A few years ago I became interested in parkour, but it wasn’t until recently I started to reflect on the concept of progressions which is often referred to by traceurs and traceuses (male and female practitioners of parkour) as one the secrets behind their amazing achievements.
Progressions in parkour is the act of breaking down a complex movement into parts which can be mastered individually and then combined into one fluid movement again. It can also mean that you first perform an easier (scaled down) version of the movement and then increase the difficulty.
For example, first master a jump of half the distance required to complete the real jump, or first practice and condition your body for the individual parts required to climb a 3 m high wall. Taking baby steps. Progressing. The Tapp Brothers or LaFlairParkour wall run tutorials demonstrates the concept of progressions in parkour in a powerful way.
Progressions is also a strong theme in the very inspiring and absolutely amazing parkour documentary People in Motion.
How can the concept of progressions be applied to your life in general or anything specific you want to become better at?
The reason for why I write this text now instead of any other day is that I recently received an email alerting me about a new blog post by Logan of Wild Movement where he writes about how progressions can improve your life:
Success begets success. Failure begets failure. And even small progress [emphasis mine] can initiate an “upward spiral” or positive feedback loop that fuels future progress and achievement. And once you have seen enough measurable results…there will come a time where you’ll BUY IN completely. Where you will believe 100% that by taking specific actions, YOU have the power to change your life. And any remaining resistance will simply fall away.
Nothing groundbreaking, but as often with fundamental truths, they are very simple and intuitive. In another blog post called How to Get High Logan continues to describes how something as simple as a morning ritual can transform your life by ““hacking” your brain to create motivation and positive feelings” and that:
How you feel is in YOUR hands. Despite what the drug companies want you to think, you don’t need a pill to feel happy. You can feel happy right now. Or if not RIGHT now…soon. Real soon. And you can control how you feel with two things: (1) your thoughts and (2) your actions.
Again, this is nothing new and similar stuff can be read in thousands of motivational blogs and books, but the reason for why I was affected by his words was that I read them right in the middle of an ongoing email conversation I’m having with a friend where we are discussing how your beliefs affect your life. What a coincidence! (*)
Logan suggests that incorporating physical exercise – or any type of challenging movements – into your daily/morning routine is a cheap and efficient way to “get high”.
The physical and emotional rush you can get from something as simple as taking a run or performing some body weight exercises like push-ups, squats or MovNats of the Day until you start breaking a sweat and panting a little is fascinating.
Personally, I think there’s nothing like it, and if you do it outdoors(**) it becomes even better! You feel strong and really alive!
However, what Logan and many others who talk about how daily routines can affect, and transform, your life fails to consider is that a routine quickly becomes just that – a routine. It becomes a part of your life you stop paying attention to and perhaps even stop enjoying or seeing the benefits from!
This is not good, but one way to overcome the problem is by constantly increasing the difficulty of what you do in your routine. Striving for efficiency or perfection for example. Like Freerunning founder and parkour veteran Sébastien Foucan talks about and demonstrates in the inspiring back to basics interview Retour a la Racine.
Increasing difficulty is also a way of becoming – and staying(!) – mindful in what you do. But the funny thing is that when you start pushing and challenging yourself, instead of becoming even more mindful you instead become super focused, almost transcending into a zen like state where the you stop noticing what’s going on in the “outside world”.
This means you’re not mindful any longer. You just act. At least, that is what happens to me. Especially when I’m climbing in trees!
Another way of avoiding routines to become routine is by introducing some sort of positive feedback loop or gamificate what you, by creating challenges for yourself so that you can “level up” once you have mastered something.
Some of my own daily routines
A daily routine I introduced into my own life about two years ago was to stand up instead of sitting down when riding the subway to and from work. I use no support for my hands so I have to rely completely on my balanace. This is a fun and quite challenging daily routine which also allows me to experiment with different techniques, meaning that I gain experience from it as well.
There’s also a clear progression path since different parts of the train are harder to balance at than others. This allows me to level up once I have mastered an easier spot. This routine also forces me to be mindful since it would be easy to loose my balance and fall if I stopped concentrating on what I do.
Another routine I introduced into my life about a year ago is to take the stairs from the second floor to the fifteenth floor instead of taking the elevator. The progression path is clear here also since I want to be able to accomplish this without becoming too exhausted and preferably only using nose breathing. So far I have “leveled up” to 100% nose breathing, but have to work on the exhaustion bit.
Something which hasn’t become a daily routine yet, but which I enjoy doing from time to time when going from the subway to my office is to jump on the concrete structures and the stairs I pass on my way.
All these routines are examples of simple and fun(!) things which will make you feel better both through the physical challenge itself but also from the feeling of having accomplished something!
“Getting high” on movement is indeed a wonderful way to start your day!
(*) Was receiving this email really a coincidence or just a proof of my argument that how you perceive the world is a function of how you choose to perceive it and how open your mind is? Probably a topic for a blog post of it’s own, but for now I will leave you with two of my favorite cases in point:
- If you only pay attention to the negative things happening around you, you will think that the world is a horrible place filled with bad people. Does this mean that there are no good people and that nothing good ever happens in the world. Probably not.
- If you’re considering to do something specific you suddenly start hearing and seeing references to it and related stuff all around you, all day long. Does this mean that people weren’t talking about it before? Probably not.
(**) By outdoors I don’t mean that you have to take a trip to a perfect forest or beautiful lake. Your balcony or the street/lawn in front of your home is all you need, or at least open the window to let in some air!