Hello again friends! How are you doing? Training going well?

So as I write this, I'm just in the process of getting over an injury I received while training. I went for a rail precision on quite a narrow rail, and my left foot fell short, and I came down onto the left side of my hip quite hard, before rolling over the rail onto the ground. While painful and annoying, it was by no means threatening to either my life nor my parkour practise - a little ice and a few days rest and I was fine. Infact the worst part of it was the feeling of nausea I got for about an hour afterwards due to the adrenaline rush I experienced!

Anyway, injury itself is not the thing I want to talk about here and now - more about the few days off I had to force myself to take afterwards. And I really do mean 'force'. I was surprised at how hard it proved to be. My regular schedule finds me doing something parkour or training related about six days a week (which might sound like a lot, but it's come about quite slowly and naturally for me, so I've had a chance to adapt to it, and two of those days are quite 'light' training. I wouldn't recommend starting at that volume!). I estimated I'd need at least a few days off, maybe even a week, and at first I viewed it as a luxury - a genuine reason to be lazy and do nothing, guilt free!

Yeah, right. 

Day one was nice. Day two found me easily distracted, often my thoughts drifting to parkour. Day three I was fidgety and bored. Day four found me out on the street, balancing on a low railing. Whoops.

It's hard to switch the brain off once you find an obsession. I think that's the appropriate word to use here; obsession. I found myself thinking about training non-stop during those days, my every thought drifting around to parkour after just a few seconds, about what I was missing out on by not training today and what I'd have to catch up on upon my return (which is silly, I've been learning it for a year and a half, do I really expect to forget it all in a week?) And it made me realise how normal this state of mind has become for me. Others have noticed; at work, they call it my 'parkour face', when I look vacant and am clearly in the office in body only. I've nearly crashed my car because I've been distracted by a cool looking playground at the side of the road. I once shouted 'kong precision!' during... well, actually, nevermind that one.

I have a history of obsession. I can recognise it in myself, and have experience of battling it. Without wanting to get the tiny violins out, I had a brief spell as a teenager of being virtually anorexic, and had a similar experience of permanent pre-occupation with weight loss. Certainly parkour is not the worst thing to be obsessed over, but I would argue that obsession on anything is bad for your mental health. It drives you to distraction and blinds you to all else in your life. It sank home when I realised, during the days off, that I couldn't read more than a couple of pages of a book before my attention would wander back to parkour. Now, I love reading. And yet... every few paragraphs, I'd catch myself staring into space, my mind wandering back to parkour.

Why is this unhealthy? Parkour is a great thing to have in your life; surely thinking about it is no bad thing? Well, yup, I agree. My point is that I was taking it too far, and as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. I found myself repeating hypothetical situations to myself; 'if I could just get that jump', 'if I was better at this', 'if only'... Thinking about them was making absolutely no difference to my parkour ability itself. I wasn't out doing it, it wasn't improving me, it was just making me feel bad. What's the point? It was akin to berating myself over and over again, expecting each time to feel better when nothing had changed in the intervening space. I've come to recognise these as 'circular thoughts'.

So I said to myself, I'm going to be strict. I'll switch off at least some of the time. I started with reading, as it had been what set me on to making this decision in the first place. I made a promise to myself that if I open a book (or in my case, my Kindle!) then I am going to put as much focus on the words on the page as I would on a rail precision when training. I will shut my mind to parkour for at least that task. It was hard at first, but then it became like... meditation, almost. When my mind wandered, I didn't chide myself, I just immediately stopped and returned to the words infront of me. I can't say I've perfected it, but it has eased my mind and made it smoother to let go at other times. Say I don't make a jump; I might give some time over to thinking about coming back to it, and what will help me get there, and what I can do next time around. But then I put it away. Instead of repeating it over and over in my head... sometimes for days, feeling worse each time because no matter how much I think about it, I STILL haven't done the jump physically. Which falls into the very definition of insanity; repeating the exact same thing over and over again without changing anything, and expecting a different result each time. 

Now, I may be an extreme case by my nature, but I urge you to reflect on your own experiences of what I've described above. Do you fall foul of these creeping, circular thoughts? Do you agree with me, or is focusing so intently on something a good thing in your experience? Let me know in the comments, I'm genuinely interested.

(Also, just as a general aside because I still hate them - what are your experiences with rail precisions? Love or loathe? I was once told there are two types of parkour practitioners - those that show up on their first day of training and are like "oh, a railing, let me jump to that" and others who have been training for three years and still gently mess themselves at the sight of a metal railing. I find this to be disturbingly accurate...) 

Bottom line: Plan your training, focus on it, give it your all but then put it away for a time. Relax. Let go. It'll still be there when you come back.

As ever, all the best!