Sunday 20 January 2013

Snow need for an awful pun about the fact we kept training in the snow

It snowed. We still trained. Rugby was cancelled, athletics was cancelled, the libraries shut early (fair enough, they do need to get home), and I'm sure many other sports were cancelled, but parkour was not! And why should we? It's only a bit of snow.

Admittedly in the days before it I was considering not running a session, but then I remembered that we just don't do that. Part of parkour is about adapting to your environment, and weather is just a part of that. I saw a blog post awhile ago about treating different weather as a blessing: you can go to the places that you usually go to, but it's different. The environment has changed. The same way that we shouldn't seek out an easier obstacle for a certain move, we shouldn't expect certain weather. It makes a lot of things more difficult, and we should be glad for the challenge. It helps it to stop being boring when there aren't many good places to train in Oxford.

It also forces you to be technically better. In the dry, you might be able to get away with a poorly angled landing with the grip on your feet, but when it's wet you can't. It's a good way to improve the precision of your movements, and there's also the added mental challenge to go with it. In addition to this, I felt a bit smug about the fact that we were still going when other sports had given up - surely that shows we're better?

Anyway, sessions will continue to be twice-weekly this term. There was talk at yesterday's session of maybe having extra sessions now and then, including possibly a trip a London class (only 1 hour's drive and definitely worth it), an early-morning conditioning session, and a potential social.

Sessions also now cost £2 each, up from £1. This is so that we can start looking a bit more long-term and have a bit of funding to play with, as well as paying off the cost of the website. It could be used for buying a bit of equipment or paying for a coach from london to come and run a session for us. But I'll make it accountable: we currently have £44, and at some point I'll try to sort something out so that we have an actual 'membership' (though it won't exclude anyone, it will mean we have a core of people who are regular) and some elected positions (president, etc). This is all stuff I've said before and I'm repeating it, whoops.

I'm also going on a little publicity drive (email notices and asking Cherwell/OxStu if they want to write about us), so feel free to share the website on your facebook or invite friends individually. Though we haven't got too much space to grow (it starts getting difficult if more than 8 turn up to each session), there's still ample space for more people.

Train safe/see you soon,

Monday 7 January 2013

New Term and Training

Yesterday I went to Winterval, which is a day of parkour training and coaching with the ParkourGenerations group in London - there was six hours of exercise with only a lunch break in the middle and today almost every part of my body is aching (including the underside of my mouth, which is odd) held at an outdoor parkour training structure.

I'm back in Oxford this Wednesday so I'll start organising training sessions for the following week at some point. I've had a few people get in touch with me over the holidays saying that they do parkour but aren't interested in coming to coached sessions. I've also realised that having entirely structured sessions means that you only practice things which I tell you to practice, so you don't get to do your own thing as much.

When I started the group I wasn't intending it to be me coaching sessions all the time, I was more expecting to find a couple of people (including some experienced people) to train with (instead of people for me to train). But as it happened, there were beginners wanting to learn, so that's what I did. Maybe I've got slightly too caught up in this and was focusing too much, if not entirely, on this type of training.

I have always been running things based on what people want though - if people want something different that's fine with me, I'm only doing anything based on what other people want. So it's up to you!

Instead of structured sessions where I'm telling you what to do all the time, we could instead do more open sessions (maybe where I run a warm-up but then you're free to do whatever you want, but we stay as a group in a location) or have a 'jam' format (jams are just unstructured where everybody trains however they want). In the more structured sessions I'll also be varying it more so that there are 'open' parts to it where you do you own thing.

There is a caveat though: less structure means more individual responsibility, and for beginners it's often hard to know what to do given less experience and less understanding of the discipline. Lots of people start off thinking it's all about doing more difficult, bigger or stylistic moves and with more open sessions people may end up training in a way which will mean that is more dangerous or progresses and improves more slowly. It's much more important to get really good at the basics before trying to push yourself and equally as important to make sure your body is strong enough too. I've been reading "The Parkour and Freerunning Handbook" by Dan Edwardes (PKGen founder, he was one of the first Brits to start parkour so has loads of experience) and he stresses this, pointing out that tendons and ligaments strengthen a lot more slowly than muscles and pushing yourself too quickly too soon makes you much more likely to get injured in the following months and years. There's also a blog put up by one of the PKGen team ( - give it a read!) talking about the importance of stressing the basics and he's observed a lack of understanding by a lot of the parkour community.

Anyway: next term, hopefully more variety in sessions, training with some more experienced people, and also more conditioning! See you in a week or so =)