Is it unwise to take up gymnastics as a middle-aged adult?
August 19, 2013 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Is it unwise to take up gymnastics as a middle-aged adult? I'm early 40s, female, and can still do a cartwheel. I'm not particularly athletic otherwise. I don't want to get injured, but I am mostly interested in sports that result in cool tricks. My child is 4, so it'd also be good be active with him. Is it a foolish idea?
posted by xo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I started gymnastics at 30. It was a blast when I could consistently make it (a newborn threw a wrench in the works). Absolutely, yes, you can do this! Just make sure a) you trust your coach, and b) that your coach isn't pushing you so hard that you're risking injury.
posted by bfranklin at 10:18 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not a foolish idea at all! But yes, absolutely trust your own knowledge of your own body and realize that there is a difference between pain from sore/aching/well-used muscles and pain from an injury, and don't let anyone push you into carrying on with the latter.
posted by elizardbits at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know I've told this story far too often and need to get a new one, but: Some years ago, I was in my 30s, living in Marin County, bicycle riding mostly with people who generally had a few years on me. At some point we were on a ride out on the hills of Point Reyes, and there was a long climb.

There was a 20-something who was pushing me a bit, so we were well ahead of the pack, battling it out for the crest of the hill. Both panting at close to our aerobic limit, toying with each other, trying to psyche the other person out so that we could claim to be the first over. I glanced in my mirror, and, far back from the pack, saw someone break away. I kept up my assault, and the 20-something and I continued edging each other out, but this guy just inexorably gained on us, and right before we hit the crest, as we were both gasping, casually said "'mornin, boys", turned on the power and dropped us.

The guy was 70. And competitive with 20 somethings at a state level.

As others have noted: train sensibly. However, it is never too old to get athletic.
posted by straw at 10:31 AM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

I don't do gymnastics, but I don't see why you shouldn't. Old people kick ass in gymnastics. (I suspect those two, particularly the latter, may have trained in their youth. This guy had been fit his entire life but only took up gymnastics in his sixties!)

However, I would keep in mind the advice of Coach Sommer:
I stress to my athletes that there are old gymnasts and that there are dumb gymnasts; there are however no old dumb gymnasts.
Take it easy, resolve yourself to slow and steady progress, be careful with pushing your body. But do it, absolutely, do it.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2013

Which part of gymnastics do you want to do?
If it's the tumbling part, I would whole-heartedly recommend Judo. LOTS of older practictioners in that and its fun for the little one as well (full disclosure: my little girl is two, and I plan on getting her on the tatami by 5).
posted by mfu at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2013

I've started doing circus acrobatics recently (I'm 41). I suck at it but it's fun.
posted by singingfish at 1:37 PM on August 19, 2013

Here's the thing, it depends on your body. Boobs and gymnastics don't really go together.

As you mature, your center of gravity changes. So your ability to do gymnastics will change based upon your body type.

I'm a mesomorph with a low center of gravity. So I was NEVER going to be good at gymnastics. My sister has a more athletic build and is somewhat flat chested, she did fine.

Speak to a coach, go slow, and don't push yourself.

Also, realize that with these more aggressive sports, one injury can make a life altering impact. So you may not want to do the uneven parallel bars. Not because you can't but because if you screw it up just once, you might hurt yourself for realsies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:17 PM on August 19, 2013

Yoga is a "sport" (practice, really) with some pretty cool party tricks. Highly recommended for all ages and I bet the likelihood of injury is less than gymnastics.

FYI, I am one of those people who recommend yoga for everything.
posted by Brittanie at 2:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with earlier commenters that you might want to stay away from high-speed, high-impact events like the uneven bars and the horse. At your age, a bad landing can be catastrophic. But there's a silver lining: you're so late to the game that you'll never be competitive anyway, so why follow the standard events?

xo: "I don't want to get injured, but I am mostly interested in sports that result in cool tricks."

The most impressive and least risky family of skills will probably be static holds. A 40-something mother who can bust out a manna or a planche to handstand would have turned heads at any party I've ever attended.

Note that each of these skills is the end of a long and difficult series of progressions. And even if you're just cherry-picking those two skills to show off with, you'll need to some some complementary exercises to avoid weird muscle imbalances. A proper gymnastics instructor can tell you more.
posted by d. z. wang at 5:32 PM on August 19, 2013

It's not crazy, although it's definitely harder as an adult. Just use reasonable precautions. But also, gymnasts who get tired of injuries become divers... just throwing that out there.
posted by anaelith at 7:47 PM on August 19, 2013

I manage a gymnastics gym, I've been a gymnast my whole life, and I'm opening up an adult class this fall. You are absolutely NOT too old! It's certainly not the same undertaking it would have been at 7 years old, but there is still so, so much you can learn. The great thing about gymnastics is that it's an individual sport, so you are free to go at your own pace, and not feel the need to be as good/fast/flexible as everyone else.

I suggest trying to find a club that offers adult "open gym", preferably one that's not too busy. What this usually entails is a bunch (5-15) of adults aged 17-50 in the gym, working on their own thing at their own pace. There is usually a coach or two to help you, and can either help you work towards specific moves, or just keep you safe as you play around, say, learning to walk in different ways on the beam. This kind of class is great because then you don't feel intimidated when you can't keep up with the others in your class. Most gyms offer this as a drop-in, 15$ or so per class.

d.z. wang "you're so late to the game that you'll never be competitive anyway"
Not true! I'm not sure where you're located, but most places offer masters competitions for adults. It's a fun, super friendly competition where you select your own levels (so you're about to compete something reasonably easy), but you still get the "competition experience". Many non-former gymnasts join in.

So, start slow, don't go trying any advanced moves right away (particularly inversions, or anything involving back flexibility), and be VERY careful with any trampoline work. But go for it! Gymnastics, even basic stuff at an older age, can be incredibly fun and rewarding.
posted by hasna at 8:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, some gyms offer parent-kid classes, where the parent actually participates in the class learning all the basic moves alongside their kid (compared to most where the parent just keeps the kid following along). This might be a good start?
posted by hasna at 8:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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