by Lori Vollkommer
|I love this quote. It portrays exactly what it means to be an adult gymnast. Sure, tackling any challenge comes with a myriad of feelings. Some of which we don’t necessarily welcome. When you have the courage to do it anyway, the gifts on the other side are amazing! It means new friends, new experiences and newfound confidence that feels so rewarding.|
Gymnastics is a hard sport. Physically, we are always pushing a comfort zone. Whether it be perfecting a current technique or skill or learning a new one.
To have this physical toughness, you also need to be mentally tough. Fear and uncertainty are not our friends. In fact, it could lead to injury if we lack the confidence we need. Many times, this forces us to reach within parts of ourselves we may not be comfortable with or even know are there.
Competing as an adult gymnast adds an entirely new layer to getting out of your comfort zone. As an adult, you can compete through USAG, NAIGC, AAU or USAIGC/IAIGC.
I returned to gymnastics 2 ½ years ago after a 33-year break. I had to leave the sport at age 16 after a serious spinal injury during a competition. After re-injuring myself in 2014 and rehabbing with PT and Chiropractic for 2 years, it was my Doctors that encouraged me to “go play”.
I had to find an open gym that accepted adults. There was only one near me. Getting up the courage to go inside and confront the feelings of fear and how I would be perceived, if my body would cooperate and I would not hurt myself was a huge challenge in that moment. That was August 2016. Thanks to the encouragement of my husband, kids, and the coach at the facility as well as muscle memory, it didn’t take long for thoughts of competing again and finishing a chapter of my life cut short.
I found a coach, started training, and got ready for my first competition in 12 weeks competing floor exercise in Jan 2017. It was an amazing experience complete with all spectrums of emotions from scared shitless to complete joy. I was hooked…My next “out of my comfort zone” moment came in March 2107 when I blew out my ACL during practice days before my second competition. Requiring surgery in late April 2017 and months of rehab, I had to compete my 2018 year with my “Forrest Gump-like” metal brace. Adjusting to now doing skills wearing it along with deciding to compete 3 events instead of one. As you can tell, I love a good challenge.
There is no adult gymnastics near me. I am lucky to be able to work out with the team girls – ages 9-14, so I get to let out my inner 16-year-old. It is so comfortable and encouraging being with them in practice and on the competition floor. Though I have found it’s quality over quantity as an adult gymnast, I keep up with them and the 3 hour practices as well as being able to impart my wisdom and adjust their thinking.
I’ve only had the experience of competing USAIGC/IAIGC. I haven’t found many adults. Most times I am either in my own age group or in the 16+ group. The best part has been the opportunity to compete in International competitions. Something I never dreamed of as a kid.
In March 2018 we competed in the Bermuda International Gymnastics Challenge. They were thrilled to have an adult there and find our presence very inspiring. This particular meet was an “Out of my Comfort Zone” moment as I rolled my ankle in warm ups and sprained it pretty bad. I scratched floor but after assessing there was no break or ligament damage, I competed bars and vault in Kerri Strug like style. I had trained long and hard for the meet and needed to qualify for the World Championships, my end goal. Most thought me crazy, but it’s a great story now!
Most recently we competed in the UK Regional Invitational joined by UK, USA, Wales and Germany. I upped my game by competing all-around this competition. First time in 35 years competing beam as well. The entire experience was so amazing. The club hosting the competition holds their practices in a HS gym. They set up and take down the equipment each time they practice. They tumble on an AirTrack and their floor for routines is basically foam covered by a rug! The things we can take for granted! We got to practice with them the day before the competition and join in their strength workout as well. Thankfully, the competition was held North in Milton Keynes and their equipment was similar to what we were used to. They loved having Americans there and gave me quite the fanfare They were all so kind, welcoming and many new friends were made. A highlight for me was getting to meet Sarah Snapp in person. We first met in the “Just Like Fine Wine…. Adult Gymnastics” Facebook Group. She is an American living in Germany. Her husband serves in the military and they are on assignment there until their move to Alaska this summer. We are hoping that will offer more opportunities to meet up at competitions in the states. It was so great to have another adult there competing. We got to chat in between events and offer giggles and encouragement for things that don’t seem to go as planned when you are an adult competitor.
Competing as an adult gymnast has opened up a whole new world of friends, experiences and of course challenges. I decided to compete in AAU Nationals this June in Orlando. They have a ladies division and many adults will be competing there. It will be fun to be with other adults. It will also be a first competing in Xcel. New challenges are everywhere, and I would not have it any other way.
CHALLENGE YOUR LIMITS AND GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE! THAT’S WHERE THE BEST OF LIFE IS LIVED!