Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

proprioception drills and finishing strong

Inspired by the Parkour Generations Quadrepedie on Rails and Conditioning Through Movement videos and by looking for a way to stay focused during recovery from aerobic activity, I've started thinking about proprioception drills. I imagine everyone here knows what proprioception is, but in case ya don't, it's basically your internal awareness of where your body parts are relative to one another and then to the space around it. So much of what we train is large muscle movements through spaces larger than our bodies but the foundation of accuracy and precision is being able to put our hands and feet where we want them without having to look at them all the time. I sometimes hated my tennis coaches growing up, but I understand now why they were such sticklers for proper footwork.

So tonight I forced myself to not take a nap in front of the computer (yet) and went down the street to my local elementary school playground to do a quick training session. I didn't really have a plan, but I knew there is a bunch of the usual playground structures, though the old-style metal tubing kind--not the big plastic stuff--which it has been worn smooth by generations of kids (there was even a dad there with his daughter showing her the stuff he used to play on- I wasn't sure what to say when they talked about my "workout" because it was kind of a workout bit it was also just messing around, no set structure). The doorways are only a step or so up from sidewalk level so there's no handicapped ramps to play on which means that there's not a lot of elevation change to practice vaults or underbars and all the stuff is kid sized which means spaces are tight. Nevertheless, there was plenty to do for the half hour or so I was down there and I'll get a photo up sometime, maybe some video as well.

Anyway, to cut to the chase about the drills, here's what I did between more strenuous activity while taking drinks from the waterbottle:

1. Walked forward on the 1x6 on the edge of the box surrounding the wooden chips of the playground area (about 20'x30' I'm guessing). It was nailed into some vertical 2x8ish board with a line of nails so some of the 1x6s were wiggling and some had broken along the grain to becoming more like 1x2s. Board were actually wide enough that I had control in both feet if I placed them side-by-side even though they weren't both completely on the top of the board. Not too tough.

2. Walked backward along the path I'd just completed. Tougher than I'd figured, I slipped off a couple times when the board wiggled too much, esp around the narrow sections. Took much smaller steps than walking forward, basically toe to heel. I felt the tiredness of the tibilialis anterior (shin muscles) from the jumping around I did before taking this active recover break and it was good to force myself to be precise when feeling slight fatigue. By the time I'd gotten back around, I was ready for more pull-ups and that kind of junk.

3. Walked along a step edge with my foot halfway off lengthwise. Basically, it was like walking on a rail or tightrope but using the edge of a step. What I was going for here wasn't to stay on (if I wanted to do that, I could have just moved over 2 inches so enough of my foot was on the step that I wouldn't have to think about it), but to feel the point at which I will fall off while I had some loss of control due to fatigue. I slipped off the step a couple times and probably looked like an idiot if anyone was watching me (is it that hard to walk across those steps? why is he waving his arms like that?), but falling off is part of the practice- the purpose is to understand that feeling of instability and going over the edge.

4. Walked along step edge with only my toes or forefoot on the step. As #3 above, but with a different part of the foot and moving sideways instead of forward (or backward, which I didn't try because it was getting dark and I was basically just making up stuff to delay going home at this point). I tend to ascend stairs touching only with my forefoot on the edge anyway so I need to use even less to get myself to fall off, work on the sideways motion and perhaps do it even slower than normal walking/stairclimbing to really get the sense of the edge of control.

Aside from the new drill ideas, it was a good session because I finally did some controlled cat balancing on the rails which I've generally had some real trouble with. Did it even after some other forearm-intensive drills- maybe they were good warm-ups so I didn't hold back when really grabbing the bar. This also brought to mind another idea that's been in my head- finishing what you start. Too often I see people go for a sequence of obstacles (say a set of four picnic tables) but stop partway and walk off their line because their second kong or whatever didn't work out as they planned. This is less common at BAPK sessions than some other group's monthly circle jer..., I mean jams, but I know I've been guilty of it from time to time (especially in other parts of my life). Today my finishing what I started was not letting myself leave the playground without being in control over the length of rail I'd set out to cat balance along. Like I've said often, I'm not very good at it and I fell off a few times (fatigue+lack of skills) but I made sure I finished by completing the section, even though I had to take a few seconds and a swig of water to recover my arms. It's more mentally important than physically, but it effects both in the long run as muscle memory and psychological memory is of success and not failure.

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Comment by Philosofist on February 17, 2009 at 4:34pm
I do that too, my first time was half an hour, mostly quadrupedie. Now I try to find ways to use the space more and more, just like andre with the little box of green benches at 9th and Lake.
Comment by orem on June 20, 2008 at 10:42pm
Strong post. The backwards stuff is definitely humbling, isn't it? Sort of like barefooting... Control of your body. The LA guys seem to do almost everything backwards as they do forwards when it comes to conditioning, and I certainly feel different muscles burn when the velocity changes. Fatigue training- now that's something I should get on! Usually when we're tired we'll burn our energy out in conditioning, but maybe I'll take some time to experiment... About balance, you should find a good ledge walk. In San Diego there was one building we'd walk around, and some parts were only an inch wide with no hand grips, just moving on the tip of your toes - balance challenge for sure. And you feel like Batman.
Comment by Seng on June 20, 2008 at 7:03pm
Yeah, I'm down to show what I was working on. It's as much about fitness and focus as technique, but I'm sure it makes a lot less sense when it's just words.
Comment by Chris on June 20, 2008 at 5:59pm
nice post! I think I caught the drift for the most part...but would you mind leading a session of what you mentioned (at least for me) at the next practice?

About finishing runs..hell yeah! I bark at people all the time, "follow through! ... finish the run!" Maybe you can help me remind the troops when we are out? Vaults and jumps aren't always going to be perfect, and we must be able to continue on. Of course, sometimes we land so poorly that continuing may be hazardous, but for the most part people stop too often.
Comment by Ryan Fulmer on June 19, 2008 at 11:20pm
haha yeah try to keep going till you run for 15-20 ft on emptyness out of stuff.

otherwise you'll use up alotta gas if its more than 20ft between obstacles (think sloat roof circles)

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