Jumping stilts were the flavour of cheerleading at IPL this time. We gave powerbocking a go, and felt on top on the world, literally
Kangaroos. Gazelles. Prost-hetics. Exoskeleton. Avatar. These are the words that first come to mind when Rahul Singh, the founder of Ultimate Striderz, introduces his associates to us. All of them are strapped on to jumping stilts and towering way above us lesser mortals at Shivaji Park. Earlier this month, Ultimate Striderz were part of the cheerleading crew at the IPL, doing backflips for sixes and jumping for fours.
“It’s simpler than skating. In fact, I have fallen more times just walking than when I was training on jumping stilts,” says Singh, 26, who started Ultimate Striderz three years ago while pursuing an engineering degree. The thrill of powerbocking (that’s what walking on these stilts, made of aluminium and carbon fibre, is called) is better than the cool kids’ toy hoverboads, continues Singh. The benefits of powerbocking: makes you pay attention to your muscular core, trains 98 muscles, ensures better posture and burns 350 calories in 10 minutes. “It also improves your height,” says Singh. Of course, it does, I retort. You are literally about two feet from the ground. “No, if you train on these in your teenage years, you gain height,” he says.
Benita Fernando tries powerbocking, or walking on stilts at Shivaji Park. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
We are near Swami Samarth, the practice area for Ultimate Striderz, next to where mallakhamb sessions take place. Singh has got teenage stilts for me to try out. Two more sizes, for children and adults, are also available, and beginners, like me, start off with realistic heights to soar. Utlimate Striderz sells these stilts, and according to the sizes, can cost anywhere between R10,000 to Rs 18,000.
Before wearing the stilts, Singh asks me to warm up with a peculiar walk. Land on your heels as you walk (in reverse stiletto fashion) and keep your knees loose. This walk, he says, is what I need to do with my stilts on. At the time at which Singh started training himself, there were no YouTube videos to explain these arced stilts. Now, he has a shortcut for learners.
After I get fitted, somewhere between my frenetic pleas to Singh to not let go of my hands, his encouraging progress report and “relax relax” assurances strewn about, I start walking on the stilts, a bit like a new born, but without falling down. It takes me 20 minutes to learn, and I’d like to place much credit to Singh for being an able trainer (his students have been rather stellar: Dino Morea, Gauhar Khan, Shibani Dandekar) rather than on any inherent talent for balance. I am, of course, nowhere near Ultimate Striderz, who move about with the stilts like second skin. They jump about wildly, while I take baby steps. Two benefits I can see with powerbocking: great legwork and bragging rights. Singh agrees. They have been stopped routinely by the police when they walk about with their stilts. “Not because we are breaking any rules, but because they want to take photos with us,” he chuckles.
Learn powerbocking with Ultimate Striderz for Rs 2,000 (eight sessions, twice a week for a month) at one of these three centres: Shivaji Park; Sports Authority of India, Kandivli; Shanti Nagar, Mira Road.