When was the last time you did a cartwheel? Swung upside down on the rings? Or jumped on a trampoline?
If your answer is not since you were six years old, I can relate.
I did gymnastics up until I was probably in first grade, at which point I decided they were too “girly” and promptly stopped going (it probably didn’t help that even back then, it was obvious that I didn’t have a gymnast’s build). But until that time when I decided I was too cool for it (a decision I very much regret), I thought gymnastics were awesome.
All that flipping, and being upside down, and the jumping around, and the foam pit—what could be more fun than that?
Fast forward to a few months ago, and I decided it was time to try it all over again.
Back to basics
My first gymnastics class in 21 years was tough. Sure, I’d played around doing some cartwheels, bridges and freestanding handstands here and there since I’d learned them as a little kid, but the truth was that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Unsurprisingly, I had terrible form. My flexibility (especially in my back) needed improvement. I kept forgetting to point my toes (apparently, there’s actually a reason to do this). By the end, my shoulders were shaking, my neck sore, my hair dripping with sweat. Let’s just say that for a fitness professional and someone used to working out hard, often, it was an incredibly humbling experience.
I went home and practiced my handstands, tried to stay straight while doing cartwheels, did shoulder shrugs to strengthen my shoulders (which have been a lifelong weakness of mine) and back bends to gain flexibility. It truly felt like I was going back to the basics.
But damn, was it fun.
It only took one class—and I was hooked.
Adults can be gymnasts, too
As of writing this today, I’m six gymnastics classes in. I’ve made leaps and bounds of improvement. I can now officially do cartwheels, roundoffs, kickovers, back bends, forward rolls, straddled forward rolls, pike jumps, handstands into a forward roll… you get the drift. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the floor, rings, and bar skills I have the potential to learn.
I am still not “graceful” doing any of these exercises. If you hadn’t noticed from any of my videos, I’m always just a little awkward, and that’s probably never going to change. It’s a good thing I didn’t take ballerina classes instead—I would have sucked at them.
My arms and legs are way too long for normal gymnastics. They hinder rather than help me (the average height of an Olympic gymnast is 4’9″—I’m a foot higher than that).
I still have shoulder issues. I will always, I think, have shoulder issues. But I’m learning to work around them and further strengthen with these new movements.
I still need to increase my back flexibility, something you don’t really think about when you’re doing stuff like burpees, push ups and squats. But, now that I realize I need to work on it, I’ve been paying attention to it more.
Yet despite all these things, despite the fact that I know I’ll never be an amazing gymnast, I’ve never had more fun.
Just to prove it to you, here’s a very awkward/dorky video of a few of the skills I’ve been working on so far (hopefully I’ll have a much more impressive video for you in a few months):
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’m constantly recommending you to try new sports, activities and to go beyond your current personal limits. I believe this is an incredibly important thing to do to keep pushing your personal boundaries, to gain confidence and new skills, and to keep that youthful hope and enthusiasm we all started out life with alive.
And whether you decide to try out gymnastics or opt for another sport, my hope is that you always keep learning and pushing yourself so that you’re always growing as an athlete—and as a person in general.
But that being said, here are 8 reasons you should do gymnastics as an adult:
1. It will get you crazy strong.
You might not have guessed it, but gymnasts are the strongest, pound for pound, of all the Olympic athletes.
Holding yourself upside down for long periods of time, flipping through the air, using rings and bars and all the other amazing stuff involved in gymnastics will get you seriously strong. Gymnasts have a level of strength that most normal people would consider near superhuman strength—but even training in gymnastics as an amateur will get you upper body strength, core strength and power like no other workout can do.
2. You’ll impress your friends.
This probably isn’t a good reason to do gymnastics if you have no other interest in it (ok, it’s a really bad reason), but even doing a backflip, a freestanding handstand push up or a cartwheel into a handstand forward roll will get you a “wow” response from your friends every time.
Just think of how many cool party tricks you’ll be able to pull off!
3. You’ll increase your flexibility tenfold.
Or twentyfold. Or whatever. The point is, I don’t care how inflexible you currently are—training in gymnastics will make you a more flexible person.
Working on backbends and pikes require more flexibility than the average workout. And yes, you may even be able to do the splits one day.
4. You’ll become more coordinated.
If you’ve ever thought you were an uncoordinated human being, I can certainly relate. As I mentioned above, I am the opposite of graceful, and more and more understand why my brother’s nickname for me used to be “spaghetti arms:” I’m just not very coordinated.
Taking part in gymnastics, however, will increase your coordination by helping you gain more control over your body. I’ve noticed I’ve become more coordinated and less “floppy” after only six classes, so you can get there too.
5. It will help you overcome fear.
That first time you go to do a handstand into a roll, or a backbend all the way to the floor, or a backflip, front flip, or even a cartwheel, there’s no way around it—it’s going to be terrifying. Even if there’s an experienced teacher nearby, unless you’re crazy and completely devoid of fear, you’re going to be nervous, even scared.
But when you do it—when you actually do what you’d previously thought to be impossible—it opens up a whole new world. Not only does it make you become less fearful and more confident in athletics, it can also translate to other areas of your life, even positively impaction your career, your relationships, and your dreams.
6. It helps you learn to fall without hurting yourself.
Have you ever seen someone fall gracefully—whether in sports, life, or a movie—and wonder how they didn’t get hurt? The secret is that they’ve practiced falling—many times. In gymnastics, you’ll fall over and over, and you’ll start to realize there’s an art to falling without hurting yourself.
As a bonus, gymnastics’ will boost your balance, and both skills will help keep you from falling and shattering your hip bone when you’re older.
7. You’ll learn to laugh at yourself.
There’s nothing better than making mistakes over and over to make you get over being good at everything and just learn to laugh when you screw up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen, done something completely wrong, or failed time and time again to get something right while learning gymnastics.
Sure, it’s frustrating at times, but if I didn’t learn early on to laugh at myself when I messed up, I’d have quit after the first lesson.
And in case you hadn’t guessed, this can also be a valuable lesson that can assist you in the rest of life as well.
8. It brings out your inner kid.
What’s more kid-like than bounding around, jumping, flipping and swinging from things? Yeah, I can’t name anything either.
No matter your age, gymnastics will bring you back to the days when childlike wonder filled every moment.
And what could be better than that?
Image credit: Rick McCharles