The Invisible Obstacle

The Invisible Obstacle

Jereme Sanders

 

Analyzing and Overcoming Fear

I’ve devoted my life to progress, to taking paths of resistance whether they exist in the world or in my mind so that I may, through these challenges, better myself. In this journey, I’ve found one obstacle that is nearly always present. This invisible challenge manifests itself in many ways:  maybe a wisp of doubt, perhaps sweaty palms and a pit in the stomach, this barrier can even paralyze or cripple in certain circumstances.  If you haven’t guessed by now, that obstacle is fear.

 

There is still a lot to discover in the realm of fear with Parkour but here I’ll attempt to dissect my process that I’ve developed through analysis of the fear I’ve experienced and the 16+ years I’ve spent working to better overcome it. Some of these tactics came easy to implement while others have taken lots of time and energy to use and their nature, to me at least, is still not fully understood.

 

I’ll keep the examples and focus in a Parkour context but the applications of these concepts have helped me in many ways in my life outside of Parkour as well.  I’ll be more than happy to add to this article if there is any interest on that side of the equation.

 

My first tactic when overcoming fear (in training and life) has to do with eliminating variables for the specific challenge I’m trying to overcome. If I can become comfortable with each variable in isolation, then I can start to piece them together to accomplish my goal.

 

For example…

 

You want to do a medium effort precision jump to a rail with a waist high drop on either side.

 

The variables I take into account:

Pre-Flight Checklist

  • Self
    • Physical
      • Am I stronger than I need to be for this jump?
      • Am I more mobile than I need to be for this jump?
      • Do I feel strong and mobile enough today?
      • Am I warmed up enough?
    • Mental
      • Am I confident enough in myself for this movement?
      • Am I able to focus in the moment?
      • Is my motivation external or internal?
      • Am I aware of the fall and risk options?
      • Can I visualize myself completing this technique?
      • Am I ready to commit 100% to this movement?
    • Environment
      • Is the environment safe and sturdy?
      • How familiar am I…
        • With this kind of set up?
        • With this specific set up?
      • Am I comfortable with…
        • The surfaces I am jumping to and from?
        • The height of the jump
        • The distance of the jump
        • Technique
          • How familiar am I…
            • With sticking medium effort rail precisions?
            • Can I stick standing jumps consistently with a similar set up?
          • What lower commitment movement options are available to build up to this jump?
          • Is this the only way to accomplish this movement?
        • Fall options
          • Can I adapt safely if…
            • You undershoot
            • You overshoot
            • You slip

 

 

Understanding the Variables

Once I feel like I’ve been able to answer any of these questions that might be relevant for the specific jump (which should happen in the span of a couple seconds) then you can either address the individual variable you don’t have a good answer for or, if everything is accounted for, then the fear should have gotten to a manageable amount where you can overcome it and commit to the jump! If the fear still exists, this is when I would go into the more general variables below which can help with overall confidence/self trust.

 

 If for whatever reason there is no good answer for one of the questions above that distinction needs to be accepted as well. We do whatever we can with the variables we are able to effect but if we can’t affect a variable (perhaps there is no other way to build up into the jump) then we have to accept that. Despite not being able to directly control every variable there is kind of a general level of preparedness that can be developed to help with overall confidence which is incredibly beneficial in daily life as well as when you are not able to control or affect variables at the individual level. I’ll outline these general attributes below…

 

General Variables:

  • Physical Strength
    • The stronger you are in the ranges you need and want, the better suited you will be to the challenges you subject yourself to and that you encounter. I aim to have a strength surplus for most of the movements I attempt  in training. It wouldn’t be very sustainable if I was doing my 1RM every day so the same applies in my other trainings.
  • Mobility
    • This I think is one of the big hidden killers in the Parkour world and just like strength you want to have more than you need so that you aren’t working at full capacity all the time in your training…
      • Build resilience in the ranges of motion you will be undergoing ( E.G. Full Squat for a precision jump)
      • Build resilience in ROM that you may accidentally go into (E.G. Inverted ankles in the event of an ankle roll)
      • Aim to Close the gaps between your active, passive, and dynamic movement ranges. 
  • Mental Fatigue
    • Just as our bodies need rest the mind is the same, not all training needs to be pushing fear/new techniques/ etc. This kind of activity is most safely done when the mind is ready for it. You will want to begin this kind of training under the best circumstances and then train your ability to perform under different levels of fatigue as your skills develop.
  • CNS Fatigue
    • Another trap I often fell into was constantly practicing new things, not giving myself time to recover in my nervous system from the activities that I was doing. This type of fatigue manifests itself in me as a sort of disconnected or clumsy feeling after particularly stressful/tiring sessions. I found by being aware of this kind of fatigue and subjecting my body to varied training and exercise regimens that I was less caught off guard and more aware for when my CNS needed some rest.
  • Emotional/Mental Fatigue
    • This is one of the biggest factors I’m finding helped me make huge steps in my confidence in training and general life, but also one of the factors that I currently understand the least. As near as I can tell, once I started dealing with my childhood traumas, insecurities etc. they helped me trust myself a lot more and commit to things that otherwise seemed impossible. 
    • The impossibility feels like it stems from feeling I am already at my limit — not a good time to be challenging my movement. 

 

I visualized this as a computer with too many tabs going on. I was unaware of all these tabs that were active in my brain, slowly and consistently taking my extra mental energy. As I started to sort these issues out, the extra tabs in my brain had started to close out and rest. Once this process had begun I found myself with a renewed vigor and level of confidence that allowed me to start making steadier gains over the fears that I had in movements and in life. 

This is one factor that, while challenging, will have great carryover if you feel like there are factors holding you back even after addressing and progressing in the individual factors in the pre-flight checklist.

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it can give you some momentum in your own training and life, so you can keep moving towards the person and practitioner you want to be. 

As with anything, balance is incredibly important and if you put too much weight into any one of these factors, or even this article in its entirety,  you leave yourself closed to all the other beneficial stimulus that may exist around you.  Never stop learning and don’t stop moving!

 

 

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