I listen to music like many others; However, I will never train with music. As a member of many parkour groups and forums I have seen numerous requests from people asking for some good music to practice parkour, run or exercise to. My response is always the same: don’t listen to music while training. Ultimately the choice is always up to you to decide how you will train, but allow me to offer my opinions on the matter.

A substantial piece of parkour that has to be felt to be understood is the interaction that a traceur makes with their environment. You should be able to listen to your environment and yourself while training. You want to be able to take in the beauty around you as well as cope with obstacles; you can not fully understand the complexity of your surroundings (and thus, your safety is compromised through your lack of awareness) when you are busy deciphering lyrics and listening to the melodies playing in your ear.

Music also impedes upon your self awareness while training. You are no longer as able to concentrate on your breathing or making your landings quieter. You don’t pay attention to the little things like the small piece of glass you are about to shoulder roll across or how big the drop on the other side of that rail really is. Even while walking down the street with headphones on you lose a great deal of awareness of your surroundings, and I can’t see why you would want to do the same while training where you are more than likely doing substantially more dangerous things than walking.

“I disagree. When working out, music can motivate you.”

Some people do feel this way and believe they can get what feels like a surge of energy from the deep bass lines or heavy metal beats of their favourite songs, but that isn’t right. I don’t mean to say that they don’t get a rush from their music, but that it isn’t proper or correct. The adrenaline rushing through your veins is synthesized from an unnatural source. You must have some motivational problems if you find yourself dependable on music for the energy to keep you going.

The only thing that any traceur should be dependent upon is gravity in hopes that they will come back down after a jump. In all seriousness, any form of dependability that is beyond the preservation of life (such as eating and breathing) is a hindrance and detrimental. When your music is absent and you are being chased or giving pursuit in a real life situation, what is going to motivate you to run faster and longer? While you may quip that being chased or pursuing is a good deal of motivation, that alone will not keep you going when you feel like giving up. You have to be independent in order to survive; everything that you are dependent upon is impermanent, and without independence you will be at a loss when all those things you have depended upon are gone.

Parkour is centred on the self: finding your mental and physical limits, being able to push yourself further, and acquiring self motivational skills among many others. At some point during your progression into parkour, you should start to hit a plateau and it is here that you will require your self motivational skills. If you do not work on being able to push yourself further and harder even when you feel like giving up, then eventually you are going to hit a brick wall (metaphorically, no pun intended) during your training.

This is by no means a message to abolish music, but a subtle thought provoking nudge suggesting that you may be better off moderating your music while training. I understand that many of those traceurs who have decided that they wish to train with music regardless of its detrimental side-effects will not acknowledge anything that I have said, so allow me to add in a couple other reminders for their benefit as well.

If you have chosen to listen to music while training, you should consider how you will secure your mp3 players and other devices while training for parkour. There is a great chance that such a device will fall out of a pocket during a vault, and it is as such that traceurs training may wish to consider an arm band to hold their player if not just utilize a securable pocket. There is also the problem with the headphone cables; the loose hanging wires are sure to get caught while training, and if they don’t pull your music player from your arm band or pocket to be damaged the headphones will be ruined due to disconnected or torn internal wires. As such you should keep the wires underneath a shirt, or find another alternative to the same effect keeping in mind that you need enough wire to remain flexible without the wires being stretched unnecessarily. The actual headphones should not be headphones at all but ear buds, as headphones are bulkier and more likely to fall off during activity. Finally, keep the volume at a level that allows you to still hear some of your environment, for the benefit of your own safety.

While music can be a source of entertainment, and some find it to enable them to push further, it is detrimental in the long run. Listening to music while training impairs you judgment and senses; injury is more likely to happen as your awareness of your environment diminishes. While some traceurs will listen to music while training (and it is their and your choice), I suggest that you don't, for the reasons previously listed.

25 comments and questions

  1. Francis // 10/8/08 22:53  

    I agree, training with music can be unsafe, as it distracts you from being fully aware of the environment. (In fact, a lot of accidents happen when people have loud music on while crossing the street and are unaware of a passing car...)

    However, I disagree with going so far to say that listening to music while training will make you "depend on it". What about new traceurs who have yet to attain the perseverance / mental focus, and need a little push on a slow day? (Mental training takes time too...)

    And on that subject, any tips on the mental training aspect of PK?

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  25. Sam Teeter // 4/8/13 23:18  

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