When was the last time you did a handstand? Or a forward roll? If you’re no longer at school, the chances are it’s been a while.
The uneven bars, balance beam and horse can bring back unwelcome memories for some people from their school gym class. Gymnastics is a sport for the very young, the very bendy and the very fit, right? Wrong.
British Gymnastics, the governing body for gymnastics in the UK, has launched a campaign called Find Your Amazing during the Commonwealth Games, encouraging everyone of all shapes, sizes and fitness to have a go.
Gemma Barton, head of participation at British Gymnastics, explains the thinking behind the campaign. ‘It will be leveraging this magnificent global event on home soil to inspire future generations by showcasing the breadth of the sport, the many benefits on offer and how welcoming and inclusive it is – as there really is something for everyone to enjoy.’
According to Gemma, no one should feel they are unable to take part. ‘Gymnastics is a fun, exhilarating sport with many different disciplines, meaning there really is something for everyone,’ she says. ‘You can test yourself in a range of activities from tumbling to trampoline and artistic gymnastics. By building your strength, flexibility and control you’ll see your performance improve in other
More encouragingly still for would-be gymnasts, Gemma insists no previous experience is necessary.
‘It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done gymnastics before, it can be a great way to have fun and keep fit. As you’re starting out, you’ll learn the basic moves and how to perform them on apparatus.
‘As your strength and flexibility increase you can challenge and support your mates to try increasingly impressive moves; you can even compete in an adult gymnastics’ competition!’
Adult sessions are designed to be fun, and Gemma says there’s a huge social side to classes, too.
‘It’s got a great social element which makes the sessions fun. Gymnastics can be adapted for anyone, regardless of your ability and fitness level.’
For obvious reasons it’s important that adult gymnastics is done under supervision of someone who knows exactly what they are doing.
‘A qualified coach can ensure skills are safely done. Your coach will help you to pace yourself and develop the basic skills you need to enjoy your gymnastics sessions.
‘As with all sports a good warm up and cool down is essential and try not to push yourself too far too quickly. There’s an adult gymnastics Facebook group which is very friendly if anyone wants help and advice from other participants.’
Time to brush up on that playground handstand.
The returner: Lauren Smith did gymnastics as a child and has now come back to it in her 20s
‘I did artistic gymnastics from five to 16, and at 16 I passed my General Gymnastics coaching qualification (Level 1), so I coached gymnastics as a part-time job. I was still in the gymnastic world, but not actively training.
‘I missed the excitement and pushing my body to do things it shouldn’t be able to do, and I wanted to stay strong and flexible. I’d been going to the gym from 17 to maintain my fitness, but I enjoyed the discipline of gymnastics and trying to learn new things and keep my talent up.
‘At university on the gymnastics team, we trained once a week at a great centre with all the equipment for artistic gymnastics including a foam pit, sprung floors and trampolines.
‘I always enjoyed floor and learning more difficult tricks such as tumbling. It really gives you a rush – it’s scary but it’s such a good feeling when you finally land something and get it right!
‘I also enjoyed feeling strong and flexible, I never want to get out of that habit.
‘The only way to start is to jump straight in, find an adult class and grab a friend to come with you if you can.
‘Gymnastics has so many steps to just learn one move and equipment to support you along the way – you wouldn’t believe how many steps there are in learning a cartwheel, or a forward roll!’
What you can do to get gymnastics-fit at home
‘Gymnastics requires flexibility and mobility, particularly around the shoulders, spine and hips,’ says physiotherapist Kate Cadbury.
‘It’s worth doing some regular dynamic and static stretches at home. I’d recommend the pigeon, figure-of-4 stretch, and adductor stretch to improve hip mobility, child’s pose and cat stretch to improve spinal mobility, and downward dog to improve lower limb and upper limb flexibility.
‘Gymnastics requires good upper-body weight-bearing strength, so it’s worth building this up gradually. A good exercise to practise is four-point kneeling exercises such as swimming, press-ups or a straight-arm plank to build up your tolerance. You also need good core strength, so it’s important to try to improve this prior to starting gymnastics. Pilates is a great form of exercise to help, whilst also working on flexibility and your upper body strength.
‘Being a physio, we often see patients with injuries when they try and introduce themselves to a new activity. One of the key mistakes people make is doing too much, too soon. Ensure you build up gradually, listen to your body and do some background work yourself focussing on flexibility and strength.’
For more information visit Cadbury Physiotherapy.
The newbie: Becky Golder took up aerial silks this year
‘I’ve wanted to do aerial silks for years, but I couldn’t as I have Crohn’s Disease and my health was pretty poor. It’s now reasonably under control, so on Valentine’s Day this year, I booked in and had my first lesson.
‘I fell in love with it and have been doing it ever since. I was worried I would be awful, as I don’t have a gymnastics background and I’m not very flexible. But I’ve gradually built my strength up and my gym, Wild Training, has fantastic classes full of amazing and supportive people who really encourage you.
‘Silks is all about being upside down and being up quite high, so that was a fear I had to overcome. Physically, I am stronger than I have ever been! It’s amazing to see such a difference in my body since starting. I can do things I never imagined.
‘Mentally, my confidence is sky-high and my anxiety and depression is significantly more under control. I enjoy the community my gym has. I’ve made some amazing new friends and learning this awesome new skill has made me feel powerful and confident. I am very proud of myself for achieving what I have so far, and I am excited to see what else I can achieve.’
Essential gymnastics kit
Aycliffe Women’s Tech T-Shirt
Super soft, stretchy and breathable fabric is perfect for athletic endeavours, from this carbon-neutral Yorkshire brand.
Solidarity High-Impact Sports Bra
This award-winning bra comes in over 52 sizes, perfect for keeping everything in place.
Domyos Gym Floor Mat
Protect your floors, joints and dampen noise with this stylish mat.
Bloch Resistance Band
An absolute must-have for your strength and conditioning exercises, £8.95, and for more serious gymnasts, Tendu heavy resistance band.
This article contains affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected].