Most girls go through a gymnastics phase at some point in their adolescence. By the time they get to middle school, though, gymnastics tends to take a backseat to more mainstream sports like field hockey and soccer — you know, sports that don't require you to wear the equivalent of a bathing suit while you're going through puberty. But for some girls like me, gymnastics becomes not just a hobby — but a way of life.
Because you can't half-ass gymnastics. Every time you go to practice, you could, quite literally, kill yourself with one wrong move. So, gymnastics isn't for the weak, the lazy, or the faint-of-heart. A real gymnast can look delicate and dainty while flipping on a four-inch wide piece of wood, out pull-up any boy in her high school PE class, and even smile through stress fractures. You bet your muscular ass this is a tough sport.
Every four years, gymnastics comes back into the spotlight, thanks to a cute group of teeny Olympic hopefuls who perform mind-bending tricks on the vault, floor, bars, and beam. Those girls truly eat, sleep and breathe gymnastics — but so do the girls training for their local gym team, their high school teams, and on elite levels.
Gymnastics requires no less than a three day a week, three hour a day commitment, and every gymnast is always pulling overtime (I woke up sore more than once from practicing my floor moves in my sleep). There's nothing more nerve-wracking than standing on the edge of an apparatus, waiting to be judged on all your hard work.
But there's more to gymnastics than chasing an elusive perfect 10 (or whatever a "perfect" score is these days). Gymnastics teaches discipline, leadership, determination, and, at the risk of sounding cheesy, the idea that fear is only in your head (because, really, the only thing keeping you from trying a double back is the idea that you might break your neck, amirite?).
If you get that, then you probably get these things, too. Because there are some things only we gymnasts can truly understand.
"Are you flexible?"
...Is the first question you get every time you tell people you were a gymnast
Real original, guys.
But, yes, now that you asked
You can touch your nose to your knee, do a full split, and bend your body in ways that will either astonish or repulse other people.
(Now, get your mind out of the gutter)
Nothing quite compares to that moment when you land your first back flip
Once you know you're capable of that, the sky's the limit. A double pike with a full twist? Sure!
You'll still show off your back handspring if anyone asks you to
You will regret it later. Especially if you were tumbling under the influence.
you know that Gymnastics is a contact sport
Try to learn how to do a back flip with a full twist before telling me otherwise.
You have bigger muscles than most guys you know
Wanna arm wrestle?
You've used more chalk than soap
and at one point, Your hands have been almost as gross as a ballet dancer's feet
You've spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about your bra straps showing
(although you probably didn't really need to be wearing that bra, let's be honest)
This was your secret weapon during competitions
No mid-routine wedgies for you!
But this is what you really couldn't live without
You always had a roll in your gym bag for your ankles, your wrists, and even to make faux-grips (just in case you forgot yours).
You've willingly submitted your body to choice moves like this
But, oh, the humiliation
This kind of fall is by far more embarrassing than it is painful.
Behind every impressive trick you learn is an embarrassing amount of total fails
The trampoline double bounce is particularly deadly
Sure, you get great height — but you will definitely break a bone on the rebound.
The word "conditioning" still makes even your teeth hurt
You have nightmares about handstand press-ups
Seriously, this is the hardest conditioning move I've ever come across.
You know that the day after a hard workout isn't half as bad as the second day after
Your parents totally signed you up for a gymnastics portrait session like this
Admit it. You have a file of these at your parents' house. You know it'd be an epic #TBT post.
You definitely know exactly how to make an entrance
Why walk when you can front walkover?
When you hear a song you like, you automatically start choreographing a floor routine in your head
you've fantasized about having a move named after you
This is the Mustafina, named after Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina, who gave the best 'tude at the 2012 Olympics.
You were obsessed with ABC Family's Make It Or Break It
Even though you aged out of the network's demographic a decade ago... (And you still critique all the things they got wrong.)
Stick It is your Bring It On
You are intensely competitive when it comes to cheerleaders
Because, obviously, gymnastics is harder.
You definitely had a poster of the Magnificent Seven on your wall
Dominique Mocheanu, you are my spirit animal. (OK, I'm old — maybe it was the Fierce Five, for you.)
You'd never hate, but rhythmic gymnastics is kind of terrifying
This perfect vault brings tears to your eyes
As does Kerri Strug's gold medal-winning vault
But this is the ultimate
But, really, how?!
You have no idea how to interpret the new scoring system
What ever happened to a perfect 10?!
and who came up with the idea of flipping backwards over a 4-inch wide piece of wood?
You can thank Friedrich Ludwig Jahn.
good thing Distracting music during your beam routine actually helps you focus better
What could possibly be more fun than the trampoline runway?
No trick seems scary when you've got a trampoline under your feet and a pit of foam waiting for you at the end.
Only strapping yourself to the high bar and doing giants on loop, obvs
You definitely had a crush on the one cute boy at the gym
And at high school practice, your moves instantly got better as soon as the boys' soccer team walked in
Sometimes, you secretly wish you could still wear your leos to work out
Who wouldn't feel more motivated to work in this?!
You still have at least one, just in case
It still fits. Not that you'll admit you tried it on recently...
This GK catalog was your version of the Victoria's Secret swimsuit catalog
and Yes, you've rocked crushed velvet as a fashion statement
Because, duh. Who would mind when it looks this good?
You still find yourself making "pretty hands" in yoga
You have a laundry list of injuries that will come back to haunt you when you're 80
Choking is real, and the idea of doing it mid-meet is terrifying
That moment of fear before you start a tumbling pass...
Even though you practice the move 10 times in a row during warm-ups.
you already know in the air whether you're aced a move or not
and most of all, that moment you nail a perfect routine?