Can Parkour Training Help with Other Sports?

Can Parkour Training Help with Other Sports?

Athletic training can be intense and parkour is no exception. Athletes everywhere train hard to improve the strength and skills they need. Practicing parkour has helped strengthen our fast-twitch muscles, increase co-ordination, and improve body control (ie jumps, vaults, flips, etc.). Although these skills are fundamental to a traceur’s development, there are some great side effects that are transferable to other sports.

Sports equipmentDuring team contact sports (like soccer, ultimate frisbee, and basketball), it’s common to lose your balance when challenged by an opponent. Injuries can happen when it gets rough and you’re knocked down. Training your landings, parkour rolls, and recovery from falls helps avoid twisted ankles, knees, or other injuries. As in parkour, when you roll you minimize your risk of injury. Check out this video to learn what can happen when you don’t roll. You can even take it further: ‘ukemi’ is a part of martial arts where practitioners train in ‘the art of falling’. Simply, this means training yourself to recover safely when you take an unexpected fall (or an unexpected attack from an opponent).

Bursts of speed and agility come more easily after training parkour jumps and vaults. There aren’t many sports that require vaulting over an obstacle, but there are plenty that require changing direction quickly and reacting to evolving situations during a game (like, volleyball, football, or field hockey). Being able to control your movements and avoid opponents, outrun them, or to reach the ball first, gives you an advantage. It’s fast-twitch muscles that give you the advantage: they give you explosive power so you can jump higher, change direction quickly, and react faster than your opponents. When training for parkour you build these muscles to vault higher, react to obstacles, jump farther, and move quickly.

A developed parkour vision lets you see opportunities in other sports by training you to truly see your environment and the different ways you can use it. When you practice parkour you train your creativity. Finding the perfect practice place takes creativity, applying this same line of thinking can give you better angles or advantages in other sports.

Training for parkour makes you a better traceur. As you improve as a traceur, you improve as an athlete and the skills you develop can be applied to many different sports, activities, and everyday situations.

Parkour as a way of life? Maybe this isn’t far from the truth.

Plyometrics VS Plyocide: Which Is Better For Parkour?

Plyometrics VS Plyocide: Which Is Better For Parkour?

You’ve just finished a parkour jam or practice session. Do your legs shake like jello when walking home? Step up your conditioning by incorporating plyometrics. What is plyometrics? Plyometric jump training is important for parkour (or any sport) where an athlete needs explosive leg strength. It improves your fast twitch muscle response and builds strength. Make plyometrics part of a regular exercise routine, and your endurance will increase. A lot. If you have never done plyometric training before, P90X or P90X2 are good place to start.

Parkour Girl Plyometrics

P90X plyometrics training

Beachbody’s most famous video exercise series has two plyometric workout options: the nearly decade-old ‘Plyometrics’ from P90X, and ‘Plyocide’ from 2012 newcomer P90X2. The difference between the two workouts:

Plyometrics: An extreme leg-strength workout, P90X Plyometrics is a cardio workout too. Without wasting time, the 60 minute DVD will elevate your heart rate even during the warm up. Expect to be tired from lunges and squats just as the real ‘fun’ begins. There is no shame if during the first few attempts you cannot finish the full routine. It took me three weeks before successfully finishing the entire video. Later that evening I fell down the stairs because my legs were too exhausted to support my weight.

Plyocide: With less sustained cardio than its predecessor, Plyocide still leaves you breathless. The workout trains both strength and twitch muscles with a variety of moves. The new jump training in P90X2 is equipment intensive. By the end of the 55 minutes you’ll have used a foam roller, stability ball, medicine ball, sturdy box, and a workout band. The video has options to skip any of the equipment, but do so and you’ll miss the full effectiveness of the exercises.

To practice parkour harder and longer, plyometrics should become a key part of your conditioning. Whether you complete “Plyometrics” or “Plyocide” you will curse and swear at Tony Horton as he puts you through hell, but you will also thank him.

Parkour Training vs CrossFit Training

Parkour Training vs CrossFit Training

Parkour and CrossFit have different goals, but both can be described as ‘functional’ fitness. For example, parkour training can involve jumping over obstacles and CrossFit training can involve lifting your own weight. These types of exercises prepare you for life outside a gym. Contrast this with bicep curls or bench-pressing: other than the gym, where would this be useful? Gym training is popular but doesn’t prepare muscles for any type of everyday strength or endurance the way parkour does. Sometimes parkour training isn’t possible or practical; CrossFit provides another alternative for building functional fitness.

CrossFit’ is an exercise program designed with function in mind, and it’s growing in popularity. CrossFit workouts take place indoors and use CrossFit equipment, but the philosophy of ‘functional’ fitness is there. CrossFit trains practical skills and can provide the camaraderie and ‘membership’ mentality that comes with a gym.

For those unfamiliar with CrossFit, a class takes place in a ‘box’ (a fancy word for a ‘gym’) and consists of multiple workout stations. Each station has a different exercise targeting different muscles, and classes consist of everyone starting at a different station, working their butts off, and changing stations when the time’s up. Everyone continues this timed rotation until the workout is complete. CrossFit has a reputation for being seriously butt-kicking, and can be scaled to accommodate an athlete’s range of experience. Everyone from senior citizen to triathlete can do CrossFit: the key is the intensity of the workout.

Parkour Girl Pull Up

Doing Pull Ups

Where do parkour and CrossFit come together? Many of the same techniques in parkour (using your own body weight, practicing functional moves) overlap with CrossFit moves, and in fact some CrossFit gyms pair the two together to offer both CrossFit and parkour classes.

Arguably, CrossFit workouts can get you into shape a lot faster than parkour: the goal is to build strength and endurance, rather than move through your environment. CrossFit moves can help to build the required muscles for parkour. Strength built by practicing parkour can help CrossFit moves feel more natural, but conversely being an experienced traceur is unlikely to make you a god of beginner CrossFit workouts. Parkour is about moving through your environment efficiently and conquering urban obstacles. It’s about using both your mind and your athletic ability together to achieve efficient movement.

Parkour and CrossFit may share some similarities, but their goals are very different. They both support functional fitness and are relatively new forms of training. There are many reasons why you might choose one over the other, but they are both pieces of the fitness puzzle. There may not be room for both parkour and CrossFit in your regular training, but there’s probably at least some room to try it out and see what it’s like.

Becoming Parkour In Twenty Twelve

Becoming Parkour In Twenty Twelve

Parkour Girl Wall Spin Calgary

Our favourite parkour photo of 2012

It was a grand idea: let’s learn parkour. A year ago we started our journey to learn parkour and now it is New Year’s Day; a time for looking back on the last 365 days. What did introducing parkour into our lives accomplish?

Blogging: An unexpected side effect of learning parkour, and a positive one! Blogging has improved our photography skills, non-technical writing abilities, and understanding of web technologies. Blogging has also exposed us to many new topics via other interesting bloggers.

A New View: This has come threefold. One – We gained parkour vision which lets us really see our environment. Two – Relearning to play has occasionally left us on the ‘wrong’ side of building security. We are now not as quick to judge people acting outside of social norms. Three – Watching an action movie is very different after practicing parkour: we constantly judge the stunts.

Skills: With surprising little practice, once difficult kong, dash, kash, and wall spins have become enjoyable activities. When we practice other parkour moves we know that these will also come to be second nature in time.

Injuries: Very few. Practice and repetition leads to performing moves safely. Injuries occur when pushing too far beyond your skills. The worst we’ve received over the last year: a bloody toe, banged hips, and a sprained shoulder. Not bad for 30 hours of outdoor practice.

Good People: The Calgary parkour community is filled with positive people. We always enjoy meetings with other traceurs.

We’ve learned a lot in the past year, and next year will bring new learnings. Finding time to practice is always our biggest challenge; with Tim leaving for Ghana in August things will be even busier. It should be an interesting 2013!

Parkour at Home – A New Beginning?

Parkour at Home – New Beginning?

When arriving in a new town planning to practice parkour, it pays to take some time and get to know the surfaces and hazards. But what about coming back to a place you know after being away? Have things changed so much you need to get reacquainted again?

Home for the holidays, I arrived just in time for a snow storm. During a Canadian winter, that means no practicing outside. But what about inside? I’m spending some time in my childhood home, and I’m seeing it for the first time with my parkour vision. Or am I?

Since starting parkour we feel like we’ve come back to basics, back to play, back to being a kid. Now that I’m back in the house where I grew up I can see the stairs and walls that were my jungle gym when I was small. I remember swinging my way around the bannister, taking the steps in twos, then threes, then (if I were brave) fours. I also remember doing cartwheels in the hall, jumping from bed to bed, and trying to chimney climb the walls (much to my mother’s chagrin as she had to clean both hand- and foot-prints off the walls).

No Limits Sign - parkour sign

No limits, Calgary Alberta

It is refreshing to see my old home in a new light, which seems a lot like the old light; now I’m back and I don’t just see a house, I see a whole lot of swinging, jumping, and vaulting just waiting for me. Then again, when I was five years old I weighed a lot less and the furniture hasn’t gotten any stronger. I also remember times when my early acrobatic experiments didn’t turn out so well: falling down the stairs, jumping over the bed instead of on it, and so on.

I like being able to see my house the way I used to see it when I was young: parkour vision comes easily when all you do is play all day. Although I don’t intend to relive my childhood adventures, I’m happy remembering what it was like to climb and jump on things that weren’t meant for it. Which is exactly what we like about parkour.

So for now the memories will keep me going because I’ll venture outside instead of inside for my parkour fix. That is, if the snow ever stops.

Parkour In Unfamiliar Places?

Parkour In Unfamiliar Places?

Most successful athletes set goals when training and traceurs are no exception. The fastest, most effective way to learn parkour is to set a goal and then focus on achieving that goal. However, sometimes life throws a curveball and, to be successful, you’ll need to adapt. Your goals will change for parkour injuries, the weather, different seasons, or simply some exciting news.

I had planned to practice parkour next summer; an email changed that. Instead of having all summer to learn parkour skills I received a deadline. The company I work with partners with an NGO and I will be moving to West Africa next August. Now my summer practice time is limited and I need to change my goals.

Snow Bunny Rabit

Ready for Ghana?

I will be living in Ghana for six months and during that time my strategy for learning parkour needs to adapt. A blog post about practicing parkour overseas made me wonder if structures in rural Ghana are suitable for parkour. If they are not what will I do? I’m hesitant to ask my new NGO contacts: the fact that I do parkour can be difficult to explain when most “sane” people in their 30’s don’t jump over walls.

To prepare for Ghana I’ll practice skills that do not need sturdy structures. I am behind on my handstands, cartwheels, and other simple moves. By practicing the basics before I go, I will be able to advance these skills safely while in Ghana. Depending on how training goes, my new goals include parkour rolls, dive rolls, wall spins, and flips.

In seven months I will be living in a totally different environment; will I give up on practicing parkour now? No. Will I change my approach? Hell yes! It will be interesting to see what is accomplished before I leave.

Parkour Community vs City – Can They Work Together?

Can the city planners and Calgary’s parkour community work together to make this area into something special? The city has been investing time and money into improving Calgary’s downtown and I see this as an opportunity to make the space a unique area. Aligning some common goals the area could be used by the many office workers as a desirable lunching area, as a rallying area for the practitioners of parkour, and as draw to the downtown core during weekends and for tourism. It will be interesting to see how forward-thinking Calgary is willing to be in its downtown development and how professionally the parkour community can present itself.

Using A Foam Roller To Improve Workouts

Using A Foam Roller To Improve Workouts

We had no idea what we were in for the first time using a foam roller. In the workout program P90X2, warming up and stretching before a workout is old news; the new kid in town is a round piece of stiff foam. One friend told us a foam roller is predominantly a runner’s tool, another friend told us that seniors use it to improve their mobility. None of these sounded very promising … what could this thing do differently than stretching?

When improving yourself, simpler is often better. Parkour training is one of a few activities that can be done without any special tools or equipment; just a pair of training shoes and sweats and you’re good to go. When it comes to fitness, save your money by not ordering the latest ‘fitness gadget’ or signing up for expensive gym memberships. The best way to get fit is to work hard. Work really really hard. So why spend hard earned money on a hard foam roller?

Foam rolling before exercising

Foam rolling before exercising

When it is used regularly and before exercise, a foam roller benefits and improves your mobility. Using it involves lying on the roller and slowly rolling back and forth to work out the knots in muscles. It doesn’t seem like much happens when using it, but the effectiveness can be noticed afterwards.  Muscles will be noticeably more flexible and joints not nearly as tight.

It’s a simple exercise tool with a great payoff but be warned: to release a knot in your muscles you will need to keep the pressure where it is least comfortable. Yes, least. Using the foam roller on tight muscles is like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. Foam rolling exercise sessions will be uncomfortable the first time, but with regular practice you remove major knots and the sessions get easier. Don’t worry if the regular foam roller gets too easy, because you can always upgrade to a torture device called the ‘rumble roller’ which basically has protrusions over the roller so you can work your muscles even harder!

Effective foam rolling is not a quick exercise and to get the benefits you have to hold uncomfortable positions. It’s not something you can whip off in 3 minutes, a 10 to 15 minute session should be a minimum.

We may not support buying many fitness gizmos to help you exercise, but the foam roller provides great benefits you cannot get with just stretching. It’s a recommended addition to any intense fitness routine!

Snowy Parkour Practice – YouTube Video

Snowy Parkour Practice – YouTube Video

The snow has come to Calgary and it’s time to get outside and play … err, practice. Around here skiing is typically the winter sport of choice; however for traceurs like us it has some stiff competition this winter as we learn parkour.

Parkour training in winter has unique benefits and hazards. The snow is soft and cushions landings and rolls, but ice presents a new challenge for feet and hands. Precision jumps onto snowy ledges are dangerous with the possibility of hidden ice and swinging from cold bars will require winter gloves that may affect your grip. Snow easily gets down your pants when practicing parkour rolls and may soak sweatshirts. But boy it is FUN!

The background music of our latest practice video may leave parkour visions of sugar plums dancing in your head. Can you recognize some of the snow covered practice sites from a previous training video?

Reunion With The Parkour Gym

Reunion With The Parkour Gym

It’s good to remember where you started. Recently we’ve switched up our training and returned to the facility that introduced us to free running and parkour. The last few months were spent independently learning parkour moves outside, and returning to the gym was refreshing. The classes are a mix of skill-levels and ages; we’re at the bottom of the skills but the top of the ages!

After training outside we were able to appreciate the parkour gym more than before. There are advantages to training in a gym that you can’t get outside: objective coaching, forgiving surfaces, moveable obstacles, and live inspiration. We took advantage of them all!

We’ve learned many of our parkour moves from YouTube but having objective coaching was a huge benefit: we got tips and advice that we could use right away. We’ve developed habits training independently and, although they may not necessarily be ‘bad’ habits, it helped to get pointers from an instructor.

Parkour Girl Practicing Winter Palm Spin

Practicing a palm spin in the snow – Rotary Park, Calgary, Alberta

The soft surfaces of the gym slowed our progress when first learning parkour. The padding allowed us to be sloppy whereas the real world did not. Practicing outside made us better, faster. Now with some experience the gym allows us to practice creativity in an environment where failure is an option.

We prefer training outside; the gym seems crowded and the younger kids fly everywhere oblivious to their environment. Outside you can use whatever you want, whenever you want, without competition.

Our reunion with parkour classes made us realize that we need to practice at the gym and outside to progress as traceurs. Real world obstacles perfect parkour training quickly, but creativity and new methods are learned fearlessly fast in the gym. Parkour and free running is about using the environment available to you. For us that will include both the world outside and the parkour gym.