It's now almost week 7 of Hell Night and with many people asking me to give them more details about it, I've finally sat down with the hope of explaining what we do every Thursday. Cameras are frowned upon at Hell Night as you can't train your hardest when you stop to take photos, so there is not one photo of one of these sessions available... I've had to add photos from my collection to help explain what we are doing.
We start the night at 7pm with a simple loosening up period just so we don't go into the first phase cold. Immediately after that we head to a nearby rugby field and run laps around it for a while until our blood's pumping and core temperature has raised...
We then walk another lap of the field whilst holding our arms out the sides, above us, and stretching them thoroughly.
Our first physical activity of the night is on the rugby posts - we climb up one side just using our arms, swing across the top, and climb down the other side only using our legs to generate momentum on the swing across the top.
A jog to the nearby war memorial and we spend 10-15 minutes here stretching thoroughly and preparing ourselves for the night to come. After everyone is ready and feeling loose, we walk to the other side of the university by the front gates. It's at this point we all split up and go our seperate ways, with the goal of getting back to the memorial in the quietest way possible. The emphasis is on silent movements and controlled muscle contractions especially on climbups, deep landings and crawling where necessary. Everything is controlled and speed is the least important part of this exercise. It usually takes everyone 15 minutes to get back to the start if they're really focusing on moving with minimal sound.
As soon as we're all back together the main phase of the night begins and everyone knows the easy parts are now finished. Everything from this point on is going to hurt.
This main phase changes every week and gets harder and harder as the weeks go on. I'll explain what week 6 consisted of...
-The group waits in the pushup position as each of us in turn jump up to a branch of a tree and do 10 pullups, grabbing a higher branch, lowering ourselves down to the bottom branch again slowly, and repeat until we've each done 10. Once a person completes this pullup challenge, they wait for the others once again in the pushup position.
-When everyone is finished, we're all in the pushup position and whilst we're down there, we do 25 pushups.
-A quick jog around the corner and we climb up onto a roof with a slight overhang, 10 climbups here followed by a 1 minute hang straight after the last climbup. If you finish early, you wait in the pushup position for the rest of the group regardless of how long it takes for them to do 10 climbups and hang for a total of 60 seconds. The burn on this exercise is great!
-As soon as we're all done there, we move onto some parallel bike rails and do 1 dip, followed by 1 stomach crunch and repeat 10 times. By this point after the pushups, climbups and pullups, this can be quite testing on the triceps and chest...
-Straight from there onto two parallel blue rails in an L shape. We put our hands on one side and our feet on the other, and shimmy along until we reach the corner, from here we need to stretch out to the corner with our feet whilst keeping our hand in position until we end up on the other straight. Another shimmy uphill takes us to the end and we do this entire obstacle twice in a row without rest.
-Next up is a climb up a vertical lamp post to the top, touch the light and climb back down. This one proves particularly hard when it's raining!
-From there, onto a flat wall with a sharp edge, and we shimmy across the top of that to the other end, only 20ft or so. We climb down a drainpipe to the ground and wait in the pushup position for the others to catch up.
-Next up, we all start at the bottom of a flight of steep stairs on all fours, and climb up them backwards, when we reach the top we climb all the way back down again head first. If that wasn't enough fun, we climb all the way to the top once more, and all the way back down - again.
-Carrying exercises now, where we lift a partner on to our shoulders and run 200m as fast as we can, then we swap around and the other person does 200m with their partner on their shoulders.
-This next exercise is similar to the blue rail obstacle but this one is a lot longer. It's roughly 100m and the gap between your feet and hands gets bigger and bigger as you can see below. This is one hell of a great forearm workout! When you get near the end, no one is tall enough to reach with both hands and feet so we drop into the arm jump position and shimmy to the end that way.
-We wait in the pushup position until everyone is finished that then immediately crawl the length of those black rails to the other end.
-Back muscles and shoulders are now put to the test again when we climb horizontally along a series of 12 window ledges without touching the floor, takes about 4-5 minutes.
-Straight after it's muscle up time! We do a muscle up on a FAT bar (A) which is sometimes tough after the onslaught before, but once we've muscled up, we climb onto the bar and climb down a metal staircase underneath the stairs just using our arms (B).
-Under the stairs we do more pushups, this time we take 10 seconds to do one pushup and pause halfway for a while, at the bottom we pause again, lean to our left hand, lean to our right, back to the centre and push back to the top, taking 10 seconds to get to the top. This is repeated for 5-8 minutes or so until our arms are shaking and we can taste our dinner again.... yum.
-Then we hang from the metal staircase and L sit for 20 seconds.
-Possibly the toughest exercise of the night now, it's 1 climbup on the bottom wall below, shimmy across to the other side of it at waist height, climb down into the arm jump position, climb up again, then climb down and repeat x 5. In total it's 10 flat wall climbups, with waist shimmying in between and after all the previous exercises, you really feel this one in the arms.
Next up we climb up some rails covering a window onto the edge of a roof and shimmy under some barbed wire then climb down another window ledge at the other end of the roof. On the photo below, the barbed wire had yet to be added to the roof.
-Time to crawl again... after climbing up the outside of the stair case (or the inside if you have to), we crawl the length of the roof... near the other end there's some dips to do, so we do 10 whilst we're up there then crawl down an identical staircase on the other side of the building head first.
...and that's 1 lap, we then get a quick drink and run back to the start by the tree and begin the course again. We don't rest in between each exercise as we're waiting in the pushup position for people to finish so it really is a gruelling session of constant exercise. We usually only get through 3 laps of the course due to that taking around 4 hours to complete.
Although it was literally hell to begin with, the benefits of such harsh training is evident, everyone who regularly attends is now becoming comfortable with all of the above to a certain extent which is why I'm making it harder each and every week so we're always stepping out of our comfort zones.
Hell Night has helped us to become so much stronger and our stamina levels have shot up drastically. Everyone agrees that their Parkour has benefited from it immensely.
After the 4th or 5th week of Hell Night, my usual weekly training which I used to find tough, was not even causing me to break a sweat so it just shows how effective this kind of training is for your body.
The other benefit of this type of training is a mental one, since Winter is closing in, the nights have been very cold and dark and 3 of the weeks saw it raining for the duration of the session. You need to be prepared for this mentally and just accept that you are going to be pushing yourself to the limits regardless of the weather conditions.
I highly recommend starting your own Hell Night in your area... meet up once per week with some friends with the goal of completely breaking yourselves down and tiring yourselves out until you fail to function properly. Repeat this week after week and I promise it will change your body completely and give you so much more power and confidence in your Parkour.
Early in the new year I'll post the latest version of what we're doing with proper photos of one of the nights... we'll probably be using weighted vests for the exercises by then.