Grown ups discover gymnastics isn’t just for children, Nuala Woulfe finds out more
Irish adults are head over heels in love with gymnastics as the sport takes the country by storm. From Dublin to Cork, adults of all ages and abilities are learning how to handstand, tumble and flip and Gymnastics Ireland is fully behind this latest recreational trend.
“On the Continent, there’s more of a history of ordinary people doing gymnastics for lifelong health and well-being and Irish clubs are catching up on that now,” says Aimi Baker, participation manager, Gymnastics Ireland.
“Gymnastics Ireland have also run GymEDGE courses with GAA clubs and with rugby coaches, so there’s been a growing awareness that gymnastics can improve spatial awareness and teach you how to jump, roll and land better; skills that adults can learn to improve any sport,” she adds.
A weekly mixed adult gymnastics class began at Carrigaline, County Cork only last month. Head coach, Colm O’Toole, says the demand for classes is coming from parents of current child gymnasts, and Crossfit enthusiasts who want to improve strength or do handstands.
“Some may have done gymnastics as a child or have strength from another sport, some might be complete beginners, so for that reason we’ve two separate coaches. Classes are structured, but we take into account what adults want to learn, but likewise, for safety purposes people have to also be willing to take instruction. We recently won Gymnastic Ireland’s Non-Competitive Club of the Year and opening up gymnastics to everyone is part of what we believe,” explains Colm.
In Kerry, Tralee Gymnastics offered one of the first adult gymnastics in the country. Running now for five years, coach Theresa Murphy says her weekly class has seen Parkour, Crossfit, martial arts enthusiasts, ex-competitive gymnasts, dancers and absolute beginners come through the doors.
“The age group varies from late teens to 40s and classes can change, depending on what people want to learn. We do acrobatics and trampolining, we did slack line for a while, it’s like a tightrope and we’ve done aerial. Some people say gymnastics was a childhood dream but there was no club when they were growing up and that it’s lovely to get the opportunity now, people who like gymnastics tend to stick with it because there’s always something new to learn.”
Mairead McMahon has only been doing gymnastics with Tralee Gymnastics for a year but says she’s proof, “that you can teach an old dog new tricks!”
“I’m heading for 40; two years ago I’d never done any sport in my life and was three stone heavier. I started Crossfit to lose weight but wanted to progress to harder moves like handstands. My children were doing gymnastics and Teresa told me about the adult class and since then I’ve never looked back. Family and friends thought I was joking at first when I said I was doing gymnastics, but now I’ve introduced them to it too. It’s wonderful, I sleep better at night, it’s a stress buster and my flexibility and fitness have improved.”
Isaac Cairns (22) has been attending Tralee Gymnastics for the last four years. Growing up with a trampoline, he did a summer gymnastics class when he was eight and always wanted to try it again. “When I moved to Tralee for college I knew how to do a back flip but since I joined Tralee Gymnastics I’ve learnt how to do double somersaults.”
Now a coach at Tralee Gymnastics, Isaac has also set up a weekly gymnastics class for students of Tralee IT. “So far it’s a mixed class of 30 people, students find gymnastics great for stress relief,” he says.
Bringing adult gymnastics to Tipperary is also on the radar for Midlands Gymnastics one of Ireland’s newest clubs, says coach Andrei Chuhai. Run with Andrei’s wife Natasha, Midlands is only into its third year in Nenagh, with 125 gymnasts and 50 children on its waiting list, but that hasn’t stopped parents and others asking for their own class. “It’s a different way of teaching, but absolutely you can teach adults gymnastics and if they keep coming back they can improve and go further and further,” assures Andrei.
The club is moving to bigger premises in the New Year and are actively recruiting a new coach so they can expand classes for their clientele who currently travel from Tipperary, Limerick, Galway and Offaly. “We want to clear our waiting list first, but after that we are looking at running a taster class to let adults try gymnastics and see what they think,” he says.
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