One Flip Forward, Two Backsprings Back

Recently my CrossFit box organized a small group of us to take a gymnastics class at Gleason’s Gymnastic School in Eagan.

There are a lot of WODs in CrossFit that involve gymnastic skills, such as a handstand and a muscle-up.

I eagerly signed up as it seemed like a great complement to all my other training and would help me become a stronger competitor.

We went to the intro class on a Sunday evening in late August. The school is located in an industrial park and the facility itself is as big as you can imagine with 30+ foot ceilings and mats, trampolines, bars, rings, ropes and beams everywhere.

With big eyes and wide grins, we chucked our shoes and were like a bunch of kids ready to play.

Our instructor, Dave, welcomed us with open arms and hit the ground running. We practiced handstands, both against the wall and freestanding.

We then went into front flips and cartwheels.

From there we went into learning back springs and then onto the trampolines to work on form and do some assisted attempts. It was a very full hour and a half class that was nonstop and exhausting.

It was aslo totally overwhelming. Maybe I was just dizzy from all the flips or maybe all the blood had rushed to my head during the hand stand practice, but I felt totally out of my element. Further, everyone appeared to be taking to all these moves almost instantaneously.

They seemed at ease in this new surrounding and took to everything instantly. No fear. No hesitancy. They were the Flying Wallendas while I was inert.

It felt much like my first day over three years ago at CrossFit when I couldn’t imagine doing a single pull-up and the bar itself felt heavy. I anticipated starting gymnastics, especially at age 32, would feel similar.

But I also thought everyone else would be in the same boat. Even though people in the group were stronger and faster in the WODs, I thought maybe we would all be united in our newness and on the same equal footing on the mat. I was frustrated as I felt singular in my lack of skill and ability.

The next day I vented all my feelings to Diana and Coach Tracy at our barbell club. They couldn’t believe my negative attitude about things. I was sabotaging myself.

They both looked like they just wanted to slap me across the face and yell, “Snap out of it!”

Diana then and there set me straight. She told me I had to stop comparing myself to others. This gymnastics class was supposed to be for my own personal experience and benefit. I was there to train and improve my skills.

As was everyone else and they would be focused on themselves, not me. All my attention should be dedicated to my form and the movements. What they do has no bearing on me and vice versa.

I couldn’t believe that simply stepping out of my comfort zone had made me so quickly regress. I’ve grown so much over the past year, both in and out of the gym, that I’m disappointed in how quickly I forgot this key to my own success.

It’s about my progress, my betterment. The only comparison worth making was me compared to me.

And in reflecting upon the class, I reminded myself of how at the end one of my classmates told me that when practicing the back spring on the trampoline with the coach I looked absolutely scared to death and as pale as can be. But she quickly added, “But you did it and that was really good!”

That’s right! I did it. Before the class had started, I had never done an assisted back spring in my life, nor a front flip, even if it was only into a seated position on the mat. I went from never to some.

This past weekend, the full 8-week class began and I showed up on time with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm. I practiced my handstands, while others walked on their hands.

I practiced my back spring form, while others did theirs with ease. But it doesn’t matter what they did.

All that matters is that I progressed. I got better. And I left the mat with more confidence than before.

Maybe by the end of the 8-week session I will do a freestanding hand stand. And with this re-adjusted mindset, it’s going to be the most satisfying thing in the world because at the end of the day it was me versus me – and I won!

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