As most do, when starting a new project, I first started Gymnastics very enthusiastically. I went in thinking that I would overcome my fear of pain – as I expected to hurt myself and it not be a big deal. The first day I managed to overwork my calf muscle (I kept landing on the same one coming off my handstand attempts) and on one of my jumps it just simply gave out on me. It wasn’t a serious injury and bandaging it up for a week and during the next couple of training sessions was sufficient. I was proud of myself, because I kept on going and for the first time ever, didn’t let a little bit of pain stop my progress. So I suddenly also got brave.
We had been practicing rolls on an inclined ramp (mat) which are part of the flip progression. It was feeling good, and I could ‘feel’ how it should go in the end. So I had a bright idea. If I could get high enough on the trampoline, and then did my roll, I should be able to flip. Easy, right?
Please, please, please – if you’ve not learned the progressions and never done a flip on the trampoline – DON’T DO THIS! How this went for me – jump, jump, jump, ‘okay I can do this’, jump. Begin to roll, see the trampoline floor. Realise head is not going to make it all the way around, freak out, land on neck. At that moment, I heard about 30 odd cracks in my neck and the first thought to go through my head was that I had broke my neck. All I could think about was never being able to walk again and how my poor children were going to have to live without an able bodied mother. I lay on my back and realised no one had seen me do it, so I had a choice, I could lay on my back and call out, hoping someone could hear me over the music, or that someone would see me and realise I wasn’t moving, or I could try and move a bit and wave to get my husband’s attention.
Despite my brain screaming at me “Don’t move if you suspect spinal injuries! Your neck is part of your spine!”, I decided to sit up. Well I resolved that if I supported my neck with my arms, and if at any time it felt wrong I would revert to the lay back and scream option, then I’d be alright. Thankfully I was. I managed to sit up and realised that while it was a little bit sore, I could move and I wasn’t paralyzed.
I got my husband’s attention who then got our teacher. He let me know that it would be more of a worry if I wasn’t feeling anything and that I should put some ice on it. He also warned me that it will stiffen up too. So yeah, it stiffened up. That night I couldn’t sleep, because every time I wanted to roll over, I couldn’t, so I’d wake up and have to hold my neck with my hands to painfully change positions. Thankfully, after a couple of days I was mostly okay and after a couple of weeks I thought I was good enough to get back into rolling down the ramp.
That was when I learned that neck injuries take at least six weeks to fully recover (and that’s a minor one), so I strained the muscles again. I ended up getting some physio and stopped doing gymnastics while I did. Taking over 3 months to fix it all. That is all but my newly refreshed fear of pain. It has taken me 7 months since I first did the injury to fully feel comfortable to give it a proper go – and I am back to where I started.
One of the things my teacher told me, however, was that I should learn how to fall, and that means rolls. There are lots of types of rolls and I should be training my body to instinctively respond with all of them. I’d been practicing the gymnastics (head between your hands) roll, but needed to also learn how to fall backwards and to do the parkour rolls.
In the quest to help me, my husband found this nifty tutorial:
So, last night that was what I practiced. Roll after roll. Parkour rolls, gymnast rolls, rolls on the mat. I used the above tutorial to get me started, as well as what our teacher taught us. It’s surprising at how many ways you can do a roll.
Today I feel sore. I didn’t realise that rolls worked so much of the body.