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How To Become Flexible: A Practical Guide

Becoming Bendy

Flexibility is one of the most underrated physical abilities a traceur can have. There are plenty of videos focusing on a traceur’s upper body strength or ability to do flips, but rare indeed is the video that shows a practitioner doing splits, or even deep stretching.

This doesn’t make sense. As traceurs, aren’t we always trying to push our limits – and isn’t flexibility a way to do that? A useful and impressive way, at that. So why not develop it? Every traceur should be mobile. Even powerlifters and bodybuilders can benefit from it. With that in mind, how does one go about becoming bendy? Continue Reading →

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Upper Body Conditioning for Parkour

Handstand Variations

Upper body strength is important.

With a powerful upper body, a traceur can climb faster, roll easier, vault farther, lever, handstand, flag, planche, play on bars like a combination of a monkey and a gymnast, walk on his hands… The possibilities are endless.

Upper body strength is awesome. This is an established fact. So how can it be developed? You could go in a gym and mess around with all of their fancy isolation machines and get a crappy workout that will have no practical effect on your training. Or you can do some of these bodyweight exercises and get a great upper-body workout with nothing more than yourself, a few square feet of flat space, and possibly a pull-up bar. Continue Reading →

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How to Overcome Fear

Please don't do this.

How To Overcome Fear

Fear is without a doubt the biggest obstacle traceurs face. And we face some pretty darn big ones.

Step 1: Learn More About What You Fear

This is simple for traceurs. It’s obvious why we fear — a big drop, a big gap, going over your head, moving through the air without being able to see the ground… Pretty clear why and what we fear. Still, knowledge is power; watch or read a few more tutorials.

Step 2: Visualize and Expose Yourself—Gently—To What You Fear

As Jujimufu says, visualization is a huge help.

When going through a tricking visualization, imagine and recreate fears that may be present, mentally recreate environmental details such as weather conditions or aural stimulations, feel the weight of your body, and see yourself doing the move in 1st person instead of 3rd person. Adding these realistic details to your visualizations is hard, but will yield superior results compared to your normal day dreaming.

Very true, as I can tell you from personal experience. Seeing yourself doing the move is crucial. If you don’t have a good idea what to expect from it, then you’ll be experiencing it for the first time when actually you do it for the first time. The new sensations — going over your head, or twisting, or falling for a long time — will surprise you, and you could lose your focus. Splat. Visualize first.

Exposing yourself (not in public…) to your fears means progression. You want to learn to front flip? First you roll. A lot of forward rolls. Then you handspring. Then you roll some more. Then you practice blocking. Then you handspring more. Then you dive roll a lot. Then you combine everything with a healthy dose of guts and just DO IT. If you’re trying to make a 1o foot wide gap with a 6 foot drop, start with 5 foot wide lengths on the ground. Then start jumping longer distances, while keeping it on the ground until you can make an 11 foot gap. Then you go back and do the 10 foot one with a drop. Get the picture? Build up to it. Progression.

Step 3: Use Physical Tricks to Relax

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

A calm, steady breathing pattern will help you focus your energy into overcoming the fear. Ever thought about doing something scary and new right at the end of a run when your breathing is ragged and your heart is thumping fit to burst? Of course not. You want steady breaths, steady heartbeat.

Lifehacker suggests drugs or drinks as possible helps. But I think we all know that that’s a pretty bad idea, right? Right. This isn’t going to be something stationary; you’ll be moving. You’re going to need as much control, focus, and concentration as possible. Which, incidentally, is why I think it’s a bad idea to train new moves when you’re being watched by strangers or non-traceurs. You get to thinking about how you look or what they’ll think of you when you fall and BOOM, focus disappears, fear appears. Your fellow traceurs will understand falling. Try new moves with them if you don’t want to do it alone.

Fear is not present; neither is skill.

I also like to count to three right before doing a new move. Not too quickly, not too slowly. Just long enough to calm your breathing and mind, let your heartbeat slow a little. Then clear your mind and just go for it. The first time I tried this technique in earnest, I overcame my fear of websters, butterfly twists, and side flips. All in one day.

But! This isn’t a foolproof solution. I had been thinking about doing those moves for a few weeks beforehand, so it wasn’t like I just got up one morning and randomly started busting side flips. And it’s worth noting that this only helps with fear, not technique. That’s all on you and repetition. And again, it doesn’t work all the time — I couldn’t muster up the nerve to try a running b-twist from a step-up. But still, try this method. It definitely works for me.

Bonus Points: Mind Hacks

Lifehacker suggests…

  • Enlisting others’ help.
  • Making it hard for yourself to fail.
  • Knowing yourself.

As I said before, train with other traceurs/freerunners if possible. They know what you’re going through. The other two suggestions — making it hard to fail and knowing yourself — are interconnected. Telling people, “I’m gonna do a wallflip tomorrow!!!” despite the fact that you’re still really scared of wallflips is not a good idea. If you’re still scared to even think about them, telling people will only make you seem like a show-off or braggart. Therefore, you need to know yourself. If you know that you can do a wallflip — you’ve gone through the progressions, you’re used to backflipping, you’re good at pushing off the wall — then yeah, maybe you can tell people. Who knows, it might be the catalyst that makes you commit to it. On the other hand, if you tell people when you’re not ready, your ego and the fear of humiliation may cause you to try in spite of yourself, leading to — predictably — injury.

In the End: Acceptance

Lifehacker says that in the end, it may all come down to…

Acceptance of the thing you fear and that you can’t control it.

Accept that you fear going over your head backwards or forwards or sideways. Then destroy that fear. Go out and DO IT! If you want to try it move badly enough, you will do it. Just wanting to do something isn’t enough, you have to want to try it (another thing I learned from Jujimufu).

So today, tomorrow, the next day, sometime soon, break a fear barrier. Doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s a new jump, flip, gap, trick, precision, or something completely unrelated to parkour, go out and do something you’re scared of. You may realize that you were capable of it all along.

–Alan

This post was inspired by Lifehacker’s article on the same subject. The steps are by them, the text underneath is by me. First image via monstersandcritics.

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A Brief Tutorial on Practical Flexibility

UPDATE: This tutorial has been superseded in favor of the much more comprehensive, much better written:

How To Become Flexible: A Practical Guide

So please, go read that one instead of this.


Flexibility is a lot of fun and pretty easy to develop.  But sometimes, it can be confusing to actually start learning how to stretch. This should clear some things up.

Continue Reading →

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A Note on Rolls

Rolls are hard to learn. The exact angle the shoulder needs to be tilted, the way your hands need to hit in order to smoothly transition to your shoulder, what to do with your legs, that damnable hipbone that seems to have an unhealthy love for the floor… There are all sorts of problems people have when rolling. Striking the spine on the ground is one of the most common. It’s flipping PAINFUL, too. There’s a simple way to fix this:

PULL-UPS!

Yes, I’m serious.

Pull-ups build up the muscles in your back. Those muscles will act as a pad when you’re rolling. They compress when landed on, lengthening the time it takes for the kinetic energy from landing to transfer from your body to the ground. Net effect: No pain. Since bone can’t compress, that energy is transferred instantly. Net effect: “OW OW OW OW”

As a bonus, pull-ups also increase your arm strength, which will let you take more weight on your hands, which means less weight gets loaded on your back. Win!

Now, go do some pull-ups!

Source:

See all posts from the old blog:

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Introduction to the Parkour Lifestyle

This article is a little long, so you can download it in .pdf format if you want to read it later or on a mobile device.

But in return for slogging all the way through, you’ll get info on basically everything you need to know about starting parkour, plus some FAQs like the role of flexibility, gloves or no gloves, how should I deal with cops, etc. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Continue Reading →

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