www.whyville.net Oct 2, 2011 Weekly Issue

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The Life of a Gymnast

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Here I am on the balance beam. I feel the pressure weighing me down. The judges are carefully watching my every move. I'm being timed with only 55 seconds to finish the routine. My heart is racing, and my whole body is shaking. One little mistake can ruin my score completely. Everyone is watching me: my parents, my teammates, the audience and my coach. They're all depending on me. So far everything's good. Time for the dismount off the beam. This is what determines my final score. No backing out now. Here goes nothing . . .

Many people don't realize how hard gymnastics really is. Most of which you see of gymnastics is an illusion created by all the hard work, pain, talent, love, and commitment of this beautiful sport. Do you know what these talented gymnasts do in order to achieve such great skill? I do. In fact, I used to be a gymnast myself. In level 4 I experienced many different gymnasts. I switched through about three different gyms, trying to choose the right one for me, and I noticed something in common with all of them.

Out of all the many gymnasts I have met, I haven't found a single gymnast that isn't completely committed to their job. Yes, gymnastics is a job, let alone a hobby, an art and a sport. Many gymnasts know that once you start gymnastics, you rarely have time for anything else. You will have no social life. I remember begging my parents to let me miss one day of training just to hang out with my friends for an hour or so. They didn't let me hang out with my friends, but it doesn't matter. I ended up being a great gymnast!

Gymnastics has to be taken seriously. You must put 110% effort into everything your doing. If you don't take things seriously you can get hurt. You need focus, patience, strength, heart, and talent to be a good gymnast. All those flips, inversions and splits don't just come handed to you. You need to work for it!

Working out is a huge part of gymnastics. We do it everyday for at least an hour. The coaches aren't nice about it. They will work you until you are literally in tears. I remember they used to make us hold handstands up against a wall for the longest time. It was so painful having to do it. It felt like torture being forced to stay up in a handstand for so long. My body would start shaking, my face and arms turned red, I literally felt like the muscles in my arm were going to give in, and explode. It was the most uncomfortable feeling ever. I could hear my own teammates crying, and moaning in pain, and if one person decided to rest for even a split second, they would make all of us start over and hold it for even longer. They didn't let us rest until we literally couldn't hold ourselves up any longer.

Everyone knows gymnasts are flexible, but do you ever wonder how they got so flexible? They stretch A LOT. I would say one of the most difficult stretches for me is the pike stretch. The pike stretch is where you sit up tall on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and point your toes. Your goal is to lean over and try to get your nose in between your knees. This position stretches out your hamstrings. Not only is this stretch extremely uncomfortable, but sometimes the coach would come and sit on your back to add intensity to the stretch. Our coaches aren't exactly light either.

All this hard training is worth it in the end. Every little thing that you do in gymnastics takes a massive amount of strength and flexibility, not to mention courage. Yes, gymnasts do get scared when learning a new stunt. They are forced to learn to fight through their fears and deal with it. They also need to learn to deal with pressure. You get all sorts of pressure from your family, coaches, and teammates when competing. They are all counting on you to be better than the best you can be. Which brings us back to the balance beam . . .

I can hear my heart pound, and feel my own pulse in my head. I can feel the beam beneath me shake. With each step I take, the beam shakes even more, making it harder to balance. As I take my dismount off the beam, I go into a side inversion, holding a handstand for a second or two. I take one hand off the beam, and with the other hand I twist my body with my weight slightly shifted over the beam. I let my weight bring me to the ground and land safely on the floor next to the beam. I stick the landing! I have just finished my level 4 balance beam routine with a score of 9.1. I proudly salute my judges and walk away from the beam. Everyone is applauding for me, and I feel great. Little do they know how hard I worked just to pull that off.


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