Adult Gymnastics - Why We All Should Do It
The benefits of gymnastics has been shown time and time again. I have been coaching the sport for over 10 years, in addition to being a collegiate competitive gymnast. I strongly believe in the benefits of doing this sport for all ages, but this article will focus on adult gymnastics.
Most people over 25 believe that they are too old to start gymnastics. Many people believe that 15 is too old to start gymnastics. This is a ridiculous notion. 15, or 25 might be too late to start gymnastics if the intent is to become an Olympic competitor, but it is never too late to gain the benefits from practicing this sport. Gymnastics will improve performance in any other sport, as well as improving overall fitness and functional strength to a level that most people never attain.
Doctors are finally coming to realize and publicly acknowledge the long term benefits to resistance training. Studies have shown that resistance training improves joint health, maintains muscular development and improves cardiovascular fitness. This is true for all ages. Gymnastics is all about resistance training. The conditioning involved in a progressive gymnastics program focuses on functional strength. Elite gymnasts strength to weight ratios are second to none. This is what enables elite gymnasts to perform skills that appear to be humanly impossible. While some of these moves might be out of reach for most people, with a focused gymnastics conditioning program most adults will be stronger than they have ever been. Not only will this conditioning enable anyone to perform moves that will make most 17 year olds gape in amazement, but it will also help prevent injuries.
Stretching and flexibility is an area that is sadly lacking from most fitness programs. The 2 to 3 minutes spent stretching before a class is simply not enough. Being flexible allows for greater joint mobility, improves circulation and helps to prevent joint injury. There is a strong focus on flexibility in gymnastics. Most gymnastics skills are greatly benefited by flexibility and others are simply impossible without the proper flexibility. Gymnastics stretching is also taught by people who really understand how to improve flexibility quickly and safely. Gymnasts are among the most flexible athletes in the world. As people age their flexibility tends to decrease. This is generally due to a lack of stretching and physical activity rather than simply a result of aging. If flexibility is trained throughout ones life a high degree of flexibility can be maintained.
A few points that must be considered when starting gymnastics as an adult. First is that it is difficult. Adults have few if any advantages over a five year old child starting this sport, and many disadvantages. Adults will start out with basic skills, and must be patient in learning new skills. One of the biggest hindrances I've seen in coaching adult gymnastics is that many adults are embarrassed watching 9 year old kids that are significantly better than them at the sport. The kids fully understand, because they went through it as well. There is nothing to be hesitant about. Everyone in that gym has been through the basics. Second is an awareness of safe progressions. Adults do have a higher risk of injury then children in the sport. This is due to larger body size. A 180 lb adult will hit the floor with a lot more force than a 60 lb child. Even though the adult has more muscle mass to buffer the impact the possibility for injury is increased. Secondly adults recover slower than children. Proper progressions and a focus on safety is critical. One of my prodigies in my adult class is a fellow who started gymnastics at the young age of 46. He has now been doing gymnastics for 3 years, and has transformed. He is in the best shape of his life, and can perform skills that were not even conceivable 2 years ago. A point to the benefits of his doing gymnastics. About 5 months ago he received a 2 point separation in his shoulder skiing. The doctors tell him that had his shoulder not been as strong as it is the injury would have been far worse. Not only was the injury itself minimized, but his recovery has been tremendous. With gymnastics training focused around the injury he is back to full capacity, and improving again.
I've saved the best, and most important factor in starting adult gymnastics for last. It is fun. Learning how to tumble, flip, swing, and come as close to self powered flight as is possible is a blast. Gymnastics is anything but boring. There is always another step to learn. It is possible to learn something new every single class or workout that is attended.
If you are an adult and think you are "too old" to start. Think again. Find a local gymnastics center and ask if they have an adult program. If they do, join it. If they don't ask them to start one. Find some friends to join with you.
By Roger Harrell