Erica Madrid is an OG girl-power figure in the parkour community! Her innovative and creative movement is immediately recognizable and remains unmatched to this day. She's done some insane moves that leave you scratching your head wondering how she did it but also loves to put together fluid lines that highlight her inventive connectivity skills and flow! I love watching her move and am SO GRATEFUL for the thorough and detailed interview she gave! Such a good read, and a great peek inside the mind of an incredible athlete. Read on!
How long have you been training?
I have been training for 8 years…omg that was weird to say, how has it already been 8 years?!?!
What got you into parkour?
That’s a funny story… Well I used to be a USGA (USA Gymnastics) competitive gymnast, did that sport for about 15 years, then decided I was over it. Also at that time you couldn’t really be a recreational gymnast, you were either competing, or not doing gymnastics. Now it seems like everyone offers open gym for people who are interested in just doing it for fun. After I quit that I tried a few other traditional sports and just normal gym workouts and started getting really depressed. I didn’t really fit in to anything else, until… SKATEBOARDING! I fell in love with skateboarding immediately. I would wake up at 5 am and skate before school, and then again after school until it got dark and my dad would threaten to call the cops if I didn’t get my a** home. As much as I loved and STILL love skateboarding, I still felt like something was missing. I called my mom crying because I wanted to flip around still and didn’t know what to do about it. Then one day a few of my friends at the skatepark said they found this crazy ninja gym that they thought I would be super in to (they were talking about APEX Movement). I didn’t end up going, but a few days later APEX brought a beginners class to the Denver Skatepark. This was my first exposure to parkour. There were people jumping off small ledges at the park and landing… Having never seen this before I thought this was HILARIOUS! I was like, omg… no, how are people into this, what are they even doing, I’m trying to skate and they’re literally just jumping off these ledges (I know, I know, I was a b****, you don’t have to remind me). SUPER IRONIC where I needed up ;D. After that I found APEX Movement by Googling “open gym Denver” (thanks Google Algorithm), and showed up in a sparkly leotard with velvet booty shorts face palm, but to be fair, I thought this was a gymnastics type gym, I didn’t know there was any other “gym.” Soooo… I would go do my gymnastics in the corner by myself, until like 2 days in everyone that trained there started making me do more parkour stuff and here I am!
TL;DR: I thought parkour was a joke when I first saw it, and now I do it for a living…
What do you do for a living?
So this question has been a big part of my last year or two. Up until now I’ve done parkour/freerunning for my main source of income. Mostly through performances with occasional commercial work and previously from coaching. My most recent job was with Cirque du Soleil, and that was a pretty big turning point for me. I absolutely appreciate having had the opportunity to work there and it was an incredible year, but after that I realized that I don’t want to do long contract performance work anymore, and since that was my main way of earning a living, you can imagine the identity crisis that caused, haha.
I was a gymnast for 15 years and I never had any freedom in the sport, that’s why I fell so in love with skateboarding, because it was MY sport. I could do what I wanted when I wanted and make it my own. That’s why I loved parkour and freerunning so much. I could try to learn a cool trick I saw someone else do, or I could spend 4 hours trying to come up with a new trick on my own, it’s literally 200% up to me. NOW that’s not really the case once you go “pro.” Once you are doing it as a living, full-time, your training becomes whatever the person that hires you wants it to be. That was fine for a while but after so long of doing that, I just want to have MY training back. The last couple competitions I did I had to compete in the middle of performance contracts and so I was just too exhausted to actually do much of anything. I’d like to compete again, but only once I’ve had time to train for myself again. In the meantime I’m still going to ATTEND as many competitions as I can because my favorite part about them was always meeting and training with all sorts of old and new friends!
Since then I’ve finished my college degree (probably going back for my masters at some point), and now am getting my personal trainer certification. I’ve spent the past few months developing an online flexibility training program that I hope to release in the next month! I’ll also be moving into a van and doing what I always wanted to do with parkour… TRAIN and release content! Right before my contract with Cirque I was trying to make more themed videos, because it’s one of my favorite things to do, just to mix different disciplines and make videos that are about more than just the movement itself, so I’d REALLY like to focus on that again. On top of, of course, the ACTIVE flexibility courses (because only having passive flexibility and trying to be a power athlete is asking for trouble).
Do you have any other skills/passions besides parkour? If so, what are they?
OMG! I always tell people I have movement ADD. I get bored so easily with any one thing, I always have to do different things. I think the MAIN discipline I hop between movement-wise besides parkour and freerunning are skateboarding, pole, handstand canes, contortion, dance and some aerial hoop and fabric. Outside of movement I love making music. I’ve been playing piano since I was like 7, and have been teaching myself guitar over the past few years so between that, keyboard, trying to sing (ugh I’m so bad, but I really want to get better at it), and drums ever now and then, that takes up another big chunk of my time. I also just love learning. I really want to get another degree, this time in Engineering, especially mechatronics or bioengineering, but for now, I just love reading about it and taking all the Khan Academy courses possible. There’s so many resources to learn from online, I feel like there’s never enough time in the day to do it all!
How do you manage fear when going for something scary?
I’m so glad you’re asking me this question now, instead of asking 18 year old Erica. 18 year old Erica would cry, get really angry, and literally make up a scary story in her head to force herself to go for things regardless of whether or not she felt ready. I kid you not, it was a technique I learned as a kid and I used it in gymnastics, so that HORRIBLE habit transferred over into my parkour training. I remember when I was scared to do something on beam I would make up a story in my head that some guy had kidnapped me and was holding me hostage. He said that I had to either go for the trick or he was going to shoot me (sorry for the graphic truth). Then I would rationalize that no matter what happened to me by going for the trick, it would be better than being shot by this guy… and then I would go. If that’s not the WORST way to get over your fears, then I don’t know what it. The biggest problem with it, is I wasn’t actually getting over my fear, I was just imposing a worse fear which made my originally fear seem better in comparison. I couldn’t walk away from anything, I would tell myself I would literally stay there until I did it. Now you probably all think I belong in a psych ward… and you might be right, but I feel like I’ve come a long way since then! Now I try to use the LOGICAL part of my brain and try to decide whether or not my fear is rational. If the answer is yes and I don’t feel comfortable, I do this thing I wasn’t ever able to do before which is, WALK AWAY AND TRY AGAIN ANOTHER DAY! If the answer is no, then I try to walk myself through the steps and what it will feel like. If that means coming up with a regression, then I do that. After a little self-pep talk, I can usually make myself go for it. HOWEVER, if I still can’t, then I just smile, and laugh, and say oh well, I’ll com back another time, I’m just not feeling it right now and that is OK. Like Katie said in her interview, I think working as a parkour athlete affects this answer too. In the beginning I was in the “prove myself” stage, so that was all that mattered. Now I would rather be happy, get to keep training, working, and living life, than push myself to tears. I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove anymore and I think that helped how I handled fear. I felt like people would think less of me if I didn’t do this or didn’t do that. Now I couldn’t really care much less what people think of me based off my training, because that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because it makes me happy and because I want to inspire other people to just train and be happy too! I took myself WAY too seriously growing up, so I’m trying not do to that anymore, because all it did was make me miserable. That’s not to say I don’t push myself, I still ALWAYS try to push myself, that’s part of the fun, I just have a much better idea of my boundaries and the reasons WHY I’m pushing myself.
Do you have any obstacles that interfere with your training? If so, how do you deal?
I think the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day is a pretty big obstacle, haha. But yea I would say work. I think that’s part of the reason I’m trying to step away from only making my living off performances because it completely hindered my training the past 5 years! In about a month or so I’m going to be back to training almost full-time, like I used to, and I could not be more excited! I think for me the only way around it was to try do it myself. I want to help people reach their flexibility goals, keep making content, and of course still perform here and there, but just nothing super long-term (like 2+ months)! When I’m old and gray I definitely want to work in the medical athletic performance field because technology and engineering mixed with sports performance is going to be DOPE! Also I want an animal rescue center, that is literally my life goal! I’m so off topic right now, I’m sorry, I don’t know how I go off on such tangents, I think it’s just how my brain is wired.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out?
I think my biggest piece of advice is just to have fun and find out what makes it worth it for YOU. I know that sounds super cliche, but it’s advice that I totally needed to hear when I first started out. I remember one day I was crying because I was trying to force myself to do something and one of my friends, Tre Vaughn, asked “Why are you doing this if it’s not fun for you?!” Anytime I start to get frustrated I now ask myself that question. It was so obvious, but it made so much sense! I think, especially when you’re trying to make it a career, you feel so much outside pressure and as you get closer to making that happen the pressure just keeps getting greater. But the reality is, while of course, you’re going to experience pressure, and it’s important to know how to handle it appropriately, because… life skills…it’s probably pretty likely that your putting more pressure on yourself than you need to be. There’s so many ways to make a career out of what you love (and what will simultaneously help and better those around you). There isn’t one single way, and no matter how many other people are doing it, you can find your own unique way of doing it. The most important thing is to find what makes YOU the most happy. One more piece of advice I would give would also be to maintain your other passions. At least for me, that was a huge lesson to learn. I was so involved in parkour at some point that it’s literally all I did from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. I think that’s another reason why I got kind of burnt out on it. Now I make it a point to spend plenty of time skateboarding, doing pole, developing courses, playing music, and learning about anything involving STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), in addition to my parkour/freerunning training. Actually though, you want your mind blown? Read about how something as simple as an SD card works… so much science in such a tiny little SD card! Some people might find this useless and are happy just doing one thing, so if that’s you, that’s totally fine too, do you boo boo!
Who is a woman that inspires you and why? (in or out of parkour/freerunning)
Dude, there is no way I can pick a single woman that inspires me, and if I say just one I’m going to feel guilty for not mentioning all the others, so instead literally every woman out there making s*** happen! Girls pushing boundaries in sports, in STEM, in art, in everything!
The only other thing I have to add is a huge thank you and shout out to Lorena for putting all these interviews together and for doing all research and work involved with sharing that research regarding FIG. You inspire me to speak out for what I believe in! I can’t wait to train with more of these incredible ladies that you’ve included as I now venture into the next phase of my career/training/life! XOXO
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