Parkour: Resilience in Motion
Our modern world is a daily bombardment of stimuli. Do you regularly feel overloaded, rushed off your feet or just struggling to keep up with the information explosion that comes in via email, social media, news channels and countless apps that want to notify you every 3 seconds?
You’re not alone.
What began as a creeping interruption into our daily headspace just a few years ago has evolved into a full-scale invasion. Your thoughts are in danger of being hijacked almost every waking (and sleeping) minute of every day.
The result? We lose touch with reality: with actual reality, not the polished, doctored and largely manufactured version your phone presents you with whenever you switch it on. With our attention pulled in a thousand directions we end up feeling disconnected, distracted and disembodied; like a ship with no anchor we begin to drift, buffeted by every wave that comes along and carried by currents not of our own choosing.
And it’s ok to drift now and then, to float and wander and scroll, as long as you have a way to navigate via some fixed points in your life – moments, activities, which counteract the wandering mind and help ground you in the real world on a regular basis. To build resilience in our now-fragmented lifestyle, you have to drop your anchor sometimes.
And there’s no better way to do that than to move. And to move in such a way that the mind cannot help but be tethered to the body, fully engaged and fully focused on the here and now. Mindless ‘exercise’ won’t do that: running on a treadmill while watching TV is as disconnecting as being on Facebook while you eat dinner. No, you need to move in such a way that every sense is engaged, every muscle is being tested, your heart and lungs are working, your nervous system is firing, your brain is focused on the task at hand and your spirit is enjoying every minute of it.
Parkour, at its simplest, is the practice of exploring and adapting to your surroundings: navigating the terrain you encounter and finding ways to move over, under, through and around any obstacle in your path. It becomes a discipline of movement very quickly, though, once you begin practising – the ultimate and purest form of natural movement, perhaps, because it focuses on practical application of movement to one’s environment.
It’s anything but sterile. You’re exposed in the healthiest ways – to weather, to different surfaces, to non-uniform shapes and structures, to risk, to auditory and visual information… all of which your brain utilises to adjust and adapt your movement to accomplish a given task. Your bones strengthen through the managed impacts, your muscles solidify and strengthen, your connective tissue moulds and flexes, your coordination and spatial awareness goes through the roof, your skin toughens – and your immune system with it.
You learn to face and manage fear in a healthy way. You develop confidence with your abilities. You discover and respect your limits. You become resilience in motion. Why? Because the body and brain must work together to progress at parkour. That elusive ‘flow state’ of complete immersion in an activity isn’t sought after consciously in parkour – it’s inevitable; a natural by-product of having to bring all one’s skill, strength and focus to bear on a given task. It’s the same focus that children have during play. And it’s the same movement competence that kids naturally develop if left to explore, play and adventure in the great outdoors.
Should you start practicing parkour? A better question would be why did you stop?