mercoledì 22 febbraio 2017

Qualitative parkour training - the sewers

It’s 2013. 

Gato, Saiu and me are on a mission. That night Bergamo’s sewers had to be explored. Do we want to do this? (we have a rule – 3 secs to choose whether you want to do something or not). Yes, Yes? YES. We go.

We get our stuff together: head lamps, black clothing, a small first aid kit, we share our position in case we get lost and we jump out of the house.

It’s a hot night, no wind. Very little people out on the streets. The lights of the city looked brighter than usual to me, as if my eyes already knew they had to get ready for darkness.

We get to the city’s High Walls: our starting point is a small aperture at the bottom of it. Last moments before getting into the depths of the earth, we breath some light air.

Gato leads the way. Crawling has never been that hard, I was feeling the weight of the mountain over my chest meter after meter. My senses were sharpened by the lack of sounds. I remember that the more it got narrower and noiseless, the more I could hear my breath and the beat of my heart giving a rhythm to my hands moving back and forth on the thick humid rock.

After an eternity (less than 5 mins) we get out of the tunnel straight into a cave. In a second, we realize that the only way to continue was to climb a small rope leading to another tunnel 4 meters above us. Is it going to hold our weight? Is it going to break?
 The bottom of the cave was made of sharp rocks that looked more like knives than stones. Gato goes up, the two of us spot him. Saiu goes up, I spot him. I grab the small ruined rope and I look back. Knives. Cool.

 No way back, I start climbing.

Fast Forward 2 hours from that moment, I am enjoying a cup of tea, after a hot shower. My right shoe was full of the worst fluid you can imagine, and the back of my right hand had a beautiful wide irregular cut, but it was not as big as my smile.
So yes, sure thing. I could tell you the full story, and maybe I will if you are interested, but I need to make a point here:

That day I did not just train my muscles or some movements, I did an incredible and unique experience.
At any moment, I was connected to what was happening. Every motion I was producing had a meaning. I was inspired first. Then scared. Then relaxed. Then tense, and so on. I was living an experience, not only a training, and my whole self was adapting to it, making sure to fulfill the task I had in mind and to make sure I would survive.

As humans, we tend to understand better complex tasks that are not only exercises, but require a higher demand. Approaching training in this a way will boost neuroplasticity, and allow you to gain something forever (1). Just as an example: would you expect to lose the skill of going on a bike? Or to be able to walk up the stair only after a tapering period? To stir the soup after a warm up?

..No! Don’t even try to say it’s different. You got my idea.

A more realistic approach to training leads to greater retention in the skill acquired. This is what I call a qualitative approach to training programming. I will leave down here an idea with this kind of approach:

1.     Week one – parkour qualitative programming

AM. Climbing (challenges) + QM metabolic conditioning and sprints
PM. Consistency training + agility drills.
AM. Technical refinement + stillness practice and mobility
PM. Urban exploration and skills application (can you do it? Do it now.)

AM. Rhythm and flow work + conditioning through movement
PM. Climbing (endurance) + heights training.

AM. Consistency training + parcours sprints
PM. Technical refinement – basic parkour skills with weighted vest (eg. Climb ups / Traverses / Precision box jumps etc).

AM. Technical refinement work + balance drills.
PM. Rhythm and flow work

AM. Acrobatics + fingers strength work.
PM. Technical refinement + consistency training challenge (pick a number – reach it. If you fail, you start over).
PM. Go in the wilderness, make fires, run, swim, hunt. 

Recovery day or ..not.

..and so on.

After a month of this kind of training, progress will be done and decision will be taken through your gut instead of your brain.
This is a way, it is not the best efficient path to reach some specific goals like a one arm chin up or a one arm handstand, but it is a great way to feel more connected to a personal growth and development. This can of course go even less scheduled, and more instinctual depending on the individual. 
This kind of approach is emotionally driven, and can create resilient and wise minds.

Some rules I keep in mind when training in this way.

1.     Most of the things you do should be challenging. A progress should always be there.
2.     What you experience, should be something you want to live.
3.     Don’t write down reps x sets but do use numbers to set challenges
4.     Make sure you listen to your instincts. Train hard when you can, train light when you need it.
5.     If you do not feel like you need to relax after your training, something went wrong.
6.     Make sure to survive to tell your stories.

And some questions to get closer to this paradigm.

Do you think this approach can be extended to everyone? If not why?
Why do people get so much attracted by more quantitative and scheduled trainings?

Until next time,

PS. If you do not understand what the hell I am talking about when I say something like “rhythm and flow work” or “skills application” don’t worry I will clarify those terms in later posts.

Interesting material:

1.     Carey, R. J., Bhatt, E., & Nagpal, A. (2005). Neuroplasticity Promoted by Task Complexity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 33(1), 24–31.

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