Monday, September 12, 2011

Mid Winter Blues and Reflections

The following post was taken from my old parkour blog as a part of transferring these historical articles to the new blog.  It's also a chance to reflect on some past thoughts, both in an embarrassed and a proud way at different times.  In facing any past foolishness, I can grow and remain humble.  Here it is in it's entirety.  Enjoy!

2nd July 2009
In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have fairly mild weather compared to some other parts of the world. We get mild extremes is what I mean, and in terms of parkour there is very little in the way of weather that can prevent us from training all year round. However, something which can have a negative impact on training frequency and quality of training, is the phenomenon of "mid winter blues".

The mid winter blues is a sort of mental sluggishness, depression, or inability to deal with stress. It comes about through the lack of invigorating sunshine (shorter days in winter) which see the average person going to work in the dark and returning home during twilight hours. The more regular rain and cold is also notably depressing for many people. Documented suicides increase during this time which, while not true evidence, creates a statistical link between the seasons and mental health. It is possible that due to the weather, people will get out of their homes less and will feel lonelier and more isolated because of this. Whatever the reasons, and whatever you call it, these mid winter blues are a reality for many.

So how does this affect parkour? (And how does parkour affect this?)
If we let it, our training can suffer. The mental lethargy that accompanies depression, a sort of "can't be bothered with anything", will likely put a serious dampener on our desire to train. So the amount of training will be less. It may also be hard to keep a good intensity during training because of this same reason. I find that in a group, if just a couple of people back off and lose motivation it affects the mood of everyone. Perhaps solo training is good during these times.

On the other side of the coin: any exercise will get the endorphins pumping, directly counteracting depression and low feelings. Also, if you can get out during the weekend to enjoy some goodly amounts of sun you can lift your spirits significantly and even get a bit of a mid winter tan - a healthy natural glow!

Personally, I have found the middle of winter to be very tough this time around. I've had to drop back to just 3 or 4 light trainings each week for the last couple of weeks. This is partly due to work spilling into my home life and having to take more time out of "fun" things to complete routine things like marking and report writing (the joys of being a high school teacher). This is also due to my body taking longer to recover during the colder weather - an extra day in a lot of cases which can see me training when I'm not sufficiently recovered from the previous day's training - always a bad idea. Longer recovery time generally means less training anyway. A significant part of this reduction in training though, has been due to a kind of apathy that has felt almost physical at times. However, I believe it is mostly mental. I just couldn't be bothered gathering the energy to train (which comes so easily during the light and warm days of summer!). I'm pleased to say that I wouldn't just vegetate on the couch in front of the TV during these times. I'd practise on my new drums, read/research/write, stimulate my creativity listening to some music, or engage in some other productive substitute activity.

A more personal reflection on things
I'm not sure if this state of things is inevitable, but in some ways I don't mind. Perhaps it is the solitude that I'm really craving? Apart from one semi-solo training session each week for about 45 minutes (parkour specific weights in the gym), I normally train with at least several other people. Half of my trainings are running group sessions and the other half are training amongst people of similar ability to myself. I'm thinking that I should be training parkour solo at least once a week, maybe more. The problem is not the willingness in this case, but the time. Perhaps I need to get up a couple of hours earlier to get in some solid repetition of movement - something that lacks in most other trainings lately, as people are less motivated or are only capable of a lower intensity than myself. Alternatively I could whip the whip at group trainings and try to lift the others. Sometimes this can take too much energy though, which means less to put into the movement. One encouraging thing is that I feel capable of more than I am doing now, and I will pursue more over the coming months in the build up to summer. Looking back on the previous years of training parkour, my volume and intensity is definitely consistently higher than it has ever been. Something for beginners to look forward to perhaps!

Concluding remarks
Reflect on how different external stimuli affect you and your mental and physical state. Do your best not to let the seasons affect you negatively. Use parkour to beat the mid winter blues if you can. Try talking about your feelings with someone if you like - this can be very challenging and scary, but it is worth it in the long run. Finally, have fun and look after yourself!

Train hard!