It was great to see so much engagement with the last blog about men’s artistic gymnastics. As always, my plan has been to inspire adults, regardless of their age to take part in gymnastics. I wanted to use this forum as an opportunity to cover the various different disciplines the sport has to offer too.
In this blog post, I interviewed Jo and Lucy who specialise in rhythmic gymnastics. Jo is pretty active on the Adult Gymnastics Facebook Group, often posting videos, and it’s great to see some of the progress she’s been making with the skills she’s been learning. If you’re interested in getting involved in the sport I would really recommend joining the Facebook Group, as it’s a great forum and if you’re practicing something, it can be a good place (there are plenty of coaches on the group) to get some good feedback. Lucy has recently returned to the sport, having reached a novice squad level at the age of 12. She stopped her gymnastics due to her education.
Rhythmic Gymnastics actually involves five pieces of apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Sometimes, especially for younger gymnasts, you have a ‘Free routine’, where there is no handheld apparatus. For competitions you can compete as an individual, duo, trio or group (4-6 people), you use one, or two apparatus for groups. Routines consist of body elements; Leaps, Pirouettes/Rotations and Balances as well as Flexibility moves, whilst doing something with the apparatus at all times. Most routines also include a Risk, where the apparatus is thrown and a series of moves is performed whilst it is in the air.
Jo admits one of the pitfalls of rhythmic gymnastics having less funding was a lack of equipment in her gym. She was working with the hoop, ribbon and ball, but leant her ball to the club and currently the club is closed due to the pandemic.
I asked her what her training involved, given the absence of equipment.
“[It’s] a lot of strength and flexibility training,” Jo said. “I work on handstands, cartwheels and walkover progressions. I am not naturally flexible, so I have worked especially hard on this.” (I don’t think you’re alone Jo as an adult!)
In Lucy’s case, equipment is available and whilst her sessions are general adult gymnastics sessions, rather than dedicated rhythmic gymnastics sessions, she is able to use the rhythmic gymnastics equipment, noting that she finds herself “teaching the others a few tricks, usually with the hoop”.
Lucy also highlights that she will “usually spend some time working on leaps and elements, such as pirouettes, before moving onto apparatus handling” during her training sessions.
Jo started her journey as a gymnast age nine but found the experience off-putting.
She says: “The coaches only taught us basic skills and never taught us good form. They made us do a skill without working on progressions, so I developed a fear of going backwards and doing skills fast.”
Her journey to loving the sport again began when she trained as a coach and began to polish her skills and work on good form and technique.
“I love, live and breathe gymnastics”. (Me too, Jo. I might see if I can get that as a sign for my front door…).
I asked her what she would say to others thinking about taking up rhythmic gymnastics.
“It is highly rewarding because as you train you can improve skills and learn new ones. I have improved so much in just a few weeks. You can develop good muscle tone and overall optimum fitness if you practice the sport”.
Lucy feels that for adults thinking of starting rhythmic gymnastics is easier to get back into, or start, as an adult than Artistic Gymnastics.
“In Rhythmics there is less acrobatics as the movements are more controlled and it only involves floor routines set to music.”
Something, which I think is true of all gymnastics is the satisfaction you get from developing new skills – in the case of rhythmic gymnastics, it’s the increased skill from apparatus handling.
I was also keen to get the girls’ views on how the sport could evolve, especially as it’s currently missing from the adult competition circuit, whilst disciplines like acro and tumbling are included. Jo thought that more gym clubs should be offering adult classes, which include support on using the equipment. Both girls were also keen to point out that they would like to be able to compete – currently there are no rhythmic gymnastics competitions for adults.
As clubs are starting back up again, one of the safety restrictions in place is that coaches can’t support gymnasts on skills, which makes progression in artistic gymnastics quite challenging. So perhaps exploring rhythmic gymnastics in your club is a good option – you might discover a different side to gymnastics!
Thank you Jo and Lucy for taking part.