At Coca-Cola, many employees embrace an active lifestyle outside work, by keeping fit or enjoying sport. In Austria, Central & Southern Europe Knowledge & Insights Director Richard Raubik has taken this further than most by taking up free-running. After just six months, he is flipping and leaping in ways he never thought possible, especially at the age of 43.

We caught up with Richard to discover how he got into this unusual and little-understood sport:

There are many ways to keep fit. Why did you choose free-running?

Richard Raubik

It all began when I was looking for ways to spend more quality time with my kids. My 11-year-old son was trying out a lot of sports, but then he discovered free-running and found it really cool. I didn’t know anything about it, and checking on YouTube, it looked dangerous. So I said, "If you’re going to do it, you have to do it with me." This sounded like a fun way to spend time together, but with one problem – I had to take up a sport that views a 25-year-old as a veteran, let alone someone in their 40s! I enjoy a lot of sports, but this is like nothing I have ever done before, and far more demanding.

Isn’t free-running all about jumping off buildings?

That’s what a lot of people think, but no. It is about creative movement, incorporating a lot of acrobatics, and even elements from martial arts. It’s about moving using your entire environment, as creatively and fluidly as possible. Many people also confuse it with parkour. They are similar, but parkour is more about getting from A to B as efficiently and as fast as you can. It has less of the tricks and acrobatics you use in free-running.

How tough is free-running for a guy in his 40s?

When we started, I was by far the oldest and my son the youngest. Most of the people at the club we joined are in their teens. You learn fast, but before you can do any tricks you need to build up your core strength and flexibility. At first I found a lot of the movements plain impossible. I thought it must be because my arms are too short or my belly too big. I didn’t look like a cat leaping about like the others – I was more like Garfield.

How are you doing now?

Richard Raubik

After six months, I began doing much better than I expected, and was able to do a lot of the moves. But then recently I have had a set-back. In the first session of the free-running winter season I misplaced a side-flip landing and injured my back (almost herniated a disc).

I had to pause for a couple of weeks and, instead of crazy jumps and moves, I could barely move or even put my shoes on. However, I am determined that it won’t stop me, and I hope that by the time people read this, I’ll be back!

I still have one big goal I need to achieve: doing a standing back-flip. I’m about half way there, but unfortunately being "half way" in a back flip means landing on my head, so it’s difficult to practice!

Would you recommend free-running to friends and colleagues?

I would really recommend it as a sport. Physically, it keeps you in great shape but it also keeps you fit mentally, as so much is about keeping your brain under control. It’s so important to be active and enjoy movement and I’m proud our company does so much to encourage people to be active, including our own employees. Taking up free-running changed my mindset, making me realize that anything is possible for anyone…and when I wake up feeling the aches and pains, it’s also made me discover muscles I never knew I had!”