Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2,400 - The magical number of repetitions

This short entry is just to express some of my opinions on repetition.

2,400... That's how many repetitions it takes for a movement to become instinctual (according to experts who worked with the British SAS to determine how much training they needed in certain combat techniques).

Now this might not sound like too much hard work - most of you reading this are probably now pondering whether they have done over 2,400 cat passes, 2,400 arm jumps and 2,400 metres of balancing on a rail etc. But what we have to remember is that every single obstacle is slightly different.

Think of every cat pass you have ever done and I'll bet you cannot think of two that were absolutely identical. Take in to account the approach, the heights, the widths, the distances, the weather, the dust, the humidity, the cuts on your hands at the time, the lunch you had to affect your weight and it is very unlikely that you have ever done two identical cat passes on different obstacles (or even the same one!).

So these magical 2,400 repetitions suddenly seem not so simple to complete.

According to those experts' findings based on a LOT of research, an SAS soldier in training would have to repeat a particular knife attack technique 2,400 times before it was drilled in to them and an instinctual reaction. This couldn't be done in a day since this relies on the soldier being fresh and perfectly executing the techinque whilst under realistic training conditions and in the mindset of actually killing someone.

So to bring this to the interest of us, the traceurs, this would mean that just ONE movement on ONE obstacle would need to be repeated 2,400 times whilst you were fresh and completely focused, before that ONE movement on that ONE obstacle might be considered an instinctual movement!

This hammers home the point of repetition being key, something that we've all heard from Parkour veterans time and time again but perhaps we fail to fully comprehend the messages' magnitude.

I'm sure I've done over 2,400 repetitions of every type of pass that I practice but I honestly don't think I could say I've done that amount on one obstacle whilst I was fresh and fully focused in the mindset of doing it to save my life. In fact, I know I haven't.

So for anybody who thinks they have 'mastered' a particular technique, it might come as a surprise to hear this is almost impossible since it would require around 2,400 repetitions of the technique on every single obstacle, ever created plus every one being created every day... not to mention the maintenance of that perfection.

I believe a man could spend an entire lifetime training just one technique on one obstacle and never develop it to the level of every one being 100% perfect without exception. Which is why it's funny to read lists of techniques on forums that people have 'mastered' in their first month of Parkour.

But don't worry or become disheartened with never being able to perfect your favourite technique - strive towards perfection by all means - but just remember that you can only ever finish somewhere on the path towards perfection, never at the destination itself.

There is always room for improvement.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Pulling Power and Diet Update

Well the one-armed chinups are coming along. I have done a few on my right (weaker) arm but they're not consistent yet and I need to be 100% fresh to do them. With a bit more work I should be able to get it up to the level of the left arm with which I can do a repetition and a slow negative with relative ease.

When I first started training these I was also working towards a one-armed pullup, which I abandoned since I didn't want to overload myself. I was therefore surprised to find that I could do a one-armed pullup with my left arm with no additional training. It seems the muscles built to achieve the one-armed chinups were enough to allow me to do the same with a pronated grip. I'm really happy with this since I was thinking this would be another while down the line and require specialised training.

So as it stands I can pullup and chinup with my left arm consistently and chinup with my right arm when I'm fresh... the obvious next step is to work towards being able to chinup and pullup on both arms individually, whenever I please.

Once I have achieved this benchmark in pulling power them I'm going to cease progressing with it for a while and just maintain that level, whilst switching my focus to pushing power in the form of handstand practice, elephant lifts, weighted pushups for endurance, gymnastics planche and ultimately in this period, 10 one-armed pushups per arm with perfect form (feet together, body straight).

My leg progression is going well too, I've implemented a few new training techniques in to my leg training such as isometric holds similar to martial arts stances, jump repetitions, weighted pistols and generally focusing on jumping ability in my technical sessions.

One thing that I've been really happy with recently is my diet. It has always been 'ok' in that 5 or 6 days per week I was completely strict with what I ate and then at the weekend I tended to splurge a little and indulge myself. But recently, in the last two or three weeks I've been completely aware and careful with what I put in my mouth and I've noticed a big difference in my ability as a result.

My diet over the past three weeks has consisted of fruit (ridiculous amounts), vegetables, chicken, turkey, soup, wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fish, weetabix, oats, yogurt, nuts and that's pretty much all I can think of. I've been drinking water, milk and fruit smoothies/juice exclusively. That is all that I've consumed and I feel a lot better for it, I think I've lowered my body fat percentage further than ever before and I never feel bloated or hungry anymore... all of the processed chemicals seemed to be gone from my body and it feels good to be in control of the situation (I still supplement with whey protein, cod liver oil, glucosamine sulphate and a multivitamin).

I've never counted calories or weighed my meals and I don't plan to start now - I prefer to just listen to my body. The occasional cravings for something sweet or chocolaty still happen at the weekend but so far I've resisted and gradually my palette is changing. I'm going to try for two months without anything 'bad' in my diet then hopefully I'll be fully converted to healthy eating and lose the cravings for sweet foods!

Hope you're all training hard and seeing lots of progression, I'm off to eat an apple or four. ;-)


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Planche Progression

Just a quick post to say I managed 21 muscle ups (planche) tonight in one set.

It's been a long while since I went for my max number of repetitions and I shouldn't really have tried it tonight since I had an extreme arm session last night... I think I could have got 25 if i had been fresh.

So that's a goal for the next little while, to push my maximum muscle up repetitions in one set up to the 25-30 mark.

I've still not managed a full one-armed chin up with my right arm yet but my left arm ones are now quite consistant - I think I'll start with weighted negative repetitions to help my overall control with them.