Gymnastics is a sport that’s enjoyed particular popularity in the last year, as it does in almost every Olympics year. With ‘Team GB’ now firmly established as a household name, children across the country are now pouring into gymnasiums, hoping to one day emulate their heroes on the biggest stage at all. It’s a hope shared, doubtless, by the British Olympic Association.
Enrolment at local gymnastic clubs tends to be muted during non-Olympic years – there’s only a relatively small window for would-be gymnasts to take up the sport and achieve a degree of technical prowess, and so catching children at the right age is vitally important. During Olympic years, we see a marked uptick in the number of children enrolling in classes. The reason for this is clear; it’s by far the largest event of a professional gymnast’s career, and it’s televised to an extent that no other gymnastics competition can even begin to match.
Though there’s definitely such a thing as being too old to get started in the world of serious gymnastics, there’s almost certainly no such thing as being too young – some gymnasts are able to handstand almost as soon as they’re able to walk. If your child has shown an enthusiasm for this most ancient of pursuits, then don’t waste any time: get them down to the local gymnasium at the earliest possible opportunity. Even if they aren’t about to become the next Simone Biles, they’ll be getting valuable exercise – which, as we all know, is essential to good health!
If you’re already a fairly accomplished gymnast, or your children are training to become so, then you might want to invest in a few additions for your house. Fortunately, gymnastics is a sport that doesn’t require too much equipment – you can do it in the comfort of your own home, provided that you’ve cleared a sufficiently large space. But in order to do things right, it’s important to be as safe as possible – since getting things wrong can quite easily result in serious injury, particularly during manoeuvres where your head is positioned below your torso, as in cartwheels, somersaults and headstands.
With this in mind, let’s consider some of the items you might wish to invest in for your home gym.
Floor exercises tend to be a starting point for many would-be gymnasts. Why this should be so might seem obvious – it’s the simplest piece of apparatus, requiring nothing but a wide open space in which gymnasts can strut their stuff.
Of course, if the floor you’re using to train is as hard as concrete (or actually made from concrete) then the costs of an error can be great. If you’re just getting started with gymnastics, then such errors will be fairly commonplace – so making sure the floor is appropriately soft will help to minimise injury, and allow that new moves be attempted without fear (which, after all, will only make injury more likely). Training mats like this one are 4’ x 8’ – providing room to do a few different moves. By stacking them alongside one another, you’ll be able to create a great home-training environment; one that’s perfect not only for gymnastics, but for dance, yoga, and other pursuits, too.
If you’re looking for a different sort of surface, you might consider this 3’ x 3’ mat, which can be tiled in much the same way. High-density foam is a little less forgiving than its counterpart, and so will provide a tougher surface which makes doing gymnastics that little bit easier – and it’s a closer approximation of the toughness of an actual floor. Ideally, you’ll want to move gradually from a soft crash-mat surface to a harder, compacted-foam sort. That way you’ll be able to progress safely.
We all marvelled over the summer at incredibly athletes flinging themselves around atop a narrow plank of wood. Atop a balance beam, the consequences of a miscalculation might be disastrous – what if you do a somersault and land with your legs on either side of the beam? What if you do a cartwheel and veer off to one side, falling off the beam altogether?
Clearly, the opportunity for serious injury is great. So how do the professionals stay on top of the beam, and thereby amaze us all so? The answer is simple and twofold: firstly, sometimes even the best gymnast falls off the beam; secondly, those that remain on the beam do so as a result of constant practice.
In order to practice, a training beam is a vital piece of equipment. It allows the aspiring Olympian to replicate the conditions of an elevated beam without quite the same amount of danger. Such a balance beam is typically suspended just a few centimetres from the floor – as this one is. For starter gymnasts, or gymnasts who lack the available space to store a proper balance beam in their homes, it’s an elegant and obvious solution. Once you’ve gotten sufficient experience on the low beam, you’ll be able to migrate to something slightly higher, like this specimen, before finally making the leap to the fully-raised version at your local gym.
Pommel Horse, Vault, Rings & Parallel Bars
Of course, there are several other events which make up the entire Olympic roster – ones which demand a wide variety of specialist equipment. Unless your home is exceptionally well-financed, it probably won’t be practical to install a set of rings, or a vault. In order to practice such things, it’s necessary to head down to your local gym in order to take advantage of the hardware.
Naturally, the equipment isn’t the most valuable commodity on offer in a gym – the expertise of the instructors there should certainly be taken advantage of. Attempting gymnastics without proper instruction is a recipe for disaster – so be sure that you get the right education before you commence practicing at home. By combining expert instruction with lengthy and deliberate practice, you’ll give yourself the best chance of progressing.