Rolls, Cartwheels and Roundoffs…

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Before I started gymnastics, I kind of knew what a roll was, cartwheels I vaguely remembered from my school days and I had no idea what a round off was.   After attending the first gymnastics group I joined for a few months, I can’t say I knew much more about them and couldn’t really do them any better than what I started off with.

Five weeks into the new group, and I have learned more than what I did in many months at another.   Lesson?  Shop around – some places are better than others.

So what have I learned?

Besides working on my newly acquired fear of hurting my neck (after landing on it earlier in the year), I have learned to curl myself up more into a ball, to use my hands to hold myself off the ground as I spin and to ‘snap’.   I can now do rolls, not only on the ground, but also onto a raised mat (transition into ‘saults).

I have learned what is involved in doing a technical cartwheel.  Kicking my leg off the ground and watching different points as I turn over to encourage the flick over in the right direction – keeping legs straight.

And I now know what a round off is.   Start facing forward – into a cartwheel (sideways) and end facing backwards (looking where you came from).   It’s all about hand placement.   I can’t do this one yet.

But I am loving Gymnastics and I am overcoming my fears, so that’s great!


New Gymnastics Venue

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Last week my husband and I decided to go to a new gymnastics venue to see if it was any good.   I wanted something with more structure and this place had been highly recommended.   Unfortunately we didn’t choose the best night to rock up – as a crossfit group had decided that their WOD was going to be gymnastics.   The good thing about that, though, is that we got to ask the crossfit group about their training and location.

Due to the overwhelming attendance of another group, there was not a lot of attention put on us new people, so it didn’t really seem a lot different to what we were already getting.   But we decided to give it a second chance – when circumstances would be much more normal.

Oh boy! Am I glad I did.

My husband and I received 1 on 2 instruction from one of the instructors – giving me some direction, goals and focus for my gymnastics.  I was taught how to do a roll properly (instead of simply being told to  – roll, and then hoping for the best, letting my childhood memories guide me).   I was able to overcome some of the fear I had built up regarding my neck and backwards rolls.  I was informed of how to technically do a cartwheel, so that I wasn’t simply jumping in a sort of lopsided cartwheel motion.

I am so pumped to go back again now.   And what’s more, is I am also pumped to perhaps do a crossfit WOD today. (I’ve got to keep fit between gymnastics sessions)

Practicing Rolls

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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.

Why Gymnastics?

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handstandEver since I was a child, I wanted to do Gymnastics.  I am not entirely sure why I never did it back then, I was probably worried about how much it would cost my mum and then I was just too lazy and busy to take on extra-curricular activities, so I never did.   As I got older, the concept of becoming a gymnast died.   That was just an activity for kids, and only if you’d been doing it your entire life, would you be doing it as an adult, and then – it would be on a competitive level.   That or as a teacher, because that’s what happens to all sportsmen who don’t ‘make it’ or have had enough.   They become coaches.

A few years ago, I decided that “Hey, I want to do gymnastics.” I loved watching those who could do it, and I wanted that control over my body.   With the world of the internet now at my fingertips, I was able to research the progressions to reach my goals.   With an enthusiastic husband we bought equipment we could use around our house to begin teaching ourselves gymnastics – planches, levers, straddle sit…   But it wasn’t enough.   Without someone giving us instructional guidance, and without the appropriate space and equipment, we quickly found our limitations.    By this time, parkour was becoming increasingly popular, and as such our local gymnastics center began offering adult gymnastics/parkour classes, and so we joined.

It’s been a great learning journey, one of the first I learned quickly – you just can’t jump into final progression without taking the steps to get there.  It’s like saying ‘hey, I can start the car, let’s go and drive on the freeway.’  Chances are, you’ll end up in a crash… well that’s what happened to my neck when I decided on my second session I was going to try a flip on the trampoline.   The amount of cracks I heard coming down, I was convinced I had broken it, but thankfully it was just a lot of pulled muscles and bruised ego.   It did take a while to heal the neck properly (and I heard every click go back in over the course of a few weeks), requiring some physio to help it on its way.   But it did not stop me.   Yes, it slowed me down, but now I am back on track.

So why gymnastics?   Because a gymnast has immense control over their body.   Because I want that control and strength.   And…, well… it’s fun!