Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes
Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes

Gym Training vs. Outdoor Parkour Training

Parkour was born in the urban environment, giving practitioners a chance to discover their movement with the concrete under their feet and the sun on their backs. When parkour gyms began popping up all over the globe, their value in the world of parkour was questioned. If you train your kongs on vault blocks instead of park benches and walls, is it really the same experience?

I completed my first two years or parkour training exclusively outdoors before my husband Stefanno started working at Tempest Academy South Bay. That is when I began my intensive gym training. During this time, and after discussing the subject with other traceuses and traceurs, I discovered that both outdoor parkour training and gym training have their own unique advantages.

The Case for Training Outside

  • Training outside lets you learn and practice movements in a real-world setting. If you train primarily among urban concrete structures, you don't have to deal with the transition of coming from a controlled gym setting. Whether you are a new practitioner or a veteran athlete, there is always something new you can discover, train on or play with outside, and that goes for both freerunning and parkour movements. 
    Traceuse: Valma Heikkinen
  • Traditional outdoor training teaches you to work on your movements while being conscious of your surroundings. You learn to be respectful of public and private property, and you enjoy more interaction with the local community. Plus, outdoor training gives other people a chance to see parkour in practice. If they like what they see, they will view the discipline in a positive light, and they may even decide to try it for themselves. 
  • Outdoor training teaches you to approach each movement with caution. While a parkour gym may create the illusion that everything is safer, leading you to act more carelessly and potentially injure yourself, that doesn't happen as often outside. Why? Because concrete is freaking scary. The stability, grip and strength of obstacles are always in question, so you learn to test them before doing anything. Plus, harder landing surfaces mean you are much more likely to look (and think) before you leap.

The Case for Training in a Parkour Gym 

  • Gyms allow you to learn all the basic movements in a safe, controlled environment. More advanced parkour practitioners are able to try harder moves in a safe manner, and progressions are usually easier due to the variety and mobility of the obstacles. 
  • While many outdoor spots have only a few obstacles and limited possibilities, a good parkour gym lets you learn and train every basic skill in one small area. I barely trained cat leaps during my first year of training because I didn't have a good place to practice them in my city. At Tempest, I trained cat leaps and learned several new techniques that I couldn't train outside (especially on the bars).
    Traceuse: Anni Leino, Photo by Dalibor Balic
  • You don't have to worry about getting kicked out by security guards or the authorities. For practitioners in many countries, the struggle is real. Even light training in a public park may be enough for security to ask you to leave. In a gym, you can train for hours on end without having to worry about migrating to the next location.
  • Training in bad weather sucks. Whether it's a rainy day or a long, cold winter, bad weather can compromise your training, and it can even be dangerous. For obvious reasons, indoor parkour gyms don't have that problem.

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The Verdict

We traceuses and traceurs need to keep bringing our parkour outside. Parkour is free by nature, and confining it to a gym takes away that ability and desire to vault, jump and climb on whatever obstacles we may come across. We can't become frustrated by the intense sun, afraid of the hard concrete or unwilling to roll on the scratchy grass. Most of all, we can't train some of the craziest movements over crash mats at the gym and then disappoint ourselves when we realize that they are potential bone-breakers when done over the hard ground.

On the other hand, a gym is an amazing tool for learning and drilling parkour movements, flips, tricks and more. It is especially useful when you routinely face adverse weather (I'm talking to you, Canadians and Northern Europeans) and getting kicked out of public spaces. Personally, the Tempest gym allowed me to start learning all the basic flips I was always afraid to try outside. I wouldn't train the experiences I had there for anything.

In the end, both gym training and outdoor training have their pros and cons. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments below. Remember to like Rising Traceuse on Facebook and follow on Twitter for all the latest articles and videos.