Most people who think of gymnastics see it as an Olympic sport or as an activity for kids, but it’s become a new fitness fad for adults who strive to improve their mental and physical health.
“So many adult gym classes have been popping up all over the nation, because there’s just this fascination about the sport,” said Shannon Miller, a two-time gymnastic gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics, who now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
The agility of the sport and how it can reshape fitness routines has added a new level of attraction to fitness gurus, giving local adult gymnastic instructor Orench Lagman the opportunity to reshape lives.
Lagman owns Awaken Adult Gymnastics located inside the Qi Athletic Club, at 2636 Walnut Street in Denver. The Qi Athletic Club offers a variety of fitness programs, including gymnastics.
“It coincides with the yoga facility,” said Lagman, who has operated Awaken at Qi for over three years. “It blends really well because yogis understand flexibility and balance.”
One of his clients, Oz Osborn, 50, started taking gymnastics from Lagman nine months ago.
“For me, a lot of it has to do with age, and being an engineer and spending a lot of my time sitting at a computer, which resulted in some pretty significant physical imbalances,” Osborn said. “The first time I did my first gymnastic class, I found another home.”
Osborn started yoga two years ago, which helped him regain balance from his office job, but it wasn’t until he started gymnastics that he started to become a much better yogi.
“I found that, for example, I could get into yoga stretches much further,” he said. “I love the yoga, I love the gymnastics, I love the synergistic combination of the two.”
One of the benefits of gymnastics that differs from other fitness routines, is that many of the positions invert the body, adding a completely different level of wellness and awareness.
“When you’re going into an inverted handstand position, it takes the body to a whole different level on special awareness,” said Jim Jarett, who started coaching gymnastics across the nation in the late ’70s. “You’re also creating a cardiovascular workout in the brain.”
Jarett was a USA Olympic coach, and now runs Capital Gymnastics in Austin, Texas. He thinks adults should seriously consider the sport to help maintain their health.
“For someone who’s never been in it before who is 25 to 50 years old, might want to try private lessons so that they don’t feel uncomfortable, perhaps,” Jarett said.
Awaken Gymnastics offers private lessons for around $75 a session. One of the most important components to starting a gymnastics routine is to strengthen shoulder muscles, Lagman said.
“Because they’re adults, they’re not limber like little kids. We do a lot of shoulder, arms, trunk and leg openers,” he said. “There’s also prep classes that we do, because we want to make sure all the shoulder muscles are really strong and flexible first.”
After completing the shoulder prehab classes, students can then start the beginning level classes, he said.
“It really depends on the health of your shoulder and joints,” Lagman said. “We’re not training for the Olympics here, we’re training for health and fitness under the gymnastics umbrella.”
Unlike joining a regular gym, fitness patrons can join Qi for roughly $99 a month — the membership includes group gymnastic classes — and benefit from a more agile type training.
“My background has always been in exercise. You get tired of just pushing weights around,” Lagman said, noting that the sport is great for any age group.
“I have a lady that I just got on the rings, and she’s in her 80s,” he said.
The sport can be intimidating, he said, yet the overall benefits should be the main draw when considering hitting the gymnastics mad. It creates brain power.
“I believe when people go inverted or upside down, the blood rushes into your brain, so you get a euphoric feeling. In essence, I’m helping promote circulation of the brain,” Lagman said.
It’s also fun, according to Osborn.
“There’s a really strong sense of team. It’s fun, and there’s really a strong sense of playfulness,” Osborn said. “Most of all, for me, it’s a community.”
The community is also what kept gold medalist Miller on the gymnastic scene for so long.
“In 1992, in Barcelona, I won two silvers and three bronze medals. At the age of 15, I was enjoying it so much, I stuck it out for another four years, and in Atlanta (olympics), II got two gold medals in 96,” Miller said.
“The things that children are learning, my three year old is learning in gymnastics, these are the things we are also learning as an adult,” she said. “It really works all of the small muscles – the muscles you didn’t imagine that you had.”
That is the goal for Lagman – helping people realize a different potential of physical growth.
“As far as the fitness industry goes, it’s always going to have new trends. I really believe that this is the next big thing,” Lagman said.