Parkour for Obstacle Racers
Published July 25th 2019
As a regular obstacle course racer, I’m well versed in combining running with an assortment of tricky obstacles that need to be overcome. Most weekends you’ll find me out in a muddy field taking on 13+ miles of terrain and battling through all sorts of climbing, jumping, crawling, balancing and strength challenges. I have been racing for 3 years now and have been lucky enough to compete at both national and international Championships and recently won the Spartan UK & Ireland Regional Series for ages 14-17, with the maximum points of 3000. Training is a huge part of my life, so you can image that when I was offered a work placement at Parkour Generations in London, I was thrilled with the opportunity to learn another kind of movement and see how it might benefit my performance.
“The quality of your movement matters the most, because if that quality is smooth and efficient, it’ll also be faster and safer.” – Evie Waring
When you think obstacle course racing, the usual training methods are gym work, running, obstacle specific sessions and climbing. We train our strength in the gym; our endurance on the trails and climbing on the wall in a bouldering centre… but what if we could do them all at once? Here’s where I’ve found that parkour can come in; combining all these elements into one awesome session.
For those of you unfamiliar with parkour, the dictionary definition is the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. I’d expand upon that and say through my eyes, it’s a discipline of finding a fluid and efficient way to get from A to B as effectively and efficiently as possible. You only have to watch one of the originators of the form, David Belle, in District 13 to see this in action.
So, the main goal in parkour is to get from one place to another in as efficient and effective a way possible. For obstacle course racers our goal is the same thing, but we tend to approach it slightly differently. Under race conditions we look to ‘get over an obstacle at all costs’. We’re against the clock and so speed is super important. The only down side is that our body can take a few knocks whilst we’re hurtling towards the finish line. In parkour the emphasis shifts from simply getting over the barrier to how we do that. The quality of your movement matters the most, because if that quality is smooth and efficient, it’ll also be faster and safer.
As an example of this, I’m used to dropping off of high walls or fences and landing quite heavily, which means taking a lot of impact on my knees. In classes here at PKGen, I was taught how to land softly on the balls of my feet, using my legs to cushion the impact. I also learnt a technique called a ‘Mildred’ which is a movement that can help slow down the descent off a wall, so you receive less force as you land. These two things together might save my joints from the stress of lots of heavy landings and in turn prevent any potential injury. And this was just the beginning. I learnt all sorts of movements like step vaults, wall runs, climb-ups, tic tacs and cat leaps, which are all techniques I can use out on course to make my movements quicker and more efficient.
Another aspect to parkour is the ability to deal with the mental barriers in your head and the fear of certain challenges. Learning efficient techniques to overcome obstacles safely, means that I don’t have to fear things like big height drops, because I know I can control my body and move safely to the ground. With this in mind, I can see minutes being shaved off of my race times, because I won’t need to hesitate, ponder and battle through my fears; but instead I can confidently keep moving forwards, resulting in a more fluid overall performance.
Personally I think parkour would be a great addition for OC racers to incorporate into their training regime. It has shown me where I can improve the quality of my movements and then be able to carry on doing what I love for a longer period of time. There’s been several moments during this week where I’ve been encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and trust in my body…which is only going to give me greater confidence when approaching unknown obstacles out on course in the future.
Parkour is definitely an art in the respect that you have to think on your feet and be able to twist, turn, run, jump and climb with accuracy; all skills that will translate directly into a better, faster and more robust racer. OCR will always be my passion, but the parkour training I’ve receive this week might be a tool to help me progress even further and achieve more in this sport.