As many of you have seen here on Gymnastike, there is a new group of gymnasts emerging on the scene.
Adult gymnastics classes have popped up all over the country and enrollment continues to grow. Like many, I have been bitten by the gymnastics bug. I did gymnastics for the first time twenty years ago when I was four. I loved it until they wanted us to do more than just jump off the springboard into the pit. I was scared. My sister, three years older, went on to be a level eight.
It wasn’t until the 2000 Olympics that I became interested in the sport as a fan once more. By then, I was twelve years old and six feet tall. I knew my time had passed. Did I regret it at the time? I would be lying if I said I didn’t. That was when I discovered journalism and decided that would be what I studied when I got to college. It would be my way back into the sport.
Little did I know that writing for Gymnastike would lead me right back into the gym. While covering the Lindsey Ferris Invitational last month, I was invited to attend adult gymnastics classes at Capital Gymnastics in Burke, Virginia. Capital is where Olympian Justin Spring, World bronze medalist Katie Heenan and World Champion Ashley Postell trained.
I was nervous about going. But as soon as I walked onto the floor, I felt at home. The smell of chalk and foam. The sound of gymnasts landing on mats. Hearing conversations about Yurchenkos and the World Championships. Talking to people who knew what a full in back out was and who Shannon Miller is. I had found the final piece to the puzzle and it fit perfectly.
After the excitement of where I was and who I was with passed, I had to come back down and think about what I was about to do. Something I hadn’t done in so many years. A front tuck. After forty five minutes of standing around watching my fellow gymnasts practice, I got up the nerve to go over to the trampoline tumble track.
After another five minutes of watching a fellow gymnast do front tucks and giving me words of encouragement and my coach’s guidance, I decided the only way I was going do it was to not think about it and just go for it. Trying to remember what to do from years ago, I ran down, jumped, punched as hard as I could and went airborne.
It was surreal. I had forgotten what it felt like to be upside down in mid-air. It was a rush. They say you have to learn to fall again. It’s the only way to get over the fear. I landed in the pit on my back. It was scary, but necessary. I now knew that I wasn’t going to land on my head. It was amazing how much came back to me. All of that night, I landed on my back or got it around but landed still in the tucked position. I was just happy to be making progress. I knew that every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights would be full of fun, new discoveries about myself and new friends.
The next week, however, I was blindsided. I came down with the worst head cold I had had in a while. I wasn’t able to go to the gym all of that week. But that following Monday, I was back at it.
I started out fine, just getting my groove back. But after ten tries, I landed on my back and brushed the back of my head on the mat as I came over. I thought for sure I was going to injure myself. But luckily, I was fine. At least physically. Mentally, I was petrified. I took ten minutes to breathe and calm myself down, reminding myself that this was just a part of the sport. That there is assumed risk and if I wanted to do this, I had to accept the reality of what could happen. I was able to get it together to do several more, but just to get over my fear and to show myself I would be fine. I didn’t try to land them, I just did them.
After what happened on Monday, I was sure Tuesday would also be a test of my nerves. I just did a couple of tucks into the pit. But the third one, which I didn’t really think too much about, I landed. I was not on my back. I was not sitting in the tuck position. I was standing straight up. I just stood there, letting my brain catch back up to me. I couldn’t have been more excited. But, as it usually goes, when I showed my fellow gymnasts and coach, I couldn’t do it. Later that night, I landed it again on my own. It was enough. I finally knew I could do it and that getting back into the sport wouldn’t be in vain. That Thursday, I landed it twice once again. I was so excited for Monday when I would take it to the actual tumble track.
Last night was the night. I did several front tucks into the pit to warm up. But I knew I had to go to the tumble track. Standing at the end of it, I was just a scared as I had been three weeks earlier when I did it for the first time. And now, there was no pit. There are mats, of course, but there is something about the pit that makes every gymnast somewhat fearless. Once again, I knew I had to just do it. After words of encouragement from my fellow gymnasts, I ran down and punched. I came around and landed on my feet, but only with about two inches between my bottom and the mat. It was a shock what it felt like to land on a solid surface, unlike the pit. And it stung. But I was so happy. My fear was gone although I still had nerves. I did let my head get to me several times, but I know that tonight I will be better prepared for it.
Honestly, I have no idea where this is going. All I know is that I have found my way back to something I love. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I will keep you all updated on my progress over the upcoming weeks.
To see me doing a front tuck for the first time my first day back in the gym, click this video link.