The Power Of Habit ( conquering fears )

I’ve thought over the question, “What mindset must a traceur/freerunner have to have be able to perform new challenges quickly without run ups or constant checking?”
Often times you’ll know when a practitioner is nervous working on a new challenge. They run up and check the obstacle multiple times, they excessively wipe their shoes, or breathe deeply in hopes of calming their mind. Although the extra prep steps can be useful, you can end up leaving room for your mind to over analyze your goal. Over analyzation can lead to not committing to the challenge. The longer we hold back from doing the challenge, the more time fear is allowed to cloud our judgement. Over time, this will plateau progression. However, what separates experienced runners from the common practitioner is their ability to limit the amount of extra preparation before committing to new obstacles. Therefore, fear never gets a chance to fully set in and disable them. I find myself absolutely astounded that someone can perform high level techniques right away by simply seeing something new and feeling capable alone. From that amazement, stemmed the need to question how I can achieve that level of athleticism for myself. After reading The Power Of Habit, I’ve realized what that could be. There are many other routes that can potentially solve this problem, but I feel this one takes a more logical approach to an abstract feeling of pushing through mental blocks.

The book discusses habits as a three piece cycle. It starts with a cue, such as seeing a challenge or new movement you have yet to perform. Next comes the routine such as run ups, checks, wiping shoes in preparation, and finally committing to the technique. From that stems the motivation behind attempting something new. It’s usually the sake of progression or celebration from your peers in training, however I’m sure this can go much deeper. The feeling of achievement and added confidence can also play a huge role in motivating us to try something new. Many times these rewards are repeated so often they begin to spark cues in our minds subconsciously. I believe tapping into this subconscious behavior is the key to exponential improvement… But how do we consciously change our habit behavior to always commit to new movements and challenges with little preparation?

The book suggests that habits can not be changed. Old habits will always be there and the urge to act on those cues will always be there. This is due to the reward you mentally condition your mind to predict will happen when you act on such cues. Now according to research, cues and rewards are unchangeable in the habit cycle. However, what can be changed is the routine. The urge to do something new in hopes of a reward will always be inside you.  What you can do is change how you act on such cues. This allows people to replace hurtful or unnecessary routines with positive helpful routines.



Take smokers for example. When asked, a smoker will usually say they have the urge to smoke when they are bored or stressed. The smoker smokes a cigarette to either preoccupy their mind or calm his/her self down in stressful situations. This is not a positive habit as science has revealed that smoking can cause many health problems. Problems that can potentially lead to death if done habitually. Smokers often know the health risk, but continue to smoke anyway. This alone shows how powerful a habit can be. Even with the effects of nicotine as an addictive chemical in cigarettes, the user always has a choice to put it to their lips. This shows you that the main motivation in smokers doesn’t come from nicotine, but it’s the reward the body gets after following the cycle of habit. A person won’t even know why they feel the need to smoke and they’ll say it’s just an urge. However, after knowing more about habits it’s easy to conclude why they smoke. It’s habit. They will always continue to smoke even if in the long run it could potentially kill them. From this example, you can see how powerful habits can be and if the routine isn’t changed the habit only grows stronger through repetition.

Now how does this help a Traceur or Freerunner you ask? It’s simple, but it may take some explaining and time to fully understand where I’m coming from. Whenever you come up on a challenge you’re scared take a second a think about how do you react? Do you take deep breaths, practice run ups, or wipe your shoes? Maybe you pace back and forth, wiggle your limbs and try to loosen yourself up. A lot of people talk to themselves trying to convince themselves they have what it takes to commit to the challenge. If you can relate to anything I said or thought of your own that is because you repeat the same routine every time to try to conquer your fears. You’ve instilled that routine into the process of commitment and often times those actions lead to time wasted or failure from not doing the movement. We get frustrated with ourselves for taking so long try something that eventually we get discouraged from ever attempting it. Now what if we took that same habit but change the routine? Instead we maybe check the obstacles one time and immediately attempt it. It may take some time to rewrite your habit but I feel eventually you’ll come to a point of being capable of commitment immediately. Now, it’s unreal to go out today and find something really dangerous and expect yourself to commit first time. However, if we find very small challenges, challenges just outside the comfort zone, but with difficulties we can realistically commit to quickly from there we have the opportunity to grow.  With time those baby steps in the right direction will lead to bigger obstacles and more challenging movements. After months and maybe even years of consciously changing our routine we can unconsciously create a new habit.

So if you’re reading this I suggest going out to train and testing this out. Find challenges just outside your comfort zone and commit to the movement immediately. If it’s not perfect that’s fine as long as it’s relatively safe to attempt you can perfect it. From there just continue training as normal with these ideas in mind. All it takes is a conscious effort over time to change how we handle fear and challenges parkour/Freerunning throws our way.

Train hard, be safe.
-D’Ondrai Jones