It’s a perfect 10 for fun, even if you don’t master fantastic feats of athleticism right away.

Share story

WHEN COACH LUCY DOUGALL asked the class to write down our gymnastics goals, I was at a loss.

“Do what they’re doing?” I thought to myself, as I watched girls in sparkly leotards flip and tumble on a trampoline and work on the uneven bars.

Is that even possible?

Seattle Gymnastics Academy

I know gymnastics is far more than the fantastic tumbling passages and other feats of athleticism we see on television. I know it requires incredible strength and dedication for even the simplest of tricks.

So I had a tiny sliver of hope that my adult self could make progress at a Gymnastics Strength and Conditioning class at Seattle Gymnastics Academy in Columbia City, which recently started offering adult classes.

I wrote generalized goals around strength and working on my handstand, and waited to see what Coach Lucy had in store.

A lot of strength work, it turned out.

We warmed up jogging, then she had us do lunge and leg-kick variations while trying to stay in a straight line on the floor. We did bear crawls, moving forward on hands and feet in an inverted V, and inchworms. After flipping over to crawl on the floor with our chests up, my shoulders protested.

We stretched our wrists and shoulders, then she moved us into a series of core exercises, including planks with legs on sliders for added intensity, lower back strengthening and situps.

Coach Lucy trains her team with squats, so they land jumps in their glutes and hamstrings, rather than quads and knees. She moved us to a low mat for a round; I wasn’t fazed. Then she pulled out a larger mat and showed us one-legged squats, we could choose to sit on the higher or lower mat. See whether you can stand up without putting your foot on the ground, she said.

I know these exercises as pistols. If you do, too, you’ll know why I chose the higher mat, especially when doing 10 on each leg.

We also jumped on and off low mats, front, side and back, then on one leg. We balanced on the balls of our feet. Halfway through class, I could feel every new exercise, and was losing hope we would ever finish conditioning.

Finally, Coach Lucy said it was time to move to the balance beam. Hurrah!

We walked across the beam to get a feel for it. It’s wider than it looks, and cushy. We did calf lifts, which made my calves burn, and she taught us beam feet, with toes off the sides and a slight overlap of our feet. We worked on balances on the balls of our feet, and a passé, lifting one leg up to our knee. She challenged us to rise up to the ball of one foot in a passé.

We walked across backward, and then forward, on the balls of our feet. I wasn’t always balanced, but tried to compensate with fully extended fingers for added style. We finished by coming down to hands and feet to walk across. It sounds easier, but for me, going low on the beam was a wobbly mess.

We moved on to the tumble track, a long stretch of trampoline. We got used to bouncing, going forward and backward, and adding in jumps with splits. I love trampoline, and hoped this was a sign adults could learn tumbling passages.

Class ended with more shoulder and wrist stretches.

I loved getting a glimpse of how gymnasts train and build up their strength. I realized it would take several classes before I emerged with a cool new gymnastic trick. But once we were on the beam and tumble track, I had fun, which to me is the most important reason of all to take gymnastics.