Anxiety and Training

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By Fiona B

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. People with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and often affect their daily life.

GAD is a long-term condition which causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.

People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling irritable or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.

In previous blog posts, Kel discussed her depression and how it has affected her training. To carry on talking openly about mental health and parkour, I’d like to address training with anxiety.

My anxiety manifests itself in several ways but the key ones are crippling self doubt, inability to trust myself, fear of social situations and, at my worst, panic attacks and a fear of leaving my flat. Most of the time, my anxiety is like some kind of background noise in my life. Imagine mild tinitus: it’s there and it’s irritating, but it’s not making too much of an impact. Most of the time I can tune it out. When it gets bad however, anxiety can take over my life: it’s all I think about. It’s very difficult for me to overcome, and it makes me feel like a failure of a person.

Obviously, my anxiety can impact my training from time to time. So, while everyone’s anxiety is different, here are some gems that I can pass to you in the hopes you’ll learn something. Even if you don’t have anxiety, its changed the way I approach my whole training, and maybe it can offer you a new way of thinking too.

  • All fear is real fear – I do not accept the distinction made between real fear and silly fear. If something makes you feel afraid then it’s a real fear. All my fears are real, and they all have real affects. They may not follow a logic that everyone else recognises, but all fears have a basis somewhere, even if they are distorted or projected elsewhere. You can’t talk yourself out of being afraid, but hopefully you’ll be able to do something despite being afraid. You have to face that fear to overcome it; you can’t just make it go away by telling yourself it’s silly or illogical. Just admit you’re afraid and deal with it. This leads on to the next point…
  • Respect your fear – You can’t talk your fear away, not all the time. You can do things despite your fear, but it’s often still there, and you should respect it. Spending time berating yourself and your brain is not productive. Please don’t do it. I am guilty of doing this, I call myself all kinds of names when I’m afraid of doing something I think I should be able to do. But, this doesn’t help. If anything, it makes me feel more pathetic. You’re not weak or silly if you’re afraid of something. Respecting your fear doesn’t mean never try and overcome it, but there’s no need to abuse yourself over it.
  • It’s Okay To Ask For Help – It doesn’t make you weak or incapable. Everyone needs some help now and then, and some more than others. You’re not a burden. You’re a person who maybe just isn’t very well at the moment.
  • Cut Out The Bad – People, situations, training patterns: whatever isn’t working for you, and is actively making you sad/stressed/in pain, get rid of it. Never feel bad about it. Shit happens, life is hard and training sometimes means doing things that suck for a long term win. But, as far as possible, you should fill your life/training with good things that make you happy and help you to progress. Don’t keep the things in your life that that pull you down, especially if you’re feeling fragile. Remember, this includes people or friendships- there are people whose influence is not helpful or may even be harmful to you, whether this is their intention or not. You don’t owe them anything, and if they’re causing you stress, avoid them.
  • Don’t Define Yourself By Your Training – When I’m feeling anxious I’m totally off my game. I find it difficult to get in the head space to progress in my training the way I’d want to. When I’m feeling pretty stressed I tend to think quite lowly of myself, and a bad day of training can add to this. While it’s great to progress your training by breaking loads of jumps, this isn’t always a useful way to think about parkour, or even practise it. While parkour can come to shape and define us, don’t attach too much self worth to the idea of being “the best”. Having the biggest jump doesn’t make you a better person.
  • Change Your Training – If you have to! So my confidence is low, I don’t trust myself – this means I’m not breaking a lot of jumps, but I’m trying to not let it get to me… To avoid entering a vicious cycle of bad emotions creating bad training, sometimes you might need to change how you train. For me this means lots of conditioning and weights – negative emotions and self image don’t impact this kind of training for me as much, so when I’m not feeling up to other stuff, I can spend my time getting stronger. This works for me because I enjoy it, it’s useful and I still feel like I’m training, rather than wasting my time feeling bad because I can’t do anything. At some point fears have to be faced, but if you’re not mentally up for something it’s best to come back to it when you are. Training is an amazing way to help you get better, don’t turn it into something painful.
  • Stay Safe – I get stressed out by new and unfamiliar places/people/situations. So when I’m feeling anxious I limit the places I frequent to those I feel safe and comfortable in. When leaving your house is scary. you need to minimise other stresses. I like to train at Glasgow Uni because I’m in my fifth year of study there, I know the campus really well, and it’s pretty near my flat. When I’m scared it’s nice to have a training spot that’s familiar – don’t be ashamed to admit to needing specific things to help you train, especially when you’re not feeling good.
  • Don’t Stop Training – Hobbies are a great way to distract yourself and get out of the house. Sport and exercise is a fantastic way to sweat out a lot of bad feelings. Sometimes parkour will be hard, and it has nothing to do with the physical obstacles you’re facing. Parkour has been an amazing help to me but the times I’ve needed it most have been the times I’ve wanted to give up. For me, parkour overall has a very positive impact, and its got me through stressful times. That’s not to say it’s never caused some stress, or made me cry, or feel like shit. If the decision is right for you to take a break or walk away, don’t feel bad about it. You should always look after your health. But sticking with it helped me, and I think it could be of genuine benefit to others who feel anxious.

    This isn’t a definitive list of ways to deal with anxiety while training, it’s just some that help for me. It’s taken me a while to work out how I want to train, and I wish that could have come sooner to save days of frustration. Remember if you are struggling with anxiety, or any other mental health issue, you’re not alone, and there are people/places you can reach out to if you need help. Train safe pals, and don’t doubt that you’re still strong.

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Weekly Watch

by Fiona B

Hello, and welcome to weekly watch, where we’ll share with you our favourite parkour videos, old and new!

To start us off, I’ve picked what is possibly my favourite parkour video ever. I find it to be incredibly inspirational, and to me, sums up the spirit of parkour. I first saw this fairly early into my training, and it was the first video that I felt I really connected with, and showed something that felt more realistic to me. While it’s great to watch people doing amazing movements, I find watching Jo try this wall climb again and again is more relatable to my training. All in all it’s a beautiful video, so enjoy!

If you have any suggestions of great videos for us to watch and share, post them in the comments or on our facebook.

[p.s. Weekly Watch posts have now been moved to a separated page. Click the Weekly Watch tab up top for a new video recommendation every Monday]

Shetland Parkour Experience

By Fiona B

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Last weekend was SPE 2, a 4 day parkour event hosted in Lerwick, on the stunning Shetland Islands. A group of us travelled up from Glasgow, with a 15 hour journey up north from Aberdeen. The ferry ride from Aberdeen proved to be eventful for all the wrong reasons, but luckily us parkour ladies are pretty hardy, and it takes more than 8ft waves and extreme sea sickness to stop us from jumping.

And so we staggered off the boat and lurched along to what turned out to be an amazing weekend of training. The itinerary for the weekend was pretty intense, with multiple classes running each day, and it proved to be a lot of training even for more experience practitioners. However, we were treated to some fantastic weather (and sunburn) and incredible training spots. Despite Lerwick being a small town, the quality of places to train is unreal. And where else do you get to train on natural features like rocks, 15 minutes away from more urban spots?

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All the classes were great, with all of us conquering at least one new thing. We’ve all returned from Shetland feeling confident and renewed in our training. It was especially great to have women’s only classes, run by Shirley Darlington from Parkour Gen, which provided that essential time to train with other parkour girls from around Scotland.

The weekend created so many amazing and memorable moments: watching the moon rise after a night mission, the sense of accomplishment after finishing the 7am wake up class, the exhaustion of the Final Push, that feeling you get breaking a jump… These kinds of gathering also offer a chance to meet lots of other practitioners – from those we haven’t seen since last year, to new pals we’re already planning to see again. Where else can you go and know you’re gonna get non-stop quality chat all weekend with people you’ve only just met?

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I could write for pages about all the amazing things we did, and the great friends we made, but ultimately it is summed up by the name of this event. Honestly, I first thought the idea of a Shetland ‘experience’ to be a little cheesey, but that is literally what you get with SPE. I would seriously encourage anyone who missed this year to go next year. It’s one of the best parkour events out there and incomparable to anything or anywhere else.

(Keep an eye out for more photos going up later)

Some thoughts on fear

By Kelley Glaister

480457_535042746517178_1921076408_nWe all encounter fear regularly in our training, and, arguably, if you don’t, you won’t progress very much. We know that type of fear and we know how to use it. A physiological reaction to perceived threat. The urge to turn or run away. Or limbs locking up near the edge of a high wall. This is fear of physical harm, and it is justified. Moreover, it’s useful. It’s a physical signal that there is risk involved in what you’re about it do, so be careful. This we can call Proper Fear.

Proper Fear. This is the fear the practictioners talk about a lot. And we all have our ways of overcoming it, or using it to our advantage. One aspect of this kind of fear is that you can talk to it, face it with logic. Facing a new jump that fills you with fear, you can mentally catalog every jump you’ve done of a similar distance, every balance at similar height, as proof of your ability to do this one. You can take note of the fatigue in your legs, and judge if it’s time now, or if you should come back. Then, breathe in, breathe out, empty your mind, and if you’re ready, the jump jumps itself.

But there is another kind of fear. The other fear is different. It’s not tied to a particular circumstance, nor to bodily effect. It’s a general, pervading fear. Fear that you’re not good enough, fear that you look stupid. Fear you’re too fat or clumsy or old to be doing this and that everybody knows. We’ll call that one ‘Stupid Fear’.

It’s not restricted to the moments before and around a jump or new challenge, like Proper Fear. It can be constant. It’s what stops you from going out training when your better angels are screaming in your ear to get outta the damn house and move.

The nagging worry of Stupid fear usually appears in a form similar to “What if people see me training and judge me to be inadequate?” You might as well ask “What if I get attacked by a pack of zombie dwarf rabbits?” In both hypotheticals, it’s highly unlikey to happen, and will cause no damage if it does. People are usually only thinking of themselves, and any judgment they come to will be more of a reflections of themselves than on you. And if they do? So what? What’s the damage? None.

Proper Fear and Stupid Fear don’t have much in common. I think a problem can be when we treat them the same way.

In the case of Proper Fear, the question is “Can I do this?” And often, the answer will be no. Or more accurately, not yet. Because we need to grant the premise of the fear; there is a risk to our safety, so we need to assess it accurately.

But with Stupid Fear, if the question is “Can I do this?” it refers to training or progressing at all. And the answer is always yes. I know I can get out into the world and move with confidence and more importantly with joy. But that’s the wrong question. That question grants the premise of Stupid Fear. A premise which has no real worth. When facing Stupid fear, the real question is… “Yeah, so what?”

Truth is, failure isn’t actually scary. I fall on my arse and laugh like a banshee about it. I scrape my shins. I fall in puddles, and get filth in my clothes and hair and walk home looking, and grinning, like a maniac. I’m not saying I know how to avoid Stupid Fear entirely, but I do know what works for me. Move. Run and jump and skip, and yes, fall sometimes. I’ll tell you this, if you’re moving, Stupid Fear can’t keep up with you.

Some thoughts from Kate and Susie

We asked two of our younger pals currently training parkour in Glasgow, Kate and Susie, both 16, to tell us about their training and offer their advice on getting started with parkour.

How did you get into parkour?
Kate: I had seen some people on TV doing it and I thought it would be amazing to be able to do something as awesome. My friend had already found a youth class that she had began going to, so I thought I’d join her.

Susie: Honestly, I found out through the internet/gaming. I played a pretty popular game called Assasin’s Creed, and thought what the game character was doing looked cool. Then I googled parkour in Scotland and I started taking classes. Oh, and one of my friends showed me a lot of videos of people ‘failing’ at parkour and hurting themselves on youtube… xD

What is your favourite thing about training parkour?
K: You never know what you’re going to faced with next. And when you’re able to do something that you may have thought there was no way that you would be able to do, it feels like an amazing sense of accomplishment

(Kate jumping)

S: When you haven’t been able to do a certain movement, but then after some training, you overcome it. It’s like ‘Woah, I actually did something kinda cool.’

What was the hardest thing when you started?
K: Being able to get over my fear of falling and hurting myself. But I came to realise that thats the way you learn; you have to get a few bumps and cuts along the way to learn from your mistakes.

S: Undoubtedly, the warm ups at training. In fact, I still have problems with them sometimes. My only advice for that is, make sure you eat something before you start any intense training.

Whave you acheived in your parkour training that you are you most proud of?
K: I’ve gotten over my fear of heights. When you’re working up high you learn to control your fear and just go for it.

S: Honestly, I’m just proud that I’ve been able to keep myself fit and in shape. It’s a really healthy and fun workout, and I’m normally a lazy sort of person.

What kind of music do you listen to while training?
K: Mostly anything, but I think it’s probably better if you listen to something chilled and relaxed because it’ll make yourself loosen up a bit and also become relaxed.

S: Music? Ehhh… Not sure. They play some music in my class, but I’m normally too busy chatting away to friends or exercising to notice.

(Susie being a ninja)

Do you prefer structured classes or jams with your pals?
K: I love both so much. Classes are more structured and you get to learn more things and get help from people who are experienced. At jams you get to know lots of people that share a common interest with you, and also get help you when you need it. It’s like one huge community that keeps on growing.

S: I think I do enjoy the classes a bit more, but only because there seem to be more people around. Jams are good too, though.

What advice would you give to other teenage girls who want to try Parkour?
K: Just go for it! You may be like me, and nervous at first but it’s so worth it in the end. The things you learn and the people you meet last a lifetime if you keep it up :)

S: Just do it! If you’re reading about it on the web and wondering, like I was, and you’re maybe just a tinsy bit shy, then honestly, just go for it. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done :D

Warum bist du barfuß?

Or, why are you barefoot?

I was asked this question while balancing barefoot along an abandoned tram track in a park in Leipzig, by an adorable five-year-old, asking the way children do; with a genuine curiosity rather than the i-already-think-you’re-an-idiot tone that adults can take. But speaking German, I scrambled for translations I didn’t know for words I needed, and in the end managed nothing but a kein-Deutsch apology and a smile. It got me thinking though- it’s the same question I’ve been asked a million times in English, and one I’ve come to answer on auto-pilot in my Muttersprache. Those answers, though, they’re not the whole story.

I walk around barefoot a lot, and people ask me why I’m not wearing shoes a lot. When answering, I tend to rattle through a stock list of reasons. It’s better for you. It strengthens stabilizing muscles in the lower leg, which are under-used by shoe wearers. It improves balance and landing, as any small mistakes and sloppy techniques won’t be covered up by a wedge of foam, but will be communicated instantly in the form of discomfort or pain, meaning you stop doing that pretty quicksmart. it increases the input of information, about surface, conditions, force, and so increases precision. Shoes change the way a human walks, encouraging longer steps and heel-striking with each step, which causes shock to travel up the straight leg and into the knee and hip, rather than being absorbed by a forefoot-striking leg, bent to take shock like a spring. Blah blah blah.

These are reasons why I should go barefoot, but not really reasons why I do. Similarly, I can list bazillions of reasons why I should eat a lot of fruit and veg; that’s all fine, sure, but I eat a lot of fruit and veg because it’s delicious and I like it. People are unlikely to continue doing something they should do simply because it’s the right thing to do; there usually have to be other reasons, tangible reasons. On some level, it’s gotta make you feel good.

So, why am I barefoot?

Perhaps a short note, a question as to why the question is always framed as though naked feet are wrong, weird, silly, whatever. Barefeet shouldn’t be weird, and looking at it globally and across the history of the species, shoe-wearing is the weird activity. And it is true that shoe-wearing leads to atrophy of the muscles in the lower leg- you can feel them growing and flexing as you walk. Barefeet make you stronger.

It’s a real shame more people don’t go barefoot, at least once in a while, because there are things you’ll never know unless you do. The way wet grass tickles the sides of your feet on a cold morning. The way certain materials they use to repair roads can turn spongy-soft in the hot sun. The way your toes grip around the irregularities of a rock with surprising intuition. The tiny moment of chaos with each step on rain-slick cement, that miraculously turns into balance and control. Barefoot, you’ll get to know the upper and lower limits of what your body can handle, temperature wise, and I promise, it’s more than you think. You’ll figure out how to distribute weight evenly across the soles of your feet, so you can skip across gravel and rocks that you previously wouldn’t even look at without lacing up. I feel like I learn something about the world, about the peculiar material qualities of the world, every time I forego shoes. Barefeet increase knowledge.

One of the reasons that people think walking barefoot is inappropriate seems to be a form of Mean world syndrome. This is a belief that the world is an inherently dangerous place that’s out to get them, and it’s the same thing you face when you’re out training and someone yells at you to get-the-hell-down-off-that-rail-you’re-going-to-hurt-yourself. People can overestimate risk. In this particular case, shoe-wearing sufferers of the syndrome tend to think that the world is composed almost entirely of dog shit, used syringes and broken glass, and that walking barefoot is an almost-suicidal undertaking. There are risks involved in walking barefoot, and there are certainly places where I wouldn’t do it. But the risks are small, the consequences largely reversible and they are far outweighed by the benefits. Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat – broken glass is not really a problem. Pieces large enough to be a real menace, you’ll spot instantly and avoid. Smaller shards will get into your feet, I’m not denying that, but they pop out as easily as they go in and rarely get infected. Furthermore, feet toughen up fast. Barefeet can seem scary at first, just like parkour training, but sticking with it will give you a much better idea of what actually poses a risk, and what you can take in your stride.

Shoes seem to offer protection and insulation from the world. And, as someone who’s spent more time than I’d like with the black dog, I know the temptations of shutting everything out. It can feel like sanctuary to stomp around oblivious, collar turned up and headphones in, a way to disengage from the world. And true, that’s exactly what it is, but it doesn’t help. This just shuts you up inside your own head, with your problems and fears bouncing about inside there, getting louder and louder. Going barefoot can help you to feel centered and grounded- every step returns your mind to physical experience of the world, and any mental attempts to shut yourself in get that much more difficult. An integrated part of the world, not an interruption into it. The Cartesian conceit of a mind located in but distinct from the body is almost impossible to maintain when you’re not wearing kicks. It’s easier to notice the sun on your face when you can feel the ground under your feet.

It takes a little bravery to lower the defenses, and you do it every time you go training. Then you see the world isn’t big and scary and out to get you, but actually (if you’ll forgive me a moment of unrelenting optimism) an place full of wonders. And that you, your body, isn’t under threat from all sides and in constant need of protection, but actually strong and capable of more than you thought.

Why am I barefoot? Truthfully, because it’s harder to be unhappy that way.

Courtesy Zeno Watson- http://www.zenowatson.com

(Many thanks to Zeno Watson for the photo- www.zenowatson.com and www.glasgowparkourcoaching.tumblr.com)