All too often I hear or read about yet another traceur who is frustrated with their training. They feel worn out, defeated, plateaued, or simply lost. There are many different causes for this feeling of confusion or disorientation. After spending some time training others, I have found there are a few common denominators that lead to this general confusion of direction. These problems include "goofing off", lack of structure, checklist style routines, aimless wandering, or the all too common effects of over-training.
Goofing off is one of the more common starting points for most traceurs. The routine, or lack thereof, is very aimless and childish in a way but most hobbies, disciplines, and other interests start off this way. It develops the fun base and supports the progression into a serious trainee. This is a defining characteristic however. At some point they came to the realization that progress is not made in a casual environment. Is it fun to goof around and jump over, under, or through random obstacles? Sure. But chances of someone else taking you seriously are very minimal as is the potential for continuous growth. If are one who is confused or lost with his or her training progress, perhaps all you need to do is make the change and develop a more serious or mature training routine.
Other times, the problem is found in the lack of proper structure. They know they want to practice and train parkour, but they have no idea how to go about formalizing a workout routine. What ends up happening is an advanced form of the "goofing off" style of training. They are serious about training, they just don't know how and end up spending countless hours practicing things that my not even be beneficial to them. Sooner or later, confusion and plateaus will arise.
The next form of detrimental training I have found fairly unique to parkour but you can also see this in other art forms such as breakdancing or sometimes gymnastics. Focusing your training on a checklist style routine is detrimental because it creates tunnel vision to the discipline as a whole. Effectively, you lose the vision of parkour and no longer see parkour for what it is, but rather just a series of skills. You then go out and say, "Okay from now on I'm going to work kongs until I have them mastered." This is great, however, in most cases you will become blind to the other options out there. Once you do manage to master a skill or technique, you abandon it until you master yet another technique. This tunnel vision will have negative effects on your training.
The last common problem I have found does not come about from some routine malfunction. In many cases the traceur has a very structured routine, but fails to recognize the training they do outdoors similar to the training they do in a gym environment. This causes them to push and push and soon they become ill, sore, fatigued, and mentally drained. These are the effects of over-training. Too much of a good thing can and many times will be dangerous and parkour training is not exempt from this.
So now we've identified key detrimental factors that may be the cause of your confusion or lack of progress. With these in mind, how can we avoid them happening in our training? Several key factors I feel will benefit are organization, proper training structure, and a respect for time or the ability to be patient.
Organization and proper training structure are two of the biggest factors in attaining and maintaining a fitness regime. I do not need to cover this aspect extensively as another of this community has already: Steve's "How to construct a workout"
article. Steve's article will set you on the right track to proper training structure as well as give you some insight into why a structured routine is more useful to a beginning trainee.
Patience is something I think many practitioners, including myself, lack to varying degrees. We've fallen in love with our art/discipline and we want to live, breathe, eat, and sleep parkour. This may be all good and dandy but it is necessary to understand the effects parkour training can have on the body. Depending on your workout structure, training for parkour in an unconventional setting will have all the same effects as more conventional forms like weight training. Respect for training in this way, regardless of how much fun you may be having, is absolutely needed. To explain further from personal experience, I ran into related issue last year with bouldering.
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that involves short but complex problems that often require extreme upper and/or lower body strength, cooridination, and balance. Because of this feature, bouldering is a truly intense workout. The thrill of completing a new problem, however, clouded my vision from this concept and as the weather got increasingly worse, I found myself in the rock gym 5 days a week. It didn't take long (approximately two months) for over-training to take hold and suddenly I had a slew of overuse injuries. Training for parkour can be detrimental in this same way if you lose sight of the effect it has on your body. I understand that everyone wants to expand their limits but give it time; Train for life, not for prestige.
One final point I'd like to make is more of an argument for supplemental exercise. I'm sure most people who will find themselves reading this will have also read Blane's famous article When Worlds Collide
. Blane's article is intriguing and compelling, but as most people who plateau will still be beginners, take his disclaimer to heart:
This is not so much a recommendation for newer practitioners to Parkour, as it will take a solid strength foundation to train in the way I am suggesting in this post. If you undertake any of the advice in this post without a certain amount of prior training and conditioning then you are very likely to pick up injuries and cause more damage in the long run.
There is a certain distinction that needs to be made. New comers to parkour and novices require a certain amount of strength to protect them from the stresses parkour places on the body. After Blane's many years of training, perhaps doing 50 precision jumps near maximal distance were more beneficial to his personal goals to better his parkour ability. However, to a novice, this may not be the best or most efficient approach which brings me to my last point: supplemental exercise.
I believe supplemental exercise outside of parkour skill training is absolutely necessary to get yourself where you want to go. This can be in the form of conditioning type exercises, other disciplines (Gymnastics or the Martial Arts), and/or weight training. Doing 50 precision jumps may be beneficial at near elite levels, however, to a novice this will probably not be the best approach. Mastery of parkour at this level is located in the flow and control exhibited by the traceur and their previous training has given them the strength and explosiveness needed. I believe this sets up a noticeable heirarchy to follow:
Introduction of basic techniques
Process of attaining personal potential
Process of mastering and controlling that personal potential
Blane is trying to achieve mastery while a novice will be trying to expand their horizons. To control and master a nine or ten foot precision, you must first be able to jump nine or ten feet. These types of gains are easily achievable through olympic style lifts. To state this as an example, if I want to continually train to expand my broad/precision jump, my workout routine will involve supplemental oly lifts along with precision jumps during technical parkour training days; I expand slowly and learn to control my explosive gains as they are made, rather than avoiding parkour training to focus solely on oly lifting or vice versa.
A benefit to more conventional style workouts is that you can track your progress with numbers to see your personal progress. This is an encouraging factor for novices that keeps them and their training healthy and continually progressing. Numbers are invaluable when it comes to training as is the use of a written training log. Lucky for us, there is an entire forum
for this very purpose that allows you and everyone else to see the kind of training you are doing. This helps to keep you motivated, helps others offer suggestions to improve your results, and helps others diversify their own routines based on yours.
Becoming frusterated with your training I feel is a problem wide spread enough to discuss as the solution is relatively simple and often overlooked. Many of us, for example, are quick to complain about being tired throughout the day but overlook the fact that we stayed up several hours later than needed to watch that last inning, quarter, or play that last game. All you may need to do is just get more sleep. Just the same, if you're looking for serious progress with parkour, perhaps all it takes is a more serious approach to training for it. I hope this essay will help you target and locate your problem areas and give you a step in the right direction toward a more serious or more appropriate training routine as well as opening the floor to others who have been in this very position and have found their own way out of it.
Post any suggestions, hints, or tips here.