I’d recommend reading this post first, for a little background on why I decided to humiliate myself by taking an adult gymnastics class.
Days after my first attempt at reliving an old passion, my body was still paying the price for my venture back into a sport that is designed almost exclusively for tiny-doll sized children.
I feel confident in saying, my first attempt was not a winner.
It has been a solid 16 years since I was in gymnastics. I have always looked back on my gymnastics days with a weird fondness, and it was easily the first thing that came to mind in my search to building better Mondays. I knew with this attempt, I wasn’t going to reignite an old passion, and suddenly start training for the 2016 olympics as the first 30 year old to win a gold medal in gymnastics. I was more interested in tapping back into the feeling of what it was like to be so in love with something that it consumed everything I did.
The amount of focus, passion, and dedication I had for the sport when I was a kid is pretty much the same feeling I am chasing to find with this blog. I am also open to the realistic possibility that this type of feeling might not even be something I am capable of anymore.
It took me all of about two seconds online to find a gym that offers adult classes, and once I did, I immediately shot a text to my best friend, Christie, asking her to join me. I knew this was something I wasn’t brave enough to try on my own. After almost no convincing (she’s a good friend) we agreed to show up on a Saturday at 3pm with $20 in hand and proof of health insurance.
Once Saturday morning rolled around, I was already thinking about ways to talk myself out of it. By the time we pulled up to the gym that afternoon, I was in full-fledged anxiety mode. Thoughts were racing through my mind: “What was I thinking?! What if we are the only ones there,” and “What if it’s all a bunch of 16 year olds who are really good and we look like idiots?”
Well, it turns out, we weren’t the only ones there.
When we walked in, it was like stepping into a time warp. The smell of chalk in the air, the sounds of gymnasts jumping off springboards and shouting encouragement to each other was like being twelve years old all over again. Except, in this time warp, I was 28 years old, and surrounded by children.
We had a brief moment of panic (Where were the adults?!) but after about 10 minutes, more people over the age of 8 started to filter in and sign up for the adult classes.
There ended up being about 12 other adults there, and at 3:00pm, we went to the floor and started with warm-ups. Christie and I spent the first 20 minutes refusing to look at each other so we wouldn’t completely lose our composure and start crying with laughter.
Because, let me tell you, we were something to laugh at.
It took me awhile to get out of the surreal feeling of being there, and to just finally let go of the reality of what we were doing. Once I did, I was able to see my childhood gymnastics obsession a little more clearly, and I was pretty surprised at what I saw.
Silently walking around the floor, following form instructions from the coach, and doing tumbling passes while my fellow adult gymnasts watched, reminded me of just how serious of a sport gymnastics was. I was catapulted back to when I was fully immersed in gymnastics, and what my life was like during that time.
Gymnastics is all about rules, form, precision, and perfection, and really REALLY hard work. It was pretty similar to how my life was outside of gymnastics at the time, too. As a kid working my way through school, sports and life, succeeding was about following rules, asking permission, and doing things the way I was told to. Not to say that this is a negative thing, but it has just been so long since I’ve thought or remembered what that felt like.
It was a pleasant surprise to see how quickly my body remembered what to do after a few practice rounds. I put almost no thought into doing a round-off back handspring. My body had some sort of super-cell memory, and completely took over once I started moving. It amazed me how our bodies can remember things so easily, when we are so completely different mentally.
Taking the adult gymnastics class reminded me of how much I’ve changed emotionally and mentally (one should hope some type of growth occurs between twelve and twenty eight) and that I’m going to have to take a few different approaches to this search for what I love. Pulling from things I loved as a kid may not work for me now, because I’ve changed so much. I no longer crave perfection and thrive on structure the way that I once did.
I have occasionally looked back on my childhood, teenage, and college years, and envisioned myself as a person who was much more carefree, and had so much more freedom than I now do as an adult chained to the responsibility of bills and a full time job. This glimpse into the past was like seeing my life through a completely different lens.
I am so much freer now than I ever was at twelve, at fourteen, at twenty. I can choose to spend my free time however I want, and I no longer have to ask permission to go to the bathroom from authority figures. I can live anywhere I choose, go out to dinner when I feel like it, and take a weekend trip to Boston with my mom, just for fun.
Yes, I have worked hard to have this type of freedom, but I have the type of opportunity I never had as a twelve year old obsessively begging her parents to drive her to open gym every Saturday, and to let her wear her authentic replica of the ’96 women’s olympic gymnastics team leotard to school (which they always did, reluctantly).
That being said, I should also call out another glaring reason as to why gymnastics is no longer meant to be my hobby. About an hour into the class, I was doing that whole super-cell memory tumbling-pass move I mentioned earlier, and completely pulled a muscle in my left thigh. I spent the rest of class lazily bouncing around on the tumble track, whining about my leg.
Gymnastics is a sport best left for the young.
Due to my serious injury, we left 15 minutes early, and headed straight for medication in the form of wine and sushi. I felt a sense of freedom walking out of that gym, knowing that I never had to go back to that class if I didn’t want to, or that time in my life.
As great as it was then, I have even better things ahead.
On to the next one.