Recently my husband and I signed up for a gymnastics club adult open-class, where (after signing a waiver, obviously, and a drop-in fee) you can spend two hours playing on a trampoline or balance beam, or pretend you know how to do a floor routine but really just do a sad cartwheel instead. The class, which happens in the evening after the tiny, six-year-old and much more accomplished gymnasts go home, is usually filled with 20-somethings who were obviously competitive in the sport at one time; people with broad, muscular shoulders doing backflips, mostly. And then there’s us – two pretty fit people who spent enough time on rings and pull-up bars through our CrossFit adventures that we figured we’d do ok. But when you get back into a gymnastics environment as an adult (I say “back into” because I dominated gymnastics as a tiny and bendy child) you realize a few things. Namely, that you no longer have that enviable strength-to-bodyweight ratio that children enjoy, and also that you now realize you can kill yourself very easily doing gymnastics.
The beauty of this class is that you do as much or as little as you want – there are a few instructors milling around who are happy to answer questions or help you out with something if you ask, but otherwise you’re pretty much left to your own devices. You can literally bounce on a trampoline the whole time, do somersaults in a corner, or just sit there watching people do the splits. I did all of these things during my first trip.
One thing I’d like to work on is having a confident free-standing handstand; I practised by going into one and rolling nicely onto one of those squishy mats, rather than falling awkwardly and hurting my neck. Alex went for the gold, of course, and headed straight for the pommel horse, only to come to some startling realizations of his own. Still, he hasn’t given up and has learned some of the progressions you need in order to get the insane core strength required for that exercise. My husband is a very athletic dude, but I’ll say this: there’s a reason why you don’t see many 6’3, 210-pound gymnasts.
The class is super fun, a little scary, and maybe even a little painful, but it’s an awesome reminder that adults don’t have to stop playing – in fact, we need it as much as little ones do. Working out doesn’t always have to be a chore, and there doesn’t always have to be an end goal in everything you do. Sometimes, you just need to jump on a trampoline and do somersaults. Playing is the best.