Journal — November 29, 2012 12:35 pm

Parkour Journal #2: Evolution and plateaus

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Image credits by Zeno Watson

One of the things that marked my early beginnings in Parkour training was the initial evolution and dramatic changes that were going on with my body and mind. This was a period of great achievements, confidence building and plateaus. I believe any seasoned traceur has been through this. Let me tell you what will happen to you the first time you will start training in Pakour or Free running.

The exponential evolution

The fist few weeks training you will evolve at a great pace. After just one week you will jump farther master all the basic Parkour movements and get an amazing sense of balance. All of this happened to me and I felt like, at this rate, I could become a professional Free runner by the end of the year. You see and experience that you get better at Parkour every week and the progress satisfies you.

There are some complex mechanisms that go into play here. Your body and confidence enhance and you get better at everything, in just a few tries. Yet, your body does not change. You do not grow any extra muscles and you do not even eat more. The thing that happens, is that your body is slowly honing your abilities for the things it was designed to do in the first place: running, climbing, bending and jumping. You are practically re-discovering yourself.

Chris “Blane” Rowat calls this period the honeymoon on his post Origins. And that’s exactly what it is. It is the best experience you’ve ever had and you feel like this was the missing link in your existence. Especially if you did not practice any other discipline.

During this period I was also hitting the gym, because I felt I needed more strength and that only made me want to go further, faster.  My recommendation is to just go with the flow and enjoy this experience as much as you can, because I found it a great moral and physical booster.

Hitting the plateau

After a couple of months or so you will experience what is called plateauing. Meaning you will suddenly find it much harder to progress and even impossible to perform some already mastered movements. Everything will feel like is going backwards and you will not understand why you are not able to evolve. It will feel like you have reached your end before you even started. This happened to me after 6 months and I was devastated. No matter how hard I tried, I cold not go further.

This may happen to you sooner or much later, depending on your training approach. But nonetheless it will, and you’ll need to know how to handle it, if you are to keep training and improving your Parkour and Free running skills.

Plateauing is a very interesting phenomenon that will usually happen in any activity. The more you push things faster and faster, the more you seem to go slower. Me, being on the brink of giving up, I had the chance reflect on this and found a great solution: “stop trying to evolve”. This was the moment that made the switch and kept me going for more than 4 years.

Artificially pushing things forward will work for a limited amount of time. You are actually doing what gymnasts do. They evolve really fast, train really hard, push themselves, hit peak level, win loads of medals then burn out. This Gaussian curve happens in only 4 years or so. That is the reason why you do not hear about a gymnast after she/he has reached the age of 18. They train so hard, that in the moment they reach the plateau they are in great physical condition and have already mastered all the techniques. Pushing your limits in this period will only result in burn out, both physically and mentally.

Coming back on the rise

By choosing to take a step back and work on the things you know, you can surpass this period and come back stronger than ever before. When you feel like you are not going forward anymore, no matter how hard you push, it means that your body and mind need a break. Go back to basics and start building back up from there. This is the period when movements will ingrain into your cortex and you will perform them instinctively.

The secret is, that you never stop evolving, even in the plateau. You just do not see it anymore. It is not an especially hard thing to do, keeping up with Parkour (or any other discipline for that matter), if you just keep at it. And if you love it, this will come naturally, come rain, come shine.

Follow your instincts, traceurs.

2 Comments

  • This journal is the best thing ever for a Traceur. When I hit the plateau I was 8 months in(started in August). I trained outside right up until it was winter, thats when I took a class because of the snow. It got warm outside I whent back to training outside I strived for that longer jump, higher wall run. I noticed I wasn’t makeing as much progress. School was almost over I found myself not training, then not trying anymore. Now a year later starting the same time in August I am determined to keep at it now that through what you went through and realized it and wrote it down. I can keep going and not fell like I am not as good now. Thanks for this.

    • Hi Chase,

      Really glad you found the motivation to keep training. As a traceur, you should always think about how you started when referencing yourself. You should not think “I could back-flip last week, now I can’t”; but, you should be trying to think: “I couldn’t even climb up this wall at the beginning.”

      Have fun breaking your plateau and train safe!

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