Getting involved in the sport of parkour can seem like a lot. The glorification of the extreme movements by mainstream media make the sport very unwelcoming to newcomers. There are multiple styles to practice that without someone’s guidance or coaching it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of skills one can learn with the amount of time one has. However, if someone begins to rush progress in their movement practice then they start to risk serious injury to themselves. How much time should someone put towards each skill? How much time should someone train in general? There isn’t a clear cut answer to any of these questions because each person is different, however there are guidelines one can use to find out the answers to these questions.
If you are someone who has very little time and only has one hour every few days or so to give to practicing parkour then you don’t need to worry. “Perhaps the biggest misconception, when it comes to training, is ‘more is better,’” says Greg Justice, M.A., personal trainer and founder of Kansas City’s AYC Health and Fitness. He says that around 30-45 minute sessions of high intensity work best for him. After training for 45 minutes your body begins to produce the stress hormone, cortisol, which is counterproductive to any gains made from the session. This does not mean that every person that goes out and practices parkour casually for an hour or two with friends is losing their gains. It is possible to go for an hour or two and train for short periods of time with periods of rest in between, which is typically what happens during most parkour jams.
How many times a week should someone train? We have an idea as to how long we might train for, but now we need to get an idea as to how often. According to an article in “Men’s Fitness” that talks about strength training, three to four total body workouts a week is plenty for most training goals. “As an individual’s cardiovascular endurance improves, they can then progressively increase the amount of sessions per week as well as the intensity, distance or time of each session,” says Justin Smith, a San Diego personal trainer and health coach. Essentially the more time you spend consistently training the more room you will have to play around with the structure of your training routine. Some might want to condense it to two days a week with a very high intensity output, and others might want to keep the intensity low and train with their friends casually throughout the week. In between the high intensity days, “there should be a minimum of 48 hours between high-intensity sessions, as well as many good nights of sleep, to optimize results.” as mentioned in the same article.
Parkour is an exercise but it is also a skill based sport, and like with any skill it requires a certain amount of time invested to perfect it. Every skill we develop takes time and effort in order to make it second nature, through a process called “motor patterning”. According to Buddy “Coach X” Morris, “It takes 500 hours to invoke a motor pattern before it comes unconscious. It takes 25-30 thousand reps to break a bad motor pattern.” This means that direct, intentional training for these skills outside of regular workouts are necessary to become a high level athlete, however this training doesn’t have to be boring or particularly difficult. Parkour training can consist of challenges and games such as STICK (think HORSE, except with jumping) in order to make training more enjoyable.
When it comes down to it, you can set a schedule and a routine and train however long and hard you want, within reason. These guidelines are just that; guidelines. They’re not a complete prescription for all of your training needs, they loosely cover what a healthy training regimen ought to consist of. If you, as the athlete, lose the motivation to train, then all of the planning is for naught. This makes your intentions the biggest part of being a good athlete. If you’re committed enough, then your training structure will reflect that. At any point in our parkour journey, if we can’t answer the question “Why do I train parkour?”, then something needs to change, and finding that purpose is up to us.
How often do you train? What do you do on your rest days? Why do you train? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos Taken By Elias Sell