There are a lot of people who start out Parkour without any foundation in other sports. Starting without a solid foundation works fine, but it leads to a longer “break-in” period. But, what if you're coming from a base such as gymnastics?
Point blank, if you’re someone coming from gymnastics the road is much clearer. Some of the hardest moves in Parkour are possibly already in your skill set. But that also means there are some key disciplines from gymnastics that you need to forget to get better.
This is a push/pull situation, one that many go through each day. Part of a gymnastics skill set works well in this game, and other parts of it will hinder your performance.
Pros of GymnasticsPhysical conditioning and mental toughness are just the start of what makes gymnastics great. While others struggle with certain movements for weeks, you will pick up those same movements in hours. Here are the pros of gymnastics as a base, and why it will help your game.
Physical ProsGymnasts of all skill levels go through an intensive daily workout routine. This routine builds their core and other applicable strength for moving around. Pound-for-pound gymnasts are the strongest athletes in the world.
Now imagine that same strength applied to daily Parkour routines. With the limits of their body pushed, gymnasts only have to get down the repetition of movements. We have already blogged about the benefits of strength conditioning for Parkour, and no one does it better than gymnasts.
Mental ProsBecause of progressions, gymnasts know what it is like to fail. Failing isn't a big deal. In fact, it develops mental toughness and helps you build new goals. The basic fundamentals of Parkour training are already embedded in gymnasts’ minds.
There is also no fear of losing balance or being in the air. Often, for new Parkour athletes, airtime can be a huge hurdle. Many enter the sport without a single flip in their arsenal.
Injury ProsDid you know that the more flexible you are the less chance you have of getting injured? It is the biggest way to prevent injuries as well as the pains associated with injuries. You won't see a lot of bodybuilders in Parkour, and there’s a reason.
It’s better to be thin and flexible than muscular and stiff. Gymnasts once again have this down to a science and come in with an advantage.
Cons of GymnasticsWith the many pros of having gymnastics as a base, the cons list has some important points. Here are some things that people don't think about when coming in as a gymnast.
Some of these will apply to traceurs with other sports backgrounds as well.
Technique and Hard SurfacesExperienced gymnasts will often have impeccable form and technique, but this can hamper their transition to Parkour, and the main reason for this is hard surfaces. Gymnasts train on soft and padded surfaces mostly, which means that movements like a forward roll don’t have to avoid the spine. With Parkour, the goal is to be able to train anywhere, including concrete. This results in a very different approach to certain movements, and gymnasts might struggle to change what they’ve trained their bodies to do for years.
Pre-existing InjuriesThere isn't a gymnast in history that hasn't had an injury. The root of the sport is stretching muscles past their limits. This happens to such a degree that many experience stunted growth in certain areas of the body. Although most of these injuries are recoverable, there are some that are not.
We're not talking Brock Lesnar cauliflower ear, we're talking a permanent limp. This isn't a game changer by any means, but it is something to watch out for while practicing.
Mental ConsGymnasts start at a young age and are thrust into a different community. Imagine a young kid coached up by the same guy for over a decade only to enter the world of Parkour on their own. It can be jarring to know the person mentoring you is three years your junior.
That's a big change from the structured environment of a gymnast for the last decade.
Sharp Competitive EdgeAnd now for the last part, which can be an absolute killer in Parkour: hubris. Coming from a competitive sport to a free sport takes a lot of adjustment. Parkour is a competition against yourself, not someone else.
A gymnast that has trained their entire life doesn't want to hear that. But that’s the biggest hurdle when coming over from gymnastics. Understanding this subtle difference will help you blend in with the community better.
Something Is Better Than NothingGymnastics as a base only has one serious con, and that’s making it all about winning. If you can get over this serious mental hurdle, then the sky's the limit.
Parkour and gymnastics go together like pepperoni on a pizza. Your skills might lead you to mentor other beginners, and if you continue to pay it forward then other athletes from other sports will come over too.
Anyone can do Parkour, with or without a base set of skills. It just so happens that gymnastics is one of the best starter sports available.