Most gymnasts consider gymnastics an end to itself, but for a growing number of them and other athletes, gymnastics is fantastic training for another activity: parkour. Sometimes called “urban gymnastics,” parkour incorporates more gymnastics skills than just about any other sport. There’s no question that you have to be in shape for parkour, and the training of a gymnast gives an athlete a leg up (so to speak) in becoming an accomplished traceur.
Balance is fundamental to a gymnast. Even in toddler tumbling classes, students are made aware of their bodies, how they interact with different apparatus, and how to control them. For the parkour enthusiast, balance could mean the difference between a great run or an injury. Being aware of your body in time and space is crucial to land on a balance beam, hit a vault accurately, or judge the upcoming space between yourself and your destination. Misread, misjudge, or use the wrong amount of force and you’re out of the game. Good balance is crucial and indispensable in both gymnastics and parkour.
Gymnasts are some of the most flexible and agile athletes on any playing field. This serves them well in the gymnastics arena, but translating it into parkour can be a challenge. Routines are often so programmed that the fluidity needed to successfully navigate in parkour can be evasive. Un-learning the expected form (no judges are watching) and giving in to spontaneity will make a good gymnast an excellent traceur.
You don’t have to be a super-hero to leap tall buildings in a single bound – well, maybe not a single bound – but you do need holistic strength. Body-weight training is the preferred method of training; no bulking-up required. But functional training will help increase muscle strength for jumps, flips, and other traditionally gymnastic skills without adding cumbersome and limiting muscle mass.
If you’re interested in parkour, you might want to consider some gymnastics training. It’s not absolutely necessary, but will definitely come in handy when you’re ready to flip off your first wall.