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Challenge your balance with this feline-esque move.

Stretching is vital. Not the yoga kind, though. Here I’m referring to stretching your abilities in movement and training—asking more of your body and mind so that you find new levels of performance and achievement, and reach your true potential. If you aren’t stretching yourself in your practice, whatever it is, you’re going nowhere—and in fact you will see your skills deteriorate over time.

So why do so few people actually stretch themselves on a regular basis? It’s usually due to becoming trapped in that most alluring of spaces: the comfort zone! This is the bane of all athletes, the enemy of all entrepreneurs and creatives, and the graveyard of dreams. You know when you’re in it, and it’s so tempting to stay there. Everything is familiar, simple, easy and repeatable. And it leads nowhere!

You have to get the hell out of there, and fast. The way to do this is to challenge yourself in some way during every single training session—maybe only for a small part of the workout, maybe just one movement challenge at the end, but it has to be in there somewhere. Because that zone that lies in the area between success and failure is where the gains are made. That’s the edge where you find new potential, push your limits, unlock new abilities and discover new skills. It’s the reason adventure sports are dominating the advancement of human physical potential and the home of all the world’s greatest athletes. The reward of finding this zone and spending time there on a regular basis is progress!

And that’s worth the risk.

Movement of the month: Cat balance

Quadrupedal movement on rails

Cat balance in parkour is the practice of moving along a thin object, commonly a metal railing a few feet above the ground, on all fours. The act of keeping yourself in balance upon a thin object works many of the muscle groups throughout the body, not only the hands and forearms and legs, but also the core muscles and the shoulders and back. It’s a great exercise to improve your proprioception and tensile strength throughout the whole body.

To begin, simply find a solid railing, or thin wall, and take a good grip before moving one foot at a time on to the top. You should be stretched out on the object with your weight equally distributed between your arms and legs. Move your rear arm ahead of the front arm and then the rear leg ahead of the rear, and try to keep your back parallel to the object and your hips not too high. Practice moving in cat-balance until the action becomes familiar. Take regular breaks to stretch out the legs, as this activity places a small strain on the quadriceps muscles.

There are many variations of cat balance upon railings, including moving backwards in the same position and moving along the rail while turning around 360 degrees. Once you are confident with the basic drill, be creative and find other ways to stretch yourself and make the drill harder for yourself.

Key points: Climb onto the railing or thin wall carefully and establish a strong position for yourself first. The aim is to be able to move swiftly and continuously along the rail, and when you can do so you will have significantly improved your joint position sense, tensile strength and balance.

Photo credit: Andy Pearson / Parkour Generations