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Parkour Training for Trail Running and Ultras

Posted by scott on October 5, 2009

Image credit: amfdesigner on flickr

I have recently become fascinated with Parkour (sometimes referred to as “free running”).  I know in internet-meme-time I’m like 3 years behind the curve, but so what.  I first heard about this in a Trail Runner article awhile back, and I have to say I rolled my eyes.  It almost seemed invented for print, I didn’t get that there was a whole movement around this thing, and some more interesting aspects that were missed.  Then a Rocketboom segment came along and I was a bit more intrigued.  Finally, I fell off my chair laughing at the Parkour scene from The Office.  OK, I’m getting the signal – I need to look into this.

Parkour is briefly described as the art of overcoming obstacles in the most efficient way possible.  Like anything, it has morphed into many sub-genres that span a spectrum from running combined with vaulting to street-based floor gymnastics to jumping buildings with multiple flips.  I will leave the building flips to others to thin the herd, but the most basic movements in Parkour are very appealing as a training tool for trails and ultras.

When basic Parkour is done well, you almost look like a fugitive.  The intent is to move very rapidly, as if in an emergency situation, and vault or otherwise clear obstacles rather than traversing around them.  Free running seems to emphasize freedom and creativity.  Parkour emphasizes directness, efficiency and economy.

There are a few basic vaulting techniques – Lazy, Speed, Kong, and Dash – that are foundational to Parkour and are used almost constantly.  These are the easiest techniques to start integrating into running, along with Wall Runs and Tic Tacs.  The great thing about these is that it turns a normal run into a heavier workout, adding core strength, balance and impact landings.  For a guy like me who loves to run races like Superior but just doesn’t take the time to put in laps at Afton this a great training technique.  I can pound my quads right in my own neighborhood!  It’s also very Crossfit-ish – you can get a very short but very intense workout in.  Do you remember the old fitness trail concept where some city parks added exercise equipment on the route?  Adam was recently onto a similar idea of adding obstacles and exercises on a course at RTA.  Sounds like a blast.

There is a lot of noise around Parkour, but here are a few resources I found useful:

Sites / Organizations

  • American Parkour is a large site with some good basic tutorials and large discussion forums.  Also links to many local groups.
  • Urban Freeflow is a UK-based group that also has a great site.  They have convenient links in the footer to YouTube videos they have posted for many specific Parkour techniques.
  • Meetup has groups for local Parkour groups that meeting for training sessions and Jams.

Videos

There are a million videos of Parkour on YouTube.  Here are a few I found most interesting.  These are more along the running side of thing than the gymnastic side of things.

  • Parkour in Latvia -ignore the “ninja” stuff in the title, this is a classic example of Parkour
  • Extreme game of tag – this is kind of amusing, but again gets to movement for speed and efficiency to avoid pursuit, not a lot of time-wasting techniques
  • Nearly human – this is dramatically arranged around an animalistic theme and has a mock encounter at the end, but is otherwise another great example of Parkour as means of fast and efficient movement.  And most of the techniques are in FiveFingers!
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One Response to “Parkour Training for Trail Running and Ultras”

  1. unshoes said

    I’ve been fascinated by the idea of parkour since I first heard of it. There is quite a bit behind the philosophy of it, they teach that parkour is more than a physical activity but a way of thinking. They teach that to really practice parkour you will apply it’s principles of overcoming obstacles to everything you do in life.

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