Monday 17 December 2012


Hey everyone,

I've been fairly sedentary over the last week after my neck seized up last Tuesday, leaving me unable to look at one thing for more than ten minutes, in bed for most of the day and unable to exercise for a few. But it's better now, yay.

Tonight I finished my final supervised assisting session for my level 1 coaching course, so I'll send it off and have that sorted soon. Another yay. For you guys it makes little difference - I'm still only an assistant coach so it doesn't do anything for us - apart from the fact that I've improved my doing it (hopefully anyway).

I've now been coaching for a few months, both at kids sessions at home (the main coach being injured I'm covering for him a bit) and the Oxford sessions, and I think I've learnt quite a bit, though definitely still a lot to learn. It's hard to say what I've learnt, apart from that hopefully I'm just better at being organised and giving tips, aside from creativity in coming up with things to do. After the first couple of weeks I started doing a wider variety of things. At the beginning it was always in the same place, though still with variety, but this moved on to having sessions in four different places and doing more things at each. I would often be stuck for ideas only to have a look round the day before and suddenly see lots of things to do.

The other thing I have learnt is about using routes - instead of just doing one movement over one obstacle come up with a path which uses many. They're great for making things more natural so that you do them without thinking too much, as well as working on things other than the movement itself (ie fluidity and foot placement) and being good for making you fitter (the fact that it works different muscle groups and in different ways (short bursts of power as well as the continuous base) makes it really tiring! There's definitely still a use for practising isolated movements, but I usually try and include a route each session.

There are still a lot of challenges. For one, coming up with a continued variety, though hopefully people won't mind too much if there's some repetition. Secondly, now that people aren't complete beginners it's a lot harder to come up with things more challenging than getting the basics perfect. I'll look for places with slightly move difficult vaults in, but I haven't seen much yet. It's also harder when there are more people, but that's to be expected and I should get used to managing that soon.

I've also got a few ideas for next term.

One is to have more sessions, one of them dedicated on doing conditioning, as we don't do enough of that. I'm hoping to do it at Iffley track as we'll be allowed to be there and there's grassy space and bits of equipment.

Another is to focus a bit more on the repetitive movements (ie doing something 50 times well) and the personal challenge side of it, though not much. I went to a session last week where the entire thing was doing loads of pull ups, push ups and box jumps and doing a number you didnt think you could do of them, which is important to do.

A third is to have a session where it's up to you to be creative and find new movements instead of me telling you what to do. I'll probably save this for when I have no ideas.

A final idea is that I'm going to try and get one of the ParkourGenerations coaches to come as a one-off to run a session, which will be good to see a different coaches perspective as well as one who is just better.

Anyway, there's a few thoughts about coaching I've thrown down. Have fun holidays =)

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 =)

Tuesday 4 December 2012

End of Term

So we had our last session last Wednesday, term ended on Saturday, and like most other students, I came home and slept double what I was sleeping in 8th week. I've given myself a couple of days to sleep and be lazy, but hopefully from tomorrow I'll be pressing on with less lazy things such as ambitious amounts of exercise (fitness/conditioning and parkour, of course) and maybe some work.

The last session of term had ten people turn up. TEN. I'm pretty happy with that being as it had been mostly three or four at every other session (occasionally going higher but mostly from one-off people), and while I was happy that there was a small group of us training consistently there was definitely space for more. Throughout the second half of term there had been more interest on the facebook group of people who wanted to start coming, and it looked like this had been converted into people actually turning up just in time for the last session!

For next term I'm hoping that there will be higher numbers. It was always going to be tricky this term given that we didn't go to freshers fair (partly my fault - I tried but had to pull out due to me being too busy helping out with my college's freshers and only having a couple of days notice that we could attend) and that in first term, everybody is trying out new things from freshers fair and so too busy for other new things. But hopefully next term we can build upon this foundation (the 7 or so regular attendees) with the people who tried it out once or twice becoming regulars and also by attracting new people. Attracting new people isn't just down to me - though I will be trying my best with advertising in president's post (or similar college emails) and also pestering the Cherwell and OxStu to write about us (they ignored me last term) - so please do invite your friends and share the website on your facebook =).

More importantly, though it would be nice to have more people turning up so that more people learn about parkour and more is got from the time I'm putting in, what matters most is that people are getting something from the sessions - much better to have few people turn up if they're learning lots than have loads turn up but not get much out of it, and this challenge is on me. I've got to keep running good sessions (at least, I hope you think they've been good so far!) and mix it up enough so you don't get bored. I'll hopefully have another post about the challenges of coaching, but I'll hopefully look into running indoor sessions (though not often because I think outdoor is much more important) and whether we can do occasional London trips and if a coach from London wants to come to us to run a session.

Another post shortly to come about what you can do to train by yourself over the holidays =)