Hi everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the first few blog entries about adult gymnastics. As part of this blog series, I wanted to ensure that the various different gymnastics disciplines were featured so I am going to be speaking to other members of the adult gymnastics community who compete in particular disciplines. First up is Dan who is a male artistic gymnast.
Kat: When did you start doing gymnastics?
Dan: I started my journey into gymnastics in 2016 when I attended my first adult gymnastics class. I had never done gymnastics before, even as a kid. I had done a little bit of trampolining in secondary school but that was it.
Kat: Who or what inspired you to take up the sport as an adult?
Dan: I had always loved gymnastics as a sport. I always watched it at the Olympics and kept up with a few athletes on social media such as Max Whitlock, Nile Wilson and Louis Smith.
Kat: Thinking outside of lockdown. What does a normal training session look like for you?
Dan: So for me, a general adult gym session goes like this. A short pulse raiser such as some jogging or jumping jacks. We will then have the lead coach go through a head to toe stretching circuit with us. Once we're fully stretched out we then do a small conditioning circuit, focusing on the key areas such as core strength, shoulder strength or shaping. After that it is our time to head to the equipment. The coaches will set up some stations for a particular focus, for example round-offs. Other than that, the gym is ours to use. Should we want to learn anything on any piece then we just grab a coach and they set us up with stations/skills to start working on.
Kat: What does your particular discipline involve?
Dan: So my particular discipline is Men's Artistic. It is a six piece discipline comprised of: floor, vault, high bar, rings, parallel bars and pommel horse. Men’s artistic does not follow the same direction as women’s artistic, in the sense that there is much less ce/choreography involved with a routine. Instead it focuses on powerful skills with holds in strength positions and then transitioning between the two as seamlessly as possible. Most of the skills across men’s artistic require strong upper body muscles, in particular the shoulders and the chest.
Kat: What would you say to someone who was thinking about taking up your particular discipline? What are the benefits from doing your sport?
Dan: To anyone considering taking up adult gymnastics I would honestly say just go for it. It really is suitable for any ability and age group. I see such a variety of people coming to the sessions, all of different abilities, ages and backgrounds. The physical benefits are second to none. I feel stronger, more mobile, a lot more flexible and all-around healthier since taking up gymnastics. I've created a great social group from it as well, seeing the same people each week really helps with the motivation and keeps the sessions fun as we can all laugh at each other!
Kat: Where would you like to see adult gymnastics in five years’ time?
Dan: In five years time I'd love to see adult gymnastics become more recognised as a sport that anyone can do. A lot of adults I speak to think that gymnastics is just for kids, but I assure you it's not! So many benefits can come from it and I would like that be known more within the community. I would like the competitive side of adult gymnastics to grow as well. With clubs hosting adult comps as well as the British Adult Championships. The more we can get involved in the sport the better!
Kat: I’d definitely agree with that!
Kat: So, I understand you now coach as well? Do you have any reflections on coaching adult gymnastics?
Dan: As a coach and an adult gymnast, I feel I can have a unique insight to adult gymnastics. From speaking with other adults in the sessions and coaching the session myself, I feel like it is always necessary to make it known that it is okay to be a beginner, and to support that with extra side stations. I also think that sessions should incorporate a specific focus on areas that affect us most as adults. For instance, a lot of people work in an office, so focusing on shoulder mobility, hip mobility. Most adults have not been upside down since they were kids, so being able to support them in ways that makes them feel confident is important. I think being able to have options in a session is key as well, reassuring the adults that if they can't do a particular side station then there is another option to break the skill down more. There is always a sigh of relief when the coach says there is an easier version to try if they are not too sure! Variety is key!
Kat: Do you have anything more to add?
Dan: I have been into my fitness since 2015, regularly attending the gym and taking part in various running events up and down the country. Everything changed once I started taking part in the adult gymnastics’ classes. As I mentioned before I feel stronger and more mobile; I am doing skills I never thought I would be able to pull off, and on top of all that I've gained so much mentally. I have a great social circle and it has even led to a career change which has done nothing but lead on to better things within my club. It sounds cliché to say but gymnastics really did change my life. Even if it didn't though, I would still attend those weekly sessions purely for the fun, the challenge and just to keep fit.
Thanks Dan for taking part. Coming up next time, we’ll get an insight into rhythmic gymnastics with Jo.