Parkour trainer Andrew Smith stands out in the crowd at the University of New Mexico, leaping from concrete walls and vaulting the circles of outdoor seating across from Mitchell Hall.
“I’m like a machine, pretty much. That’s why people see me all the time,” the 32-year-old Smith said. “I usually practice every day — it just depends what mood I’m in or how my body’s feeling. For the most part, I practice for two hours or more (daily).”
Smith’s commitment to training frequently and for substantial stretches of time has made him a recognizable figure at UNM.
“I see someone who may be him practicing parkour between Johnson Gym and (Student Health and Counseling),” UNM staff member Sarah Nezzer said. “If that is him, I appreciate how respectful he is of other peoples' space while practicing. He seems dedicated to improving his craft but doesn't do so in a way that forces other people to work around him.”
Smith said he practices at UNM because of its wide range of locations on which to train.
“Universities are awesome — there’s so many different structures,” Smith said. “Universities are big, and you always find something new.”
Smith, who studied dance at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and has been dancing for upwards of 13 years, was initially introduced to parkour by a friend at the age of 29. Viewing parkour as a “new form of movement,” Smith was immediately drawn to the discipline as a method of emotional expression and growth.
“The whole training and discipline of it is to overcome obstacles, mentally and physically. It helps you get through everyday life too — whatever you’re going through is like an obstacle to overcome,” Smith said. “When you’re feeling a certain way, it can help you express and get that out in a positive way.”
Smith said the practice encouraged him to inspire others and challenge himself. Still pursuing the activity three years later, he advised others to not hesitate in pursuing and conquering life’s physical barriers.
“It’s never too late. Don’t make excuses — if you want to do something, do it,” Smith said.
Liberty Stalnaker is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo