Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cameras: The double edged sword

For a number of years now I have purposefully avoided recording my training. I figure that if I need other people to watch my achievements then I am not training for the right reasons. I’m also kind of worried about being just another camera junky. Doing something impressive and then running to my camera to prove to the world that I’ve done it. But recently I’ve begun to wonder, is the camera really all that bad?
It has definite advantages: you are able to quantify your training and watch your improvement. You can train a move a hundred times until you get it perfect for the camera. You can record yourself doing it and watch what makes it good and what makes it bad. It’s also especially good when you train in isolation. When in groups you have some comparison to measure your own success against. When by yourself, you can only continue training against your own mental discipline. But with a camera, you can keep a list of things that need doing and focus on specific areas of your training till you like how they look on film. Plus, it’s always fun to put together cool videos of yourself jumping about…
Hmm, maybe an investment is in order…

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Training 09

My training at the moment has to tone down for the start of a new University term. But I have a very clear aim for this term, which is to train consistently throughout the term at a lower rate than normal. Normally I try to keep the same training schedule I keep out of term as I go into it and within a week I’ve burnt out and need to take a few weeks off. The rest of term I struggle to get back into a normal regime
I plan to:
Run twice a week.
Swim once a week
Play squash once a week
Climb once a week
Hit the gym once a week.
So, 6 activities. One every day of the week and every Monday off. This regime is specifically designed to work out my entire body but not to place any strain on a specific muscle group. It’s also meant to be very versatile and enjoyable. The running and swimming will be easygoing, middle to long distances. In this way I plan to relax through my training, making it easier to continue as the weeks progress. It should also mean I come out of term with a fitness level equal to or greater than when I start. A feat I have yet to accomplish in 2 and a half years of university.
I realise there’s no PK officially scheduled for this term. While in previous terms I have made the effort to train in the few spots around Durham, I prefer PK training in the summer and personally don’t see the benefit of spending long periods outdoors in the winter, putting excess strain on the body and making it more likely that you’ll get ill and disrupt your training and your work with the problems illness entails.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

What is Parkour?

I wrote this awhile back,but it's still quite a good read. It's on the definition of Parkour.

What is Parkour? It’s a decent question to ask. I mean, you’ve seen it on TV. Some French guy explaining some deep philosophical point and then jumping off a building. I mean, where’s the connection? Exactly how do you get from philosophy to action? Everyone has their different idea. I’m not going to get into a huge discussion on exactly who’s right. I’m not going to go into any specifics. I’m not going to declare myself to be the fountain of all knowledge. First of all, I’m going to take the Universally agreed definition: “Parkour: The fast, efficient and fluid movement from any point A to point B” and then I’m just going to do what my University Lecturers taught me to do. Start with a simple idea and build it up to explain everything I can.
Imagine the world is incredibly simple. It is merely a one dimensional line so that travelling from any point on t A-B is merely following a straight line.

I don’t think there’s any argument that in this world the most efficient, fluid and fastest way from getting from A to B is to run from A until you reach B.
In our conceptual world, Parkour is running. There is no difference. Running is the one and only method of performing Parkour in this imaginary place.

Now, let’s make things a little more complex. Lets add a wall to our (now 2-D) world.
Right, so now we have this wall. Our goal though is identical. We want to get from point A to point B as quickly, efficiently and as fluidly as possible. Remember, this is a 2-D world. We can’t go around this wall; only over it. Depending on the size of the wall, there’s a range of motions we could use. We could use a speed vault, a kong, a dash, jump clean over it. If it’s higher, we could use a wall run, turn vault to dismount. We could do a pop monkey to drop and roll. There’s a huge range of movements we could use already and all we’ve done is add one wall to our imaginary world.
So let’s develop this idea once more before we start looking at the real world. We’ll keep the 2-D world. But this time let’s put two walls in the way.

I think everyone will now begin to notice the pattern. There’s even more possibilities here: Dash to Kong; Speed to Kong; Kong to Cat to Turn vault; Precision; Clean over to Cat leap; Kong to Precision. The possibilities go on and on. Depending on the size and shape of each of these walls, different combinations will be more or less effective. I mean if both walls are 2 foot high but 10 foot apart a running precision sounds perfect. But if the first is 6 foot and the other 3 foot a Kong to Precision would be excellent. With a second wall our variations have already increased exponentially.
Ok, enough with our lovely little imaginary world. In the real world there are more than just walls. There are rails and gaps and things to climb and interesting pieces of architecture and gates and steps and a million other things. Parkour is the movement from A to B through your environment. But our environment is so complex it’s easy to get distracted and often we need to break it down so that it is as simple as our 2-D world and we can see the simple solutions. And that is why people call Parkour a discipline and not a sport. Because there is a huge philosophical component to the movement you are learning and refining.
But we’re still forgetting about the variation. The simplest obstacle, one wall, presented a large variation in movement from the very beginning. And this is the other deeply important aspect of Parkour. There is no ‘correct’ way to do Parkour. Because one person will prefer the speed vault while another prefers a kong for the exact same wall. Each will find their own motion satisfying and ‘correct’ for them. But the other will disagree. Yet both are performing Parkour correctly as far as our new definition is concerned. So maybe we should all stop and have a think and maybe argue a little less.

Monday, 12 January 2009


I tend to think of myself as an expert on running. I’ve competed at national level in sprinting, middle distance and cross country. I run nearly every day and usually put in at least 20 miles a week. If not double that if I have some free time on my hands.

But, only recently I’ve been discovering a lot of useful information that has helped me regain a lot of confidence with my running style and perceived level of exertion.

I thought I’d share it with you all.

First of all, running shouldn’t be difficult. If you can’t run 5 miles and still feel quite fresh afterwards, well, first you should slow down slightly. But then you should worry. Running comes very naturally to humans. Over long distances, it’s more economical than walking and a lot faster.

Now, what’s it good for? Why should we be training to run?

From a Parkour perspective, most of what we do is running. Between every obstacle is open space and if you aren’t confident in your own running stride then you can’t be confident in the vault that comes from the stride.

From a fitness perspective, it’s utterly fantastic! Depending on the distance you run, you can train your cardiovascular system, muscle strength, muscle endurance... The list is quite long.

Long distance running will increase your general body endurance, which means you can endure longer training sessions without feeling like you’ve exerted yourself to the same extent. It’s also a training session of its own. Increasing lower body strength and a great workout for your abs, working as a group of muscles rather than isolating them. For those of you with weight issues, it can also help burn fat more efficiently than any other exercise.

But enough of this. My running tips.

1. Slow down! Almost everyone (including myself) runs too fast. If you can’t hold a conversation while running you are going too fast. Keep it slow until your confident you can pick up the pace slightly. Your heart rate should be no more than 60% of maximum (that’s elevated but not noticeably hard working). Take big long deep breaths and relax.

2. Don’t try and tire yourself out. That isn’t the point. Run a distance your comfortable with and then at the end, relax and do some light stretching. This way, it’s easier to get into a pattern of running often. And running becomes enjoyable, not another chore. Over time, if you feel confident you can pick up the pace slightly and increase the effort. But don’t increase heavily and leave yourself exausted after a session.

3. Time of day: Running wakes you up. Running a few miles in the morning before breakfast is a great way to get you out of bed and on the move. And this way you’re more awake for the rest of the day. Again, careful not to tire yourself out or you’ll waste the day.

4. (slightly more advanced) Stride length. Longer strides mean you can cover more ground in the same number of steps. Let your legs stretch out slightly and slow the pace. It’ll also help with flexibility and over time give you a faster pace.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


Test blog to check functionality. Will blog later.