In previous posts I’ve written about the development of specific parkour skills and conditioning techniques. For this article, I’d like to diverge from that format and talk a little about the cultivation of your parkour vision, or your ability to see your environment in a more creative, movement-oriented light. It’s easy to take your surroundings for granted, but a whole new world opens up, once you consider how to move more creatively through a local park or even your own backyard. 
Two things start to happen when you open your eyes for unique ways to move through your immediate environment
  1. You become better prepared to move with speed and efficiency when the need arises.
  2. You find you’ll never have an excuse to be bored in your training. 
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At the most basic level, cultivating your parkour vision begins with considering all of the abnormal ways that you could move through your environment. Walking down the sidewalk or along a path is the most obvious way to negotiate any given setting. But see what happens when you cut across a lawn, zigzag through the bushes, hop over a bench, or tiptoe along a planter. At first, it can feel a bit reckless, like you’re breaking a social norm about the proper way to behave in public. If people are giving you the stink-eye, pay them no attention. Persevere. The real fun is yet to come. 
Once you’ve broken the spell and gotten over the initial discomfort of being the odd one out, start to challenge yourself with a few fun games
  • If you were escaping from an assailant, what path would put the greatest distance and number of obstacles between you and your attacker? Hurdling a hedgerow or climbing over a wall could be two immediate solutions. 
  • If the ground was suddenly transformed into hot lava, how could you move from point A to point B without getting burnt by the ground? Crawling along the top of a fence might be in order, as well possibly swinging from a few tree branches. 
Try out the exercises. Imagine being pursued by an attacker. Imagine being surrounded by hot lava. For maximal effect, really move as if your life depended on it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t stumble. Move with confidence
Once you feel like you’ve thought through the logical ways you could move through an environment, switch gears to access your right-brain creativity. Let go of your tactical mind and shift into free-flow mode, letting your body and subconscious take over
A simple game of tag can be a helpful kick-in-the-pants for turning your brain off and getting you to move with greater spontaneity. With someone actually chasing you, you’ll harness a more instinctive movement repertoire. A running leap across a sand pit - that makes perfect sense! Why hadn’t you thought of that before? When you get outside of your head, you’ll find that your body can achieve what you previously wouldn’t have considered as feasible. 
Another way to access stress-induced spontaneity, is to run an established course for time. Mark a starting and ending point, and identify what features within the environment are in-bound versus out-of-bounds. Then, have a buddy time your run through the makeshift obstacle course. Work the course over and over, through different iterations, findings new ways to move with greater speed. 
A different variation of the timed run is to do it sight-unseen, meaning you don’t give yourself a chance think through the run before hand. Have someone identify a path for you, without your previous viewing, and then just go!
Harnessing creative movement through spontaneity is one way to build your parkour vision, but there are also a handful of drills that you might find helpful:
Single obstacle training: Take one obstacle, like a freestanding handrail, and spend some time working through all of the ways to move on, over, and with the obstacle. With a handrail you could walk along it like a balance beam, crawl across it like a cat, vault over the top, slither through the lower bars, or even cartwheel over it. Don’t stop until you’ve absolutely exhausted all of the different ways to interact with the obstacle.
Add-on: Partner up with one or two other people, and play this simple game where you must perform that last move done and then add your own movement at the end. The idea is to chain a bunch of movements together and come up with a really interesting flow. Having multiple athletes engaged with a series of obstacles might result in an odd combination of moves, but you’ll definitely be challenged.
Movement constraint: Pick a path through your environment and then place some constraints on the types of movements you can and cannot perform. Could you get from A to B without your feet? Can you get across a yard using one of each of these skills: brachiation, jumping, striding, and crawling? By establishing a few rules to how you move through an environment, you’ll certainly limit yourself, but you’ll also force yourself to think more creatively. 
Drilling different movement challenges is a good way to peel open your parkour vision, but don’t forget to also just scan the environment as you walk around during your regular day-to-day activities. Get in the habit of considering all of the unique ways you could get through a park, a playground, or even an alleyway. What features of the environment could you swing from, vault over, or jump across
There is no end point to this journey. Have fun and keep moving!
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.