Women in Parkour

When I first started training Parkour, there was a female presence in the sport and we had a smattering of strong figures on social media, but it wasn’t massively visible. It was generally the case that I was the only female at a jam or class with our numbers occasionally soaring as high as 3 or 4 and most Parkour/Freerunning teams contained one female, but never more.

After coming back into the discipline after over a year break from it, I feel like there’s a powerful forward surge occurring amongst female practitioners for a variety of reasons. Social media is helping a great deal but the people you can see coming together to make things happen is not only great for women in parkour, it embodies the very nature of this discipline. This surge may have begun before I stopped training and I might have just not been paying enough attention, but it’s been lovely to come back and find that it’s building in momentum.

It seems to be the case that this increase in the visibility of female practitioners is being somewhat driven by Instagram. Instagram is not a platform I’ve used up until this year and previously it always seemed really difficult for me to come across videos of female practitioners via youtube because, as you can probably imagine, typing ‘female parkour’ into Youtube doesn’t really throw many useful videos your way. Using Instagram has felt like opening a floodgate and the platform seems like such a good tool for movement practitioners. I now have access to video clips from a multitude of talented women and it’s honestly wonderful, as someone who often lacks so much confidence, for me to see other people of my size and physique achieving things I often perceive to be out of my reach is extremely empowering.

Aside from social media, there is just an increasing and tight-knit community of women coming together to create events and support each other. In a discipline that’s still seen as predominantly male, having these strong centres for women to come together and grow in confidence together is vital for the growth of the discipline as a whole. As friendly as the Parkour community generally is, it’s still incredibly easy to feel really self-conscious when you’re the only woman training in a group of often slightly boisterous lads. This sort of experience can be incredibly off-putting and has indeed put me off training in the past, just through me struggling to feel like I’m really a part of the group, so knowing that there are groups of people like you out there, is important for maintaining the confidence to keep training.

The women’s Jams that occur every year in London and over in the US are excellent and it was awesome to see Pamela Forsters Parkour and Movement jam have such a great female turn out. Although it wasn’t a women-only jam, it’s clear that Pam’s presence has a huge positive impact and her strong visibility in the sport encourages many to follow her. These fantastic roles models are vital and I’m so pleased we have more and more people like her coming through into the light.

There’s still a long way to go. I’m currently located in the deep south of the UK and I am not aware of any other women currently training down in the South West corner. Whether we’ve just not yet found each other I don’t know, but to my knowledge, the nearest other women training might be Bournemouth, which is 2 hours drive from where I’m based. Further along the coast to Brighton, the female community starts to have more visible figures, but again, that’s a reasonable trek for me. Despite being the only woman currently training in Exeter, I feel elated and excited for the future knowing that the female community is growing and going from strength to strength. I look forward to being a part of it.

Train safe,

Jess

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Training Progress: Trips Away and Re-organising my Routine

The hot weather hasn’t gone away. Hopefully, it’ll shift soon but for the moment I’m still trying to work around the heat. Despite the weather, I’ve had a couple of relatively productive weeks with regards to fitness and yesterday I started to pin down the next iteration of my exercise and eating plan.

I’ve been working out what I want to achieve with regards to movement. Dedicating myself to one form of movement would obviously be beneficial in many ways, but I just can’t do that. I love trying things and I find greater enjoyment in variety. I want to continue with Parkour, but I also want to work on a few tricking movements, get better at running, get more climbing done and join an Ultimate Frisbee team. The last one is probably out of the blue but it seems like such a fun sport and I’m keen to participate in more social activities. I have been thinking about these things and I feel content in the knowledge that my progress in my movement disciplines will be slower due to splitting myself multiple ways.

Three days of the last week were spent away in the Peak District. We did one really long hike and a couple of shorter walks while we were there and I had plenty of opportunities to jump around on rocks up on Kinder Low and Stanage Edge. The el natural Parkour was immensely fun and very freeing. Leap across rocks with such stunning backdrops is a feeling that has made me feel keen to get back to somewhere high and rocky to do it again.

While we were away I did manage to get a bit of strength training done each morning and I felt quite physically tired by the time we got back home. It was a good sort of tired and definitely a useful emotional break from normal life.

I’ve been moving over to a predominantly plant-based diet and while we were away I did eat some chicken and bit of lamb, mostly because it was more convenient to cook for five people if we weren’t worrying about too many different types of food. The meals were fine, but I have no desire to eat more and my stomach felt a bit strange the following couple of days. The next step will be to phase out eggs and eventually fish, although I don’t exactly eat much of that at the moment. The aim with all this isn’t to go completely vegan. I’m lactose intolerant so I avoid dairy anyway but with regards to meat, I’m not going to be too bothered if I occasionally have some. I am finding that I have no desire to eat meat anymore, aside from occasionally wanting something fish based, so I might end up basically being vegan anyway.

As part of my re-structuring, I’m starting each day with a bit of yoga. Nothing complicated as I am aware of the damage that can be caused by over-extension and ego in yoga. I’m working on some movements that present a slight challenge, with the goal of making them gradually easier. I’m not going to be twisting and bending myself into strange positions, I’m simply using it as something to centre my mind and calm myself before I get the day started.

At present, I want to lose some body fat. I am dissatisfied with it at present and for the moment my efforts will be focusing a bit more on dealing with that. I’ll be aiming to do at least half an hour of exercise a day where my heart rate exceeds 100bpm, preferably more than half an hour. With my schedule, this will include turning my walk to work into a run, generally being diligent with doing my strength training and cutting down on sugar and snacks. Since discovering the free from section in the supermarkets I’ve been taken in by lactose-free chocolate snacks, which is problematic and I need to curb that before I get into a habit of having cake and biscuits easily within reach all the time. Sweets will be phased out and I will have fruit and healthier snack options available instead, but not present in substantial quantities.

I’m also going to trial run intermittent fasting, which means doing all my eating between the hours of 10am and 5pm. I’m just trying things for the moment and I feel that the intermittent fasting will help me shift the body fat I want to lose, but we’ll see what happens. There are some days where the fasting won’t work out as sometimes I exercise in the evenings due to the way life arranges itself and on these days I will obviously need to eat after the exercise. As always it’s a case of fitting things in around life.

I’m pleased with my general fitness progress at present. I’m getting stronger, running 5km in around 25 minutes is feeling easier and easier, I’m feeling fitter. These are the main things and I’m definitely happy with the fact I haven’t lost anything from the last 3 weeks of slightly less than ideal exercise levels.

Train safe,

Jess

Training Progress – End of June: Dealing with the Heatwave

I’ve had a┬ásmall gap in blog writing. It felt daft to keep making myself write two blogs a week when sometimes all I’ve had time for in the week is a run and a bit of strength training. There isn’t a blog’s worth of things to write about there.

It’s been really hot. I wasn’t feeling particularly great last week, physically and mentally, but I managed a bit of strength training and ran twice. The strength training didn’t really see progress because I just wasn’t feeling well and my arms felt like they had nothing in them so I didn’t want to push it and make myself unable to work. Knowing that progress wasn’t going to happen, I just did my best to make sure I kept it ticking over. Doing something at least ensured I didn’t see a loss of progression.

I think I am going to revise our weekday strength training again. There are just so many factors in play in life and it’s legitimately difficult to ensure a routine gets kept. Part of this is because I do shift work and I just need to ensure my fitness routines are as flexible as my schedule is changeable. There are also environmental factors, particularly at the moment. We’re not really good at coping with the heat in the UK and I’m struggling with it a bit. Trying to figure out the best ways to achieve training without just draining myself completely is something of a challenge. I think I’ll just need to start trying to make sure most training I do is before noon or after 6pm, which won’t happen at the weekends but at least I can try and apply this method during the week to keep things going.

We had a really nice parkour session on Sunday. Nothing incredibly spectacular happened but Greg and I spent about half an hour of the session just working on one jump. It’s an upward running pre with a reasonable step up as a take-off and jump itself is a short distance across, but a decent distance upwards. Basically a running box jump. The run-up has about two decent steps in a straight line in it and the challenge lies in perfecting the technique in the run-up. You have to think quite hard about the step before the take-off as part of the take-off step in order to give yourself enough momentum to carry you to the top. I can’t hit the top of the jump yet but it was fun just working on the technique and improve how the run-up felt.

This week has been fairly poor for strength training as well. My shifts have fallen in a way that’s meant I’ve struggled to find suitable spaces in the day to fit it in and when I’m already feeling hot and stressed adding more body heat has just been something I couldn’t bring myself to do. The one good session I have got in did go well though. I felt strong and happy with what I’d done.

Yesterday I went to a trampoline park. It was something different from the usual routine and part of me just wanted to go and have fun bouncing around and throwing myself into foam pits. It was a lot of fun. I tried some front flips on the trampoline, which I haven’t done in a long time and I threw a few sideflips into the foam pit, which I haven’t done in about 2 years. My sideflip technique was absolutely appaling but the aim was to have fun and that aim was met.

We have just under 2 months until Rendezvous 2018. Our current aim is to get Greg’s fitness up so he can handle a weekend of exercise. I’m fairly certain he’s making improvements but the fact the last two weeks have been slow obviously hasn’t helped. We’ll get there.

Train safe,

Jess

 

Weekend Training 16th-17th June: Quality over Quantity

Over the weekend I ended up only training on Saturday. I say ‘only’, but Saturday was a very productive day. The lack of training on Sunday didn’t cause me stress or upset either, which was nice. I was somewhat worried that my recent obsessiveness would become problematic if I ended up not training on days I normally train, but it seems I have officially gotten over the obsessive stage and am settling into a comfortable and healthy approach.

On Saturday morning I participated in the Park run. Having not been for a run in 2 weeks, the 5km was pretty hard work towards the end, but I managed to do it in about 25 minutes, which is the time I’m trying to hit for each run. I need to try and get a run in during the week, but I’m not going to get too worried if I can’t fit it in around work and other training. I feel running is useful for maintaining stamina and general fitness so it’s certainly going to remain a regular activity.

After recovering a bit from the Park run we headed out for a fairly short Parkour session. Despite the fact we didn’t spend very long out, I felt like I got a lot done. We headed back to the spot we visited last weekend. The spot has a nice upward running pre that gets slightly wider as you go along. After re-breaking the jump I successfully did the jump a number of times and before moving on I once again felt pretty confident about my running pre progress. As an upwards running pre, it’s quite a decent height change between the takeoff point and the landing point, so it’s also a fairly decent workout due to the effort required to travel upwards as well as forwards.

We spent a few minutes at another spot and got a few precision jumps in before the rain appeared. We were training with a lad who was unfamiliar with Exeter’s training spots, so we took the opportunity to take him to a large spot with undercover areas. At this spot, I found and achieved a kong pre over a rail that I was pretty pleased with. Once I’d got passed the confidence barrier the movement itself was actually fairly easy. This was a confidence boost in itself, having such clear evidence that I have more physical power than I expected myself to have.

I felt very positive about Saturday. It helped me realise the things I can achieve in short spaces of time if I put my mind to it and focus.

Greg gained a minor injury on Saturday, just an irritating muscle twinge, but it made running and jumping on that leg quite difficult and uncomfortable. Partially because of this and partially because my Sunday shift was quite mentally draining, we just chose to relax on Sunday afternoon. My legs welcomed the rest.

Train safe,

Jess

Weekday Training 11th-15th: Developing Consistency

This week has been relatively uneventful with regards to Parkour training. I feel that after starting training again I got quite obsessive about the Parkour side of things. Over the last month, I’ve gradually settled into a routine that focuses on consistency. For the time being, I need to work on my general strength in order to see the improvements I want to see in my Parkour training, so I have been honing my routine.

At present I’m doing an indoor strength training sets in the flat 3 times a week, an outdoor strength and conditioning session once a week, then outdoor parkour training on the weekends. This allows me time to reflect on the weekend training and prevents me from trying to squeeze potentially sub-par sessions in around work. This doesn’t mean that I won’t do any Parkour training during the week but it’s not something I aim to definitely have in my schedule for the time being. Weekday Parkour will occur if I have the energy and am in the correct headspace because as I have discovered, doing Parkour in the wrong headspace, unfortunately, leads to panic attacks and potential self-injurious behaviour for me personally. This is something that I need to work on, but I’m not going to force myself to do certain things for irrational and un-useful reasons.

This consistency in my strength training is producing results. I’ve been on this regular strength training schedule for 2 weeks now and my strength endurance is definitely improving already. As well as conducting these regular sessions I’m trying to ensure that I give my body enough rest in between sessions and make sure I eat the right things before and after. As well as my strength endurance improving the visible evidence of the work being done is present in my increasing muscle definition. There is no goal here to have some kind of amazing and wonderful muscular body, it’s just something of a confidence boost to look in the mirror and be able to see the results right in front of you.

As part of the indoor strength training, I have been starting to actually work on handstands. From a conditioning perspective, I’m doing this on the basis that it will improve wrist strength as well as a sense of balance. Eventually, I would like to be able to do handstand push ups, but this is a long-term goal. At the moment I am just doing the handstands against a wall and focusing on the weight distribution in my hands as well as ensuring my shoulders are in an active position and engaging my glutes and core. There’s a surprising amount that goes into successfully doing handstands and I’m interested to see how I progress with this.

I suspect that soon I will need to start increasing certain aspects of the strength training sets. At the moment there’s a super short set of 5 ab wheel rollouts in there because I find using the ab wheel really difficult still, but it’s feeling a bit easier each time. I’ll potentially expand that set so I can start to get more of a benefit out of it.

The weekend should see some training. Saturday will include the Park Run and a bit of Parkour training and Sunday will feature some Parkour training after my early shift. I’m not setting strict expectations for myself with Parkour for the moment. There are some things I want to work on and develop but I will continue to avoid forcing myself to try and do things I’m actually not ready to do.

Train safe,

Jess

Weekend Training 9th-10th June: Sliding Backwards and Relocating Confidence

It’s been a weekend for learning things about myself. I’ve had a few realisations as a result of a sub-par training session on Saturday. There’s a strong certainty in me that after reflecting on the occurrences in that session, I will be more resolved on certain aspects of the way I train and how I approach things.

The first thing that went wrong on Saturday was how my activities prior to the session played out. I went to volunteer at the Park run, so I wasn’t running 5km, but I still walked quite far and had to run around a field a bit putting cones out. The surrounding flora out in the field also exacerbated my hayfever really badly, so I wasn’t feeling great by the time I got home. Due to wanting to get out and train I didn’t let my lunch settle properly. This led to feeling heavy and having that weird feeling of stuff swishing around in your stomach too much.

On top of those things, my mentality wasn’t set up right either. I was expecting a good session. I had a pre-conceived notion in my head of how training would go and I was expecting great things of myself. There’s a strong chance I’m autistic but at this point, a diagnosis serves me little purpose. One of the things that can occur is a result of this is that I often react violently when things don’t go according to plan. When I go and give myself specific goals it can create problems. For some people having goals works well and allows them to push themselves. Unfortunately, if I don’t reach goals I can end up having panic attacks and sometimes get self-injurious, which is obviously not healthy, so I had been trying to approach training in a relaxed manner, just doing things that came to mind and working on things that I wanted to.

On Saturday I tried to force myself to do something I was not mentally ready for. There is a jump that I can 100% do physically, but it’s at height, roughly 1.5 metres, so there’s a mental block there that I can’t get passed at present. If I try and work up to the jump I have a panic attack, if I spend too long looking at it I start to have a panic attack. I had managed to already get myself a bit worked up over the jump before we move into the final stage of this learning experience. There’s another similar distance jump on the ground near it and for some stupid reason, I had decided that trying to practice bouncing off on that jump would help me conduct the one at height. Looking back I know that if you’re doing a jump at height you should commit and if anything you should overshoot, not undershoot. So I tried a bounce off on the lower jump but for whatever reason, I suddenly dropped into a pit of overthinking and I froze while in the air. On landing, I smashed my arches into the corner of the wall and neglected to actually take the impact with my legs because I had frozen while in the air. It hurt a lot and I immediately flipped out, panicking and finding my confidence suddenly shattered. When I get angry I get stupid and sometimes I start to get desperate. I was angry for not being able to do the jump. Angry that something that’s well within my physical limits seems so difficult. Angry. Really, really angry.

This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been trying to avoid. It was stuff like this that caused me to stop training in 2016 and I really, really, really do not want to end up back in that mental place again with regards to Parkour. One of the things that are contributing to me starting to place these expectations back on myself is the fact I’ve been paying attention to social media again. As well as hating myself for not achieving things I’m also comparing myself to other people again. This is all pretty dangerous, but now that I’m conscious of it I can hopefully stop it from happening.

After screwing up my confidence progression near the beginning of the session I managed to gradually claw it back to a point where I re-did the running pre I’d managed to break on Tuesday, so I’m happy I didn’t completely undo the last month of mental progress.

I did get a few other things done during Saturdays session but a lot of it was completely overshadowed by my screw up. I feel as though I’ve learned a lot about how much I should push myself in certain situations so we can take that as a positive and useful development.

Sundays session went a lot better. We had a relatively short training session but I did a new running pre and felt confident doing it. The spot we were at also offers the ability to gradually increase the size of the running pre, so that will prove useful. We spent a while drilling vaults as well, which I should do more really. I have let my focus drift away from the fundamentals.

A mixed weekend overall.

Train safe,

Jess

Weekday Training 4th-8th June

The week has seen some good progress occurring and I continue to feel consistently stronger. Still adjusting the training routine and my eating as I go since I’m progressing relatively steadily and I’m still working out how best to provide my body with what it needs.

Monday saw the initial implementation of a more structured strength training routine. I’ve written up a set of exercises for me and Greg to do 3 times a week. It’s currently set up so that there are 4 sections to the workout and the idea isn’t that we complete all 4, but that we work towards being able to complete all 4. This set up is basically to try and measure our general levels of fitness leading up to Rendezvous 2018, after which we’ll probably tone down that side of things a bit because doing that 3 times a week is going to be a bit much in the long run. We need to get ourselves to a good base level of strength, once that’s established and I’ve learned more about effective training we can change things around.

On Tuesday I joined a couple of the Exeter guys for some evening Parkour training before a little strength training session in the park with Greg. The Parkour session was extremely positive. I found confidence moving around on rails and even managed to do some actual rail strides, which I’ve always had a mental block with previously. At one of the rail spots, I did the first downward rail pre I’ve done since I stopped training. This was a wonderful thing to achieve and it’s a definite progress marker. As well as nice rail sessions at a couple of spots, I did a running precision. My mental block with running pres has meant that I’ve often found it difficult to jump a distance with a run up even if I can do the distance from standing because I overthink my feet way too much. On Tuesday I spotted the jump, tried the jump, then committed to the jump within a very short space of time. The distance was larger than my standing jump as well so I’m really happy with the mental progress there. It’s given me a significant confidence boost.

It was really lovely to train in such a small group as well. A considerably more comfortable experience and I felt that I had so much more space in which I was able to progress, both physically and mentally.

Wednesday and Thursday were days in which I did my strength training routine. I managed the full set reasonably so I think I need to extend it. I’m also looking into joining a gym and starting to look into weighted squats as part of my weekly training. I can incorporate it into my strength training sets I imagine and make use of other equipment at the gym.

One thing I have noticed with my nutrition is that I might be consuming slightly too much now. I’ve gone a bit overkill on how much I actually need to eat, so I’ll need to keep re-adjusting that.

Friday was a rest day in preparation for the weekends training. I did have a go at seeing if I could definitely do 7 pull ups in a row now, but I surprised myself and did 8 instead! I’m enjoying the progress I’m seeing and it’s doing wonders for my confidence.

I have a weekend off work so I’m looking forward to getting some training in and working on some movements and techniques.

Train safe,

Jess