When asked about alternative conditioning options for parkour, many new traceurs will receive an answer along the lines of “Rock Climbing.” While some may view rock climbing as a purely physically beneficial practice, I beg to differ.

Rock climbing. I expect that the majority of you will not require a definition for something so self-explanatory, however for the remainder of you: rock climbing is an activity in which the participants climb rocks. Now that we have the definitions aside, let us get into what it is to me, and why I have decided that it has such value that I should dedicate my time to write about it.

I am a rock climbing instructor at my city’s local indoor rock climbing centre. My job consists of general gym maintenance, providing advice on climbing technique and etiquette, belaying for individuals and groups (simplified: belaying is the act of removing the slack from a climber’s rope to ensure that in the event that they slip, they do not fall) and teaching others to belay. However article is about how to improve your ability, not how I make my money.

In regards to the physical aspect of climbing, it is obvious that it is just as good of a workout as any. It is one of the few sports or practices that actively work your finger, forearm, foot and grip strength along side the larger more common muscle groups such as your legs and back. This aids in wall passes and a fair few moves in parkour, aside from just the muscular endurance and strength. Some of the more experienced rock climbers are able to support more than triple their bodyweight with one hand or a few fingers, just from climbing experience alone. This is one angle that allows me to fit rock climbing into my fitness regimen, however complete fitness is not limited to the physical.

One of the secondary reasons I decided to get in shape was to better myself in my parkour training. Parkour takes more than just brute strength or agility (as mentioned in previous posts); there is a lot of mental work too. Before I began working at the climbing centre, I was deathly afraid of height; the slightest changes in altitude could break me apart. However after spending time exploring my limit, and repeatedly assuring climbers that they were safe citing facts and test results, I gradually began to gain control of my fear and as of this day no longer have a phobia towards it. In the mental world of parkour a traceur is constantly faced with difficult situations, and if a traceur has never faced fear they likely haven’t trained very hard at all. It’s key to be able to define your limits and nudge yourself out of your comfort zone, overcoming your fears in a safe controlled manner. Rock climbing helped me gain control of my phobia, and I have been able to expand that new talent to parkour to overcome my fears.

Another thing I have acquired through my experience in rock climbing is the ability to push my limits. Being able to push myself past my comfort zones is a good trait to have acquired, but being able to push yourself to go harder and try more challenging feats isn’t always the same. While the two may go hand in hand and are near assimilation, there is a slight variance, at least in my mind. There is the ability to overcome a fear (for example’s sake, try a precision from a considerable height), but there is also the ability to push your self further (jump further from that height or to a smaller target). In the bouldering area (bouldering is rock climbing without the aid of ropes) of any indoor gym, there is a huge choice in paths and selection. The choice to go high shows the ability to overcome a fear, but the ability to choose to go high while avoiding those jugs and buckets (terminology for rocks that are easy to hold onto, usually with a depression or hole in the top for easy grasping) and using more chips (extremely small, thin rocks) shows a willingness to try for something harder and stray from what you would normally do. The latter shows not only a willingness to complete a goal, but to make it a challenge so as to avoid repetition and work harder to push themselves. Without the willingness to push oneself a traceur will quickly plateau, becoming a one trick pony, never advancing.

With the aid of rock climbing, I am able to push myself mentally to work myself harder and try new things. That is why I personally recommend rock climbing as a complimentary workout/activity for parkour. While my experiences will likely vary from yours, I suggest that you try it at least once: give it a chance.

10 comments and questions

  1. Nathan // 26/4/09 21:30  

    I absolutely agree; these two activities go hand in hand. However, I actually began rock climbing first, but I definitely notice significant carryover from one sport to the other. In parkour, I benefited from the spatial awareness and precise movements required in climbing, as well as more technical "smearing" and "dyno-ing" techniques.

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