Back in December, goodnessknows approached me with a challenge: try something new in the first 30 days of 2017 that helps you work towards the person you want to be.
Basically, try something that will help unlock your potential.
And sure, I could have chosen something small, something that would have helped me grow as a person on a daily basis. But I wanted to go bigger. I wanted to tackle a fear that had been holding me back for a while—so I chose to learn to do a back flip.
So why a back flip?
As many of you know, I have zero gymnastics background. Due to many reasons, I’ve always had a fear of going backwards—while back flips and back handsprings come naturally to some, they’ve always been about the scariest thing possible for me. Even attempting to work towards a skill like a back flip is something that even just a few years ago I would have been way too scared to even try. I would have thought it was impossible.
Tackling a big fear like this is my way of proving to myself that I don’t let my fears control me and that I am strong and capable (even if I fail a lot).
In partnership with goodnessknows and their awesome snack squares, here’s my journey to learning to back flip:
Days 1-2: Learning the Fundamentals
I show up for my first back flip lesson nervous but excited. I’m not sure how far we’ll get today, but I’m ready to do what it takes to go after my goal.
If you’ve never tried a back flip before, you might think that the skill is mainly about the flip. I sure did. However, I soon learn that if you focus only on the flip, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall on your head—something I definitely wanted to avoid.
Instead of a flip, I quickly learn that the backflip really is made up of two parts: the jump and the roll.
We focus on the jump part first, since the first part of the back flip is really just a solid straight jump (swing your arms down, squat down slightly, then spring up as you swing your arms towards the ceiling). I was pretty familiar with these already when I first started working on my back flip, so we only did a few before moving on (although I was encouraged to regularly include them in my conditioning).
Instead, we practice getting the correct height with my jumps by working on a drill where I jump back onto a mat that’s a little less than shoulder-height high, then tucking my knees in. I struggle a little with the coordination at first (never my strong point), but soon am getting the correct form pretty consistently.
I’m a little surprised about how much effort it takes, and am told that this is the amount of jump I’ll need in order to land a back flip. Apparently you can’t be lazy when flipping!
Here’s a quick video of me demonstrating the jump:
Next, we focus on the second part of the back flip: the roll. First, we do a few backwards rolls on the floor, since a back flip is essentially the exact same movement. This is counterintuitive to a lot of people (including me) because although when doing backwards rolls on the floor it feels fairly natural to tuck your chin in and bring your knees up towards your head to roll over, it feels like it should be a lot different when standing up.
After a few backwards rolls, we go over to the gymnastics rings to try some standing rolls and further get the movement down. With the rings at about shoulder-height, I grab onto them and roll backwards while keeping my chin down and landing on my feet. It feels pretty intuitive, and I can see how much you really just need to pull your knees towards your head to complete the flip (rather than throwing your face back).
For the first couple of days I mainly focus on the jump and the roll, as well as ending the session with a few spotted backflips on the trampoline with my coach. Overall I’m pretty happy with my progress, but am still pretty anxious to try and back flip on my own.
Day 3: My First Back Flip Attempt
After the first two days focusing just on fundamentals to build up my understanding of the skill and boost my confidence, it’s time to try my first back flip without a spotter.
I warm up with some jumps and rolls, and feel pretty good about my understanding of the timing and how much of a jump I need to make the flip.
My coach spots me on a couple of flips on a higher surface (flipping onto a lower surface), and again it feels OK.
We then head over to the foam pit for me to try out my skills—and this is where it all goes wrong.
On my first attempt, I do OK. I didn’t jump as high as I needed to, but got enough rotation to make it around into the pit, not landing on my feet but not landing on my head either. The second attempt is worse. Despite knowing better, I jump even less, and somehow barely even make it around. Each attempt after that gets worse and worse, until I’m thoroughly spooked and feel like I’m going to hit my face on the edge of the track (which is actually kind of hard to do).
About five tries in, my coach tells me to call it a day, and I’m feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself. Why can’t I just do what I know I know how to do? Why is going backwards so hard for me? I know the biggest problem with my attempts was that I wasn’t fully committing to the jump.
If you jump high enough, it’s pretty likely you’ll make it over. But without the jump, there’s just no hope. The most frustrating thing to me was that I knew it wasn’t a lack of jumping strength that was holding me back—just my own irrational fear about jumping high enough and actually committing to the flip.
I try and keep positive, but I’m definitely discouraged. I eat some blueberry, almond, dark chocolate snack squares (new flavor this year! Yum!) to keep my moral up as I drive home. The real fruit and whole nuts in each square nestled in dark chocolate is just what I needed at at only 40 calories per square is a great post-workout snack.
Day 4: Visualizing Success
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the power of visualization, so before I go into today’s lesson, I did the following:
- I watched several videos on YouTube of people successfully doing back flips.
- I closed my eyes and pictured myself doing a back flip just like the ones I saw in the videos.
- I then tried to visualize and actually feel myself doing the back flip, from the jump to the rotation to the landing.
This helped a little with my confidence, but I was still a bit nervous going in to this lesson. My goal is to stay positive as much as possible though, so whenever fearful thoughts come into my head, I try not to focus on them and work on replacing them with non-fearful thoughts (aka “I’m going to land on my head” turns into “I know I can jump high enough to make the flip”).
As usual, this lesson started off with basic warm up skills (cartwheels, roundoffs, kicks, stuff like that), then I spend some time jumping up onto the mat like before. I specifically notice that any time I’m a little lazy jumping up I don’t make it, but anytime I actually jump and commit, I make it without any problem at all.
Those went pretty well, so next up my coach wants to go to the big trampoline. I feel a pang of nervousness but try and ignore it. The trampoline is huge and soft, I’m not going to hurt myself! Still, my anxiety level goes up a bit.
He goes up on the trampoline with me, and I start jumping. On three, he spots me as I do the flip. It feels ok. I do another, and notice that I’m not jumping nearly as high as I was when I was jumping onto the mat, which is why on the second try I don’t quite land on my feet. Still, it’s fun and I have a giant smile on my face. My anxiety level goes down a bit as I start to trust his spotting help more.
After a few successful attempts with him spotting less and less, he tells me to do it on my own this time. I want to freeze, to run off the trampoline, to say I’m not ready… but I don’t. I say OK and start jumping. He tells me to go on three. I jump, honestly not knowing if I will jump on three or if I’ll chicken out.
On three, I actually jump. I jumped! I tucked my legs up but didn’t quite jump high enough so landed on my knees rather than my feet. But I did it! And didn’t land on my head!
At this point I’m pretty excited, and feel just a little more confident. I try again. I land on my feet this time! It may not have been the most beautiful back flip ever, but I did it. Not only that, I followed up with five or so more before he told me to take a break. I can’t seem to wipe the smile off my face.
For some people, a back flip on a trampoline is no big deal. But for me, this was a huge step forward. I know I have a while before I’ll be able to do a back flip on the floor (my ultimate goal), but getting my first trampoline flip is a huge confidence boost for me at this point in my back flip journey. Plus, every try is a step towards being your best. I’m feeling encouraged as I leave the gym almost bouncing off the walls.
I eat some mixed berry, almond, and dark chocolate goodnessknows (also new this year! Find them here) on my way home because hey, time to celebrate!
Day 5: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
I show up the next class ready to rock some back flips but the coach is sick so I’m on my own today. I try, but just can’t force myself to jump without an initial spot from my coach. I can’t seem to get out of my head, and after a few attempts I go back to working on jumping onto the mat to keep up my jumping strength and conditioning.
I leave feeling a bit deflated, but try and stay positive. After all, you can’t expect huge amounts of progress every single time.
Day 6: Getting Closer
I’m a little tentative today but feeling determined. My coach is back and after a few jumps he spots me a couple of times. I soon feel pretty confident and keep doing a bunch even after he leaves to work with other students.
I fall a few times, but it’s no big deal and I leave once again with a big smile on my face.
Day 7: Getting There
I show up today feeling fairly calm and confident. I warm up and get right to the trampoline, and go for it. I jump and count to three, and do a back flip all by myself, no coaching prompt needed!
I know it’s just a start. I know I still have to improve my technique and confidence before I’ll be able to do my ultimate goal of a standing back flip on the beach.
But today I feel like I’ve gotten over a HUGE barrier. Going backwards by myself has always been a really, really scary thing for me, and today felt like a major step in the right direction.
Fears like this have felt like they’ve held me back my entire life. If I can get over this one fear—this thing that has always felt impossible to me—who knows what other challenges I’ll be able to take on in the future?
I feel unstoppable.
Now it’s Your Turn!
I hope my struggles to overcome my fears and challenge myself to become a stronger person have inspired you guys to take on your own big fear and better yourself in 2017.
What do you want to accomplish? What big dreams or goals have been nagging you for some time now but seem just a little too far out of reach?
It doesn’t have to be something as big as a back flip—but if it feels just a little too impossible, that’s a good thing. If it scares you, that probably means it’s worth going after.
So along with goodnessknows we’re challenging you to try something new in 2017 and share your tries by leaving a comment on our Instagram post and tagging @gksnacksquares and #tryalittlegoodness for a chance to win awesome swag and goodnessknows! Giveaway begins now and ends January 31, 2016 at midnight EST. Winners will be selected at random and contacted via Instagram direct message. Must be 18+ and live in the U.S.
Dream big, athletes!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of goodnessknows. The opinions and text are all mine.