This interview is part of the archives. It was published on April 4th 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.
Teige is an english Tracer that is known for his clean, efficient and quick movement style. Through Parkour he found his way into Track and Field and olympic weightlifting, a development that was encouraged by a chronic knee injury. Teige developed his own way of moevement being part of an english generation of tracers when a young Phil Doyle or Toby Segar started to train. His inspirational movement stands in contrast to the mainstream Youtube hype of going further and higher. Enjoy the interview!
P.S. you can find Teige ripping apart the Ninja Warrior UK Course in 2015 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UypBHqUBFY
Alex: Hi Teige, thank you a lot for this interview.
You have mentioned that training Parkour is not your number 1 priority anymore. You have layed the focus on weightlifting, sprinting and athletics in general. Injuries have played a certain role in that development.
Can you explain us how you found your way to what you currently do through Parkour?
Teige: I didn’t get truly involved in athletics or any sports when I was younger, so Parkour has been very valuable for me. It was a chaotic journey in to sport: jumping off the school roof with my friends, injuring my knees; then spending a lot of time on internet forums (UF, pk.net) as I was trying to get back to training. For a few years I was trying to manage my tendinosis, but I was also young and excitable, and wanted to make cool videos with my friends.
I became a bit bored and frustrated with what I was doing – I was falling in to the trap of ‘conquering moves’ and matching my friends (my friends being people like Phil who were fearless and precise) – and so I started training a little differently. I abandoned long, busy ‘jams’; I learnt some basic climbing techniques from Bobby and started looking for large routes with climbs or descents to train with people like Bob & Rupert. Strength training was very important at that time for me and my friends.
Parkour took a back-seat to strength training perhaps due to my studies – a workout is easier to get done if you’re busy than devoting days to Parkour, and I also reasoned that strength detrains faster than Parkour skills (I’ve no idea whether it actually does!). Thinking about Parkour and MéthodeNaturelle (MN) got me interested in sprinting and swimming – when I started university I joined a sprint group and improved my swimming a lot. My friends in London Bobby and Kristian were becoming very serious about weightlifting (the sport), to get strong and increase their jump. I was interested for the same reasons, and partly because they are good friends and I want to share in what they do, so I tried to find somewhere to train weightlifting for more than a year before I was able to establish a place myself at my university in November 2012.
As it turns out, weightlifting and sprinting are very enjoyable and rewarding sports in their own rights; they might be more abstract than Parkour, but they are more disciplined and there is much to learn from doing these competitive sports. So although my focus is on these sports just now, I’m feeding the lessons about physical training back to Parkour, I’ve not yet abandoned it!
Alex: When you were still training Parkour more actively, how important was strength training and conditioning for you and what purpose did it serve?
Teige: The first time I went to see my doctor about ‘jumper’s knee’ she told me I had very skinny legs, and needed to build some muscle! So like most Parkour guys back then I was doing pistol squats at school every day – me and another kid at school used to do pullups and pistols (he managed 40+ per leg) every lunch.
That helped my Parkour quite a lot, so from early on I knew I needed to get stronger, I just didn’t have the best methods. When some new guys in my town, Dan & Luke, started Parkour, I coerced them into doing ‘hell nights’ inspired by Blane: a lot of pullups, traverses, pressups, and even squats and shoulder press with stones and tyres we found or stole from local council storage. There was no program, but it still helped all of us. We dropped the hell nights, but our regular pullups and squats with my cheap weights in my tiny bedroom remained an essential part of our Parkour training, we avoided or managed overuse injuries better, and improved our jumps and climbing steadily, especially the new guys.
Alex: You have a very natural approach to Parkour. How important is connecting movement to you and what were you aiming for with your Parkour training?
Teige: I wasn’t very good or brave with big or dangerous moves, or with flips (trying to match my friends was killing me), so I needed to find some other way to be satisfied with what I was spending all my time doing! I enjoyed Erwan’s posts on pk.net about MN, and the old footage of Belle’s raw style, and I also enjoy fantasizing about heroics and vigilantism (I can’t help it!), so covering ground became the most enjoyable aspect of Parkour for me.
When I was protecting my sore knees in the early days, it was necessary to move gently and carry momentum, to try to get some enjoyment out of moving smoothly – and when my legs became stronger and healthier, I could train what really interested me: aesthetic ‘flow’ has never been important to me, but covering distance has. Maybe they just happen to correlate since people often used to talk to me about ‘flow’. Protecting my knees influenced my ‘style’ (more correctly, choices), the pain made me think hard about how I might descend something; I couldn’t just take the height drop, so I practiced conservative ways to dismount.
Alex: What is your opinion on Parkour related strength training? Is it a must?
Teige: I think anyone doing Parkour ought to be doing some strength training. People can do what they like of course, but anyone training with me will definitely do some strength training. Parkour is harsh on a person’s body, and can lack discipline/routine. It’s very difficult to continue making good progress without any injuries in any sport without some strength training, and I think this is especially true for Parkour, where we shift our own bodyweight in powerful movements and take a lot of impacts.
Alex: How does weight lifting benefit ones own abilities in Parkour?
Teige: Lifting weights is a very convenient form of strength training and probably the best way to train strength, since you can choose a particular weight and do full-body movements to strengthen your legs and back more than you could without weights. If you squat you can expect to jump a little further and to take impacts better, avoiding injury. If you do pullups you can expect to climb up walls faster and more easily. In general, if you lift weights to get stronger you can expect to be more in command of your body and ready to move in unconventional ways.
Most Parkour movements, jumping or vaulting a large distance, kicking up a high wall, involve a lot of power and speed, and lifting weights is a good and safe way to develop power.
Alex: How would you recommend someone the start of lifting weights as a mean of improving Parkour?
Teige: It depends a little on their current strength and mobility, but beginners will improve even from totally disorganized training. The important thing is to perform the exercises right and get good habits – it will help later. A beginner could find a gym (or get their own equipment) to squat and do (weighted) pullups two or three times a week; that alone would help their Parkour, and they can add other exercises to ‘prehab’ their shoulders or to grow big biceps, whatever you like.
There are a lot of online resources for beginners, but basically just do a few sets of a few reps and keep the workout to about an hour maximum, beginners make fast progress.
Alex: Would you say that 100m sprinters are in certain ways much more efficient than the typical Parkour practitioner, since running short and flat distances is much more likely in an emergency situation than climbing up walls or jumping over waist-high obstacles?
Teige: It’s hard to imagine all the likely emergency situations. In reality, if we care so much about being useful in an emergency we’d probably all apply to work in the emergency services as firefighters, mountain rescue, paramedics etc (where they drive vehicles). So on to self-preservation instead. A sprinter could chase you down in most places: it can be hard to quickly find opportunities to use our Parkour skills under pressure, and climbing something gives plenty of time for someone to grab you.
As for versatility, Parkour offers so much more than elite forward speed. Unless you are constantly starting fights, situations more common than a chase where Parkour comes in handy are e.g. climbing a tree to get some kids’ frisbee/football, dismounting from a bridge so as not to miss your train (true story), impressing your friends… having fun!
As a Parkour practitioner you should learn to sprint properly, I think, but a good Parkour guy should be much more versatile and get more daily-life carryover from his sport than a good sprinter. Sprinting is abstract, focused on the fine details of acceleration and stride; whereas Parkour allows us to explore our surroundings in many ways: useful mental preparation should we ever need to buck convention for our own good in a city.
Maybe you shouldn’t start a fight with a sprinter, they’ll chase you down 9 times out of 10; but overall Parkour offers much more to your daily life, in my opinion, especially since you can mold it to your own interests, hopes and fears. Having said that, sprinters with decent coordination would make great traceurs! It is a shame that a lot of great traceurs can’t even run well, I’d say given how tiring it is to climb a wall, traceurs would benefit from practicing 200 – 400m running, probably the most torturous distance to run, but it would teach efficient striding and train them to endure a high intensity.
Alex: Considering you might train specifically Parkour again one day (as you mentioned) what will your training look like?
Teige: I do some standing jumps occasionally if my gym is closed for a holiday. 😉 This summer I’m hoping to train some fun routes, eat up the ground and mash up walls! I will split my Parkour days: some days I will have short sessions doing some jumps separately and try to be precise; other days I will train routes, these are the creative and the physically challenging days. Most other days I’ll be lifting weights!
Alex: Is there anything you still want to say or add?
Teige: Parkour is a great sport, and I think it’s enhanced by outward-looking. Unless you’re training to win the freerunning championships, Parkour is a very free format and you can benefit so much more by taking influence from other established sports like athletics and climbing. That requires a bit of humility and patience but there’s less new material and skills coming from inside Parkour than already exists outside of Parkour.
I encourage every traceur to explore other sports so they can enjoy applying new skills to their Parkour, and so they can gain an idea about programming their training – weightlifting is great for this because there’s a lot of planning.
Parkour guys have some advantages when they take up new sports, we have relatively good body awareness and are used to visualizing tasks – so never take for granted your chaotic journey in to sports if it was through Parkour. Do try to carve your own path if you become unsatisfied with what you are doing in Parkour!
Thanks for being interested in my opinions; I hope some nutters had fun reading.