Monday, 31 December 2018

Number 3 of 'Five Things I'm Proud of in 2018' (Gymnastics)

Gymnastics this year has been immense! As a reminder, I started going to a disability gymnastics class at the beginning of 2017, and I loved it from the beginning. I now go to three sessions a week and sometimes an evening one if I can make it too. I hoped that going to gymnastics would help with my vaulting and with general everyday physical function. It's definitely done both! Here's how I felt about it back in January 2017...
In the first session, I had a bit of time walking with my crutch on the sprung floor, which felt heavenly on my joints... On the trampoline I also practise walking without a crutch... Yesterday, in my second session, I also tried the beam for the first time - but a very low down version, only about one inch off the ground! Walking along it with my crutch was OK but without my crutch I really struggled and kept falling off, so that's something to practise. I had thought it would be quite easy so it was a bit of a wake-up call to realise I couldn't do it.
I referred to this as 'my new playground' - and it still is! Except the pit foam has changed colour ;)
I also put this down:
Now, obviously, I'm not going to be doing the same stuff as I did when I was little.
Well, that was right. I'm doing SO MUCH more than I did when I was little! The year has been very busy and I've worked on loads of skills, so here is just a quick taster, month by month, of 2018...



In January I spent A LOT of time doing this. I'd had a nasty fall doing it in December and got whiplash, so I needed to practise it lots in January to 'get back on the horse'. I still hate bars.


In February I started working more on somersaults into the pit. My forward ones weren't too bad (not great, but safe!) but my backward ones really weren't so good.
Rolling forwards through the air in February 2018!
On one occasion as I did a backward somersault from the springboard I jumped lovely and high but didn't jump back enough, so I slammed my face down on the springboard. At first it just felt like a whack but then my nose started bleeding and ultimately I had concussion. Oops. My forward somersaults are progressing but I've been much more cautious with the backwards ones and more accepting of help!
Ready to bump my nose...



I have video of all sorts of stuff in March, but most of the photos (which generally show the bits I was focussed on at the time!) are of one thing: split leaps. Well, two things: split leaps and split jumps. They're much the same (split leaps have a run-up).
One of my first attempts at a split leap (right leg forwards)
Over-splits stretching with my left leg forwards
However, I know that one fairly major achievement non-split-related did happen in March - click here to see what it was!



In April I had my first ever play on the inflatable tumble track! It's a bit like a long bouncy castle...maybe you could make a bouncy moat? I was useless because I can't tumble but I had fun anyway!



In May I fell in love with the beam. Up until that point I had felt largely indifferent to it: vault was my favourite thing; bars were my least favourite thing; floor was OK; and beam was just the thing that I would one day try and do some stuff on. Well, that 'one day' came in May with the realisation that if I were going to enter a competition I would actually need a routine. For some reason I decided that I was going to be able to do a cartwheel on beam. After all, I could do one on a line, so why not on a beam?!
I have no idea how many hundreds (/thousands) times I fell off, but I enjoyed working on it all the same. There's something amazing about standing on a glorified plank of wood, four inches wide, and over four feet above the ground, when you can't feel your legs, or much of your left hand, and you'll only know your feet have hit the beam when you realise you aren't falling off, and think, "I'm just going to throw myself at it and hope for the best." I know it sounds nutty, but it's really liberating to be able to do that!

I made a video about learning cartwheels on beam, which you can find here.



June stands out as my First Ever Gymnastics Competition! There's a video of this too, which was part of the June 3030 Challenge. The video of the competition is here and there's more information and videos on the 3030 Challenge here.

I had very low expectations for the competition. I was entered into the second lowest category, which was otherwise made up of all able-bodied gymnasts, and I fully expected to come bottom in everything. I'd also injured my neck again (I forget how) so until I was actually there I didn't know if I'd make it!

(I'm lying, of course. Of course I'd make it, neck or no neck. But still...there was an element of doubt from other people).
Anyway, basically everything went about as well as could be expected with falls but only one injury, right at the end. But look! In my age group (with a hefty age handicap in my favour) I CAME SECOND ON VAULT!
That second place medal is one of the proudest achievements of my life. It's taken me so long to be able to cope with even the tiniest of run-ups because I simply can't stay co-ordinated enough to run more than a few metres. I'm not sure that what I do even counts as a run but I don't care because it's good enough!
At the competition I met some marvellous people including (SHOUTOUT!) the extraordinary Cara Osang. Check her out here!



This was a time for tidying up. With one competition under my belt, we looked to the British Disability Gymnastics Championships in October. Basically everything needed to be improved! For vault, I wanted to do a handstand flatback, which needed a lot of work.
We also put more detail into the floor routine so that I'd be tidier and more in time with the music. I hadn't realised until then how fit you need to be to keep going through routines. I nearly died...
Roll in splits



A side time because the gym was closed! 😢😢😢
On the plus side, though, I went to an RDA coaching course and had the chance to vault on Boris again a little bit. What a star that horse is! 😍



Hard. Work.
We worked really hard in September - at least for the first half. Then it transpired that somehow the entry had been muddled somewhere along the system (NOT by my coaches!) so I wasn't actually entered to the British Disability Championships this year after all. In some senses this was a relief, because I had lost some skills over the summer (won't be taking 6 weeks off again!) and was, yep, injured.

Taking the pressure off had the ironic effect of meaning I could work harder - or rather, it meant that I could put more time and effort into learning new skills than just trying to perfect my current ones. I was disappointed not to compete but it was probably the best thing for me at the time so it was a blessing in disguise. Of course, with greater effort and adventurousness come more falls, so I've shared here some more candid shots from beam work - they do, after all, reflect the vast majority of what I do!



I'd managed to injure my chest in September, and in October I was rather preoccupied by the British Vaulting Championships, so I tried to play it reasonably safe at gymnastics. This mostly meant a lot of beam, because I didn't need to use my hands so much, and plenty of somersaults (if you do them into the pit you have the added cardio of trying to get out again!). To keep myself from going mad I put together a video of the training you can do when you can't really use your arms or chest much.

Here's a bit of beam work...'s me trying to learn splits on beam...
...and here's a random photo of me doing who-knows-what!



In November, with the British Vaulting Champs out of the way, I let myself start to put weight through the chest again. This meant a return to cartwheels on beam (yay!), vaulting (yay!) and bars (not yay...). Whenever my chest got too sore, I did somersaults again. Most excitingly, I started to work on a new type of vault which will no doubt take forever to perfect, but which I LOVE working on! Here's a clue:
And here's one of my first solo attempts!
In November I made a video of Project Handspring to show the slow and stuttering progress I'm making towards a handspring vault... and you can see it here!



Well, here we are in the here and now! I've done all sorts this month. Here are two bits that I hope to work on in the new year - two of many, many, many things!

1. Forward somersault into pit

2. Handspring (blink and you miss it)
So, there we have it - 2018 in gymnastics. Various things that I'm proud of but they boil down into a few things:
  1. A new mantra for me:
    The longer you stand and look at it, the easier it doesn't get.

    This one came to me when I was first trying a cartwheel on the 'big' beam. I use it a lot for similar situations, where you know you are ready to take the plunge, but you know it'll probably go wrong the first 5000 times, but unless you start out on those 5000 you'll never get to 5001! 
  2. Appreciating that it takes patience to learn new things, as well as effort.
  3. Realising that I can, and therefore must, do more.
⭐⭐⭐THANK YOU so much to all of my wonderful, kind, talented and crazy coaches!⭐⭐⭐

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