Parkour Gyms, once thought of as mystical dream dojos are now becoming more and more commonplace, opening up training during what were normally the hibernation months of winter and rainy seasons. This has been monumental in the development of parkour - facilities built and designed specifically for parkour have blossomed the creative output of parkour athletes around the world and were truly seeing a whole new level of skill, confidence and originality from athletes who can spend hours working in a sterile environment without fear of injury or harassment.
With this huge advent of training space, some of the workflows of how one might get started training, and continue to train suffer some serious corner cutting due to the sheer excitement of the gym.
Every open gym session we have we have two types of practitioners come in - the kind that immediately run straight into whatever they were daydreaming on the way there, and the kind that slowly work their way into their day training. It shouldn't come as a huge shock that the latter athlete, the one who warms up is going to have a better day training. But why? Why go through what can be a bit of a boring task to end up at the same goal?
If we step back we can see very clearly the differences between the two athletes in number of injury's, max power output aswell as more fluid movement - all due to a comprehensive warm-up. As humans we are living engines, and just like we need to warm up a car in winter we need to prime and activate our body for the very physically intense process of parkour training. In a book written by Dr. Kelly Starrett Becoming a Supple Leopard, he goes over the process of fine tuning your body to jump into this process of being primed and warmed up more naturally without such a concentrated effort.
The best way to get better at something is to set goals. The best way to REACH those goals is to have MEASURABLE, accountable points to see where your development is at.
Not every training session you're going to have is going to be this mathematical breakdown of measuring skills and taking notes - nor should it be. Though, when you step into that gym, that training chamber , that dojo - you know you have limited time to get your work in. Consistency is going to be your best friend with life, and parkour is no different.
Each training session you should aim to have fun, and to learn more about your movement and body than you did when you woke up.
To avoid hitting plateaus, try each session to do one thing that scares you, and obtain one new skill point. This could be doing that one rail precision you haven't been able to, or it could be understanding your climb up just a bit different. I love to think of my training in terms of a video game - maybe I suck at my rail balance today, but if I work at it, grind and get the XP, then soon enough I'll have leveled up. The hard part is seeing your improvement when you're watching every little baby step.
Every gym is going to have a mishmosh of different equipment with different uses. Some gyms will be like HUB, and Apex and will be geared towards natural parkour - you have wood, metal, concrete - surfaces that are reliable and unforgiving. There are other gyms, like Tempest and Igels that are going to be focused towards freerunning - lots of trampolines, air tracks and foam pits. One is not necessarily better than the other, but allows you different opportunities to train different sectors of movement.
Each gym is going to give you an opportunity to add to your personal style, to explore and be challenged - so make sure you don't just replicated what you'd do at any old gymnastics gym in these spaces. Parkour varies highly on the area you are in so let yourself form to the gym the same way water forms to a tea kettle. Simply, don't just throw mats near the highest wall and throw yourself into awkward flips - find the character of the gym and use it!
One of the topics I was really trying to reach, and probably our most simple to cover. Gym Awareness. Somehow this skill has dropped out of common sense and is now the most valuable asset in all of Parkour.
In a crowded space, you need to look where you walk. Imagine Times Square on New Years - you need to know where you're going. Now make everyone of those people climb and jump on a whim and you have yourself an increasingly dangerous situation.
Gym awareness is simply put - look before you move. Make your intentions clear of what you're about to do and COMMUNICATE with those around you so you don't have collisions, near misses and very easily avoidable injuries. We'll be testing out this wild idea of "look both ways" at this years Hubbable in Boston, will report back with more details.
Last point of this post, and mot important is PREHAB. We've all heard of REhab, or Rehabilitation. The act of coming back from an injury or some big event. We all know friends who are constantly in rehabbing this, or that...and lots love to use it as a crutch to not push themselves.
The act of PREHAB, is to become strong and bulletproof to AVOID an injury happening. This takes a lifetime of constant work but will pay off as age starts to take it toll and little slips aren't so little.
Some great prehab habits to get into:
-Holding third world squat and duck walks to encourage great knee, ankle and hip mobility.
-Planks, dragon flags and handstands to lock together that core to prevent spinal injury
-Wallsits to make those connective knee tissues like iron
We will make a huge list of more soon.
All in all, gym training is a wholly GREAT thing for PK, we just need to make sure we don't remove ourselves too much from the mentality of "train to last" and follow some of these simple steps!
Be sure to comment your thoughts and opinions!