This is a guest post by my beautiful sister, Lisa. She is a former level 9 gymnast. She competed on the Clemson club team also, and has since graduated and entered the “real world”.
As a former gymnast myself, I get pretty indignant when I think about the age “limit” on gymnastics. Most sports can be played at any age, if the person is up to it, of course. Think about it —basketball, baseball, football, soccer, hockey, running, ultimate Frisbee, swimming… the list goes on. People of all ages participate in these sports. Whether it is a friendly pickup game of basketball on the weekend, or training for the Thanksgiving half-marathon or even just swimming laps at the pool, many athletes have the option to continue participating in their sport even after school ends. But with gymnastics, you can’t just go work out when you get the urge. Many gyms have an age limit of 18, because of insurance reasons. So after college, if you don’t go pro, then there are very few options available. If you’re on good terms with a coach who doesn’t mind you working out in their gym, that can work. Or if you start coaching at a gym, they may allow you to work out on the side — but not always. So, what’s a gymnast to do? While I have yet to find the perfect solution, here are some ways I’ve tried to appease my gymnastics “roots” in my early twenties.
- Coach. This one requires a fairly big commitment, but clearly keeps you involved in the sport. Even if you don’t have much time, you can probably still coach for a few hours a week. Many gyms need class coaches, and especially on the weekends. I know many people who just coach one or two classes on Saturday mornings. And, you do get the benefit of a little extra spending money!
- Judge. Again, this requires a big commitment, but you’ll definitely get your fill of gymnastics! My mother and sister both became judges and really enjoy it. It’s seasonal too, so you won’t have to give up much time in the summer. Learn how to become a gymnastics judge here. With judging, you mostly work on the weekends, so it won’t interfere with your job, and again you’ll be making a little extra cash!
- Yoga. I really enjoy yoga, and I like that I can continue to work on my flexibility. I mean hey, I worked hard for those splits! I may not be working out 20+ hours in a chalky gym anymore, but I still pride myself on being able to bust out a split. The blisters I can do without, the splits — I’ll keep.
- Handstand walk. This is purely for my own enjoyment. It may sound silly, but about once a week, I’ll walk up and down the hallway on my hands. It’s like my splits — it’s just something I think is cool and get a little thrill out of. Now, I’m not saying start walking down the grocery store aisle on your hands. But, when I’m at home, I may walk around on the carpet for a few minutes. It keeps me feeling limber and works a few different muscles, too.
- Find a sport/hobby where you can set concrete goals. This is different than just yoga or pilates. While I really like both of those, it doesn’t always give me the same satisfaction that mastering a new skill did. I needed something to give me the thrill of athletic achievement. I started running a few years ago, and got really into distance running. Going from barely being able to run a ½ mile, to running 6, 7 and even 9 miles gave me back a similar sense of accomplishment that sticking a routine used to give me. Clearly, it doesn’t have to be running. It could be swimming X amount of laps in butterfly or going on a 3 mile bike ride. I think it does help if you can find an event to enter to keep you motivated as well. Races, tournaments, triathlons, etc. can help fulfill that meet “void” and give you that great adrenaline rush!
- Check out the local dance studios. See what classes they offer for adults. You can take salsa dancing, swing dancing, ball room dancing, etc. They can be pretty fun, and having taken gymnastics may make it easier. For example, in swing dancing they do a lot of cool flips and moves that a former gymnast may be able to master fairly quickly. And, if you really liked doing floor routines, this could be a great way to continue performing in front of an audience.
- Do your workouts outside. One thing about gymnastics that I didn’t like was that we were always inside. When the weather was nice out, we still had to work out inside, since you can’t just move all the balance beams out to the parking lot. When I stopped gymnastics, I had a lot of extra time and energy. So, I started doing some different things that I didn’t have the opportunity to do when I was practicing. I went kayaking and on nature walk/hikes with my roommates and their dogs. Now that I am in the “real world,” I feel like, again, I’m not outside as much as I’d like. I love it when my friends will suggest a walk through a state park, or we’ll do circuit type workouts outside. Exercising outside makes it feel less like a boring old workout, and much more fun. I didn’t used to do gymnastics to stay in shape. I did it because I enjoyed it. So, why make my workouts now feel like work? Make them something you can look forward to — rather than dread — and you’re much more likely to stay active.
Leaving gymnastics was pretty tough. But, bottom line — keep moving! I’m much happier when I’m active. It’s just all about finding a new way to channel that energy. Good luck!