don’t I start by going for a run and seeing what my breathing’s like and how many breaths per step and for how long I end up doing.” I’ll pay attention [00:14:00] to that and give it my full attention and intention.
At the end of that run I’ll go “Okay, that’s where I’m at.” Maybe it’s better than I thought, maybe it’s worse than I thought. Then I go from there. I go “Okay, how can I improve this?” I’ll go out and maybe do some route training or I’ll go swimming and discipline myself to only breathe on every four or sixth stroke for as long as I can, or I’ll do some breath holding training or Google how to improve your lung capacity. Having the freedom to investigate different opportunities not only gives me more knowledge, more experience, and more fun frankly, but it also [00:14:30] gives me the tools that I can then share with other people.
So, again, my motivation isn’t necessarily just to improve myself. It’s to gather resources that I can share with the community around me. I learn a lot more by leaving myself open than I do by going “Must do X plus B divided by C equals my end result.” Either I got it or I didn’t.
Craig: Okay, and then you probably wind up with a constellation of those little goals that you’re working on. So obviously you don’t just have two, you have 57 different [00:15:00] things that you’re going in different directions. If this one calls to you today, that’s where we’re going today.
Adam: That’s exactly right.
Craig: That’s great. People that I’ve talked to have very very different ways of answering questions about goals. I’m like “I have a millimeter ruler.”
Adam: As it should be, Craig. As it should be. We’re all different people and we’re all motivated by different things. Any behavioral psychologist will tell you that motivation is one of the greatest variances of human behavior. You just have to know yourself well enough to know what motivates [00:15:30] you because setting a specific goal might be exactly what you need, or it might be exactly what tears you down.
Adam: So you just have to know yourself.
Craig: That’s an excellent point.
Craig: Whom do you admire? Everyone has their sources of inspiration, people they aspire to emulate, people whose words seem to call to them elsewhere. You’ve expressed interest in Jackie Chan, Leonardo da Vinci, and Peter Parker. So could you give some of your thoughts either on those individuals if you want, or if you’d prefer to touch on some completely different people?
Adam: That’s hilarious. I won’t touch on those three people. [00:16:00] I wrote that almost mockingly as a college entry essay. You really dug at me there, Craig.
Craig: We’ll leave that as an exercise for the listener. Maybe I won’t even link that.
Adam: See if you can find it. Good luck. People from whom I draw inspiration or who I look up to, that has to start with my parents. Anyone who knows me and knows my charisma that you referenced earlier and my character, which I try to constantly improve, will [00:16:30] best understand who I am if they were to meet my parents. My parents are amazing people, and they are the perfect contrast that helps make me the person that I am. My mother is best described as a fireball. If there is any gas in the room she will ignite it. I mean that seriously. She’s a fearless woman. So much of my charisma comes from her. She was an actress and a model and a singer and author, and [00:17:00] you name it, she’s probably done it. A small business owner. So she’s always had that drive.
My father on the other hand, is one of the sweetest and kindest men or fellow I’ve ever known. He’s just an incredible guy. He would dedicate all of himself to anything if he knew the cause was pure. So that fire and charisma balanced with a sense of principle is where I draw most of my inspiration from, from my parents.
Beyond that, I’ve [00:17:30] been lucky enough to have incredible influences in my life. I mentioned my martial arts instructor, Paul Miller. Many of the other instructors in that school also who are now currently my friends and my peers I’ve always looked up to. In the parkour community there are some really incredible people I’ve met who have either amazing discipline or an amazing lack of discipline that leads them to being very interesting people.
Craig: Now I want to know whose name you’re going to drop for amazing lack of discipline.
Craig: Okay, that’s what I figured you were going to say.
Adam: [00:18:00] No, Ozzi Quintero is indeed a disciplined man, but he’s a free spirit, and there’s a lot to be said for that. So, for someone like me, that’s an influence that was beneficial to see someone so free and so willing to break the rules to do what they believe is right is a cool influence.
I’ve just been very fortunate above all. I’ve had a great family, great friends, great coaches, great peers. So it’s led to a great life for me, and that’s because of those people.
Craig: Terrific. In the same similar vane, do [00:18:30] you have a favorite quote or a favorite inspirational mantra that you …
Adam: Oh, man. All the time, but they change all the time. I mentioned before how my motivation comes from constant change in freedom. So I’m not the kind of guy that would tattoo a phrase onto myself because-
Craig: I wasn’t going to ask about tattoos, but okay.
Adam: Because two weeks later I look at the tattoo and go “Yeah, I don’t know. That’s not the most powerful thing I’ve ever read anymore.” So, I don’t know. I would say above all, [00:19:00] if I had to choose anything at all, I would probably stick with the principle that you should work hard and you should follow your values. All of the inspirational quotes and things that I find are usually creative variances on the general concept of “Be good to people, and do things for others, and follow the values that are close to your heart, and never stop chasing them.”
Craig: Right. All branches from the same tree.
Adam: Precisely. So there’s my trunk.