Fear and How to Overcome It
For the majority of people parkour is as much a physical challenge as a mental one. It varies from person to person, but as I often tell people, for me parkour is 60% mental and only 40% physical. Training your body to become stronger, faster, and more capable is easy. Training the mind to put aside fear and to rationalise what is holding you back from doing that small jump over a big gap is not so easy. So today we are going to go through some ways in which you can train to overcome that fear.
First it is useful to point out that in most cases what is holding us back is not fear, but anxiety. Fear is a response to an event that has occurred or is occurring. Anxiety is a response to an event that may occur. So unless you are afraid of heights the thing holding you back is not fear, but being anxious over what may happen to you if things go wrong.
We will be looking at things from an intermediate level, someone who has a good grasp of all the basic movements, because it is at this stage that fear is often the most debilitating, since most people have very little experience with overcoming it in the context of parkour.
Here we have a jump that is within the limits of most people, but we have three fear factors to it. There is a drop involved (2.4m to be exact) and our landing platform isn’t very big, leaving little room for error and the jump is decently sized for the average parkour practitioner. All three of these may be of concern to you, or maybe only one of them. Everyone is different.
So first lets rationalise our fear of this jump. Two things can go wrong here, we can either put in too little power and not make the jump, or too much power and overshoot it. In this case, both of these have very little consequences. If you undershoot it you have all the the progressions from the landing continuum at your disposal (these can be found here), and should be trained to the point of being second nature. If you put in too much power and are unable to stick the landing you can simply control it by stepping out along the wall, as it is quite long. Knowing these two things and training for them can reduce the anxiety associated with these risks by becoming more confident in our ability to handle a situation when things go wrong.
Also, with all the jumps you have done, how many of them have you had one of these situations occur, and what were the consequences if any? By consciously linking jumps where we have made those mistakes to times when nothing bad came from it we are slowly but surely overriding our bodies fear response to stop it from linking those mistakes to something that we are afraid of.
By thinking about why we are afraid of a jump or a movement, or anything else in life, we can help come to terms with that fear and find ways to move past it and to eventually overcome it completely.
After we have rationalised that fear the next step is to become comfortable with the jump, and the things about the jump that are preventing us from doing it. So in this case, the height, the size of the landing and the distance.
Becoming comfortable with the height is the simplest, just by standing up on the edge of the take off and picturing the jump you are slowly getting used to the idea of being up high. When you first step your toes over the edge you’ll notice an increase in your heart rate and your breathing but as you stand there for longer these will return to normal levels, then as you prepare for the jump your heart rate increases again. After you are comfortable and calm standing at height, start moving around at height, walk along the edge, do some rail balance at height, do climb downs and climb ups from that height. Keep moving around that height until you are completely comfortable with it.
After we are comfortable at height we can start working on some progressions, there are several smaller jumps to the same landing surface around that we can play with so that we become comfortable jumping at height and landing on a smaller surface than we are confident with. Below you can see the different progressive jumps we have to play with. Start with the jump you are most comfortable doing, if it still makes you nervous, even better. You really want to drill these progressions, then when you feel ready (after at least 15 jumps), move onto the next one.
For this jump the final progression for me is reversing the jump, as the area I am landing on is not narrow, but the jump is the same size, through these progressions I am slowly removing the anxiety involved in the jump until I overcome it completely. In the process I have also done a nice amount of jump training. Each progression 25 times, 3 different progressions. And remember, once is never, after you have gotten past those barriers holding you back you should do it a minimum 3 times. I recommend more, so when you come back in a few days time you don’t need to build back up and can get up there and do it straight away.
It is important to be aware that this process may take longer than one training session, sometimes it may take a few days, sometimes it may take a few months. Don’t rush the process, I have found it is best to approach those jumps that scare you with a clear mind, if it starts to psych you out there is nothing wrong with taking a step back from it to calm yourself down, or simply come back to it in a day or two. Keep working on it and it will come.
As you do more and more jumps that scare you, the process becomes a little faster each time. There will always be that next scary jump, be it from heights, weird angles, or lava sharks, but as you overcome each of these fears you will be able to handle yourself better when confronted with other fears, because you have become accustomed to fighting against them.