Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gymnast for a Day

A.P. and I have known each other ever since I started graduate school and joined the swing dancing club. After a looong talk at a dinner party, she and I became good friends. A few years ago, she took up gymnastics--and she loves it as much as I did! I've always thought that gymnastics is the ultimate sport, in that it requires strength, flexibility, and artistry on a variety of apparatuses. My father used to wear an old t-shirt that read, "If gymnastics were easy, they would call it football."

My family joined Sokol Baltimore when I was 9 years old. In 10 years, I made it as far as Level 5, spending 5-7 hours a week over 2-3 days in the gym. My mother--bless her heart--drove me around the state to compete competitively, up to New Jersey and New York, and twice we all went to Toronto--where if I remember correctly my father, 2 brothers, and I all medalled in 1994 or so. We used to do sleep-overs in the gym and weekend workshops to develop skills. I've marched in parades in Philaelphia and Prague wearing nothing but a leotard and some footies. I also broke my arm doing gymnastics when I was 11. I am still a Sokol, but I stopped gyming when I went to college do to lack of transportation to the local Sokol gym and a large dose of shyness that kept me from calling anyone for a ride.

So I was super pleased when I ran into A.P. at the farmers market this morning and she asked whether I wanted to come to her gymnastics class today (one trial class is free). Since I just started a new rotation and am not stressed out about it yet, I jumped on the chance. Lo and behold, my old work-out clothes still fit. I even found a tolerable pair of grips, although the elastic has gone completely out of the wrist guards.

We started with a brief warm-up and then the tumble track for jumps. It's hard not to have fun on a tumble track. I even got a couple of punch fronts in. Then we split up to different apparatuses. I chose the beam. Eventually I stuck 10 cartwheels on the floor beam and 10 on the high beam. It was rough until my motor memory kicked in. Remember when we had to stick 10 cartwheels in a row before we could get down? Then it was on to uneven bars, which used to be my favorite event. However, that was before hips happened! I haven't grown any taller than I was at my last meet, just wider. I had forgotten how much energy it takes to thrown yourself around on the bars. I managed 1 pullover on each bar, 1 back hip circle, and exactly 1 kip before I ripped (tore skin off my palm). I decided that was enough and switched to floor, where I found a place to practice round-offs. The class ended with a few backhand springs on the tumble track and then strength training (planks, oh my abdomen...). That's us, sweaty and triumphant after class.

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