It was a cold, but sunny spring day. I was up early worrying about whether my taxi would turn up on time so I could get the lift that someone had so kindly offered all the way to Milton Keynes. Part of my nerves of course were pre-competition ones too. My own gym had just closed for refurbishment – a project which would see us gaining a sprung floor amongst other things. Four weeks of no gymnastics seemed like a lifetime, but it would be amazing once we’d be back…how little I knew that the Milton Keynes competition on 1st March was the last time I’d be doing gymnastics in a gym for six months!
It’s been a painful few months. I, like everyone, watched the world flip upside down, (and that wasn’t just because I did A LOT of handstands during lockdown).
In a way I’ve been lucky. I was able to isolate at my parents’ house where I had access to plenty of outdoor space, a garden and a large living room. I came prepared with my floor beam, crash mats, weights amongst other conditioning equipment, and then decided that purchasing an air track was the way to go (definitely one of the best impulse shopping decisions I’ve made). I also had an early birthday present from my parents which came in the form of a handstand bar.
During these six months, a combination of being on furlough then working permanently from home (so having more time before and after work) has enabled me to increase my gymnastics programme, despite not being in the gym itself. In the first few weeks of lockdown I found myself contacting friends from the gymnastics community for conditioning tips and ideas on how I could train at home. I wasn’t disappointed.
Then came the wave of current gymnasts posting videos of their training programmes at home, which were really inspirational and I was able to develop my own programme which worked for me and my training environment.
When I moved back to my flat, it did take some time to adjust of course, especially as I don’t have my own personal garden (although there is some communal green space outside) and I am a first floor flat, so this does limit what I can do, but I’ve got three pages worth of exercises that work indoors without risking me annoying my neighbours!
There has of course been a nagging doubt in my mind – was it all worth it? Will this extra work have made a difference?
In July and August gyms started reopening again, but still there was no word on when my own gym would. Sadly, this still appears to be the case and as it’s the only gym in my area that I can get to without needing to drive I’m reliant on friends to take me to clubs elsewhere in the county.
However, on 1st September, I got my wish. I, and another friend, set off to try out SAADI Gymnastics Club, near St Albans, which has been newly refurbished and is offering adult classes for the first time. There was a lot of really great equipment there and the staff were really friendly.
I’d given myself two main goals for the session: to test out bars properly and to stick a cartwheel on beam. I knew the latter was going to take up a lot of the session, but thankfully there were plenty of different sized beams to choose from so I could work through my mental block.
Eventually I stuck it on a low beam (albeit with a crash mat underneath… I’ll work on that next time) and was sticking it pretty consistently. I also played around with the spins and jumps I’ve been practicing at home and was amazed how confident I was on the high beam with these.
But the best came when I took myself over to the uneven bars. I tried a circle up, something I haven’t been able to do as an adult, and from memory struggled with as a child. I got it straight away, and then again and again. I couldn’t believe it. I also tried a few casts although wasn’t quite brave enough to straddle on to the bar (maybe next time…). I also did quite a lot of swinging on the high bar and was amazed at what I was able to do. I had to stop work because some serious blisters were starting to appear despite my hand guards and chalk, but it was definitely worth it.
I left buzzing knowing that despite not being in the gym for six months, the work I’d done and am continuing to do outside of the gym had made a difference.