Some athletic pursuits

Around nine months ago, I went into the University of Toronto Strength and Conditioning Centre during the Women's-only hours, and used 20 seconds of courage to ask the woman beside me how to adjust the supports on the squat rack. 

That day I managed-- barely-- to squat an empty barbell, bench press a 30 lb EZ-bar while lying on the ground, and do something resembling a barbell row with the same. I wrote that shit down:

By January 2016, I had progressed: I could squat 95 lbs, press about half my weight, and deadlift 20 lbs more than my weight.

So I made an impulse purchase. Well, an impulse purchase I had only been waiting for ten years to make: I signed up for a gymnastics class.

I stopped doing gymnastics-- like most people-- in my teens. I was never particularly good. I did advanced recreational and interclub classes, never able to progress beyond level 4 in competitions because the kip, a foundational skill on bars, constantly eluded me. So I left with unfinished business... if nothing else, I want to get that one skill before I die. 

So, after years of saying I was going to and occasionally dropping in on open gym sessions in Montreal and Thunder Bay, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for an actual class, once a week, at Toronto Gymnastics International-- the gym that I first went to a birthday party at when I was seven years old, and stayed until I was fourteen. 

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." (--Apparently Nelson Mandela? Who knows.) It turns out that six months of lifting heavy (for me) things and and intentionally eating lots of food had changed me a lot. It's noticeable when your body is more capable than you assumed it was. When, in the warmup of the first class, we were told to do a line across the floor of handstand walking, I kicked up to handstand and was surprised, a few seconds later, to find I was at the other end without ever having fallen. By the third class, I got back on the tumble track-- a kind of very long trampoline-- the most advanced tumbling line I had ever done on floor as a kid (roundoff-backhandspring-back tuck.) Most of all, my body just felt different than I expected it to-- in a good way.

Aw yiss! It's only been... um... ten years? #gymnastics #trampoline #tumbling #fitness

A video posted by Anna Norris (@nichteilen) on


So when I saw a post on titled "Call to Meet! Masters Competition in Ontario, Canada!" I clicked. ("Masters'," for those unfamiliar with athletic categories, is a euphemism for "old," not an indication of the competitors actually having "mastered" anything in particular (besides their own post-adolescent biology.)) It was clearly something I was interested in: the rules for the meet included things like, 

"Awards: As you are adults, adult awards will be given. Large bottles for 1st-3rd, smaller bottles for 4th-6th . Awards for younger adults (and those who don't like bottles) will be available. NO AWARDS CAN BE OPENED IN THE GYM! Next year's competition depends on it." 

and, although this didn't affect me this year: 

"For men and women ages 25+. Don't want to compete against young'uns?!? Don't worry; back by popular demand is “Mulligan Money!” Gymnasts ages 25-34 get one Mulligan dollar, 35-44 get two, and 45-54 get three, etc. Not enough? Buy more at the competition. All proceeds go toward Multiple Sclerosis research through MS Canada. Give these to the judges and they will “look the other way” that time that you had two dismounts on the beam, took an “extra” warm-up vault, “extended” the boundaries of the floor, needed some “help” getting above the rings, etc."

So I signed up. It turns out, a lot has changed since I last competed in gymnastics. Like, in the rules. Levels 1-5 now have compulsory routines, meaning each routine is a list of skills that you have to do (in that order, in the cases of bars and beam.) Old skills that weren't being done much when I was a kid were suddenly on-trend, like the stride circle, a bizarre faceplant-y thing with the bar in between one's legs, which I learned when I still thought that I would be able to compete different levels on different events:

Once I realized that you did, in fact, have to compete the same level on all events, I was conflicted: I wanted to compete my back tuck tumbling line on floor. That would mean competing level 5; but I didn't have the compulsory skills on any other event for level 5. (Still don't have the kip, for instance :P) So I called the meet director; he informed me that a) it was fine if I didn't have the compulsory skills, lots of other people would be in the same boat and b) since there were fewer people in level 5 than prizes, there was no point in not competing on an event just because I couldn't do it-- all that would do would give up free prize booze. 

Getting tumbling from the tumble track to the competition floor involves two upgrades: putting it on rod floor, which is a boucier type of floor, and then putting it on the spring floor, which is, well, the floor. 

I got it onto the rod floor

but was still having trouble with the real floor:

I also missed some classes as I was playing some concerts in Thunder Bay. I did what I could to practice.

Finally, in my last practice before the competition, I managed to put it on the floor with no spotter and run through my routine:

The competition was so much fun, and full of amazing people. There was a man in his sixties competing. There were two women doing the "super all-around," aka competing all 4 womens' events and then all 6 mens' events. There was a rope-climbing competition where almost everyone scampered up without even using their legs. Most of all, there were people of all ages and body types doing gymnastics, proving that this sport is for everyone. (Don't believe me on the "everyone" count? Check out Johanna Quaas at 86.)

Here are my routines. I didn't get a video of me vault, because I wasn't planning on doing it until the judges told me I could use a mini-trampoline instead of a springboard. I did land on my feet without falling over for one of my vaults, though, which I was pretty proud of considering I hadn't trained it :P

I also hadn't been planning on competing beam until the week of the competition. So my beam "routine" ended up being more of a "list of things I can still do on beam on ten minutes' practice."

Bars was kinda the level 3 compulsory routine with some added high bar stuff. 

Floor! I ended up getting 2nd out of 6 competitors on floor, woohoo! My single-minded focus on my first tumbling line meant I barely worked on the second one and ended up falling on my ass. Oh well. 

So... there ya have it, that's what I've been doing while not blogging (basically, I've been Instagramming.) Music stuff? Yes, also that too. Despite the fact that I actually started strength training in order to pass a lift test for a day job (which I eventually did, yay!) I haven't scheduled any shifts in a while as I actually have enough work to be a full-time freelance musician right now and for the next few months, which is pretty rad. 

Guess what else is rad? Skwaaaaats. Soon I'll even be able to use a real full-size plate for them :P

Just another few months and I'll be able to use real plates for my squats :P #fitness #xxfitness #nerdfitness

A video posted by Anna Norris (@nichteilen) on