Managing Risk in Parkour
Whenever I speak of my chosen discipline, Parkour, I instantly get common responses of, “isn’t that dangerous”, “that’s a risky sport”, “how many injuries have you had”, and similar concerns.
When I was introduced to Parkour almost five years ago I was drawn to the beauty of it, the strength, skill, and confidence involved, and the participants’ will to excel. In this time I’ve lost blood in very small doses, a little skin here and there and had a couple small fractures of my big toes.
Driving a car is inherently dangerous yet we have millions on the roads each day and numerous more drivers taking their first steps by taking lessons. When you begin you are nervous, self-conscious and consciously incompetent, but you practise and practise and bit by bit things become more comfortable, more familiar. Next stage you become consciously competent and though you still think about each pedal press, each manoeuvre, you have increased confidence and increased skill in what you are doing. Once you pass your test and drive on the busy roads you become unconsciously competent and this is where you drive and don’t even think about it.
Parkour demonstrates the ability of individuals to manage risks and interact with their environment in a way that is both skilful and creative.
– David Ball, Professor of Risk Management and Director of the Centre for Decision Analysis & Risk Management at Middlesex University
Parkour, like driving and anything else, is a skill that needs to be honed.
When you begin you start off small. Drilling movements, combinations, working on your touch, your balance, becoming familiar with what your body can do and moving over your environment familiarising yourself with various terrains.
When doing this, pay attention to detail. This is very important: it is often said that repetition is the mother of all skill, which is true if you are repeating good habits. It makes no sense to do something badly over and over and add those bad habits to your muscle memory. Of course when you begin your movements won’t be precise or fluid, and your landings may be loud. Be conscious of this and each time think: ‘how can I do this better and more efficiently?’ and drill this detailed and precise approach into your training.
Listen to your body
We all love to train hard and often and the body can be put under a lot of stress. If you feel a pain or a tweak don’t ignore it. This is a signal that something is not right. Ignoring problems can cause them to compound and a ‘minor’ problem may become a major pain and hinderance in your training. Muscle strains left may become chronic and require specialist attention to fix.
So stretch/foam roll regularly, we can all stretch more. Not only when warming up to train, but when indoors and not training too. This helps reduce strains and muscle injuries and helps you get more out of your body during training sessions.
Give your body an MOT
Human nature is to wait until a problem arises then get it checked. Why wait? Get a sports massage, see an osteopath or sports physiotherapist. Car owners get their vehicles serviced regularly and put it through an MOT, to make sure it runs smoothly and efficiently. It’s not smart to run it into the ground without giving it special attention, and when it’s falling apart take it to be seen to. Saving money? False economy. Put a few pounds aside and ever so often see a specialist to get a once over. Prevention is better than cure. And can you put a price on your health and wellbeing?
Rest when needed
Rest and restoration is an important part of training, and allows the body to heal itself and the muscles to recover and grow. Active rest days are good for stretching, working on balance etc. Get ample sleep.
Drink plenty of water as a habit, replenishing the body of lost fluids and washing out impurities.
I’m not a nutritionist but there are many articles and experts which give advice on nutrition for active sportspersons. If you want your body to work like a well honed machine, feed it with the right stuff to make it work efficiently. Seek advice if needed. Lots of protein,good fats, some good carbohydrates where necessary. Rule of thumb – eat plenty of vegetables, meat and fruit and eat naural and unprocessed as much as possible.
Conditioning is important, build that ‘body armour’ to protect the body and help it to withstand the stresses and strains we put upon it. Endurance training is good too. This will all help to increase longevity and give you years and years of training.
Some of the obvious
This may seem obvious but sometimes something that looks safe may be unsecure, slippery or faulty. So physically check the surfaces and strength of things you train on. Nobody likes surprises. Never assume, just using your eyes to check doesn’t ensure anything.
Of course this can only be done when training with partners or in groups, but don’t be afraid to ask for someone to spot for you when doing something you are unsure about. Of course this gives you a sense of security, but after being done a few times comfortably with a spotter you can attempt it alone. Don’t come to rely on spotting though.
Step outside your comfort zone
You can do this in small portions. Try something that challenges you or raises your awareness and may increase your level of fear. By overcoming such obstacles your comfort zone gets that little bit bigger each time. And bigger things become more comfortable.
The topic of this post is managing risk – taking all these points into consideration Parkour becomes like walking or running. Your body is capable to withstand the demands of Parkour and as you become confident and, more importantly, competent Parkour is as safe if not safer than other sports or disciplines out there.
Be careful when walking down pavements though, that’s risky 😉