For months now, millions of brave Americans who watch ABC’s “The Bachelor” have been tantalized every week by a promotional teaser in which Colton Underwood, this season’s virginal bachelor, hurls himself over a gate under cover of darkness. It’s an apparent bid to escape the show and his romantic entanglements therein. And somehow he makes it look easy — as if he were hopping over a mere three-foot hurdle.
Each week, we have wondered: Will tonight be the night our reality-TV Adonis takes this much-promised flight? And each week, we have been disappointed. As the 10 o’clock hour approaches every Monday night, we are reminded that Colton, a former professional football player, will eventually lose his mind and out-jump the camera crew.
I don’t think we will ever be able to progress as a country until Colton Underwood jumps that fence— "Kiley" (@kelizabeth424) February 22, 2019
The excitement over this teaser prompts many questions: How hard is it to hurl oneself over a fence in a moment of emotional distress? Must you be an athlete? Or could your average noodle-armed journalist do it?
I decided to visit the Bolt Parkour and Freerunning Academy in Bethesda, Md., to find out. (Parkour is the practice of negotiating physical obstacles by running, jumping and climbing.) I brought my colleague Dave Jorgenson along, whose body more closely resembles a professional football player’s. There we met instructor Diego Peñate, who had reviewed the footage of Colton’s great leap many times over and determined that his form leaves much to be desired.
“As a Parkour instructor, I definitely could say he could use better technique,” Diego explained. Rather than relying on your upper body to hop a high wall like Colton, Diego says you should focus on driving your feet up the wall with your chest pushing in the same direction. “When you want to go run up a wall, a lot of it actually draws from your legs and your feet,” he says.
To improve your lower-body technique in hopping high walls, Diego says, you must direct your body’s momentum upward, ensuring that your feet push up the wall, rather than out.
It was time to try for myself.
It turns out it is one thing to run up a wall, and another thing entirely to hoist yourself over it. When the task was to smack a wall as high as possible, I could reach 8 feet after only a few tries.
However, when I tried to hop over a block of about the same height as the fence in question, the best I could do was hang from the top of the wall in a disgrace to feminism. (My colleague Dave, meanwhile, was able to execute an elegant wall-hop after an hour’s instruction, which could put Colton’s to shame.)
Did I fail because of my noodle arms? Or is the trouble my stable, long-term, monogamous relationship? Perhaps a truly broken heart could propel me up, over and beyond a fence, in a way that 20 minutes of gentle elliptical exercise three times a week cannot.
“The heart is a strong muscle,” Diego agreed. Though he also warned us that emotional distress might distract from proper technique and safety. Should he ever find himself brokenhearted, Diego admitted he would “probably stay away from Parkour and freerunning.”
It seems I will have to sort out my emotional issues on the ground.
In the meantime, watch the video from our visit to the Bolt Parkour gym — and marvel at the dangerous heights that journalists scramble up to tell an important story.