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Craig: Welcome to The Movers Mindset Podcast, where I interview movement enthusiasts to find out who they are, what they do, and why they do it. Today, Dan Timms describes his journey with injury and recovery, and how it helped to shape his thoughts about sustainability. He discusses training methods, the forces involved in parkour, and his approach to coaching. Dan unpacks parkour UK, what it is, what it does, and his involvement with it, before sharing his insight on designing parkour parks.
Craig: Before we begin, I’d like to remind you that this project is entirely listener supported. Please take a minute to visit moversmindset.com/support to read about becoming a voluntary supporter with a one time or recurring contribution.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.
Dan: Hi, I’m Dan Timms.
Craig: Daniel Timms is an engineer, parkour coach, coach educator, athlete and director of JUMP Parkour. He has served on the Parkour UK board and was one of the first Parkour UK level 2 certified coaches. Dan designed and helped construct a parkour specific park in his home town of Leicester, as well as other sites around the UK. Welcome Dan.
Dan: Thanks for having me.
Craig: Dan, we spent a bunch of time talking before we began recording, and we were talking about training methodology and we wandered off into barefoot kinesiology, and I’ve seen you do a bunch of videos where you were training various almost like Turkish get-ups out of a turned out foot position. I’m just thinking let’s start by talking about maybe sustainability. You’ve been, I don’t know if I should say training or if you’ve been watching parkour, however you want to put it, you’ve been in the scene for 15-plus years now?
Craig: I’m wondering how has your perspective on sustainability changed? I’m betting in the beginning it was just bash and crash and throw yourself at it, and then I understand you had some shoulder injuries, and I’m just wondering can you give me a bit of a framework for how your perspective on sustainability has changed, and maybe what you’re focusing on now in the vein of sustainability?
Dan: Yeah, so I think I can offer quite a unique perspective on sustainability in parkour, and that’s because I’ve also had one of probably the worst falls and accidents in the parkour community. It was just after my first year of training.
Dan: Before I get to that though, I think I’d probably want to mention that before parkour I was heavily into rollerblading, specifically the aggressive style of rollerblading where you do spins and tricks and grinds on ledges, and just things that look cool essentially. A big part of that is inside the boot of the skate you’re on the side of your foot, and you’re baring weight in what is quite an unnatural position. Like you mentioned, this ankles and feet folded over on to their side, so I built a lot of strength in that positive, but being young and not really having any reference points to go to. I didn’t realize that that was something abnormal, to have that strength and that mobility in the ankles.
Dan: It was only many years later when I think I saw a post from, I think it was Ryan Ford actually, and started talking about this strength in unnatural or weakened positions to make your body more robust and increase your longevity, that I was like well, hang on a minute, I’ve-
Craig: Can I do that?
Craig: Yeah, okay. I can do that.
Dan: Yeah, I’ve been doing this for years, but I didn’t realize it was a thing. I think that got me thinking about longevity and practice, and just increasing your strength as a practitioner.
Dan: Going back to what I mentioned about that accident, it was 2006, summertime, I was visiting Leeds, towards the north of England, and there’s a castle in a park there. It has two turrets on its front facade. I’ll give you the abridged version, but essentially it’s a cool structure in a cool location, and I thought well, the view from the top’s going to be really nice. It happens to be on a hill, so the back wall is a lot lower than the front, so it was a wall run and a climb to get to the top of the back wall, and I vaulted up some walls and vaulted into one of the turrets.
Dan: Now I’d done a recce of the site previously and looked in the bottom of the one of the turrets, and it had this mesh at the top that you could stand on, but in my keenness and my excitement, I vaulted into the other turret because it had a symmetrical front.
Craig: Yeah. Oh right.
Dan: You see where this is going already. This one didn’t have a mesh floor at the top, so I’ve just speed-vaulted over this wall into this turret, and I looked down and there’s nothing beneath me for about 40 feet. I’m like hmm.
Craig: Going down?
Dan: Going down. How do I not die? Let’s tick that one off first. Actually, although it was parkour that took me there, it’s also the parkour training that I had that probably saved my life in that I stayed very calm. [inaudible 00:05:09] I didn’t just panic and start flailing.
Dan: I was falling down, and on the way down I had a bit of momentum that got me to the opposite wall, and I was like okay, well I have to push off of this one. I’m still falling, and it was obviously rough stones that scraped up and scarred my forearm. I pushed off, still falling, and then I reached the other wall behind me because I pushed to hard, and I had to push back off of that to get into the middle. Then I’m still falling, and falling so fast the walls are starting to blur, which is a bit weird. I’m starting to tip backwards over my head, so I try and throw my shoulders forward like how you initiate a front summersault, and then I land right leg, left leg, roll onto my back. My hair hits the wall behind me.
Craig: Yeah. Just enough space.
Dan: Just enough. I think an inch or two further back and I wouldn’t be sat here right now.
Dan: It’s pretty horrific. I looked down at my right leg, my thigh is half as long and twice as wide as it should be.
Craig: That’s broken.
Dan: It’s the one time as well that, so lesson to everybody listening here, always take a phone with you when you go training please. I didn’t have mine.
Craig: Literally on you. It should be in your pocket [crosstalk 00:06:12].
Dan: Yeah. If it gets broken in the training, a small price to pay for actually being able to contact the emergency service.
Dan: I look out of the doorway of this turret, and you can see through the castle into the other one. Since I’d done my recce and then climbed up, there was a group of local youths if you like, that had sat down in the bottom of the other turret and were smoking some weed. They were stoned and not really fully with it, and all they saw looking across is some guy fall out of nowhere and just hit the floor. One guy just looks, tilts his head, he’s like whoa? Then comes across to me, he’s like, “You all right there mate?” I’m just like, “Can I borrow your phone please? Think I need an ambulance.” He takes it out, he’s like, “Yeah, sure. Here you go.”
Dan: Get carted off in an ambulance, the next day have an operation, get a metal rod inserted into my femur. I’ve still got that to this day. Seven months later, start training parkour again. It was the first question I asked the paramedics when they arrived actually. Didn’t care about anything else apparently, I just-
Craig: Can they fix this?
Dan: Yeah, like, “Will I do parkour again?” Only having done it a year.
Craig: They’re like, “Dude, shut up,” weren’t they?
Dan: I think they were pretty good about it. They were like, “Probably,” but they were like, “You should be dead from that fall really.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Seeing as I’m not, fancy…”
Craig: Yeah. They’re concerned about the head injury, the potential for a head injury.
Dan: Yeah, that’s it, and my spine. They were like, “How is your spine? Okay?” I’m like, “Um.”
Craig: I can wiggle my toes. Strap me to the board, let’s go right?
Dan: First thing I did when I hit the floor, tried to wiggle my toes. It was like am I paralyzed? I’m not. That was honestly the biggest relief I think I’ve felt in my life.
Dan: Going through that, and I was quite young comparatively, I was 19 at the time, so you heal quite well at that age. I guess it gave me an opportunity to look at how I’d been training up until then, and obviously wanting to recover as quickly as possible and get back to my level, while I was recovering it gave me time to think about my practices and maybe change them to speed up the recovery.
Dan: This was at the time, for those in the parkour community that remember, where Hell Night was a thing. Has that been mentioned before?
Craig: It hasn’t been on the podcast before. I have heard of it, I don’t know that. I certainly wasn’t around for [crosstalk 00:08:27].
Dan: Hell Night was a creation of Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, who I think surely must have been mentioned before, and it was essentially like a series of body weight exercises that you did round a course at a college in Leicester. If you were a big, strong boy or girl, then you could complete it twice. That was obviously the aim. Just a bit of flavor, the first exercise was 15 consecutive pull-ups on a tree branch, and you had to try and do that unbroken before the next thing.
Dan: I guess we did that, and that was my, probably, inspiration at the time. I didn’t know much about strength training and I didn’t know where to find good sources I guess. Then after that I started speaking to other practitioners, visiting London, and there were a few people there, like Kristian and Bobby, who were getting into squatting, Olympic weightlifting, these kind of things, getting very explosive, very strong, and it just caused me to do some reading and research, and maybe all those thousands of pistols and thousands of lunges that we did maybe weren’t really doing us that much good.
Dan: What we really should have done in those days was take more metrics, more data, and that’s something I’ve learned as I’ve progressed in my practice, is that maybe I should have been measuring my broad jump and measuring my fatigue levels, just what the ethicacy of this training was, because for standard lifting, that data’s already out there, just nobody in parkour community had really looked at it properly at that time.
Craig: [crosstalk 00:10:00].
Dan: Like what we mentioned before, the problem had already been solved, we just tried to solved it again.
Craig: The parkour community has tried to solve it again? Before we, as I want to go on and talk about Olympic weightlifting and that type of engineered training or specifically designed training, before we go on, so can you take me a little bit to, I don’t want to say the darkest hour, but the mindset of, and I’m assuming they stuck you in at least a whole leg cast down one side, if not [inaudible 00:10:25]. You’re in the cast, you’re [inaudible 00:10:26], you’re laying in bed, and day 14 or whatever, and where were you mentally when you’re just stuck there? I’m assuming that that was at least a relatively negative experience, how did you get from there? How did you get back to actually visualizing moving again? Or was it something that you just never lost sight of?
Dan: That was my first real injury in parkour, and…
Craig: First real injury ever or first real injury [inaudible 00:10:53]?
Dan: First real injury ever. I’d never broken a bone.
Dan: Until I started parkour. Even though statistically [crosstalk 00:10:57].
Craig: Yeah, first brush with humanity.
Dan: Yeah. First broken bone, break the biggest one on your body. Go hard or go home. Maybe no, bu anyway.
Craig: I think I recommend going home and not [crosstalk 00:11:07].
Dan: Yeah. I think that would have been a better plan. Actually, I think or that, my mind was like I’d never lost touch. I was like I can’t wait to be back. They didn’t put me in a cast, which was interesting, they actually put me in traction overnight, you know like you see in the cartoon where they hang a weight from your leg?
Craig: Yeah, with the thing and the ropes.
Dan: I didn’t think that was actually a real thing, so that amused me quite a lot when they did it. Actually they operated the next day, put the rod in, and then the morning afterwards they came in with a Zimmer frame and were like, “It’s time to walk.” I didn’t believe them. These two physios come in, I’m like, “They literally put this is yesterday. There’s blood still coming out of the scars.”
Craig: Yeah, this isn’t even healed, right.
Dan: I wake up and there’s blood all over the sheets, like this is not healed, it’s just some stitches, and they’re like, “Yep. They’ve said it can bear weight, let’s go.” I was like, “Aw.” Obviously parkour, up for the challenge, let’s have some of this. Just hobbling around. I had thought the idea of having a Zimmer frame was quite funny too. Hobbling around, Zimmer frame, okay. Maybe get 10 meters then and back, that’s it done for the day. Trying to straighten the right leg, maybe get it from 90 degrees to…
Craig: 85 right?
Dan: Yeah. A little bit, and there was maximum effort. Then by the end of a week, walking on crutches up and down stairs, which that blew my mind actually. I assume that’s the standard procedure. Maybe somebody who listens can clarify whether they did do it too fast or not. I thought it was pretty fast, but I coped with it okay. It was basically could I get up and down stairs without fainting? Almost fainted. That’s the closest I’ve come to fainting in my life, but I really wanted to go home. Even seven days was a long time.
Dan: But yeah, straight back, wanted to do parkour. There was times when I was crutching it to Hell Night to do the upper body bits, and then going home, just trying to be involved, still coming out to see people. I had my degree going on at the time as well, so that kept me involved.
Dan: I guess going back to your question in a very circuitous way…
Craig: It’s fine.
Dan: The darkest hour I think was my second shoulder surgery, which was maybe three-ish years ago. At this point I’ve invested so many years and training hours into my practice, and every time you have an injury that immobilizes you, that takes-
Craig: Yeah, a real setback. If I can pry, how old were you when you hurt this for the second injury?
Dan: This is where I some clean and say that’s actually my fourth surgery that I’ve had during my parkour career.
Craig: Right, how about the one that you’re talking, how old were you?
Dan: How old was I? That’s a great question. I’m going to say…
Dan: 28 maybe.
Dan: Give or take.
Craig: I’m trying to get a gauge for the type of person and how fast they would recover. Surgery at 28 versus 38 versus 48.
Dan: Ah, okay. Yeah. Medically you’re still young if you’re under 60 according to my brother and cousin.
Craig: Yeah, that’s what they say.
Dan: If you’re a doctor they’re like, “They’re young.”
Craig: Oh yeah. Under 65 [crosstalk 00:13:53].
Dan: Under 60, yeah. But yeah, so just under 30. Recovering from a shoulder dislocation and the surgery for that I actually found much worse than the recovery for the broken femur. Much, much worse because they put you in a sling, you’re no allowed to move that arm for, depending on the surgeon and the physio team, four to six weeks at all. That also means you can’t run, anything that could jolt it, move it, because it’s connective tissue and it takes a long time to heal. Just doing that, and you know that six weeks…
Craig: Every minute [crosstalk 00:14:29].
Dan: Of no training at all, everything you’ve trained for is basically going to go. I’ve never understood when people say, “Oh, running is hard,” because I kept it up my whole life, but then after that time, when I could finally go for a run, I went for a run and I was like, “Okay. This is pretty horrific. Now I understand.” I had to go through that process, which is quite nice to help me relate to people a bit more in that sense.
Dan: But I was like should you pack it in? How many training hours is it going to take me to get back to the discipline that I’ve been doing for maybe 12 years or something? I just thought well, okay, it’s been 12 years, think about all the people you’ve impacted and helped in this time. If you stopped training would you still be able to impact on these people? What’s going to bring you happiness? The thing that brings me happiness is challenge, and where do I get most of my challenge from? It’s from parkour, whether it’s training, whether it’s coaching, coach educating, whatever. I was like I don’t think I could leave the practice.
Craig: Can’t walk away?
Dan: I couldn’t, yeah. Absolutely. Whilst it’s horrible to have what you feel makes you special stripped away, bringing it back is so special.
Craig: You ever see the old TV show in America called The Six Million Dollar Man? It was like this guy gets seriously injured and they spent $6 million in the 70s, they spent $6 million on fixing this guy, and they made him better and they made his faster, they made him stronger. It’s like the rebirth of the phoenix. It sounds to me that for you it was an opportunity to all right, let’s do this over.
Craig: You come away from that, and now in the past three years, can you give me some of your thoughts on how should… I don’t want to say how should athletes be training? Because it might just be the way you train is go find somebody who knows how to coach you, but just generally, what would good progressions and good types of training be or people who want to be good movers?
Dan: Now that’s a question I like. Essentially you want to be as good a mover as possible. Think about all the different components you need to build up that picture, that jigsaw. You want to be strong, sure, you want to be fast, you want to be endurance, you want to be mobile, you’ve got to be all these things. You’ve got to be coordinated, and then you just take maybe those different categories and then look at what are the people who are maybe best in the world or close to it doing to get to this kind of level? Maybe not take the absolute best in the world, because often they are genetic outliers that are built for that one particular thing.
Dan: But look at maybe a couple of levels down from that.
Craig: Yeah. What’s the [inaudible 00:17:11]? Like look, if you want to know about broad jumps, look at the [inaudible 00:17:13] level broad jumpers.
Dan: Exactly, yeah. Because they’re the ones that probably they’ve taken the training stimulus to get there, and the absolute genetic outliers will be going forward to things like the Olympics. Either that or they’re all on performance enhancing drugs and you could blame that.
Dan: The optimist in me wants to believe that’s not true.
Craig: You know the definition of a pessimist?
Craig: An optimist with experience.
Dan: Ah, I like that. I think have a good strength and conditioning program. There are a lot of knowledgeable people in the parkour community that can help with that, but there are more knowledgeable people that aren’t part of the parkour community. If you can find a strength and conditioning coach that’s worked with athletes or professional athletes, anything like that, I think that’s really good. I think a good starting point would be someone from the community maybe, and then do your research. If you’ve got time to do that, try and get a program that’s written specifically for you. We talked about maybe what is strong enough for parkour? Maybe we can come back to that later.
Dan: But definitely have a good program to follow. There is no magic bullet for training, not really. I know a lot of people that are looking for it, they’re like, “Okay, here’s this one amazing method that’s going to make super flexible or super strong,” or like, “If I wear these shoes and do this all the time, I’m going to get amazing.” Doesn’t work like that. Consistency is the magic bullet, and it’s the one that no one wants to hear because it means that while everyone else is doing something fun, you’re in the gym lifting something heavy.
Dan: You’ve just got to keep doing it. Though to be fair, I really enjoy lifting stuff that heavy, so it’s not a chore for me. But some people do find it a bit of a chore, but you’ve just got to be consistent all the time. Your body is great at adapting to stimulus and it’s great at becoming not very adapted to stimulus if the stimulus is taken away.
Dan: Often with strength, the old fashioned methods are the best, so you want to be squatting, dead-lifting, bench pressing or dips, weighted pull-ups, these kind of things. They’re all very, very useful. Make sure you get a program though. Then I mentioned obviously being strong, I also mentioned being mobile, and that’s really, really important.
Dan: There’s an anecdote that sometimes I tell when I’m delivering coaching courses and talking about mobility, and that is you get the fences with the spikes on top, and I was going over one that was maybe five feet high or something like this. It was just a step vault going over, but my shoelace got looped over one of the spikes, so you can see where this is going. I fall down to the floor, but my leg stays up there, and so I’ve got my leg up by my ear with one leg on the ground. Had I not been training my mobility and being able to hit that range of motion safely and with some strength, there would probably have been an injury. In the end it was okay. I just unhooked my shoelace, brought my leg down and it was fine, but on the way down it…
Craig: It was suddenly like wait, where’s that leg going?
Dan: Yeah. I think everyone’s going to think I’m really accident prone. I really don’t miss that often, I’ve just been training that long, we’ll blame it on that.
Craig: We’re telling the fun stories.
Dan: Things like static stretching can be effective, but it’s a big time sync. You have to spend a lot of time doing it, and there are other methods that I’ve personally found to be more effective for myself and people I coach. Generally trying to find ways to build strength in these positions, these disadvantaged positions gives you longer lasting results for a lot less input.
Dan: The pancake position where you sit in your legs in a straddle and fold your chest forward towards the floor, I used to be the guy that was, if I was in a cool down of whatever thing I happened to be doing, and someone’s like, “Okay, sit in that position and try and fold forward,” I would go nowhere. I would be like the rounded back, just not able to go forwards at all. I went from that to a flat pancake in what I would consider quite a short time, just by switching it from trying to do a stretch to loaded pancake, so having a kettle bell held behind your head, and just actively trying to pull forwards.
Dan: Then I tried the full thing, it was actually with my good friend Chris Keighley, also a super good parkour coach educator by the way, doing some gymnastics. In the cool down I just tried it, folded flat, and I was like, “Chris, Chris, Chris, look. Look.” Yeah, just by programing that it worked so much better than having to just statically stretch all the time and every day. I only did it once a week, that amount of training, and even now, from probably not specific training that for a few months. If you asked me to so it I’d probably get quite close or back to flat. The results last a much longer time because you’ve built the strength and the control in those positions. I think it’s not a magic bullet because I’ve said they don’t exist, but I find it to be much more effective, which is super good.
Dan: As well as the strength and the mobility, probably should do some work for lactic tolerance and cardiovascular health as well, so try and do a bit of running. I know parkour people are really bad at running. I said it. But try and do a bit. It doesn’t take long, it adapts really fast, and do some long sprints for fun. Lactic tolerance, if you throw up, well done. You sprinted hard enough. Do some 300 meters fast with a couple of minutes rest in between [inaudible 00:22:37] see what I’m talking about. All those things really, really important for athletic development. Try and get them done.
Craig: Dan, I’d like to unpack further of an application of what we’ve been talking about, like how you design training and how an athlete makes decisions. At one point I tried to, and this was pretty early on for me, it was insane, I tried to do a six foot, it’s like two meter drop onto concrete, just a straight step off, standing pencil, like drop [inaudible 00:23:03] cushion? I started on it at a lower height, and then I realized that oh, I need to build up all of this squat strength to be able to box jump four feet, and I realized that oh, there’s all these pieces, and it would have become this really large project. I effectively abandoned it because I had other things to do.
Craig: I’m just wondering, I think talking about drops is an interesting way because my idea was that oh, I know how to solve this, I just need these pieces, and I’m wondering are there certain, and it doesn’t have to be just drops, but are there certain, we’ll call them things that an athlete can look at that that’s not even something you should train for? That’s just going to be way more complicated than you’re thinking or even when you think you’ve taken it apart, you’re still going to be just bashing at it. I’m just wondering if you want to pick that apart further?
Dan: Sure. I think recently I got to do pieces of testing, scientific testing to do with drops and generation of force that almost makes me think should we be doing drops at all? I’d come to the end of my lifting program if you like, it was written by a chap called Will Wayland, Powering Through on Instagram. Super knowledgeable guy. His metric of a good coach is crippling self-doubt. Always questioning himself but he’s really, really good.
Dan: I was delivering a level one course in Essex where his gym is based and I went there to do some formal testing for the end of my training program, and one day we just did some max tests for some lifts. My deadlift’s okay, my bench press is horrific because my arms are really long because I’m a gibbon. Sorry everybody. Then on the second day of testing, which was after a rest day, we measured what’s called my dynamic strength index, and we set up what we called a mid-thigh pull, which is a static barbell set into a rig, that is just above the height if my knees, and that you cannot move. On the floor is a force plate, and you set yourself for the deadlift position where the bar is just above your knees, and you just pull on this bar as hard as you can and what it essentially does is it measures how strong your deadlift is from that position because you’re pulling yourself down into the force plate.
Dan: You take this number and you compare it with a bit of maths to the standing counter movement jump, which is like the acute sports science jump where you put your hands on your hips, you bend down, you jump as high as you can. We did three readings on each, just going for maximum effort, you compare the two and you see how balanced you are. The mid-thigh pull tells you the maximum force that your body is capable of producing, your maximum strength, and the counter movement jump gives you your maximum power. The relationship between the two shows you if you’re strong but not powerful, powerful but not strong, or balanced.
Dan: Turns out that despite all the jumping I’m doing, I’m actually strong but not that powerful, which is strange because you know I’ve got a three meter plus board jump from cold, which is quite good by parkour standards. But I was pulling, I think, three and a half times my body weight plus in that deadlift position, which is actually super decent. That shaped my current training program, but that’s an aside.
Dan: Talking this information, later that week I happened to be going by the chain store in London, and there was a piece of research endorsed by Parkour UK going on there where we were measuring peak impact forces from drop jumps.
Dan: Obviously I then went into this knowing what the maximum muscular force I can produce in what roughly is the same angle you stop at on a drop jump, and so remember I’m going back to the three and a half kilonewtons pulling force, or force I can generate pressing into the floor, and then doing some drop jumps, and we ended up doing about, yeah, probably two meters, two meters plus.
Craig: Yeah, it’s like head height, or slightly overhead.
Dan: Yeah. I’ve got a video of it somewhere. Maybe it’s on my Instagram, I’m not sure. The peak force that I recorded, I think, was 12 and a half kilonewtons, so that leaves you with 9000 newtons that is unaccounted for by my muscles. That’s a lot of force. What you mean [inaudible 00:27:15] that’s a lot of damage. How do we explain this force away? Because we know that my muscles can only generate three and a half kilonewtons, but I’m taking 12 and a half kilonewtons.
Craig: Well the two engineering physics geeks and are going to say…
Dan: Yeah, there we go.
Craig: Some of it goes into your tendons and some of it is the design of your system spreads it out so that you can get more mechanical power out of the system. But it also makes me go I’m never dropping off anything again.
Dan: Yeah, the difference is huge.
Craig: Oh, that’s why it hurts.
Dan: Yeah. We’ve got Wolff’s law and Davis’ law to thank for tissue adaptations, which is great, and it just go to show that, well hopefully, we need to do some science on this, but parkour practitioners hopefully should have some great tissue adaptations. Either that or we’re all not going to be walking very soon. What I would really love to see is some bone density, connective tissue density studies on long-term parkour practitioners because from that data, which I actually have the data, I didn’t just pluck these numbers out of thin air, we’ve got these forces that are unaccounted for, which is really, really fascinating. But obviously I’ve been practicing for 15 year and I can still jump and still walk and still take impact, so seemingly it’s okay for now, but I just thought that was absolutely amazing, that the body’s adapted to that.
Craig: All great scientific discoveries start with the phrase, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
Dan: Maybe we shouldn’t do drops, or maybe we should, and actually it’s going to build you a highly resilient body.
Craig: Or there’s some piece of technique that you’ve… We all know the tech for a drop, and maybe there’s a different to how the whole chain system works. My first thought is a dynamic drop is three joints and the static pull test is two, so you’re using the ankle joint, it would be powered, but [inaudible 00:29:00] I’m just like oh, here we go, this is an interesting…
Dan: But how much do your calves really add?
Dan: It’s much smaller than your glutes, hamstrings and quads, but it’s something.
Craig: 9000 kilos? That’s a lot to come out of the little gastrocnemius and soleus.
Dan: Imagine if your calves were bigger than your thighs. That would be hilarious.
Craig: Dan, so far you’ve been just fielding questions of things that I wanted to ask about, and I want to open it up a little bit more and say let’s go from those specific details, let’s go a little bit toward coaching in general. I’m wondering what types of coaching, I don’t want to say coaching styles, but there are different ways to coach, what types of coaching resonates with you and what do you think is a good type of coaching for parkour in general?
Dan: I think being able to get to know your learners well and quickly, both how they operate mentally and their physical capabilities is very, very important. But never get too close that they won’t listen to you when you want to give them a push. People in parkour, they need to be exposed to the challenge side of things, and at some point you have to take a leap, no pun intended.
Craig: That’s a double. That’s a triple.
Dan: You don’t want to give them crutches to do that, and what I mean by crutches is, for example, if you’re having to be there to spot them and they only do the jump because you’re a spot, or you pile up so many mats that the consequence is… well there’s no consequence if they don’t make it. I’m not saying you should put your students at risk, every challenge you set them you should know that they’re able to do like I mentioned when I opened off with this answer, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re making your students embrace challenge because it’s essentially what their discipline is all about. I think that kind of coaching is the one that resonates with me.
Dan: You’ve got to be open and amicable enough that people can come to you and share their worries, their concerns, and also the things they’re pleased about as well. If they come and say, “Oh Dan, I did my first pull-up, did my first muscle-up, did this climb-up, did this precision, stuck it.”
Craig: Right, sharing the joy.
Dan: That’s really, really important I think, and you’ve got to be genuinely invested I think, in your students. You can’t and shouldn’t fake it. I’m not a fan of that. I’ve been like, “Oh, that’s really cool,” and not really meaning it. I’m not a fan of that. I think if you’re in coaching, you’re there because you want to help people progress.
Dan: I don’t understand it, I’ve met some coaches that go, “Oh, isn’t it going to be horrible when your students get better than you?” I’m just like, “Excuse me? What are you talking about?” If you can coach people to surpass you that’s fantastic, you should be really happy for them. You need to take yourself out of the equation. I think, for me, it’s that.
Craig: Are there any things that you’re currently struggling with, with coaching, like your own personal practice coaching?
Dan: I think I reflect on my own coaching quite a lot, so it would be interesting to have somebody super experienced look at me and say, “Oh, maybe they should improve at this.” What I often do is after I coach educate a course, I just go over the material that I’m teaching these people and I’m like am I practicing what I preach? Sometimes I’m like okay, maybe I need to reduce my explanation times a bit, or increase the throughput of students on this particular workshop.
Dan: What’s great is, say on a Friday night when I run three classes back-to-back, and we can have anywhere from 60 to almost 100 people a night, it’s a great opportunity to get a relatively large sample size and make tweaks to how I teach a particular concept or a technique. I say, “Okay, I changed the cues to this, and people seemed to pick it up faster and it was a quicker explanation time. I changed the setup to this and more people got a go.” I’m constantly doing that, and at the team training sessions we have for the other JUMP parkour coaches, I often ask them, “What’s working well? What isn’t working well? How can we coach this particular technique better?” Sounds arrogant to say I’m not really struggling, but I think it’s because I think and reflect a lot.
Craig: More like you consider that’s the work. That’s the work that has to be done.
Dan: Yeah, so maybe the work is that, in that I’m constantly trying to improve. I want out sessions to be the best sessions in the world, and if I’m nor constantly working to that, then they’re not going to be.
Craig: Are there any particular resources that you go to? You mentioned one weightlifting [inaudible 00:33:29], and I’m wondering if there’s anything that you find evergreen? Both in terms of kinesiology or there’s a bunch of different topics that I want to precede your ideas.
Dan: Ah, okay. In terms of resources, I’m a big fan of doing it interpersonally, so speaking to people that I know know the topic in and out, and then maybe getting the reading material afterwards.
Craig: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:33:53]. Details in [inaudible 00:33:54] right?
Dan: Yeah, that’s it. I think I used to speak to, with regards to weightlifting, Kristian, Kristian McPhee, he was British champion in the 77 kilo category. Weightlifting, used to come from the parkour community, a good friend of mine. I’d often run things by him, and now I speak to Will who writes my program. I’m always really keen to speak to people who I think are right at the top of their field, and pick their brains and run my hypotheses by them.
Dan: Out of my recent talkings with Will, I’m reading a Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz, which is quite an interesting take, and it’s a modified version of the old Bulgarian weightlifting program that was effective, but turned out that you had to be on steroids to follow it properly. When the, I think American athletes tried it…
Craig: Tried it, it didn’t work.
Dan: It just burned out all their athletes.
Craig: Like what’s up with this?
Dan: Yeah, so like okay, why am all my athletes not able to train anymore? Oh, they’re not on gear, that’s why. I think in terms of strength, that’s my current resource.
Dan: In terms of parkour, I could probably watch the documentary, The Monkey’s Back with Stephane Vigroux. I’ve watched that over 100 times.
Craig: [crosstalk 00:35:09], yes.
Dan: Yeah, it’s a really good resource. I think if you ever want to watch something that encapsulates the spirit of the discipline, that’s the best resource in my opinion.
Craig: Le Singe est de Retour.
Dan: Its so good. Stephane doesn’t really waste words, and it’s just fantastic. Some of the training, actual practices are maybe a bit outdated, but the general message, I think, is very, very important. I think that one’s always golden for me. I watched it again recently after a few years off. Still great.
Craig: Dan, I mentioned in the beginning that you were on the board for Parkour UK, and I’d like if you would, to take the opportunity to ask you to unpack from the NGB down point of view, what is Parkour UK’s, what’s the missions for it and what’s the purpose, and what is it actually doing?
Dan: Yes, so I guess on paper, it’s the NGB, it’s the national governing body for parkour in the UK. It sounds fairly self-explanatory, and I guess it is. It’s the interface if you like, between the community, primarily the coaching community at the moment, and the government or other larger authorities, maybe local authorities, to be the mouthpiece for what we do and what the collective mission is of parkour practitioners in the UK.
Craig: Then when you were on the Parkour board, can you give me the timeframe and what you felt the organization was really primarily focused on, and what its challenges were at that time? Then if that’s changed and you see it has a new challenge that it’s facing now, I’m curious how it’s changing over time.
Dan: Sure. I think when I first got on the board, the first year or so I was there felt super effective. We achieved recognition as a sport for parkour in the UK, which I think is going to serve as our suit of armor in the whole FIG escapade as we have sovereignty in the UK, which is really good. That achievement was huge and fantastic and a great thing to be a part of.
Dan: I guess my mission if you like of why I wanted to be elected is that being passionate about coaching and coach education, I thought that primarily the level two in its guise that it was when I first got on the board, I thought it was okay, but it needed some changes in, I think, primarily assessment methods, things we were looking at, and we’re like okay, these are some great physical tests, but does it really assess how good you are as a coach? I really wanted to rework that, so we formed a workforce subcommittee, we made some changes to the level two assessments.
Dan: No system is perfect. I don’t think it’s quite there yet. I think it was a step in the right direction. It used to have run five kilometers on it, while I think you probably should be able to run five kilometers okay if you’re a competent parkour practitioner. It had absolutely no bearing on how good a coach you are, so testing somebody on that doesn’t really seem super fair. We had the 400 meters of QM as well. If you’re a real QM head maybe that sounds like Christmas. Not all of us are, so most people it doesn’t. I didn’t mind the run part. Side note, I passed it when it had all that stuff on it, but just bigging myself up.
Dan: But I think, again, doesn’t have a bearing on how good a coach you are, so we cut down the physical bits or made them a bit more parkour specific I would say. Kept the stuff that we thought was the real meat and bones of it, and added a questioning element, which I think when it first came about, people underestimated a little bit. We’re just like, “Okay, how do you do a cat 180?” Or something like that, “Give us points and we’ll…” We ask more specific questions than that. But people are like, “Oh yeah, I got the question. This is going to be fine,” rather than having to do a savagely difficult challenge.
Craig: Oh right.
Dan: They were like, “Oh no. These questions are pretty in depth. You better know your stuff.” It’s definitely not like a free pass. Equally we’re not looking to try and fail you.
Craig: It’s not a trap.
Dan: Yeah, it’s not a trap. There’s no Admiral Ackbar involved.
Craig: Well played sir.
Dan: But it’s a test of do you know your stuff and can you explain it clearly and concisely? Because you’re going to have to do that as a coach. We just tried to make it a bit more fitting for what it is. I think that was my mission, fix the level two, and there were a couple of other board members that had very similar views on it, and that’s why they went for it. We worked quite cohesively towards that target, which was really nice.
Craig: The board these days, I know you’re no longer on the board, but I’m just wondering what do you see now from the outside? Obviously your perspective has changed, but how do you see the organization now? What do you think it’s working on and what do you think maybe it should be working on if it’s not working on what you agree with?
Dan: Yeah, so after that year that I mentioned where we made these changes, FIG reared its ugly head and obviously that took a lot of time and resources. Parkour UK was involved in the inception of Parkour Earth, which is the community [inaudible 00:40:27] international federation. Something that we, well, absolutely need.
Craig: I was going to say desperately need right?
Dan: Desperately need, absolutely. Yeah, it’s something we needed, and even in FIG’s early communication with Parkour UK, when we issued an open letter to them, it was really good, it hit the nail on the head and they knew it because their response was, “Yeah, but well, we don’t talk to national federations, only international ones, so come back with one of those.” I don’t think it was a knee jerk action, it’s still bound by rules of good governance and there was time spent creating it with the right communities, but obviously it’s needed, it’s a necessary tool. That’s an ongoing thing.
Dan: As we’re recording this, I think it was announced today, the day of recording, it won’t be the day of whenever this airs, we’ve had Tracy Crouch who’s a member of parliament, appointed as a senior independent director. Somebody with that level of political clout in the UK, I think, will really help both external battles to be fought and having some kind of power. Our relationship with UK sport and Sport England, I think it will be very beneficial there, maybe unlock funding avenues that maybe weren’t open before, and also maybe help bring in more interest from the wider community in the UK. Currently it’s primarily the coaching organizations that…
Craig: That are engaged with parkour [crosstalk 00:41:58].
Dan: Yeah, they’re more engaged, and it would be nice to see just more general practitioners engaged. I think Parkour UK is strangely quite divisive to the UK community at large. Not in its actions, just it’s viewed in one of two ways generally, and I think sometimes people are quite lacking in trust for the organization. They think that there’s always motives or people are out to make an absolute fortune.
Craig: Like a power grab or something.
Dan: Yeah, power grab and money. I’ve already stated what my motives were for joining. Most of the people from the community, their motive is like that. You don’t get paid loads of money to be on the board of Parkour UK, it’s a non-exec position. Nobody’s raking it in. People are donating their own time essentially for free, to help try and grow the thing. People seem to like to complain about it, and I think if you’ve got a complaint you can fix it. You are the parkour community, become a member. It’s a democracy.
Craig: Right. Engage.
Dan: Yeah. Even back in the day, I wasn’t very happy that Parkour UK’s entire collective if you like, of elected directors that were meant to represent the entire community, they all came from one organization. That’s not a national governing body at all, and I was quite vocal and vociferous about changing that. Not because I had anything against the people, but because the right thing to do is to have a governing body-
Craig: Representation right?
Dan: Exactly, representation. I probably didn’t make any friends at time, but I really wanted to see that change and I think it’s really important. If you want to change something about Parkour UK, you can, and I try and mention it on every course I go to, but again, the people going on the courses are the ones that are engaged. I’d love to see the people that are not feeling so engaged, just to…
Craig: Engage in the discussion right?
Dan: Yeah, just engage. Just have a go. If you want to change something, you can. If the community feels same way, they will support your actions. There’s scope for that, people will listen.
Dan: I know Parkour UK isn’t the greatest at external communication, but they will always try and fight your corner where they can. They’re generally good people there and they listen. I think yeah, just get involved, especially in a time with the whole FIG thing going on. The more everyone comes together, even if it’s just to make changes, the better.
Craig: Dan, is there anything else that you want to talk about?
Dan: Yeah. I think I’d like to just say a few words about design for areas for parkour, and parkour parks specifically. I think it’s one of those things where people look at it and go, “Oh maybe it’s not that difficult,” and I think you have to have more consideration than that. I think if you’re designing your obstacles with one movement in mind, then it’s probably not really going to work. In the UK, if you’re designing a parkour park, one, you’re probably going to be quite limited in space, and two, you have to design to the British, now European standard, which both is an enabler, but also has some pretty strict limitations.
Craig: Limits, right.
Dan: Critical fall zones, heights, height differences, where you can have impact absorbing surface, that kind of thing. I’ve spoken to people who have designed things before, not really been parkour practitioners, and they’ll look at stuff and they’ll be like, “Ah yeah, you can do a lache here,” and the bars are so close together that it’s…
Craig: Right, you’re like hmm.
Dan: You know there’s a critical limit for a lache where they’re oo close and you can’t use proper technique, and things like that. I’m like you can’t work like this.
Dan: What I often like to do, I guess my number one thing would be if it’s going in a particular place that has a community already, speak to the community. If you can’t do that, look at the local spots, see what they have to offer.
Dan: The first park I ever designed was in Loughborough, which is to the north of Leicester, and I spoke to the local community when I came up with a design. This was not a foregone conclusion that we were going to win this contract, it had to be pitched against other designs.
Craig: Other uses for the space and other designs?
Dan: Yeah. Other designs for parkour parks. It wasn’t you’ve got a parkour park, you’re going to design it. Obviously it was the first one I did, so I was like I want it to be good, and I spoke to the local community and I was like, “What do you want? What don’t you have that you wish you had?” They were like, “Laches. We have got nothing to swing on.” I was like…
Craig: Brachiation, brachiation.
Dan: “Brilliant. Okay. That gives me an overall theme for the area.” Then I’m looking at it like okay, I’d like to have one crux or interesting obstacle that’s in there, and I think it was the first time we had the vertical wall with, we called them a floating platform slotted onto the side.
Craig: Oh yeah, [inaudible 00:46:36].
Dan: That’s the first time we had that in the UK, I was like, “Let’s put one of those in and have loads of cool swings to it.” Every obstacle you put in, you want to try and make it as versatile as possible. You don’t want to be like, “Okay, I just want people to do vaults on this wall.” The more bang for buck you can get out of every piece of kit, the better.
Dan: Also where you don’t put obstacles is just as important, and I think the better your parkour vision is, the better your designs are going to be. You can spots roots and challenges. I think the mark of a good space is do people still use it and how long are they using it for? The Loughborough park, people are still going in there, still finding new challenges, and to me, that’s a great feeling. It’s very validating. Just trying to make it as versatile as possible.
Dan: Occasionally, maybe it’s nice to put in a thing to learn a specific technique that people might not have access to. Going back to that laches point, the Leicester park has a rail at just the right height for, I call them crab swings or straddle undershoots, where you essentially go from the top of the rail with your hands on and your feet outside of your hands, legs straight, and swing out under the rail and then fly through the air. They were in vogue very much at the time, I think, when I designed it, and I was like, “Well have a place that’s just the right height for people to learn it, where they can swing under and not hit the floor, but no higher that it doesn’t scare the hell out of them.”
Craig: [crosstalk 00:48:04].
Dan: Occasionally put stuff like that in there, but try and make it versatile and try and have an overall objective, I think, for who you’re designing it for.
Craig: Are there any particular resources that either you go to regularly or that you would suggest people tap into?
Dan: That is a good question. I think yes, but it’s more a case of your own parkour experience, sadly, than a book. References from spots or challenges that I think you’ve found inspirational are really, really useful.
Craig: Collect them in pictures or sketches.
Dan: Yeah, collect them in your head, and obviously there’s some great examples of design in Denmark as well. Those guys produce parks very, very often, and there’s some great stuff there as well. I think if you’re looking for design, look at some of the Danish parks. Some of the American gyms as well, they’ve got some quite interesting features. I think features can make or break a design as well, so rather than just having areas of flat, empty walls, what can you add here that provides more than it takes away? Or ideally it takes away nothing and adds more options. Those kind of things are really, really important. You want people to be training in the space and you want it to be able to cater for people from right from the beginning to the super high level. That’s really important.
Craig: I say all the time that I love to collect stories because I think the type of story that people pick and how they tell them, that tells you more about them than about the story itself. Is there a story that you want to share?
Dan: I’d like to tell two if that’s possible?
Craig: I don’t know, is it possible? Yeah certainly may.
Dan: Well I can do it.
Craig: Go for it.
Dan: Whether your people are up for listening to it is [crosstalk 00:49:39].
Craig: I can only record 21 more hours before we have to pause the change data cards.
Dan: I’m really sorry everybody, here we go. There are two instances where I’d like to think I’ve used, inverted commas, real life parkour, or that put my training to the actual test rather than going out and essentially practicing. The first one, this is in Leicester, my home city, and I’ve just finished some winter training at the track, so lots of lactic threshold training, lots of sprints, so I mentioned throwing up, all that kind of stuff. I was pretty shot and I was cycling back to my flat, and as I get to the garage bit, I just get off my bike and I look across to the end of the road, and my road backs on to a big path that runs from the edge of Leicester essentially, right to the middle, and it is very, very nice. It’s lined with trees, it’s lovely. I can just see part of it from the end of my road.
Dan: I hear a scream come from there and I’m like okay, it’s a bit early for people to be drinking. It’s maybe 7:00pm or something, and so I look across and I see a guy absolutely just legging it up New Walk, and I’m like what’s he running from? Then maybe two seconds later, a girl runs forward, she’s the one that screamed, and she’s like, “Stop him, he’s stolen my phone.” That was it. No more hesitation. I threw my bag on the ground, threw my bike on the ground, completely lost regard for my own personal possessions, and despite the shot legs, just tore after this guy.
Dan: It was about 30, 40 meters from my garage to New Walk, so I get onto there and turn the corner, and he’s a fair deal ahead. Less than 10 meters, but pretty far. I’m just storming uphill, just after this guy, and he looks back and he just looks forward, carries on running, he’s like this guy’s not catching me. When he looks back five seconds later, I’ve cut his lead less than in half, a trained sprinter versus somebody from the general public, and his face, I’ve never seen someone look more worried. This guy just storming down on you, steely gaze. He turned back and I just shouted something painfully arrogant like, “You’re never going to outrun me,” just to try and get in his head.
Dan: He’s running, a couple more seconds pass and I’m getting closer and closer. He tries to throw the phone down on the floor that he’s stolen from this girl, [inaudible 00:52:07] to think I’ll pick it up and stop. He was wrong. I pick the phone up, carry on after him, he runs across this road into a big park that’s in Leicester, it’s a very nice park, and I can see he’s gone past the lactic threshold. He’s starting to get gassed. You know when people’s sprint speed just plummets? Then he was starting to slow down, I was like right, that’s it, I’ve got you now.
Dan: It was only at this point that I thought what if he robbed her at knife point? Then in my head I’m like he’s really gassed and I’m not. Even if he’s got one, I think I can probably subdue him before I die at least. I run across and I basically just grab this guy, and I’m just being super loud in his face, “Well what do you think you’re doing? Why are you mugging people?” It was still daylight so, “Why are you mugging people in broad daylight? What do you think you’re playing at?” I drag him back to this girl, all the way across the road, down New Walk, and I just hold him by the scruff of the neck and push him forward, and I’m like, “Apologize to this woman now. What do you think you’re playing at?” He’s obviously super embarrassed because I’m being really loud and there’s people about, and it was like right. He apologized to this girl, give her phone back. Amazingly didn’t crack when…
Dan: Yeah, survived, which was cool. Took his photo, he was trying to put his hood over his face, I’m like, “Get your hood down. What are you playing at?” Take his photo, report him to the police, job done. Go in, my bad and bike are still there, no one’s robbed those in the meantime, and I was just like this is great. All that training that I’ve put in, I actually got to use it and I felt super happy that I actually got to help somebody with my training, which was what we’re training for. That was really, really nice.
Dan: Going onto the second one, I guess it’s a similar thing. We had a discussion earlier about Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, and barefoot running and how it influenced us. When I actually first read that I went to the Copper Canyons in Mexico to try and see the Tarahumara first hand, because I actually found the book super inspirational.
Dan: I ended up going there, and as part of my travels and adventures round the Copper Canyons, went to see a waterfall there, and just in the general scenery of this part of the world, in Mexico, there are lots of, they’re almost like giant boulders, like 20, 30, 40 feet high, and there’s a lot of local children that just climb them. It’s their playground essentially. Their level of physical coordination is frightening, it’s really good. They’re climbing these super high boulders that one fall is they’re going to die. They have no fear, they’re super confident in their abilities. It’s quite awesome to watch.
Dan: I went to a waterfall and it was semi-dry season, so there’s water going over the edge of this waterfall, but there are rocks sticking out of it, so it’s really cool to be able to jump and stride my way to the rocks down on the edge of this waterfall. The drop is massive. It’s an instant game over if you fall off of there, but it was a breathtaking view. It was one of the most stunning places that I’ve seen ever.
Dan: I go back and I stand at this very makeshift fence where visitors are supposed to go. Here’s some Mexicans there, there’s some Tarahumara there, and I see, in the time that it’s taken me to get back, a very small child, maybe four, five, six years old, has made his way to the edge of this waterfall and is sitting, legs dangling over the edge of the waterfall, just balancing precariously on the edge, and is just picking up stones out of the water and just throwing them off of the edge. Every time he throws a stone he’s leaning forwards over the edge of this waterfall. Now I don’t have children, but I imagine it’s like a super parental instinct response of this child is in immediate danger.
Craig: In danger.
Dan: One dodgy throw and he’s going over the edge. I just turned and was just running, striding, [inaudible 00:56:14], not really thinking about it, over these rocks, what felt really mad to me, a running jump over the river, striding to this child, and I was like, “Come here, aquí, aquí,” in Spanish. Turns out he didn’t speak Spanish, he spoke Tarahumara, but he got the idea.
Dan: I got to him. As I got closer, I slowed down so I didn’t startle him, and took him by the hand and led him back to his family. I brought him back and all the Mexicans were clapping, like, “Thank you so much,” really, really grateful, the parents were just like, “Huh, he’s fine isn’t he?” It’s just really interesting to me, but just having, again, another opportunity to put all that training to the test and try and help somebody I thought was super fun.
Craig: Of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.
Dan: Get fucking strong.
Craig: Love it. Dan, it was a pleasure talking to you.
Dan: Thank you very much.
Craig: This was episode 61. For more information go to moversmindset.com/61. There’s more to the Movers Mindset project than just this podcast. Visit our website for more free content, to join our email list, or to read about how you can support this project. I’ll leave you with a final thought from Ambrose Redmoon, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Thanks for listening.
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