Lately I’ve been wondering if I can still do a back handspring, so I decided to find out — I went to an adult gymnastics class. It began easily enough with the very basics: stretches, forward rolls, handstands, etc. I had to remind myself that most people didn’t participate in competitive cheerleading for 6 years, because I was getting restless. I wanted to get to the action.
As we warmed up and I breezed through stations designed to teach the body the technique for doing flips I had mastered long ago, I became even more restless to get to the main floor. Finally, toward the end of the class we had the opportunity for open gym, and I knew that was my chance. I asked the stoic eastern European coach to spot me on a single back handspring after my roundoff. He looked at me suspiciously and asked if I had done one before. “Many times,” I said. It wasn’t until after the fact that I told him the last time I had done it was 10 years ago. I didn’t ask him to spot me the next time I went for it, and without his help I breezed through the tumbling pass I had wondered about for the past few years, and then some.
When I left the gym, I sent a video to my mom straight away. I also posted it on social media, partially to brag, but mostly to confirm what I felt in my bones — that this was freaking awesome! Fortunately, people in my life are incredibly loving, so they affirmed that yes, this is impressive! Good for me!
The muscle memory was amazing, my body is amazing, I was impressed with me. But the part I am most proud of is that I had the desire to do it, and I did it for no other reason than to see what my body can do. I will not be asked to join the Olympic team, I probably won’t even be featured in a marketing video, but darnit if I haven’t looked at that video of myself over and over again, grinning every single time I do. Talk about a confidence boost!
The point is, I am really proud of myself for going to the class, and for actually going through with flips I had not tried in over a decade. I’m proud that I’ve kept myself in good enough shape that I could do it, but it also showed me where I would be more agile if I was tighter. I decided right then and there to purchase a class package so I can see where this challenge might take me. I feel much more in tune and in control of my body than I did when I was a teenager, so I’m excited to see how far I can push myself now that I am older, wiser, and in a bit better shape.
Loving yourself while female is tricky. We learn early on that there are external resources we must utilize in order to be beautiful, desirable, or even acceptable (makeup, a workout regimen, nice clothes, etc). What parents, teachers, youth groups, movies, etc sometimes fail to teach us is that there are endless sources of confidence inside of us, but mining it requires getting out of comfort zones, taking risks, and putting ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable. As children we are encouraged to tackle challenges that scare us — we leap over hurdles, learn gravity-defying tumbling passes, sing to auditoriums full of people, hit balls out of ballparks. But as adults, the opposite holds true. As adults risk-taking is too often reserved for the privileged, and the rest of us fall into routines that keep us from the thrills that gave us such confidence when we were younger and less inhibited.
There are things I have accomplished in my life that are more impressive than roundoff back-handsprings, but as an adult I’ve rarely felt the gratification of accomplishing a goal so immediate and tangible. I showed up to do something, I did the thing, and I did it so well that I impressed myself. When the class was over I was proud to be ME. I wanted MY abilities, I wanted to show off MY skills, and I walked out of that gym feeling like there was no other person on the planet who could touch me (even though there were 10-year-old girls in the same gym doing much harder tumbling passes than me).
Ultimately this post is about the power of accomplishing something tough as well as the power of self-promotion. I’ve always been acutely aware of the virtues of humility — I was taught it is one of the most attractive traits a person can possess. Well, I’m pushing back on that, and I’m saying to my fellow ladies especially — get out there! Do something that scares you, do something you used to be good at but don’t try anymore, get out of your comfort zone! When you do that, you are sure to surprise yourself with how awesome you are, and when you do, I hope you document it for the world, and I hope you keep it up.