Tag: sleep

“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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