Sunday, 9 December 2012

Training Solo

I promised during the last couple of weeks of term that I'd write a bit about training that you can do over the holidays, now that it isn't my responsibility to come up with stuff for us to do, so here's my attempt.

Firstly, see if there's anybody around where you live who does parkour, and then ask them if you can train with them. They'll know some places to go and mean that you can train in a group, which is fun.

However, when it isn't a structured session, group training can often not be that productive. The bits I've done in the past have mostly just been somebody seeing something they can do, doing it, and then some others seeing if they can. Though this did mean that you tried new and bigger things it meant there wasn't much practice or repetition. There's a lot to be gained from training on your own and it's worth doing even if you've got a group to train with. If you work at it you can get more out of it and it allows you to focus on techniques you want to practice which are at your level. It also challenges you to find the motivation to train on your own as well as to be creative in finding things.

I guess the first problem is finding somewhere to train (called a 'spot' in parkour terminology). This can be tricky but there's normally at least something nearby. I started to make a list (local parks and playgrounds, shopping centres, car parks, ...) but then I realised that it was broad enough that it included "anything which has a wall or a railing or things you can jump between". Parkour is meant to be about adapting your movement to your environment (although finding a place which gives this lots of opportunity is nice). But have a search around and you should be able to find something - even kerbs, street signs and benches can be used to train on!

If you can find somewhere secluded to train that's always nice, though ultimately shouldn't stop you. I always feel much more self-conscious when I'm on my own (when I'm coaching I find that I don't even care, but alone I do), but try and ignore that. Funny looks don't really matter and if somebody asks what you're doing you can either explain to them about parkour or just give your immediate goal (ie, seeing if I can jump from here to here or making myself stronger by climbing this wall over and over). There's an article I'll link to about not caring what other people think which might be useful.

Once you've found somewhere, then you need to decide what to train. It's probably easiest if I just give a list of moves as a sort-of checklist:
 - Balance
 - Jumps (in both dimensions, so distance as well as height. Also standing take off, running take off, multiple jumps in a row)
 - Vaults (varying angles of approach and heights of obstacles - small things can actually be really good for working your technique)
 - Walls (up and along)
 - Fluidity (moving around railings or multiple obstacles)
 - Specific techniques (rolls, for example).
Again, there are lots of things and I've probably
 - Technical things (like rolls)

There are different approaches to training and a variety is often useful, but experiment and see what works for you. Sometimes I'll go out with a mind to train but without anything specific in mind and see what I think of when I get there, but other times I'll have a short list of things to work on, and this is an approach I've often found more useful. For example, I'm currently trying to practice rolls (because mine could be improved quite a bit) and handstands, so I can do these anywhere, but also looking at doing kong-precisions (the vault, but then trying to land on a certain spot) and a few other minor things. It's often also good to set yourself challenges either for the day or over a period of time: I did one the other day where I found a rail and told myself that I would make it to the end 5 times (I got on the rail about 13 times in total), or that I'll jump between two things a certain number of times. But you could also think of a few things that you want to improve over the holidays and keep going back to them, such as a certain length balance or distance jump or a new technique. A challenge I'd be tempted to set is being able to cat-balance (on all fours on a rail) for a certain length.

Repetition is very useful and important as it helps to ingrain techniques into your body (muscle memory type stuff, I won't claim to fully understand what this means, but I think it just means so that it comes naturally) and makes you stronger somehow. Once you've found a jump that you manage once every ten tries, keep practising until you make it every other time. Once you've found a vault which you can do, keep doing it until it's smooth. A good way of doing this to stop it being boring (though I usually quite enjoy the repetition because I'm still having to concentrate and it's still more fun than other exercise) is to find a route (you might have noticed I've started using these more often in the sessions I've been running!) and repeat that.

A final thought on actual training is to do things which scare you every now and then (but make sure that they're safe things!) to challenge yourself with that.

Bleurgh. It's become a fairly long post so far but I've still got some stuff left to talk about - sorry about that but I'm trying to be thorough. The other thing to talk about is 'conditioning', which is a word with negative connotations. As well as moving around, we need to make sure that our bodies are ready to move around and also improve how well we can move around. Conditioning can be done as part of movement parkour training (repeating techniques often works certain muscles well and doing lots of drops toughens the body up) but also as stand-alone exercises. There's lots of ways to work fitness and lots of exercises to work different muscles, all of which are useful, but instead of me talking about it I'll put a link at the bottom. I would really recommend doing conditioning as it both reduces risk of injury and increases your ability to do stuff. Some people who take parkour seriously spend more than half their training time conditioning. Also stretch lots, both after exercise and generally: flexibility is often overlooked but is equally as important as strength.

A final thought before I start throwing links down for those of you enthusiastic enough to want to know more: the weather! Yes, in this season it's likely to be cold and wet, but don't let this stop you. To deal with the cold, wear appropriate clothing and warm up lots. To deal with the wet, wear appropriate clothing but also change your training style. Everything is slippy so doing big or precise jumps is not so good an idea, so instead work on some technical or conditioning things. Parkour is about adapting your movement to your environment and that includes the weather!


1) . Along the lines of what I've said which is good to read!
2) . About not caring what other people think.
3) the YouTube channel 'DemonDrills'
4) the blog , which I spent hours reading in procrastination.

Aside from this, there's loads of material all over the internet about how and what to train, just get looking!

Most importantly though, have fun! Hope this is useful (if scattered and long), and any questions feel free to ask me =)

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