Some days getting out of the house to go and train feels like an insurmountable task. The motivation to push your body and mind doesn’t always come easy. The fuel for motivation can come from a host of different sources, some less healthy and sustainable than others, but nonetheless useful in their own way when it comes to parkour training. Joseph Marx is no stranger to the mercurial motivation to train parkour, and so we spoke about how his training approach has evolved, as well as the different ways he fuels his mindset for training.
Me: How have you been feeling lately, in your parkour motivation?
Marx: I would say very good actually. In terms of motivation towards parkour, it’s completely changed for me over the recent years. After over a decade of grinding for that pro athlete status, that dream, it eventually got to a point where all of my training was dedicated to trying to stay relevant, surprise the community, and have my name “up there.” That wasn’t healthy. I would go out training just to get clips so that I would stay relevant, and a lot of my motivation was wrapped up in that and it was taking away the pure love and enjoyment of parkour that I had when I started training. I had to step back and analyze what was really motivating me to train. I wanted to find an approach to training that I could enjoy, and that was healthy. In recent years if I wouldn’t make a jump or something, I would say, “I’ve peaked!” And I would always say it as a joke to my friends, and we would laugh. But actually that was quite a big fear of mine. I was afraid that I’d already reached the limit of my ability in parkour. I had to face that it’s inevitable at some point. And I could have pushed maybe for a few years and probably found a higher peak, but I was also fighting against wanting to be a bit safer and preserve my body. So sometimes I’ve felt like doing something harder than I’ve ever done before, but my brain is telling me, “No, you could get injured for life here, or snap a ligament or something.” So it was about deciding between those, and I decided to take it slower and accept that I can’t be on top and progressing parabolically forever.
Me: Can you talk about a time when you’ve struggled with your motivation?
Marx: I don’t know that I’ve struggled with motivation in the same way as some others. I’ve always had the motivation to go train, like to get out the door. I would definitely have points where I didn’t want to train because I couldn’t do anything progressive enough or exciting enough. I’d get to a spot I’d been to a million times, look at the things I’d already done, and think to myself, “If I can’t do anything new or exciting then what’s the point in training at all?” That really hit me and I had to dig and find that thing that made me really enjoy training again. And I did, I found flow, and really got into it and enjoyed perfecting the tiny things. Like connecting a lazy vault into something else perfectly, I fell in love with that again and that birthed a whole new love for parkour that was completely separate from the side of me that always wanted to do something big or progressive. It was like going out training for the first time again.
Me: How do you approach a lack of motivation?
Marx: Like I said, I would have that feeling because I couldn’t go out and do big progressive stuff. So I would tell myself, “I’m just going to go out and enjoy the little things.” At one point I would tell my friends, “Let’s just go out and do lazy vaults,” because lazy vaults are so nice hahaha. I would have a friend who I’d ask to train and they’d respond, “Ugh I don’t know.” And I’d say, “C’mon, let’s just go do some lazy vaults.” And it would change their mind because it shows that I’m not expecting much from them, I don’t want them to be pushing it, and I don’t expect to be pushing myself either. It’s just a session to go out and enjoy, and see what happens.
Me: Have you ever been motivated to train by insecurity?
Marx: I’ve definitely been fueled by insecurity before. When I first started training with the London lot in about 2012, everyone was all about big jumps and big kong pre’s. As soon as I saw that those power moves were more appreciated than flips, I dove in. I had to be better at this jumping thing and kong pre’s. It was the insecurity of wanting to fit into what was seen as sick, what was seen as good, subjectively. But I don’t think it was unhealthy. I think it was just a part of the sport, you know what I mean? I found fulfillment through extrinsic factors, but it was still progression and pushed my training in a new direction, and I think there’s a lot of value in that.
Me: Has insecurity ever prevented you from training something?
Marx: I don’t think that insecurity has ever kept me from trying different moves or styles. But, if I’m at a jam, I definitely feel like sticking to what I’m good at. I think it’s natural to want to show off what you’re good at. I’ve definitely felt that if I see someone do something really good, that I can’t do, then I’m motivated to show off whatever niche I’m good at. So it’s kind of like show and tell in that way.
Me: As an athlete who is world renowned and part of one of the most popular parkour teams in the sport, what are your goals?
Marx: I don’t really have any big goals with parkour anymore. I just want to be able to train for a long time, have longevity in the sport, and always have the ability to challenge myself in some sense. So that’s my goal I guess: to train for as long as I can and still challenge myself. Which I don’t think will end, the way parkour is, I’ll find something even if I’m a 60 year old man, I’ll find something I’ve never tried. It may not be something powerful, but I’m sure there will be something.
Me: What do you do to “generate value from within?”
Marx: This is very difficult to answer, and even if I tried a million times, I don’t think I could answer it perfectly. I think it definitely starts with acknowledging where you get your value from. Understanding that there are external ways of getting value, there’s self value, and I think they go together and there needs to be a healthy balance. I didn’t have a healthy balance. I relied a lot on external sources of value, people on social media and in person telling me how good I am, and the opportunities I received. I had to really find a nice balance, because really we all need both. I had to try not to rely on external value so much, and to fall back on self value and build that up. I think it’s about accepting your flaws and your strengths at the same time, and trying to be grateful for what you’ve put in to get to this point in your own training. It’s very hard to put into words. I guess to sum it up for myself, I realized I had a heavy reliance on that external value, especially from social media, and I would post just for the gratification. The more I realized that I really wanted to step back and work on myself and feeling good about myself without posting something next-level, the better I felt. And I can’t explain that process in words, but a lot of it was stepping back from the urge to post for that recognition and gratification, and training because you like it. When it comes to training I see it as there being different fuels, like insecurity, passion, competition, etc. And it’s okay to use any of those to your advantage, like why waste that potential energy? But it’s super important to acknowledge them for what they are and be open to yourself and others about these fuels. Don’t let them completely overtake you. It’s like the Hulk, when he couldn’t control his power and would hurt himself and people around him. But he eventually took control of it and we see this with the classic line, “I’m always angry.” It’s not that the emotional fuel has gone, it’s that the fuel has been controlled and is being utilized in a more effective way. Some of the best athletes in the world have been fuelled by what we would consider unhealthy/impure motivations like money or insecurity, but there’s no doubt that these are incredibly powerful sources of motivation which should be acknowledged and harnessed. The more we are all open about these feelings and what fuels us, the better we can all understand them and not feel guilty for using them.
It’s easy to slip into and out of motivation to train parkour, but Marx makes a really good point about understanding the factors that motivate you to get out in the first place. If you can pinpoint where your motivations come from, you can achieve a better understanding of your practice, and make steps toward finding fulfillment in your training, regardless of the response your parkour receives on social media. To once again quote Joseph Marx, “When you’ve stripped away all of the bullshit, you find yourself.”
It would be remiss of me not to plug the weightlifting program recently released by Motus and designed by Joseph Marx and Will Fraser-Coombe. Find it here!