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Friday, February 24, 2012

KipQuest 2012! Youth is Wasted on the Young

It's a month into my goal of relearning a kip, and I feel great. But not because I'm kipping like my childhood light-as-a-feather-self. I haven't actually been on the bars yet.

But I've stuck with my workout plan--a minimum of 3 days a week at the gym-- and THAT is a big accomplishment when you have three young children. Okay, so this past week was a bust. We had three days off for the Mardi Gras holidays, and vacation is the nemesis of exercise. One morning, I did do twenty-five pushups and then read Vogue while in a plank position. Surely that counts for something. 

Today, the nursery at the Y is closed for floor refinishing so no hip-hop-kick-box for me. So yesterday was my single workout of the week. As a kid, I'd take off for family vacation, sit in my splits a few times throughout the week to stay stretchy, and go back to the gym without a problem. As an adult, taking a week off is a huge setback. When starting back, my numbers of repetitions go down, my distance decreases from pathetic to laughable (yes, I do hit the treadmill on occasion, and I hate every minute of it), and my inhaler becomes my best friend. 

Most adults understand how to push themselves harder than kids do. Kids are drawn to gymnastics because a) they enjoy it and/or b) it comes easily to them. But once it starts to become difficult, they're inclined to quit in frustration or reduce focus on the difficult part. For instance, beam came easily for me but vault didn't; but did I push myself even harder on vault? No. I wanted more and more beam because it was more enjoyable, and I did the bare minimum on vault because not only did I hate it, but because I told myself, "I just wasn't meant to be a good vaulter." 

As an adult, I find workouts unfulfilling if there isn't a slight element of torture. Now, feeling exhausted, sore, and sweaty means that I'm making progress. I remember, as a child, being assigned ten leg lifts and feeling smug because I was getting away with such easy conditioning. But did I challenge myself to do more? Of course not. Meanwhile, chin-ups were more difficult, so I'd do six good ones and three half-way ones and say I did ten. Could I have done ten good ones? Absolutely. But did I want to do any more work than I possibly had to? No. So progress stalled, and I never became the gymnast I could have been. Still, I think that's probably typical adolescent behavior. The teenagers you see at level 9, 10, elite--they're the ones that understand how to push themselves, and that's an extremely rare quality. 

So what's the difference in kids and adults? I guess kids are programmed to desire instant gratification ("I'm never going to do giant swings; I've been trying forever and it's just not happening, so why bother?") and will behave a certain way despite understanding the long-term consequences ("skipping giant swings will mean that I won't make my goal of competing at level 9, but I guess it's just not meant to be"). 

As an adult, there's something urgent about racing against the clock to prove that you can still be as fit as a teenager. You have to get rid of that baby weight, and you have to be able to run around with the kids in the yard, and you have to haul two gallons of milk in one hand and a toddler in the other. You find yourself ticking items off a list just to say you've done them (marathons, anyone?). You want to look as young as you feel (23) even though you're somehow, impossibly, 35. But you also realize that in order to feel as good as you did when you were young, you just have to work much harder at it.

I'm almost ready to start working on the actual kip itself. But you don't train for a marathon by running one everyday (see, I'm learning from you, crazy runners), so right now I'm concentrating on getting strong before I make any attempts. And I'm hoping I can make it this weekend to The New Orleans Jazz Invitational for a little inspiration. It's the annual meet hosted by Empire Gymnastics, where I used to work.  Maybe while I'm there, I'll remind those kids not to cheat on their chin-ups. 


  1. I loved your article in this month's IG - I completely identify with you! First back handspring and first kip are the most memorable of my many gymnastics days, so many years ago. I'm in B.R. - talking about Mardi Gras and N.O., you must be nearby. :) Keep up the kip work - I'm cheering you on!

  2. Thanks for reading! Love me some Louisiana gymnasts...no one else knows how to merge the gymnastics and the party! First back handspring is a great memory too; my coach used to have a goody bag filled with gymnastic-y odds and ends--pens, notepads, and the like-- and all her old posters from IG. Those were both skills that always merited a prize.