Gym-nice-tics VII

May 12, 2010

Okay, so it’s really about time that I posted again, and with my AP world exam tomorrow I really don’t feel like there’s anything else I can do but pray. So I’m going to take the time I’m not spending studying to write this blog about (drumroll please) flying.

Yes, number four on the list of top ten things that I love about gymnastics is flying-seriously, it’s all I do. In my book, flying can mean anything from twisting mid air as I pop off the vault to letting go of the bar and doing a flyaway. Any skill that requires me to be airborne is flying, really. And it’s really scary and really hard to do but at the same time it’s incredibly fun. Take flyaways, for instance. Flyaways are the basic dismount from the bar set; what happens is, the gymnast pushes away from the bar and swings out until her body is parallel to the ground, and then lets go. Her body then basically takes it from there-she’ll tuck (or layout, if she’s squeezing tight enough to stay straight) and flip over backwards, landing on her feet. If it’s a good day, and the gymnast has a lot of momentum, maybe she’ll even fly up-this is necessary if more than one rotation is the desired effect.

Okay, that was really fun to explain! But back to what I was saying-doing a flyaway is fun. It really is. And this is coming from me, I was scared to death of flyaways for the longest time. I refused to let go because I feared crashing into the bar or landing on my back/neck/head. But once I got the skill, and started sticking it, I realized that it was really cool. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s actually the only skill that pretty much requires no strain (at least if one is doing a simple, single rotation flyaway.) And once you’re in the air, well, it’s like your mind leaves your body and all you can feel is yourself floating. It’s a split second feeling, but it’s a bit of a rush. I always get tingly after sticking an aerial tumbling pass or a salto dismount, and I can’t explain why that happens, but it always feels good.


Gym-nice-tics VI

May 2, 2010

Me and Dan showing off our biceps

The number five on the list of top ten things I love about gymnastics is my strength, something that I’m not exactly modest about. I like to flaunt my power, and I’ve been told that I throw a mean punch. What I’m really trying to say is that muscle mass is one of the best things about being a gymnast. Not only is it good for actually executing the skills that I do in the gym, but it also works well for self defense, blackmail and revenge. Back when my nose was broken, when people would annoy me, I would say (in a very detached tone while boring through them with my icy glare), “you do realize I did this to myself” and point to the swelling in the middle of my face. It was a very effective threat.

It’s quite getting to me, this whole being away from the gym. I can already feel my strength waning.What with APs fast approaching and an SAT just the other day, I really haven’t had much time for anything-exercise included. However last weekend, I did try to condition a little bit with some of the free time I had. Although it was a good idea, I learned my lesson the next day that you need to ease back into things, not go at them full speed ahead. What happened was, I decided to do some conditioning just as I would at the gym-reps of 50 pushups, sit ups and toe raises, so that I would be working out everything in my body and not just abs or arms. I forgot that I hadn’t been to the gym for some time (four weeks, to be exact), and my muscles were not used to that sort of prolonged intense activity. For the next three days, my calves burned with every step that I took-it was torture. I had forgotten that kind of pain existed, and with that lesson I also learned just how strong the sport makes you.

Gym-nice-tics V

April 22, 2010

Okay okay okay so I haven’t been writing daily, like I promised myself I would. But I was really sick on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and it is AP season and Tower time, so time is of the essence and there isn’t much to spare. So I draft this in between completing answers for my AP Environmental Science practice and listening to the newest Glee songs (which, by the way, are SO good) while also worrying about the history and pre-calc and English that I have to do, not to mention SAT prep and a last-minute article I gave myself to write for FeArts. Gotta love junior year! It’ll be over soon.

Anyway, here is #6 on the list of 10 Things I Love About Gymnastics

Leotards. I looooove leotards, or leos (the preferred gym slang for “leotard”) for numerous amounts of reasons, the number one being that they’re so awesome. At least the ones that I buy are. I have this thing where I try to look really tough, simple and clean at the gym, and a lot of my leotard choices reflect that. I love buying new leotards and wearing them to the gym and I have favorite leotards that I’ll never get rid of because they’re so freaking cute. Leotards are everything; they’re the only accessory a gymnast is allowed (aside from scrunchies, which are gross anyway). They spice up the gym, and they’re a way to establish your style as well as an identity at meets. They’re also way of showing off which coach has the best taste. As of right now, I think that mine do, because my competition leotard is awesome. I’m a huge fan of simple and black-they’re a really great combination. When my coach arrived and showed us our leotards, which are all black with one orange ribbon wrapping around one arm and the body, I nearly died of happiness. All of my previous competition leotards have been ugly-one made me look like a fireball and had too many rhinestones, and the other was an obnoxious electric blue with ugly little white bumps that are supposed to look like waves all over it. Both were just hideous. But this new one, so simple, so fresh, in a way so very intimidating. When I wear it, I feel like I’m saying “I don’t give a damn about frills and fluff, just let me show you what I’ve got.” It’s so awesome!

Anyway, leotards are a reflection of a gymnast’s personality. I tend to be very simple with my routines-my beam routine is very concise and short, with no fluff and stupid hand gestures, my floor routine has more acrobatics than dancing-therefore my leotards are all very simple outfits. And that’s the way I like them. I hate when leotards have too many rhinestones or velvet or something. As a gymnast, a leotard acts as a second skin. Rhinestones and other decorations just make working out more painful than it all ready is, not to mention uncomfortable. That’s why I prefer mine made out of nylon and some velvet (lamé sparkly ones are okay sometimes) and with the amount of decoration anywhere from few to none. And these kinds of leotards are surprisingly hard to come by. I’ve found that many of the leotards I look at on GK (my preferred leotard brand) are full of my leotard no-no’s.

Leotard no-no’s according to Pauline: Mesh, brown, more than one shade of purple, overdone rhinestones, “creative” designs (looks like waves, hearts, fire, peace get the point), tacky prints, spaghetti straps, animal prints. Here are a few no-no’s that I stumbled upon the last time I was on the GK website:

Not only is it a tacky print, but the colors are gross too. This looks like a melted ice pop.

Ahh, the classic mustard and ketchup combination


And those are just this seasons offenders. Because it is so hard to find a decent leotard that I would be willing to wear, I always buy the ones I love. Nastia Liukin had some really great ones earlier this year that I missed out on (partially because my teammate Lin bought them before I could, and I also hate matching) but her designs seem to be getting worse. Well, in the world of leotards, there’s always something new just a few weeks away.

Gym-nice-tics IV

April 18, 2010

It’s AP season of my junior year, which means it’s time to buckle down, spend Friday nights at home, and start getting some work done. I’ve been considering not going back to the gym until after APs are over in a month, but then I remembered my number 7 reason why I love gymnastics.

Reasons Why I Love Gymnastics

7. Anger management. Regardless of being a huge stressor in my life during times of competition, gymnastics serves as a really good time for me to release any anger that I have building up inside. All of my anger gets transfered into energy that I use when I tumble, vault and do bars. Being angry at gymnastics is effective in a trillion different ways; it helps me squeeze my muscles tight, I punch the springboard as hard as I can, and my tumbling becomes fast and hard. This is because of not only my sudden influx of energy from being riled up but also imagining that the springboard is the head of whoever I am angry at, thus making my punch rage-filled and powerful. Stress and anger are also released, at least for me, through hitting and squeezing things. Sometimes, if I’m really angry, instead of a stress ball I just squeeze every single muscle in my body as hard as I can. When I release, the anger has been drained from my conscience and I am free to relax. It also helps to get angry with myself for not performing well, because then I try a lot harder at everything. In a sense, it’s kind of like how I work well under pressure-at the last minute, it’s as if all the ideas that come out had been bottled up inside me. I know that they’re there, I just can’t seem to pry them out for some reason, until I really need them. That’s how certain skills are for me, unless I know I’ll have to do 50 pushups or get yelled at or something, I’m less than willing to bang out a skill I’m not a fan of. But when the right time comes, I can pull it off with excellent execution.

Gym-nice-tics III

April 14, 2010

Jonathan Groff joins GLEE!!

A few things first (concerning, what else? Glee)…a.) I love LOVE Jesse St. James, even though he seems very sketchy and is up to no good b.) IDINA MENZEL c.) did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks? What a great episode. And I’m predicting that next week’s Madonna special is going to be even better.

Now onto my Thing I Love About Gymnastics #8
Getting a new skill and doing it flawlessly. One of the best parts of being a gymnast is learning new things, and the satisfaction that comes with sticking them. This is especially awesome when you get the skill after struggling with it for ages because of fear. For instance, I just started landing/sticking my roundoffs* on the beam before I had my accident, and after I started sticking them, the skill became less of a chore. When I have a skill that I need to work on, and I really don’t care for it much/I’m afraid of it, I psyche myself out of doing it. I’ll try to avoid it as much as possible, but at the same time spend a lot of my spare time thinking about the skill, trying to figure out how it’s done and picturing myself performing it. I did this with flyaways* for five years, but now that I’m used to doing them, I’ve found that not only are they kind of fun, but I’m also good at them. That’s the other thing about getting a new skill, once it’s been obtained and stuck, you can work on making it pretty, which is where the good score comes from. Because in the end, gymnastics is really about pretty form and being able to do flips and handsprings and release moves while making it look attractive and easy.
If I haven’t learned something new or improved during practice, I’ll be discouraged for the remainder of the day, but if I get a new skill or perform really well, it affects my attitude in a positive way. And that’s why I love new things.

Gym-nice-tics II

April 11, 2010

It’s been a long weekend-ACTs, tutoring, essays to write, etc. These are my excuses for not updating daily, as promised. But I’m a high school junior, I have work to do! And by work I mean procrastinating a lot and stumbling upon this.

Regardless, I apologize for not posting about gymnastics, but in my defense, it has given me time to think about my #9 Reason Why I Love Gymnastics. After much consideration, and leafing through many contenders, I’ve finally chosen.

Flexibility. Being limber has so many advantages. I can contort my way out of sticky situations, it makes me better at yoga, and splits are an impressive party trick. Being flexible also makes gymnastics easier overall. Hitting 180º in a switch leap is worth very many points which has worked in my advantage many times before.

The thing is, I wasn’t always as flexible as I am. Well, I guess I was because I started when I was little, but getting my splits to where they are today has been a painful road. Welcome to the world of hyper-extension. Many people may notice that my legs lock and hyperextend when I stand straight, and appear almost concave. That’s because they are. When I first started training with a competitive team, they introduced me to the hyperextension, or “over stretching”. When stretching our splits, we would put our front ankles on an elevated surface, like a tumbl trak or folded up panel mat, and push down to the floor so that our splits were past 180º. For those of us who could split all the way to the floor with the mats, my coach would set up a special hyperextension stretching device made out of two spring boards placed front to front, prime for allowing my groin area to stretch even farther than ever–maybe even to 210º! But splitting on the springboard-setup-from-hell didn’t just hyperextend my splits, it over extended my locked knees as well, adding to my bendy-ness.

It looks like it hurts, and it does. On a scale of 1-10, hyper extension is around an 8 or 9. But after a while, it starts to feel numb, and you get used to escaping to a happy place so that the pain is far from your mind. And after a few months of intensive stretching, being in a hyperextended split becomes a default position.


April 8, 2010

these are a few of my favorite things

I’ve been suffering from exercise deprivation, what with recovering from a concussion and a healing nose bridge. Sure, I love having gym exemption and taking a break from working out for a little bit, but not exercising has left me bitter and harsh. I really need to exercise, because exercising produces endorphins and endorphins make you happy!

But for right now I can’t really exercise, nor do I want to in this heat wave that has struck New Jersey just a few weeks after the torrential downpours and blizzards a plenty. So I’ve decided to give myself a writing project-10 Things I Love About Gymnastics. What is it that I love most? Why do I love the sport so much? Why, after eleven years, am I still ardently participating in the sport?

The reasons are numerous, but I’ve chosen the top ten to post about for the next ten days. It’ll be an interesting exploration for me and it’ll force me to write. So I’ll start with number ten.

10. Answering the question, “Can you do a backflip?” It happens every time I mention that I’m a gymnast, and is usually followed by an inquiry about my Olympic status (which peeves me), and every time I give the same nonchalant “Yeah.” Because it’s a basic skill, yet it’s so revered, so amazing to the “normal” people who don’t see stunts like a backflip every day. It sounds vain, yes, but impressing someone in a very non-conventional way is satisfying in no so much a holier-than-thou fashion but more of a makes-my-day-a-little-better way. If that makes sense. See, in the world of gymnastics, we don’t receive many compliments for our efforts because we’re always working towards perfection, which is nearly impossible to gain. Impressing people who don’t see all of my falls or my crappy routines gives me a confidence boost in a really good way-confidence improves my performance. So please, keep asking me questions about my sport, because it feels good to hear someone compliment my performance rather than critique it every now and then.