How To Start Parkour In The Winter

How To Start Parkour In The Winter

“Dress in layers” … the most common advice for winter activities. People living in cold climates may be brainwashed: ask them what to wear and the first thing they say is “layers”. So what is good advice for parkour training in the snow? Is it layers? Read on.

Winter Dash Parkour Vaults

Winter Dash Vault – Rotary Park Calgary, Alberta

Prepare before you leave by eating a high energy snack that lasts; when your body is cold it uses more energy than normal to keep muscles warm. A handful of almonds or mixed nuts is a good choice. Also take water and force yourself to drink when taking breaks, you lose water while breathing and sweating but the cold fools your body’s thirst reflex. Do static stretching before you leave; if you want to stretch a tight muscle, do it from the warmth of your house before venturing into the cold.

We suggest wearing shoes for parkour. Parkour footwear for summer free running will be better than boots; boots may be waterproof and warm but restrict your foot’s range of motion. To keep your toes warm try merino wool socks. Merino wool is thin enough for your sneakers and keeps its heat retaining properties even when wet.

Summer Dash Parkour Vault

Summer Dash Vault – Rotary Park Calgary, Alberta

I hate to repeat it, but dress in layers. You will be exercising outside and will generate heat. Long underwear and sweats will be fine as long as you keep moving. You do need to move, so avoid restrictive clothing. A waterproof outer layer like track pants and a wind breaker should keep you dry in the snow; a light touque will keep your head warm and is easy to remove if you get too hot. Gloves will keep your hands warm and you’ll be better able to grip icy or snowy surfaces.

A last word of advice: if you get too hot, stop and remove a layer of clothing. Sweating will leave you damp and cold once you stop exercising. When you do stop, take the time to warm up again as cold muscles invite injury.

Parkour training in winter is definitely different than summer, but if you follow these tips you can learn parkour all year round!

Parkour In Your Apartment

Parkour In Your Apartment

Impossible! You may say as you read the title of this post. But wait, keep reading and you’ll learn how we’re adapting to winter.

It’s true, snow is on the ground, ice is on the sidewalk, and you can see your breath in the air. It’s not that you can’t practice anything outside but it’s … different. Instead of muscle shirts it’s now hats, mitts, and warm coats. Surfaces are not dry and rough, but wet and smooth. The prickly grass has become squishy wet snow. You can still practice parkour moves like rolls, cartwheels, and handstands, but things like precision jumps are enormously challenging with the added winter hazards.

Reduced possibilities outdoors means it is time to re-think indoors. In Calgary you can take classes at the local parkour gym (lucky us!) but sometimes training at home is a better option. So what can you do when you live in a one-bedroom condo?

Parkour Girl Practice Crane In Apartment

Crane pose – Apartment

Balance:

  • Crane: this is a yoga pose where you balance your body weight on your hands. Unlike learning a handstand, you don’t need a wall for balance and you won’t need much room practice. A good predecessor to handstands, it teaches you to balance using your wrists.

Mobility:

  • Yoga: the stretching movements in yoga will keep you limber all through the winter. Too much strength training or inactivity and your muscles will tighten up. Yoga is a good choice for an apartment because there’s no jumping and neighbours can’t complain about the noise.

Strength:

  • Twenty Pull Up Challenge: we us a door-mounted chin-up bar. Practice pull ups rather than chin ups in order to work the arm muscles used during muscle ups (pull ups = hands facing away from you). Conquer the 6-week program and you’ll be ready to scale walls no problem (once the snowbanks disappear).

Conditioning in an apartment isn’t as exciting as training outdoors but there are still worthwhile exercises that will help you progress. As the winter wears on (it lasts for about 6 friggin’ months in Canada) we might start to kong our coffee table; but until then, we’ve still have lots of things to work on.

Adapting Your Parkour – YouTube Balance Video

Adapting Your Parkour – YouTube Balance Video

Balance moves may not be terribly exciting but they definitely require skill, practice, and patience. Since starting to rail walk we’ve improved a great deal in a short time. From barely being able to stand on a railing, to walking forwards, walking backwards, and doing squats; all with a few hours practice. There are lots of new balance moves to train and we’re looking forward to them all!

Have we joined the circus? You may think so after watching our newest 1 minute YouTube video. Please enjoy the colourful autumn scenery: this may be our last parkour training video that doesn’t have snow since winter has come early to Calgary this year.

Taking Parkour To The Playground

Taking Parkour To The Playground

I am a grown adult and I am not ashamed to declare that I like playgrounds. Playgrounds are great for parkour practice as they have plenty of obstacles and are especially forgiving when you land. We’ve recently been practicing low impact activities, including rolls. When practicing our rolls on grass we didn’t train them very often. The hard soil was a little tough and it didn’t always turn out well. Typically our practice would include a few rolls then our shoulders and hips would start to hurt. Now that we are practicing rolls regularly we discovered something we overlooked: pea gravel. The playground we use for parkour training has a base of pea gravel to protect those darling (clumsy) children and it works just as well for adults too!

Warning: pea gravel is good for landings but jumping from it isn’t easy. Also do a preliminary check for anything hiding in the gravel (ie animal poop).

Parkour Jump In The Playground

Parkour In The Playground

As adults we can feel awkward playing in the playground. There’s no sign that says “children only”, but it’s obvious we’re a bit out of place. To be respectful we only practice parkour when there are no children present, or when they are playing on the other side of the park where their parents give us strange looks. It’s fun to use the playground again and brings back fond childhood memories, similar to practicing parkour!

As we progress our parkour rolls out of the playground and on to harder surfaces we will still use playgrounds for practice. They are full of obstacles to progress our freerunning and parkour skills. We’re looking forward to trying a playground that uses rubber chips as a base rather than gravel; it should be a sweet surface for parkour training.

I wonder what other places we’ll discover (or rediscover) as we continue practicing?

Movies and Documentaries Featuring Parkour

Movies and Documentaries Featuring Parkour

Cold weather has come to Canada; last week brought us the first real snow of the year. We are thinking on ways to practice parkour during the fast approaching winter season, but until we figure it out we can always take time to watch a movie!

My Playground: A documentary about the philosophy of buildings working together with humans to make the environment we live in, and how a progressive country and culture can truly embrace functionality. The culture of parkour in Denmark is captured, along with the design and construction of its first parkour park. Interviews with practitioners around the world confirms a common thread between traceurs; the freedom of parkour resonates the same with many, regardless of race or origin. An enjoyable documentary, there are some great parkour moves but the focus isn’t excitement, it’s about education.

Banlieu 13 (District B13): Film starring the creator of parkour: David Belle! The movie has a simple plot where a hero rising from the slums thwarts the bad guy’s plans. Belle is a rebel with a conscience who is forced to team up with a do-gooder super-cop (Cyril Raffaelli) with similar butt kicking parkour skills. District B13 features epic scenes of David escaping through the city and creative parkour-like fight scenes. The English dubbing is awful; French audio with English subtitles is recommended. An OK movie, but if you are watching just for the stunts (and really, why else would you be watching this) you’ll find the plot gets in the way of some perfectly good parkour.

Rail Walking Balance Parkour Calgary Alberta

Rail Walking Balance – Calgary, Alberta

Banlieu 13 Ultimatum (District B13 Ultimatum): Sequel to the first Banlieu 13, David and Cyril teaming up again to thwart an evil plot against B13. Learning our lesson from the first movie, we skipped the English dub and when straight to the French audio with English subtitles. Surprising for a B movie sequel, the plot was better than the first movie, and again, the parkour was fantastic but there should have been more.

Jump London: Documentary featuring Sebastien Foucan and several other traceurs who take to the rooftops of famous buildings in London to film their parkour and freerunning. The film is serious, and describes the legalities and public perception of parkour/freerunning and how the group obtained permission (or not) to use the buildings for filming their sport. Sebastien talks about the origins of freerunning and there are interviews with members of the group explaining why they practice and what inspires them. The documentary is a piece of parkour history and the background information is interesting, but the purpose of the documentary, the freerunning that was filmed, was anticlimactic. There is a similar sequel documentary called Jump Britain.

Hurt? How to Train With An Injury

Hurt? How to Train With An Injury

The hypocritical statement “Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind when thinking of my recent parkour injury. My body hinted that my foot needed rest, but my ego kept me practicing. The result of not slowly adapting to impact: a hairline fracture in my foot that will keep me “benched” for two months … or will it?

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Parkour Shoes

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Shoes

An injury that prevents parkour training in the usual ways gives opportunity to train in unusual ways. My foot was injured overtraining high impact jumps. Frustrating, but now I have the perfect excuse to focus on areas I don’t usually train. Overcoming obstacles is fundamental to parkour and mental obstacles such as injuries will only stop you if you let them.

‘Time off’ from an injury can be used for cross training or conditioning. Have you been guilty of practicing ‘fun’ moves and neglecting ‘boring’ ones? Recall old parkour training sessions and you may find you can round out your skills by alternating the focus of your training.

What will I do during my recovery? Over the next two months my goal is to bring my parkour roll up to snuff. I’ve avoided practicing the sometimes painful parkour roll and focused on vaulting. To mix my training sessions up (and to save my shoulder from over-use) I’ll be sure to practice balance moves and handstands. Seeing another traceur start the 100 push up challenge has also inspired me to complete a conditioning goal: a 25 pull up challenge (pull up – palms forward, chin up – palms facing you). This will improve my wall top ups and muscle ups.

An injury is frustrating, but when it happens it doesn’t need to stop your parkour training. Get creative and turn it into an opportunity! Parkour is about being creative with your skills and surroundings. When something changes you adapt, and your experience as a traceur is better for it.

Human vs Concrete – Knowing Parkour Surfaces

Human vs Concrete – Knowing Parkour Surfaces

I have a confession: I like to caress the walls I vault. Interaction with the environment is an enjoyable part of parkour and makes it a unique sport. ‘Parkour vision,’ where you stop simply passing through your surroundings and start assessing them is a form of environmental interaction. Knowing your surfaces is another form and it is very important for parkour.

Imagine you’ve vaulted over a wall and spotted your precision landing. Would things change if you were landing on concrete or on painted metal? How about if they were wet?

Traceurs encounter many surfaces and knowing how each will affect your parkour practice is key. Jumping from gravel transfers less energy than concrete, affecting how high you can jump. A wooden obstacle may give under your weight, a metal one may cut you. Landing on grass will absorb impact whereas smooth concrete may be dusty and slippery.

Parkour Girld Hand Stand - Lake Louise Banff

Hand stand in Larch Valley, Lake Louise, Alberta.

Take time and get to know the surfaces you will be using during your parkour training. Your body remembers even quick tactile interactions like pushing on a wall or checking the friction between your shoes and a landing surface. A smart traceur trusts their body and will check a new practice area before beginning. This prepares you for safe and successful freerunning or parkour practice.

Concrete, brick, trees, plastic, sand, wood, metal, gravel – by knowing various surface conditions you can become comfortable and your expertise will expand to different environments … get creepy if you go out for a walk today: reach out and feel the surfaces around you!

Sore And Parkour … Do They Rhyme For A Reason?

Sore And Parkour … Do They Rhyme For A Reason?

Practicing parkour is fun! Afterwards you may wonder if you were taking it easy because it doesn’t seem like a tough workout. Then you wake up the next morning and you are SORE.

Our latest practice session involved turn vaults and cat leaps. Simple parkour moves, but after our practice session we found out we worked some underused muscles. It’s fun to discover the sore muscles you didn’t know you had!

A smart workout prevents soreness before it happens. Some pre-workout advice:Parkour Jump On Rock Rotary Park Calgary

  • Hydrate. This should take place throughout the day. Guzzling water before practice will leave you with a desperate need for the bathroom and a sloshing feeling in your stomach.
  • Foam roll. This will hurt really good the first time you do it, but gets easier. Foam rolling is like a personal, cheap, deep tissue massage that works the knots out of your muscles giving you greater mobility.
  • Warm up for 15 minutes. Stretching is not warming up. You will need to get your blood pumping and your muscles warm through light exercise.
  • Dynamic stretching. After you have warmed up, stay warmed up with dynamic stretching. Pre-work out dynamic stretching is better than static stretching which can reduce the explosiveness of your twitch muscles (you will need these for parkour). Bonus: dynamic stretching keeps your heart rate up, preventing you from cooling down.
  • Warm up again if you cool down (i.e. too much socializing, not enough practicing). Take a few minutes to warm up again before returning to an explosive parkour workout.
  • Start slow. After your warm up there is no need to go all out, work your way up to bigger, more demanding moves.

Even with these tips, over-using muscles will leave them sore. “But I really don’t like pain!” you say. Post-workout tips to limit your suffering:

  • Cool down. Walk, do simple moves, don’t just come to a stop and head home. Cooling down trains your body to keep going when tired and gives your body time to absorb waste products in your muscles that build up during exercise.
  • Stretch. Take 10 minutes to work your muscles. There is debate about pre-work out stretching, but anyone experienced knows that a good post-workout stretch will reduce your hurt. Post-workout stretching aligns your muscle fibres letting muscle grow back without knotting.
  • Feed your muscles. They’ve been good to you! After exercising you have a short period of time (about 1 hr) that your body really wants protein and carbs to help recovery. Lots of products sell this, but the carb/protein ratio in chocolate milk seems to do the same thing. Bonus: chocolate milk is yummy and a good motivator if you only drink it after exercise.
  • Move. We’ve found the fastest way to heal stiff, sore, muscles is to move them. Light aerobic exercise or cross-training another muscle group the next day works wonders.
  • Don’t complain on day one after a hard exercise. It’s day two that really gets you.

Remember, the warm, sore feeling you have after exercising is yours to embrace. It means you worked your butt off. Good job.

Ten Easy Hints For Success

Ten Easy Hints For Success

“The question isn’t can you; it’s will you?” When it comes to committing to an exercise program, physical routine, or sport we don’t back down … often. To make fitness a priority we’ve turned down invitations to BBQ’s, hockey games, pubs, and restaurants. Why do this? What makes us take an intro lesson then never touch a certain sport again? Is there a reason to quit some workouts and stick with others?

The answer is motivation.

To succeed your motivation must be greater than the external and internal influences that encourage you to take it easy. Very few people outright quit, but many slowly stop continuing. How many people do you know with gym memberships who don’t use the gym?

When you reach a point where it is easy to not continue, be ready. If your motivation is solid enough success will be within your reach.

  1. Have reasons you want to succeed, write them down. When you “need” to take the day off decide if the benefit of doing so is more important than your reasons.
  2. Start slow. When you first start something new you are raring to go. Only do ½ of what you are capable of. You will wantto try again to prove you can do more. Do more, but continue to hold back and ride that wave of enthusiasm all you can.

    Parkour Girl China Town Cat Leap Calgary

    Cat Leap in China Town – Calgary, AB

  3. Find out what you enjoy. Your workout should be a pleasure, life is too short to add more chores. Change your routine regularly to keep it interesting.
  4. Find a friend to exercise with. You won’t back out as easily when others depend on you.
  5. Stop throwing money at your problem. Having a gym membership won’t motivate you, great workout clothes don’t make you exercise better.
  6. Focus on how you feel an hour after exercising. Tired and sore, but also good.
  7. Track your progress. Looking back and seeing how far you’ve come is amazing.
  8. Let others in on your plan. Make a commitment to them (this blog is an example of a commitment keeping us on track).
  9. Create a good natured competition. Humans are competitive by nature, take advantage of it.
  10. Be patient. Small steps will lead to big things.

Finding The Perfect Spot To Practice Parkour

Finding The Perfect Spot To Practice Parkour

Did you see that sweet jump? Wish I had a spot that nice for parkour training… As a beginner it is difficult to find places to practice parkour. It seems easy, parkour is meant to be done pretty much anywhere. However, sometimes while exploring the city looking for places to practice, we find ourselves doing more walking than practicing. It is our fault. We’re looking for the best place, the perfect place, and we’re beginning to realize that it just doesn’t exist. And that’s kind of the point.

Precision Parkour Jump Rotary Park Calgary

Lining Up a Precision Jump – Rotary Park, Calgary

Wanting to practice wall runs, we review tutorials and prep ourselves before leaving the house. We get downtown, look around, and discover it is difficult to find a place to practice parkour. There is always something stopping us: this wall is too smooth, too low, too high, too jagged, too close to traffic, too uneven, etc. etc. etc.

While some of these are legitimate reasons to not use an obstacle, some are just whiny excuses. It is frustrating to look for something already in your head and not find it. Moreover, the point of parkour is to fit your movements into the environment, NOT the other way around.

There will never be the ‘perfect’ wall, there is no ‘ideal’ railing or ‘ultimate’ practice space. Traceurs use creativity to find the path and movements that suit the situation. That’s the great thing about parkour: it’s up to you to make your best way, and to work with what you’ve got, no matter what it is.