Tag: freerunning

“Even without practice, sleep improves memory of movements” by Ed Young

by on Nov.04, 2009, under Misc.

In this article by Ed Young, he explains the science and clinical data regarding improving memory of movements through sleep. The short of it is that there have been scientific studies performed that have shown watching movements, followed by sleep within 12 hours, increased the speed of recall of the movements, as well as the accuracy of the recall of said movements, by 22 and 42 percent respectively. ((**if you’re one of the tl; dr crowd, feel free to skip to the asterisks at the end**))

This is a great write-up, not only for its scientific analysis, but also because it mentions parkour. Mr. Young states at the end of the article, “And clearly the most important implication is that the next time I see someone doing parkour, I will immediately lie down and have a little nap. When I wake up, I will be Batman. SCIENCE!” Even though this statement is tongue-in-cheek, I think there is still some valid meaning behind it.

At the risk of being anecdotal, I have noticed my parkour skills increase after watching videos of traceurs. But I do know that Parkour is just as much a mental activity as it is a physical. You have to have the mental fortitude to try new things, as well as the mental preparation and coordination to achieve the movement. Now, how can we apply these scientific studies to real-world parkour movements?

The first step is to watch people performing parkour while paying close attention to their movements (as well as get some sleep within 12 hours). I like to watch all parkour videos at least twice. The first time I am usually too awestruck to really pay attention in detail. The second time, I watch their movements and pay attention to even the smallest nuances of body position and speed. How high did he pull his knees up on that precision or how fast was he going into that vault or I wonder what that rail felt like. Next, I’ll visualize myself performing the movement (think first person shooter view). I’ll imagine how it will feel to perform the movement, what I have to tell my body to do, what the concrete would feel like on my hands, how rolling would impact my shoulders and back, etc. This takes time to learn, but it should be instinctual after you have been performing parkour for a while.

One thing that helped me with this visualization process (which I read somewhere when I first started training, although I have no idea where I found it, so props to you mystery traceur!) is to constantly think about the texture of obstacles, walls, etc. Let me explain. When I’m walking (anywhere), I’ll see a wall I want to wall-climb. As I walk up to it (or past it) I’ll concentrate on the texture of the wall. I try to imagine what it would feel like on my fingers. Will it be soft, grainy, hard, crumbly or slick? Then as I’m walking past I’ll trail my fingers along the object in order to associate the real-life texture with the one I’d imagined. This creates a sensitivity necessary to excelling at parkour. You must be cognizant of your environment at ALL times. I found that the mind quickly becomes adept at imagining the texture of any object.

After you perform these visualization techniques, you should then practice the movements. Just like with the texture exercise, you have to associate the way the movements feel with how you visualized them in your head. Once the mental and physical aspects of the movement merge, you’ll find increased success in your performance.

**In sum: watch parkour: visualize the movement: sleep within 12 hours: practice the movement and associate the physical feel with the mental visualization.

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What is Parkour?

by on Nov.01, 2009, under Misc.

Parkour is. . .

. . .the myth of movement. It is the gentle, liquid flow around seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Parkour is me coming face to face with fear and smiling. It is the knowledge that progression creates confidence which becomes daring. Parkour is strength of self. It is the breakdown of a DnB baseline. It’s my happy blood smeared on concrete. It is exultation.

**This is the first installment of ZombieFit’s “What is Parkour?” feature written by me. Every Sunday (until I run out of submissions) I will post someone’s description of what parkour “is.” You will hear from the members of ZombieFit, as well as members of the Chicago Parkour Community. Some of these may be funny, some may be incredibly personal.

The purpose of this is to demonstrate that parkour is not just a method of fitness or something crazy teenagers do. For a lot of people it is an activity that goes beyond the physical aspects, and creates a paradigm shift in their way of thinking. Parkour truely is a way of life, and it should be postively portrayed as such. It is one of the goals of ZombieFit to increase knowledge of parkour in the Chicagoland community, and I think this feature will help to do that.

If you would like to submit a “Parkour is. . .” write up, please email it to me here.

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The importance of rest.

by on Oct.29, 2009, under Fitness

Parkour is all about conditioning the body and the mind to be as fit as possible so we are able to overcome the obstacles that we encounter in our daily lives. These obstacles will always be there as long as we are human. Especially the mental obstacles. It is important to rest both the mind and the body.

The body.

Traceurs and Traceuses can become easily excited and overcome by their passion for the art of movement. There is nothing wrong with this, as a matter of fact, it is quite a healthy obsession. Although we do have to remember that we only have one body in this lifetime so we have to treat it with respect and love, otherwise it will go to waste on us and we will be old grumpy men and women when we have debilitating arthritis and poor joints. This is why resting your body is extremely important.

Also know to listen to your body when it is saying… “Hey… That is quite uncomfortable”. or “That hurts really bad”.  The reason your body is telling you this is because something is wrong with it! Don’t be sad if you can’t train for a period of time. You can always work out the areas of your body that aren’t injured. This way you remain productive and still have strength after your break. Another way to look at it is a way of reflecting on all that you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish next. It is a way of taking a step back and viewing yourself as an artist of parkour.

The Mind

Life can be difficult on many levels. Whether it be work, school, relationships, or just a rumination you can’t seem to shake. As we closely examine all of these problems that we face, we start to make certain realizations. For instance, a person who is more optimistic is going to see more opportunity and joy in their lives, while a person who carries a pessimistic outlook will have feelings of hopelessness and sadness. I’m not saying that both mindsets don’t feel the opposite at any point, but the correlation between pessimism and pain and optimism and happiness is much more prevalent.

This brings me back to my original point. Our thoughts control our moods and our emotions. In parkour training, you may have a very high wall climb in front of you. You may become frustrated and sad that you can’t make that wall climb the first few times you tried. Here is where the spiral starts… “I’m not good enough”.  Your thoughts will interject. “I’ll never make it”. These are natural thoughts that you will go through, but instead of looking at it as a failure you can look at it as something to accomplish. So you start practicing your squats and work on your technique and come back a month later. 

Parkour is all about progression after all right? So the resting of the  mind can tend to be a bit trickier than resting the body. The reason being is that your mind is always on. You can’t turn it off as if it were a light switch and you can’t stop it from going through its natural process of thoughts. SO, how do we rest our minds? Meditation…

Meditate by focusing on your thoughts and seeing them as your minds natural function. Almost one hundred percent of the time our mind musters up this half conjured, medial idea of what our part in reality is.

(For instance- your thoughts are telling you that you are having the worst hair day ever but when you go ask somebody how your hair looks they tell you its fine. These minute insecurities we have as humans amount to nothing at all).

This is why resting the mind is important. To see things as they truly are. To gain a higher perspective and heightened sense of clarity and reason, all you have to do is sit up straight in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing (breath normally). Be cognizant of your thoughts, but only as an observer. By doing this, you will realize none of them are concrete, and you can rest your mind while keeping your body active. Lucidity my friends. Its a beautiful thing.

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“Sometimes you just have to jump.”

by on Sep.24, 2009, under Fitness

People always ask me why I do parkour.  They’re curious why a 28 year old attorney jumps on and off buildings, monuments, rails, stairs, boxes, hills, chairs, desks, animals and almost any other object you can think of.  (I’m kidding about the animals. . .maybe.).  I could tell them that I’m a traceur because it’s fun and reminds of my childhood.  I could tell them that my mental paradigm has completed shifted from looking at things as obstacles to movement to tools for movement.  These would all be half-truths.  The main reason I do parkour is because it helps me conquer my fear.

Now I don’t mean specific fears, even though I’ll willingly admit that I’m afraid of heights.  I mean my fear generally.  The best part of parkour is that it helps you to mentally realize that all fear is the same.  If you’re not sure what I mean, maybe I can put it another way.

If you’re scared of heights (like me), or you have ever jumped off of something high, or climbed too high in a tree and were not sure how to get down, you can recognize that nervous pit in the bottom of your stomach.  That uncertainty and fear of injury.  This is one type of fear that parkour addresses.  Now, it is my belief that parkour doesn’t erase this fear, it instead teaches you how to overcome it.  Once fear has been overcome, it loses its power.  This doesn’t mean the fear goes away.  I can say that after doing 5 months of parkour I’m still just as nervous doing a new cat or kong than I was when I was trying it for the first time at Premier Gymnastics Facility.  The difference is that I can cross that threshold.  I can push my body and mind past that fear.  This is where the title of this post comes into play.  “Sometimes you just have to jump.”  I think I was practicing with Grant in Naperville trying to do a specific cat for the first time when it came to me.  I had been stalling for about five minutes when I realized that sometimes, you just have to jump.    For some reason this made the decision to jump easier.

When I was driving home from the jam that night, I realized that this saying could be applied to almost anything.  You see, I had recognized that nervousness and fear I had felt prior to doing the cat leap.  It was familiar.  I’d felt it before athletic events, before I went up and spoke to a girl at a bar, and even at work when I messed something up and had to tell my boss about it.  During all these stressful situations, there comes a moment where you have to make the mental decision to act.  And to act decisively.  Parkour has helped me to better understand that moment, and to internalize the decision making process necessary to act.

Now, why am I writing all of this?  Well, I feel very strongly about parkour.  I think it is something that everyone should try.  I’ve fallen in love with the discipline and the community and I want to share it with others.  I think that everyone can benefit from the parkour ideology.  I want everyone to be a traceur :) .  I think the best way to do that is to associate parkour with fitness.  Specifically, functional fitness.  This is how I came up with the name of the site – ZombieFit.  If the zombie apocalypse occurred tomorrow, what would you need to survive?  1)  Need to be able to lift heavy things, B) run quickly and for distance, and 3) be able to navigate obstacles in an efficient manner.  You see, parkour is eminently functional.  It is from getting from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible.  What better way to evade the zombie horde?

As far as the lifting of heavy things and running quickly and for distance, I subscribe to the teachings of Coach Glassman’s CrossFit.  I’ve been training through CrossFit for over three years now, and if not for that experience I would never have had the strength or mental toughness to try parkour.  If you don’t know what CrossFit is, spend some time on the website.  It contains an veritable shit ton of information that can be used for overall fitness.  Mainly, CrossFit espouses constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.  It is a purposeful lack of specialization.  It prepares a person for a multitude of situations and circumstances by providing them the tools to be generally fit and strong.  This is absolutely necessary when planning for the zombie apocalypse.  CrossFit creates physically fit persons who are able to adapt to their situation, not plan for a specialized occurrence.  The addition of parkour training to constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity is how you create super heros.

Now, if you’re a member of the CrossFit community or a traceur, this training methodology should sound familiar.  Reason being it is similar to what Primal Fitness does.  And if you have not heard of Primal Fitness I highly suggest you check out their website.  Mark Toorock has done more for American Parkour than probably anyone else, as well as being an incredibly cool guy.  I’ll say this here and now.  ZombieFit does not intend to take anything away from Primal Fitness.  If we become even 1/4 as successful as Primal Fitness we’ll consider this a huge win.

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