Story by Lauren Hannaford (former elite gymnast-turned health and fitness professional)
Remember when you were young and fearless, probably during your primary school days, when you would spend your lunch breaks doing handstands and cartwheels with your friends in the playground?
Back then, it was hardly a workout; many of us just wanted to get involved and do activities with our friends! But all of these exercises allowed us to start understanding how our body works. We used our imagination, we copied one another to try to achieve the same shape and we developed our coordination.
Well guess what? Gymnastics is making a comeback, big time!
You see it every day on social media: girls and guys doing handstands, back bends and flips in their pictures. Many of you may identify these moves as yoga, but they are in fact, gymnastics. You will also see that cross fitters are getting into it too, mixing up their workouts with activities such as hand stand pushups and cross holds on the rings.
Some of the strongest athletes in the world are gymnasts and it has even been suggested that gymnasts are the strongest of the Olympic athletes pound for pound.
Gymnastics works on your cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility, it also requires a lot of core activation and stability, helps with coordination, and most importantly, it’s fun!
Here is how gymnastics can improve your body at any age:
1. It’s FUN!
I have found that one of the biggest deterrents for clients when it comes to sticking to a fitness program is that they are turning up to sessions with the one goal of losing weight. This one goal can be very detrimental because you are rarely going to see results in a day.
I like to encourage clients to set a performance-related goal as well to help keep them motivated. If they have something fun and challenging to work towards as well as achieving their weight loss goal, it could make the journey a lot more interesting.
A handstand, for example, works your core; you need to squeeze your glutes for balance and you are also works your arms. Once you master a handstand against a wall, you can then start practising doing handstands with no support. Once you have mastered that, you can start incorporating handstand push ups into your workout.
See, you are working out and having fun at the same time!
2. You develop coordination and strength at the same time
Gymnastics can help you develop better coordination and body awareness, which is particularly important for kids, but it is also something that adults can work on too. It is also great for building strength as it almost exclusively uses body weight exercises to build upper body, lower body and core strength.
3. It’s a unique form of resistance training
Studies show that resistance training improves joint health, maintains muscular development and improves cardiovascular fitness. The conditioning part of gymnastics focuses on functional strength which is very beneficial not only for fitness, but for day-to-day activities. As mentioned above, the pound-for-pound strength of a gymnast compared to other athletes is second to none.
I’ll admit that not everyone will be able to do every gymnastics exercise, but by incorporating gymnastics into your workout, you should develop more strength than you’ve ever had before. The bonus is that not only will you start performing moves again from your childhood, but you will also be feeling fantastic, you will have fun and it is also great for injury prevention
4. You’ll get even more flexible
Stretching and flexibility is something that is often lacking in many peoples programs, however look at any elite athlete when they are warming up or down and you will see that flexibility plays a big part in their training program and performance.
Flexibility is so important because it helps to prevent unnecessary injuries and no sport works on your flexibility like gymnastics does.
Remember, when you first start working on your gymnastics moves, take it easy. It will take time to develop your strength and perfect many of these moves. You also will need to factor in recovery time as most adults take a little longer than children to recover.
So, go on, google your nearest gymnastics centre today, or better still, look for a trainer who can teach you some fantastic moves one on one.
About Lauren Hannaford
Lauren is a former elite gymnast-turned health and fitness professional. With her background in gymnastics, Lauren has created her own style of workout, which utilises core gymnastics skills and exercises, allowing her to focus on strength and conditioning with her clients. Lauren’s interval-style workout was created with the premise that you can train anytime, anywhere.