Always Learning: My Experience with the 1st4Sportlevel 1 award in Assistant Coaching for Parkour/Freerunning

During the first week of December, I attended the level 1 Assistant Coaching award for parkour/Freerunning at The Parkour Project in Poole. My motivation for signing onto the course was spurred by a desire to expand the reach of parkour to people with additional needs and disabilities. Over the summer at the Parkour Generations event, Rendezvous, I had a traumatic experience, brought on by a poorly presented and managed activity, that raised a lot of concerns in me about the way parkour is coached and the possibility that in many cases people with additional needs may be driven away from it. Parkour has such vast potential to provide countless opportunities to people with additional needs and I have become passionate about working towards a point where I can provide these opportunities to people.

To achieve what I want to achieve I want to gain as much knowledge as I can and seek learning experiences that will ensure I can be the best coach I can be. My experience over the course of the 4 days I spent doing my level 1 course was extremely positive. I came away a more confident coach and a more confident practitioner.

Our first day was spent doing a first aid workshop and a safeguarding and child protection workshop, both of which were excellent and extremely useful workshops to do. The guys leading those two courses were very good and provided general training as well as training more specific to Parkour coaching.

On the second day, the main segment of the course began. Over the next two days, we covered a range of topics and faced a number of challenges. As well as discussing the essentials of what makes a good coach we covered how to effectively plan sessions, how to adapt sessions when faced with difficulties and how to manage sessions once they are in progress. We also discussed the spirit of Parkour and were presented with physical challenges to test our limits and progress our own abilities.

I previously felt somewhat lost when it came to planning and programming. The course helped me understand more clearly how to achieve structure in a class and gave me a much greater understanding of effectively programming strength and conditioning. We also delved into a few finer details of coaching certain movements, covering useful cues and looking into the different reasons why someone may be struggling with a particular movement.

The physical challenges that occurred progressed my confidence massively. Prior to attending the course I had significant confidence issues carrying out movement at height. The Parkour Project is a fantastic location and it’s high bar set up allowed me to become comfortable at height. At the start of the week I was moving on all fours on top of the bar set up, but by the end, I was walking around on the bars and jumping. Carrying out a jump over 2 metres above the ground was something I would not have considered before going on the course. My confidence has increased substantially. I feel as though I have undergone a significant mental shift with regards to my understanding of my own ability and potential. This will absolutely allow me to become a better coach.

View this post on Instagram

Moar achievements from my week in Poole. Haven't considered doing drop rail pres for a long time. Over the course of the week we were regularly challenged and I was able to dismantle a lot of my confidence barriers. The pole to cat was a bit of a mental battle the first time round. I feel much more comfortable moving at height than I did a week ago. It feels like my confidence is now back to the point it was prior to losing my mum and experiencing an upsurge in anxiety depression related issues. The difference now is that I also have more experience and strength to start to fully capitalise on that confidence. #parkour #parkourwomen #railbalance #drop #jump #learning #confidence #strength

A post shared by Jess Lishman (@a_mostly_functional_jess) on

The course also encouraged us to be aware that we are always learning. Seeking different coaching experiences and gaining knowledge should be something that we never stop doing. We are always capable of learning more and although we will develop our own coaching styles we can always utilise ideas from other people to ever improve our classes and ensure we are providing people with the best experience we can.

It was a fantastic week and thinking about putting it all into practice gives me great joy.

Train safe,

Jess

Advertisements

Finding Balance, Finding Control

Balance and Control are words that probably create different feelings in different people. For some, the word ‘control’ might conjure restrictive images and be seen as something to avoid, or it may represent stability and comfort. Perhaps it has different meanings in different situations. Balance is often perceived universally in a similar way by most people. Achieving balance is a good thing, a positive thing.

I always feel that the two concepts of balance and control often need to exist together in most aspects of life. Most of us rarely actually achieve both, but it seems to be what we aim for, whether we’re consciously aware we are working for it or not.

In the westernised world we tend to live very busy lives. Whether this busyiness is due to work, the constant stream of information that gets thrown at us, family, friends, all of the above, it tends to mean that the brain seeks ways of instilling control in a life that often feels like it’s moving at full pace. Sometimes in trying to control certain elements, you can end up bringing negative effects into your life, which has certainly happened to me in the past and continues to happen during times when I lack self-awareness.

In trying to control certain things you seek to find balance, but perhaps without fully understanding what balance is for you personally or without considering all the options. Again, I know I’m definitely guilty of doing this even now. Jumping to conclusions with the desire to sort out a problem as quickly as possible is something that I do far too often and I doubt I’m the only one.

Taking a step back to evaluate yourself and why you do the things you do is a practice I find extremely helpful to undertake on a regular basis. Self-awareness seems necessary in order to really progress. but at the same time, we come back to that idea of balance. Being self-aware is important, but getting dragged down and buried in the emotions that come with it can be damaging. Having balance here is vital. Learning how you process things, how you tackle problems, how many things can you realistically work on at once, is all part of a long process or developing self-awareness.

In training, I am learning to ask myself why I am afraid of a jump. I take the jump itself out of the equation and instead break it down into individual parts. I look at each part and when I have established where the fear comes from I can tackle the issues before I re-assemble the pieces and re-create the jump as a whole. Usually, after re-assembly, the jump looks much less scary. Often this is because the fear can be rationalised. Initially, it feels irrational, ‘I should be able to physically do this, why am I scared of it?’, but upon breaking it down I start to see that no, I am afraid of how I will land if I don’t quite make it, I am afraid of the height, I am unfamiliar with the surface I’m moving on, etc etc. These problems can be tackled separately and ultimately once you have spent some time practising how you react to not quite making a jump, practised moving around at height, spent some time exploring the surfaces, the fear will have lessened and it’s likely that you will conquer the jump.

We seek control. When something scares we shy away from it because there is no feeling of control, but in facing fear and achieving that balance with our emotions we strengthen our own mastery and control of ourselves.

Train safe,

Jess

Adapting, Re-adapting, Learning, Re-learning

Long time no type. Life has been in a decent routine lately and fitness has been progressing for the most part. As always, there are constantly things to learn and realisations to be had, so right now seems like a good time to reflect on my health and fitness journey over the last month or so. There are things that I need to alter and improve and I feel the need to discuss some concepts that probably apply to a lot of people.

On the whole, I’ve been feeling good. I’m getting stronger, doing a lower body (mostly just legs) session in the gym once a week and now I’ve added in an upper body gym session once a week with the intention of building strength. This strength training is showing results in other areas, which is gratifying to see. My standing jump distance is definitely growing and my running speed over 5km seems to become significantly faster.

As well as the strength training I have been doing 3 Parkour sessions a week on average, varying from relatively light movement to fairly heavy sessions, I’ve been running usually twice a week and on one day each week I have been rotating through different activities over the course of 4 weeks. Far example, I’ve been doing trampolining one week, climbing the next week etc etc. This format has been fun and I’ve felt busy and felt like I’m constantly progressing, which is nice, but the drawbacks of this approach have begun to show.

It would seem that in my general eagerness to do the ‘exciting’ elements of this routine, I have let some of the fundamental and important groundwork work slip. I appear to have stopped doing my daily morning yoga, I haven’t been spending much time on mobility exercises and in general, I haven’t necessarily been thinking smart, when it comes to conducting my training. As a result, I’ve developed a bit of tendonitis in one of my Achilles’ tendons and my upper left arm has been experiencing some minor, intermittent pain.

This apparent desire for constant and tangible progress is the devil that repeatedly rears its ugly head. Many of us fall foul of this creature over and over again, which is understandable, progression is addictive. In our ‘modern’ lifestyle we are constantly exposed to other peoples progress or the image of their progress, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others whether we want to or not. It takes a lot to try and break this almost automatic process of self-judgement so repeatedly suffering from this certainly doesn’t mean you’re a lesser person for it, but being aware of it is certainly the first step to finding a path that definitely works for you.

I’m aware I do still struggle a lot with over-comparing myself to others. I’ve got better at dealing with those thoughts but they’re definitely still there. The process of being ok with the fact that I will be slower at picking certain things up or the fact that I won’t be as good at certain types of movement is an arduous process, but sticking to a journey of progression that best serves me is important for both my mental and physical wellbeing. Maybe I am capable of achieving massive running precisions or a round-off backflip, but with the time available to me each week at the moment, those things aren’t going to happen for quite some time. The point is that I am moving forward, I’m getting stronger and my skillset is gradually improving, which is the main thing.

Recently I have been feeling great and in many ways, my training and nutrition have been working well for me, but it’s important to be constantly aware of what is going on deeper down and it’s always important to listen to your body. My left Achillies has been feeling extremely tight and somewhat painful upon waking up, after sitting down for too long or during some exercises. I can’t assume it’ll just go away on its own so I need to deal with it if I do want to continue to progress. This morning simply doing some ankle mobility while still lying in bed meant that when I got out of bed I didn’t have the twang of pain and the uncomfortable stiffness that I’ve been experiencing when getting out of bed in the mornings. Getting back into my daily yoga and actually spending time on a few simple mobility exercises will also help. Some problems can be relatively easy to fix or mitigate if you listen to your body and respond in the early days.

Train safe,

Jess

 

Training Progress: Continuous Learning in Fitness and Health

As ever, the journey of learning continues and new findings continue to impact how I approach my training and nutrition. In all, I’m feeling good. Joints and back are feeling pretty great and progress is occurring in my training as a whole.

It’s been three weeks since I started heading to the gym every Tuesday. Each week I’ve done a slightly different workout because, as I’ve discussed previously, I’m always learning new things and finding new ways of figuring out what’s best for me and I suspect it’ll take me a little while yet to settle on a program that I feel benefits me the most.

My goal with the Tuesday gym sessions is to increase my leg power. Over the last three weeks, I’ve just been trying to get used to weightlifting again and gaining confidence with using the equipment. Despite not going max weight on my squats I’ve been seeing improvements in my jump distance and when I did the Park run at the weekend I knocked over a minute off my personal best, which I really wasn’t expecting to do but I think I have to put it down to having the gym sessions in my schedule now. My overall fitness hasn’t quite caught up with my leg power because I was pretty wiped out at the end of the run, but my legs just didn’t seem to want to slow down.

The method of training every day, but not going full intensity very often, feels like it suits me. I love moving and I love training, so ensuring that I’m not too wiped out from the previous session to do much the next day seems like a good way to handle things. Ultimately I want to be training well into old age, so looking after my body, varying my training and balancing the high impact stuff with appropriate conditioning and low impact movement will be something I’ll need to maintain.

Working out the nutrition side of things alongside this is still a work in progress. I need to make sure I’m getting enough fat, but obviously the right fats. Protein and carbs are fine I think. Being mostly plant-based hasn’t made it too tricky to maintain protein levels and I’m gradually kicking the sugar addiction. I think I am just going to have to keep a blanket ban on myself from buying bags of sweets at all. For the moment keeping my snacking to fruit and veg will help me kick the need for overly processed sugar.

Overall I’m seeing steady progress in my strength and fitness and I’m feeling much better in myself. It’s working well for me at the moment. Lot’s of positive thoughts about my progression and the future.

Train safe,

Jess

Training Progress: The Next Steps

As ever, health and fitness is an ever-changing sequence of learning and unlearning. New knowledge impacts how you train, what you eat, how you recover, but there are so many sources of information and new methods and findings appearing all the time it can often be tricky to feel like you’re doing the right thing.

For me, the next stage of my training progression isn’t set in stone. I attended the Les Dames Du Movement event in London over the weekend and it gave me a lot to think about with regards to my approach and attitude to training and how best to move forward. There are lots of things I want to achieve but obviously, I’m human, and I’m not capable of learning everything I want to learn and making the progression I want to make in mere weeks or months. Is it best to chip away at multiple things? or prioritise some things? Questions that frequently mill around in my mind.

One thing that I had decided prior to my weekend in London was that I would get a gym membership and try and go once a week to work on my legs. I feel that a bit of weight lifting will aid me in unlocking some power. My technique is decent, so I should be able to handle the additional strength as it begins to take effect, but it will probably also take a bit of time for my confidence to catch up to my full strength anyway, so there is time to continue improving my technique and general skill. Once a week seems like a manageable place to start.

I’m pretty unfamiliar with all the types of equipment available in the gym, but the primary goal of my first session was to get familiar with straight legged deadlifts again and start working on squats. Straight legged deadlifts are high on the list because over the last month it has become apparent that I need to do more hamstring work. I have experienced some muscular stress in the area behind my knees that is likely due to my hamstrings needing some attention, so I’ll have the deadlifts in my gym routine and do some hamstring exercises at least a couple of times a week in order to see if that is indeed the case.

My knees have been feeling a lot better since doing regular strength training and yoga each morning, so I’m pretty happy with the work I’m doing there. Once I feel less afraid of taking impact I can start to be a little more ambitious in some of the jumps I try. As ever I really want to look after my knees so I’ll continue the strength training, with the gym session each week adding into the knee and ankle exercising, so hopefully I’ll encounter fewer issues going forward. My knees never reached a point where I was legitimately worried, but it’s wise to listen to your body and start making adjustments to your training before anything serious does end up occurring.

Over the weekend of coaching in London, I do feel like another aspect of my confidence has been unlocked. I’m not going to be performing massive jumps immediately but I feel that I can view mentally difficult challenges in a different light.

There are other factors in play in life at present that may stall or negatively impact my training, or cause me to throw myself into it harder. I’m not happy in my job at the moment and I can’t see a point where I will start to be happy in it again, so while I plan the next step I may see my confidence take steps back or I may be at risk of overtraining to escape the problems with work. I’ll need to be extremely self-aware to avoid the possible negative effects. As always I will endeavour to look forward in a positive manner and keep progressing, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

Train safe,

Jess

A Relaxed Afternoons Training

Went out for a wander along the river and challenged myself to come up with creative movement at various obstacles along the way. It was an interesting endeavour and I feel like I learned a lot about how I approach movement and how I process challenges.

 

Train safe,

Jess