015. Dylan Johanson: Gym iterations, community, and self-advice

Episode summary


Dylan Johanson is the owner and founder of Innate Movement Parkour in Kingston, New York. A practitioner for many years, Dylan talks about his origin story and the challenges surrounding building and then re-building his gym. Then he shares some thoughts on what advice he would give his younger self.

Is there a story you’d like to share?

Craig: So today’s episode is, of course, brought to you by coffee and Tesla. Say hello, Tesla.

Dylan: She’s such a quiet dog.

Craig: She’s lying next to me, never barks. She’s a total pit-bull love hound. She keeps sneaking up to me asking for belly rubs, so I have trouble reaching the microphone while I’m scratching the dog. [00:22:30] So while I’m scratching Tesla, Dylan, is there a story you’d like to share with us?

Dylan: Yeah, definitely. The story…I mean, there’s so many with parkour, ’cause, you know, obviously for all of us there’s, you know, “every session is a journey, man.” The one that kind of pops to mind is when I was first training, like I mentioned earlier, you know, at first I was just literally by myself, and then I was like many of us early on we become parkour evangelists. It’s just like, “This has changed my life, like you should train, like everyone should train.” I’m telling the mailman

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Craig: [00:23:00] Do you come with a speed slow down?

Dylan: Exactly. Early on, I’d taken a few buddies out training who were athletic and I was like, “You should try this, it’s gonna be awesome.” My one friend from grad school, we were out training, and I did a wall run and she tried it and her foot slipped down and kind of smacked into the wall. She was like, “How did you do that?” And, you know, I explained it in the best way I could, [00:23:30] and then she tried again, and then she did it right away. She was all pumped up. That was like the first, and this was very early on in my training, it was before level one or any of that, and that was the first moment where this kind of spark…this little voice in my head was like, “You’re good at this. You could-“

Craig: “You could share this.”

Dylan: It first occurred to me that, Wow, the experience of sharing it and trying to help guide people through the process of self discovery and watching and diagnosing movement from the outside [00:24:00] and being able to give feedback, and be like, “Oh, you’re hips aren’t high enough,” or “lean back more,” or whatever. Saying a few words based on that, and then having the person…having something click and then they could do a thing that the couldn’t do five seconds ago. The feeling of excitement that is showing on their faces. I just got so juiced up from it. I was super-stoked.

Craig: There’s that bliss.

Dylan: Right, exactly. That was the first time I had this echo of this voice being like, “This could be a think that you could do.” At that point, I was halfway through [00:24:30] my MBA and working…at that point I was on track…trying to be the marketing director of my organization; I’d been climbing the corporate ladder for ten years. Training was just a hobby, but that was the first moment where I was like, Oh. Some very faint voice, because it didn’t make any sense at the time. My life was not set up to do that-

Craig: Be a coach-

Dylan: Yeah. From the outside, in a lot [00:25:00] of ways, pursuing parkour as a career was a terrible idea. I had a mortgage and I had been becoming successful in the traditional sense. The idea of switching gears even though I had all this student debt from grad school, and being a broke parkour coach was a terrible idea. But some voice in my head was like, “This is what you want to do.”

Craig: You keep hearing it, right?

Dylan: Right. I like that story because it [00:25:30] was the first time I heard that voice. Then that voice got louder and more consistent to the point where I was like, “All right, screw this, I’m gonna Peter Pan it and just quit my job and go be a parkour coach all the time.” But that was the first moment I heard that voice. So that’s the story I like to share.

3 words

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Craig: And, of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.

Dylan: I guess the first one that occurs to me is evolving, probably, or shifting, changing something along those lines because I almost think of the analogy of how they say you can never look at the same stream twice type of thing. There’s different water flowing through all the time. In a way, for me, my parkour practice is the stream bed, and that’s kind of this consistent structure and methodology, but the things that I’m doing and the effects that they’re having on me, and the thoughts that I’m having while I’m training is constantly shifting and changing. That’s kind of interesting to notice and to try to derive whatever lessons there are inherent in that fact. For a while there, I feel like I was, for example, trying to build up to bigger and scarier jumps in order to cross some threshold in my mind of like, “Okay, now I’ve done something-“

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Craig: “Now I can jump,” right?

Dylan: Yeah, that’s like legit or whatever. Anymore, I’m just less interested. I feel like I’ve crossed some thresholds where I’ve done some scary jumps and blah, blah, blah…Sometimes I’m still drawn to those, but for the most part, I find that I’m more drawn to quirky, interesting, creative movement. That’s what really jazzes me up and I get really excited, or just flowy, fluid root stuff. It’s interesting the way the practice kind of evolves and the way you have different places you are in your life and that will affect it. There was times in my life, in my practice early on where a big part of it was I just need to punish myself through a physical conditioning, just brutal physical conditioning.

Then, maybe there were some times when I was like, “I’m just gonna take it easy on myself and do just some chill flowy fun work.” The mindset that I’m occupying and the motivation it’s all just constantly changing. It’s not staying one thing, but being able to embrace that and honor that and not feel like, “Oh, why aren’t you doing it this way?” Because there no really right or wrong way to practice parkour. There’s just what effect is it having on your life. Is it positive or negative? How are your motivations shifting? Because if this is something that we want to do for the rest of our lives, like many of us do, it can’t stay the same thing. Life isn’t like that. The person who I was when I started training is a different version of myself than the one now. So it wouldn’t make sense to try to have it be this static thing. So I guess that would be one word to describe the practice.

Another would be purposeful or meaningful. I’m trying to think of the right word. Something around the idea that it has created a touchstone. Parkour has become a way of thinking about what are correct actions in a given moment and a way of imbuing my life with meaning and giving me a reason to exist. I feel like, definitely, before I trained parkour, there was a large time in my life where I was just killing time, and just fluttering about. There was no organizing principle around my life. Parkour just creates that organizing principle. Like, is what I’m doing gonna help me be a better practitioner or worse? It helps you make different decisions. Like we touched on earlier, in some of my younger days I would party really hard and do self-destructive behaviors and all these things. When especially for a bunch of those years where my main training things was just those epic long Sunday sessions, if I was going out and getting hammered Saturday night, that day was just lost.

Craig: You took it from yourself. It’s like with the cupcake. Do you wanna eat the cupcake, you have to carry it over the wall.

Dylan: Right, exactly. Getting into that, what do you want more? Do you want more to do these self-destructive behaviors that seem fun in this moment or do you want to be ready to train, to make gains the next day? In the narrative about yourself, that you’re holding, what type of character do you want to be in the narrative of your own life. Parkour just kind of helps create that organizing principle where I just start making different decisions and my whole life has just been a much more healthy, happy, satisfied version than I’ve been able to find before that. So many other things tend to fall into place in one’s life outside of that. I’ve found that parkour, if I had to point to one thing, that changed between my kind of like-

Craig: Dylan 1.0 and Dylan 2.0.

Dylan: My angry, dissatisfied, anxious past self and now which is more satisfied and calm and at peace. Parkour has to be that thing. That change that all these other changes flowed from. I would say purpose-making, if that’s a word.

Craig: Hyphens are free.

Dylan: And then, I mean, I guess the final one would just, and this kind of just brings us back to the initial description of myself that just blissful. I just love training so much, and it’s fun. That’s kind of the main point of a lot of things. Touching on what we were talking about before about success. At the end of the day, we’re just animals that got smart enough to realize we were here and started having to think about why. The dog doesn’t have these problems. Everything’s all good in the moment. So, when we’re constructing the meaning of our lives, or deciding what’s important, I definitely feel that having as much joy, as many moments of joy is one way to measure how well things are going. Parkour has just been this joy generator, whether its feeling great after overcoming a physical conditioning challenge or breaking a jump, or just fun and just play, just a chill session with friends, like, “Oh, What’s that thing you did; I wanna try that thing.” It just creates so many opportunities for just moments of bliss and joy and happiness. That has to be one of the reasons I just want to keep training all the time.