021. Ville Leppanen: Life-long learning, coaching, and intervals

Podcast episode


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Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.

Ville: Hi, I’m Ville Leppanen.

Craig: Ville Leppanen is an active, life-long learner. For him, finding the right questions, whether that process is pleasant or unpleasant, is what enables him to move along his path. Ville is deeply involved in Finnish Parkour community and is driven by his passion to move the community forward.

Craig: Welcome, Ville.

Ville: Thank you, Craig.

Craig: Ville, there are two things that struck me as extremely interesting when I had the chance to train with you and the first one is that you really like to use tools or pieces of equipment to help facilitate your teaching, and that’s not a bad thing, it was just unusual. And the second thing is you have evil QM drills. So what I want to know is how did you get into tools, like the little slips of paper was brilliant, and can you give me an example of a tool that you like to use and why?

Ville: I guess my process with tools is I find something that’s interesting or actually it’s better if it’s not interesting, the tool itself, and then the process is I try to find interesting things to do with it and experiment if it has any value for our practice.

Ville: I think when I coach and when I’m teaching I experiment a lot. It’s like lab environment, so I’m trying new things out and everybody’s being a guinea pig for me.

Craig: I guess that explains the guinea pig feeling I had.

Ville: Yeah. Definitely, like the stuff we did with the strings, it was the first time I tried that, ever, with anybody. So for me, the process is okay. I have this idea and I have no idea–is it any good? Will it work? Will it be interesting? But what the hell, let’s give it a go. Let’s try and see what happens and sometimes you get really cool results and sometimes you sweat and get frustrated and sometimes, if you keep working with the tools long enough, interesting things come out like further in the process and it’s not necessarily a thing you thought you were going to use them for.

Ville: That’s the tools; kind of my philosophy of using different tools and also we’re working a lot using our environment and moving with just our own bodies, so it’s just another way to bring variation and now that I’m coaching here in the US, I like to share things that maybe people don’t do too much here. But now that you’ve done a couple of sessions with me, it’s not like all of my sessions are like that; with funky tools.

Ville: I do regular sessions too, but I just like to bring out the weird stuff because usually people don’t get to experience that in their normal training.

Craig: Ville, I understand your background is in sports science and can you give me a little bit about that background and that might lead me into a question I have about interval training?

Ville: For sure. So I did study for three years in sports science in the only university in Finland that teaches it, where they have a curriculum for it. So, I dropped out, or my studies are pending at the moment, which I’m super proud of. My rationale behind, my take-away from studying sport science is okay. How can I implement this into Parkour training, which a lot of times, it’s not based on research.

Craig: It’s a missing piece.

Ville: It is. It’s reinventing the wheel in many ways. We can look at what runners have done to increase their endurance and for us it’s if you want to increase your endurance, you just do crazy long QM challenges and that’s the mindset of the traceur. So maybe my goal there is doing Parkour training that is based on research and based on the science, is to have the same spirit of Parkour but still be based on the research and knowledge about how actually the body works and how actually we can get better results with the training. Kind of get a balance between the two worlds.

Craig: If you’re gonna do one unit of work, why not get two units of results.

Ville: Just make it smarter because I love the mindset and I love the spirit of doing Parkour conditioning but from the research point of view and from that perspective, it doesn’t make too much sense, always, about what people are trying to actually achieve with the training.

Craig: Can you unpack just a basic first pass at interval training to give me a view of how it works, like physiologically what’s going on and what are the timeframes that would be more useful.

Ville: So with interval training, there are three variables. You have the intensity of how hard you’re working. And then there’s the period of time you’re working and then there is the amount of time you rest between each.

Craig: Your recovery window.

Ville: Yeah, your recovery time. And–so–if you’re trying to build your capacity to work at a higher intensity, so like going for speed routes where you’re going close to your maximal intensity and you go for shorter intervals and then you need longer times of rest, you could categorize them and have the times. They change in the literature and from different people a lot, but I would say between 30 seconds to one and half minute, like that range, do some route or some exercise that’s really taxing.

Craig: Rough bracket of effort? Percentage?

Ville: When we’re working that short of time, around a minute or under, then you’d want to go around 90 to maybe even 100, but you can’t reach 100 because it’s a long time to be working at your maximal intensity. So I’d say 90 to 95.

Craig: That’s a hard push.

Ville: You should feel pretty bad at the end of each interval.

Craig: I can vouch for feeling pretty bad at the end of your intervals. Yes.

Ville: That’s good. You feel great after the training. During it, it’s okay. It’s okay to feel badly.

Ville: Then if you want to go for a little longer term which is better for building your overall endurance, to put in layman’s terms, your aerobic capacity, which is useful for maybe the longer QM challenges, just to keep going, going, going, you increase the time of the work and decrease the time for recovery.

Ville: So you would pick out something, like a longer lap that’s not too intense, go for three to five minutes per lap and then have a minute to, I think a minute is a good, rough bracket for the recovery time.

Craig: Because you’d be working, like the intention, then, is a lower intensity target. on that longer …

Ville: You don’t want to go too fast ’cause then you’ll burn yourself out and you can’t finish the training.

Craig: Let’s talk about success for a minute. If I say successful, who’s the first person that comes to mind?

Ville: It’s a tough one. I don’t think I have anyone there who I have as a statute example of being successful.

Craig: Is that because you don’t have a definition of success or because of how you work towards success or why?

Ville: I think success is so much a personal thing for everybody. So, I would have a different definition for being successful than you would. Depends on my goals. I think I measure success through where I’m at with my goals, like or in regard towards my goals and I can’t generalize what success is.

Ville: So for me it’s like you’re successful or you’re in a good place in your life when you feel like you have interesting things to do. You’re moving along a path that you find is good for you; is productive and you’re creating value to yourself but also to the people around you and not taking anything away. Like you don’t want to be someone who takes away and doesn’t give anything back.

Craig: Yeah, a consumer of energy and negative source.

Ville: But people can have different goals. For some it might be to, in the parkour world, it might be to run a successful parkour business and be able to live a certain lifestyle out of that and that lifestyle will vary a lot from people to people. Like somebody will be fine with a nice tiny studio apartment and having your gym and not making a ton of money. And some people will want to have that be a proper career. Difference; it differs from person to person.

Craig: You said to me randomly at one point, the Finns disprefer confrontation and you actually presented it as if it were a bit of a flaw or blind spot for them and I would say that Americans are probably really good at confrontation and I’m wondering what your thoughts are how that reflects into the parkour community. So I’m guessing that the Finnish parkour community would be colored by that national aspect. I know our parkour community is clearly colored by that aspect here, so I’m wondering, you have a unique perspective on those two points of view, those two communities? I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Ville: I’m not sure if it’s a nice thing to say about my own culture, they try to avoid confront, but it is true in a way. The unique thing about the Finnish Parkour community is the minute that people started training when they first saw videos of David and the Yamakasi and got inspired to go out and train, immediately within just a few months or the first month, we created a national association.

Craig: That explains it. I’m like, why is the Finnish parkour community so far ahead of everybody else in terms of cohesion and organization. That’s interesting.

Ville: That’s the reason but that’s also what we do in Finland. There’s something new that pops up, let’s do an association around it. That’s the mindset we have to kind of create some organization around it and maybe that comes from the cultural thing. We’re not competing against each other. We don’t want to create a system where we have these groups that are …

Craig: Pulling in different directions?

Ville: Pulling in different directions. Figuring out who’s going to be taking the leadership role in the bigger picture ’cause like everybody, all the different groups, so there was six different groups who started around the same time, they all came together and formed the association and that I think has left a unique stamp on the Finnish parkour community because of the history that we had the association right from the beginning, and that’s kept the community pretty unified. But sometimes, you need to have conflict.

Ville: This is my personal take. You have the difficult questions and I think we’re getting better at them because if the way to avoid conflict and confrontation is to be quiet about it, which is the way sometimes we Finns go about things, which may not be a positive way to go about things, it’s just to avoid the hard things that’s in front of you, but I think our community has learned to also, like over the years, to face those more difficult situations and still have that unity and that sense that, okay we don’t need all the different groups and local communities don’t need to agree with everybody on the different organizations. They don’t need to be identical.

Craig: Photocopies …

Ville: Yeah, but we are stronger together than if we would be doing a rat race.

Craig: See now, I’m immediately drawn to the question, wait a second, is that also why the Finnish parkour community is so strong, because each person individually was drawn to parkour because it makes them address physical objective challenge? And that might have been an inner yearning, that at some deep, deep level they all had that, sometimes we skip the hard work in social life–I’m just guessing here–but sometimes they skip the hard work in our social lives and parkour is this thing that I can go out, literally go out physically, and go right at the physical challenge. I’m just thinking off the top of my head.

Ville: That’s a good question.

Craig: I don’t have an answer to that. I’m not trying to pin you down either.

Ville: I don’t want to speak for the whole Finnish parkour community, but there might be a slight sense of truth there, personally, at least, that going out and physically doing, facing challenges and overcoming hard situations, have at least helped to me look at other aspects, whether it be like okay, I’m having a hard time making this phone call because there’s a side of me that doesn’t want to interact with that person. There’s hard things. It’s like okay, I’m able to do this jump that’s really scary to me and go through that process…

Craig: Like, come on. I can call the auto mechanic and ask why it’s $12.00 instead of eight. Right?

Ville: Yeah. Exactly. Not always be too agreeable.

Craig: Ville, you’ve been in the states now for your parkour travels for two, three weeks now, and of course the obvious question is, so what do you think? Is there anything in particular about our communities or communities specifically that jumped out at you as something that is foreign?

Ville: What’s interesting to me is how it feels very similar to the European parkour communities in many ways. There’s more similarities than differences. I think that has something to say about just parkour as a discipline in general. It doesn’t matter where you go, you still kind of have that same feeling no matter what.

Craig: Truth is truth. Right?

Ville: But then there are differences. Everybody is, I find it more diverse here maybe, than in lots of places.

Craig: You mean diverse in skill sets? Diverse in cultures of the people participating?

Ville: Demographics and the culture of people participating and also the level of professionalism and running events. I’ve felt like American Rendezvous 18, was one of the better run events, like I’ve ever been to. You guys have really got that professional mindset and organization down, side of things, like really, really in your pocket.

Craig: If there was one thing that you could ask all the listeners to do or to think about or to try, what would be something that would jump out at you like, I wish everybody would go…?

Ville: I think people should go, Parkour practitioners should go and try disciplines outside of parkour, like do other sports, do other activities and find other communities and find a perspective, ’cause we live in a bubble, right, within the Parkour community, where everyone is like-minded and friendly and welcoming.

Craig: And we all have the same vision.

Ville: And we all have the same visions but we also share the same flaws, in a way, and maybe we’re not always aware of them.

Craig: Same blind spots, right?

Ville: Yeah, the same blind spots. Blind spots is not that negative as flaws, ’cause they’re not necessarily flaws.

Craig: Sorry. Craig wordsmithing. Sorry.

Ville: That’s great. So I think it’s really helpful to go to other communities and see how they do things because there you can learn a lot. For me, when we started building the Finnish coaching certification system I got involved in this think tank with all the different sports. We had all the different sports in Finland and the head of their coaching development systems and just talking about coaching and I got so much just talking with coaches…

Craig: Mind blown.

Ville: …from different sports, not just, because when you working with parkour coaches, there’s a certain dialogue and it’s a very interesting dialogue and I love those discussions, but then they come in and they have totally different perspectives and my mind is racing, like, I can pick this up and I can pick this up and how would that fit in a Parkour system. It’s like a little bit the same as studying sports science. It’s going outside the bubble of where I am and trying to look inside from the outside and see what I like and bring new things inside and how that evolves; how that can help the discipline evolve for the betterment of the community.

Craig: Yeah, that works at three levels. You can improve the community, you can improve your teaching and it then you can also improve yourself, right?

Ville: Yeah. For sure.

Craig: So, Ville, is there a story that you’d like to share?

Ville: Sure. It dates back to the beginning of my training; my first big event. We have an annual event in Finland called the Supreme Parkour Armageddon. That’s the original name and then there’s a tradition of making it longer every year and now it’s you add a word every year and now we had the 10 year anniversary this year. So.

Craig: I assume the name is in Finnish? What’s the name in Finnish?

Ville: No, it’s actually in English. The name’s too long. I can remember it.

Craig: That sounds like one of your conditioning sessions. I can’t remember it.

Ville: It’s like 18 words long now, or something. It’s getting ridiculous. The joke is that the event shirts, it’s just going to be text on the front then in 50 years, it’s going to be on back.

Craig: It’s just around in circles.

Ville: But that’s not the story. So, we had one of the first ones, maybe it was the first or the second. It was my first big event. I was like 16 year old and we had Forest and Dan and Stephane coaching from Parkour Generations and I was bright eyed fan boy. I actually didn’t know who they were until they came up there but we had the trainings and they led some pretty awesome sessions and I was like these are some Parkour superheros, really looking up to them and of course, we’re in Finland, so a part of the thing is we do sauna at the day of the Saturday trainings.

Ville: So we were at this place by the lake, like a little freezing pond where people go ice swimming and, of course, took the guests there too. So it’s just this picture in my mind of seeing really strong Frenchmen, one of the OG guys, like Stephane and Forest, really, really struggling and like saying things I can’t say here on air.

Craig: This is a little chilly.

Ville: Trying to get in the water and seeing them struggle with that after them destroying us in an hour long warm-up and everybody’s totally wrecked and we’re like, nice ice cold water. Let’s go dip in and do that five times.

Craig: Refreshing.

Ville: And they’re there having a really hard time just getting in; shouting vulgarities. So, that gave me a lot of motivation. I think the moral of the story, that it taught me like from all these big guys and the original practitioners, founders, they’re people.

Ville: And a similar story we had in another Armageddon event when we had Yann over, so of course he had made a challenge of rolling in the snow. So he would go in the sauna, be like okay everybody, one minute in the snow then we run out, he rolls in, stays there for 10 seconds and he’s like, “Okay, too much, too much.” And runs back into the hot sauna.

Craig: You clearly like to use questions as tools so you either directly ask the questions of the students by presenting them with some sort of challenge or entice them to come up with their own questions. So this idea of questions being tools, how long have you had that idea and can you maybe take me back to a point where, Ville didn’t have that idea of using questions and how did you get from that version of you to the current version of you?

Ville: That’s a good one. In school, I used to be a know it all, like a really annoying know it all kid and I thought that maybe going back to the idea of success is I thought it is knowing the right answers to everything. I still like but I used to really like being correct; being right. Having the right knowledge but then I guess in the parkour training and being a coach, I’m being a bad coach if I’m always right. If I’m going up to the person and telling them, “Okay, this is how you need to do it. This is the correct way to do it.” And kind of slowly, I guess, through teaching, years of teaching, it’s evolved into how can I facilitate the process for the learner and without me being there, the annoying know it all.

Craig: Just be better, right?

Ville: Yeah. Just be better telling, okay this is exactly how you do it and then you become awesome. No, that’s not very fun for people or it’s not teaching them the process of self discovery and finding the strength.

Craig: Because it’s not the answer that makes you better. It’s the journey to find the answer that made you better.

Ville: So it’s kind of a personal challenge for me with a tendency to really like being correct to try to not give out answers. Try to think of the good questions for the students and then when I start doing that and when I started doing more and more of that in my teaching, having that be a starting point, that explorative kind of experiment lab feel to things, I felt more connected with the students and then I started to reflect that into my own practice too, is about, I don’t need to have knowledge or factual information about the training I’m doing or the correct technique. The most interesting things come out when I ask a question and let that lead me somewhere, whether it be a movement puzzle or can I pull something off like a project. Like what would happen if I had an interesting starting point and then just asked, “Okay, what happens next?’

Craig: Right, and the value in the process is not that it’s always pleasant. That process could be quite unpleasant.

Ville: Usually you learn most from the things where you have to face … where the question is, quite frank, and you can like shy away from it when you face it head on and you find things that maybe are not pleasant for you and you find some corners of you that you don’t really like, but trying to be humble and honest in front of those questions and navigate the answer without having the pressure of being right without just seeing where it takes you. I find those have been the experiences that have taught me the most.

Craig: Is there one in particular that jumps out at you. Like a lesson that you’ve learned maybe the hard way, or the easy way?

Ville: I knew you were going to ask that.

Craig: Then you’re answer should be prepared, right?

Ville: No the problem is that I don’t have a prepared answer. It’s hard for me to think about one particular one because I feel like it’s a longer process; it’s an ongoing process. It’s not like I’m at some Zen master point right now with all this funky outlook in life that you need to find the right questions.

Craig: Find your path.

Ville: No, it’s like I feel like I’m right in the middle of it or not even halfway, but somewhere in the beginning, just trying to figure out how to go about life in this way and finding the questions and seeing where it takes me. I think more of the life-changing or…

Craig: Real growth happens.

Ville: …yeah, the real growth situations, or the really juicy examples are ahead of me still. They’re not behind me. So that’s why I don’t have an example for you.

Craig: That’s also an excellent point of view in general. Just to have that idea of how your journey is going to go.

Ville: Yeah. For sure.

Craig: So what do you think you’re going to be doing in 2038, 20 years out in the future? And I mean that both from a physically where do you think you might be and what might you be doing? But also from a where do you see your path taking you mentally and philosophically?

Ville: I hope that it’s not too different from where I am now. I’d see that I get more and more mature in my training in regards to taking better care of my body, ’cause the mindset I try to have in physical training and parkour training is that okay, there’s no rush. If the end goal is to be a super human at 60 or 70 or 80, then there’s plenty of time. Plenty of time to get there and even then you don’t have to have a super strict standard of what that’s going to be. I wanna enjoy my life to the fullest, when I’m 80 or 70 and be able to move and play, ’cause that’s what I love to do. It’s why I can’t move away from parkour. It’s because it’s so much fun and I love the play.

Craig: It calls you back.

Ville: Yeah, it calls me back just by the nature of it. So, I see myself playing more and more and more, as I grow older, having more fun with movement, maybe becoming a more holistic movement in my own practice. I’m probably going to steer and try, hopefully I keep this mindset and try other disciplines as well a lot. See what they have to offer me. What movement has to offer me.

Ville: I’d like to think that I stick around in the community, probably not in the same role that I’m in now, but because innovation comes from the younger generations and there’s a scary idea to me, that if I’m still there at 60, then I’m the old fart who’s telling like this is how…

Craig: Back in my day we used to do…

Ville: …Yeah. This is how we did it. No, it needs to evolve. It needs to change so the next generations need to come up and I need to have the humility to let that happen and give them space to make the parkour community what it’s going to be.

Craig: Their community.

Ville: Their community. How it’s going to be in their generation; for their generation. But I still want to be involved. I want to be there training with the young kids and having fun and maybe doing, once in a while, a crazy move and they’d be like oh dang.

Craig: Surprising. Where did you get that from? Is there any particular lesson that you recall your father teaching you?

Ville: I think the most important thing my father taught me was kind of a certain outlook to life. That it’s important to keep, he would call it a positive background vibe with everything. Kind of as the basis of how you go about life. Doesn’t mean that you need to strive for being happy all the time, but have that attitude of a hopefulness, always present that things are going to work out and even if there’s a harder patch you’re going through, then still keeping that positive vibe. It’s going to eventually turn out for the better. So, I think that’s something that I’ve really tried to hold on to.

Craig: You recently came from New York City and you actually happened to be there over the Fourth of July weekend. What’s something about New York City that was like, oh my goodness, I didn’t expect that?

Ville: The touristy answer is that it’s just like the movies, but that’s surreal. We, of course in Europe, we see so many American movies and just walking around in New York, every street corner is like, what, it’s really like this? It’s actually the same that it is in the movies and that blows me away.

Ville: But it’s an amazing city and it’s so vibrant and of course, being there with the locals and they know all the right places to eat and they know where to go, so I’m bugging them for recommendations and get the best, nice restaurants to get the best food, to kind of really experience. For me, I don’t really like being a tourist. That’s kind of boring, but when you have the chance to hang around with people who live there, then you can kind of get the vibe and get the feel of what their day to day life is. That’s what’s interesting to me and experience what’s life like for them. What they do day to day.

Ville: The New York parkour community was funny. I had the feeling, ’cause they do the Tuesday community sessions, and we ran two of them with Jessie together, and we got a pretty good, felt like we were on the same wavelength. The feeling of coaching with somebody who also likes to experiment with somebody and having a community who is tuned into that, they’re very open to that, so that felt like after the first, this was just like back at home, which was really cool. I can be on the other side of the world and in a huge, totally different environment, like totally different environment with training in parks with people there working out and going around with their busy days. Back home, we’re training outside, there’s usually nobody there. It’s just us and still have the same vibe going around. So that was really cool for me.

Craig: Is there anything else that you want to talk about. I know there’s a million things we could bring up.

Ville: I think a souvenir from the Finnish parkour community, or if we had to export something to the rest of the world, like a local specialty, would be our family classes. They are very close to my heart personally and I know the different communities run them all around the world now, but it’s something I think we pioneered back home and it’s my personal favorite definitely to coach and bring the joy of movement, not just to the kids or the adults, but have them move together.

Ville: I find that’s the place where we have the spirit of our discipline brought out the best. Shines the brightest and the smiles on the faces of the kids and the parents and I also find that, anyone who’s a community leader and if you’re not running family classes, I strongly recommend that because it’s so much fun and that’s the way you can influence the parents too, if they’re doing the helicopter parenting thing, you can slowly and slowly start to effect their attitudes and show them the ways you can allow the kids the freedom of movement and the joy of movement, but then also give them tools to how to make it safe and how to make sure that they, of course you want to protect your kids from injuring themselves; to create an environment where they learn, have a good time together, play, enjoy movement and over the years, the best bonds between students I’ve had and the coolest stories that I’ve got the chance to follow are usually like this kid comes, he’s three years old, and they start at a family class.

Ville: The parent gets super excited about the sport maybe after two or three years they’ve been going to the family class, they start training themselves and get more and more into it and then the kids goes on the kids classes and further and then they’re teenagers and then when they’re teenager and their parents are growing older too, but they all keep training together and coming to open gyms or whatever. Just sharing the movement and that feels very special to me when that happens in those cases. It reminds me at least of why I love doing this and why I love being involved in this community.

Craig: And of course the final question. Just three words to describe your practice.

Ville: I think my first word it’s either sisu, which is a Finnish thing or stubbornness, which they’re very closely related. People can look up sisu what it means.

Craig: Can you spell it for us?

Ville: It’s S-I-S-U.

Craig: Okay. That’s easy.

Ville: It’s something where we’re very proud of.

Craig: Homework?

Ville: Yeah. Homework, but it’s related to perseverance and border lining stubbornness. I can be a stubborn person and I think my practice, just sticking in the practice and staying in parkour is stubbornness and also stubbornness helps me in long challenges; sticking with things. So I think that’s one of the words.

Ville: Another one would be me time. Yes, with training and playing and moving, it’s something that I like to remind to myself. Okay, this is time for me where I’m not working or doing things for the community, for other people; doing coaching, being there for the students. When I’m doing whatever related to practicing or training, it’s doing it then for myself, which is an important balance to have, even if the goal is to also be there for other people and to give out and share. You also need your own personal time and personal space and that’s what training is at it’s best for me.

Ville: The third one would be play. I think that needs no further explanation. Just play.

Craig: Thank you very much. It’s a delight to talk to you, Ville.

Ville: Thank you, Craig. It was an absolute pleasure.

Craig: Want more? Check out moversmindset.com/insiders for a bunch of additional features. This was Episode 21. For the show notes and full transcript, go to moversmindset.com/21.

Craig: Thanks for listening.