Gymnastics for Life

Gymnastics is amazing. It’s one of the best expressions of human movement in sport and showcases the capacity of the body to do incredible things. Flying, flipping and twisting through the air, standing on your hands, holding your body weight in incredible positions with just the strength of your arms and shoulders; and doing it all with style and grace in impressive routines, forever striving for perfection. Though gymnasts compete against each other for scores at competitions, they’re really competing to be better than they were last time, continually improving and refining, to be the best version of themselves they can be.

I started gymnastics when I was 7 years old at a local club. I loved it instantly and enjoyed all the different things that coaches would encourage you to do and try in class. It was so unlike any sport in which I had participated before that. I only trained for 2-3 years in a recreational (non-competitive) program, but from then on, it was always on my mind in some way or another. I eventually decided to move on to pursue other sports, like a lot of boys around the 10-12 year age bracket. I always thought about going back to gymnastics, but even when I was only a few years out, I felt I was too old to join again. That was silly, considering all the handstands I used to try during my soccer games!

The fundamental movement principles I learned in gymnastics translated into proficiency in other sports. Football, soccer, tennis, swimming, karate, athletics; I was lucky enough that my parents were very encouraging with sports and allowed me to try a multitude of others. I was always quick at picking up new movement patterns and found things involving core strength and coordination easy. Aside from sports, gymnastics gave me other qualities that I still value, such as dedication and a strong work ethic. However, it has also given me a lifetime love of being active, creative with movement, and a certain level of respect for the body and its ability to do great things. In my mind, there is no doubt that a healthy body contributes to a happy and well-rounded life.

Eventually, I did come back to gymnastics through taking a job at Twisters, but this time as a career rather than just a sport. I came to Twisters in 2015 after coaching swimming for a couple of years. My friend Kristina, who worked there at the time, told me they were hiring, so I applied. I honestly just thought coaching gymnastics sounded more fun than coaching swimming (and I was right!). I instantly loved the atmosphere, the colours, the laughter and the skills. It also helps that the owners, Dan & Sarah, are great employers, always looking to make Twisters a better gym and a better place to work. I’ve been coaching gymnastics for 6 years now and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

After finishing up with school and football, the main sport I had played for the previous 10 years, I decided I wanted new and different physical challenges. So I started training with different goals in mind. First, it was a half marathon, since I was already a relatively good runner. After that, I wanted something that was a little more exciting, so I tried a Tough Mudder. That was fun, but I still wanted more out of my training. Eventually, I joined a gym that was more about ‘movement’ in general; using strength, conditioning and mobility principles from Gymnastics and Olympic Lifting. What I learned there was exactly what I was looking for and complemented my coaching very well. After a couple of years there, I was physically ready to start training Gymnastics as a sport again and competed at my first adult competition in 2019.

Since then, it’s definitely my #1 hobby and favourite way to exercise. It’s so much fun, teaches you some amazing skills along the way and the demands of the sport keep you strong and flexible in all the right ways. I’d hate for my best physical years to remain in my teenage/ young adult life, so I’m glad I have plenty to work on for the next 15-20 years. There’s always room for improvement! Getting back into it as an adult gave me an appreciation for the importance of keeping strong and mobile and how that can help people pursue any of their own physical goals. This is why I went on to coach adults for a year or so at that gym (mostly handstand, core and upper body strength classes), took on some private clients, and why I’m so keen to eventually run an adults program at one of our gyms!

There’s this stigma that gymnastics is only for the elite and those who are willing to train ridiculous hours and punish their body beyond repair along the way. However, I don’t see it like that at all. To me, it’s fun, challenging and rewarding, as long as you take the time to ensure you have the appropriate physical preparation required. I’ll probably never compete any of the amazing skills you see on TV, but the journey is more important and it’s fun to see how far you can go. Hint: Always further than you think! I hope to convince other people with reservations due to their age that it’s never too late to take up a new physical pursuit, you just need commitment and patience for the process.

Gymnastics is still popular in the younger age groups, however, there’s always a drop off in recreational programs when kids hit the teenage years. I hope that eventually the sport is seen more as a sport for life; one that can complement other physical endeavors, rather than just as something for younger, naturally talented children. Fortunately, recreational gymnastics for teenagers and adults is becoming more and more accessible. Programs are expanding and improving and other training styles are realising the utility of gymnastics fundamental to create strong and well-rounded athletes. If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, check out your local club, or ask them for a recommendation for another club. Otherwise, reach out if you have any questions and see you in the gym!

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