How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

Gymnastics is about more than just flips.

Gymnastics is my sport. It has always been my sport, and will always be my sport. Even when I am too old to continue competing, it will still be my sport (although at 22 I have no intentions of stopping).

How do I feel when I tell people I do gymnastics?

Proud, strong, unique, respected, grateful.

I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was about 7 years old. I'm 22 years old now, which is supposed to be way past retirement age for a gymnast... but I don't care.

I can assure you that the reason I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was 7, the reason why I competed for my club and high school teams at the same time, the reason why I continued in college, and the reason why I am now planning to compete with an adult gymnastics team is because the gymnastics experiences I’ve had have always been about the love for the sport. And yes, in case it wasn’t clear, I LOVE gymnastics. It is a hard sport, and without the undying love I have for it, I wouldn’t still be doing it.

I’m proud of the skills I have and for the fact that I do the sport at all, and couldn’t be happier with my overall experience. Yes, the Olympics are incredible and every so often I wish I could do those crazy skills Simone Biles does. But I’ve never had any intention of being that committed to the sport to reach that level. It’s not for me.

What is for me? Going to gymnastics where you can’t wait to see your coaches and teammates, because they are your best friends and the people you most enjoy spending time with. Laughing at practice because you’re having fun. Learning new skills where the process is just the right balance of challenging and gratifying. Competing at meets and showing off the skills you know how to do, the best you can do them.

I am thankful for the gyms I’ve attended and for the coaches I’ve had (who know who they are) who have cultivated a supportive and fun atmosphere surrounding gymnastics, and have allowed me to thrive in a sport which tears many down.

Gymnastics is not a sport you can sugar coat with adjectives that make it sound any less difficult than it is. There is of course the physical strength required to be successful in gymnastics (or even to be semi-successful). You will get nowhere without muscles that you may not even know you have. Take a break from gymnastics for a week or two, or even longer? You will feel those muscles the next time you are back in the gym. You’ll feel where they are lacking, and you will absolutely feel the soreness afterwards. And don’t even get me started on the calluses on your hands…

No one can deny the physical aspect of gymnastics. But I would argue, as I believe many others would, that the mental aspect of gymnastics is even more important. You could have all the strength and fitness in the world, but without mental toughness, you will not be able to do 99% of the skills in gymnastics. Gymnasts who make it to the Olympics have minds of steel…they are able to get up on that beam in front of the world and throw flips in all directions like they are on the ground. (I can’t even do those flips on the ground…)

If even for a minute you let yourself think how crazy a skill is, or how things could go wrong, you’re screwed. I know from experience that the mind will shut down, and there will literally be a wall between you and the skill. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it a million times or if you have the strength and flexibility for it. Once your mind says no, you’ve fallen to the bottom of a hill, and you’ve got a long climb in front of you.

Throughout my gymnastics career, I’ve had many mental blocks, which, at any other gym, might’ve irreversibly hurt my progress and burnt me out mentally. Fortunately, with the coaches I’ve had, I’ve been able to slowly work through those blocks, and as I got older and my gymnastics career became more independent, I was able to move on to other skills that I wasn’t afraid of.

This is not to say that my mental blocks weren't incredibly difficult to deal with, but their existence did not become the one thing standing in the way of me continuing in gymnastics.

Gaining mental toughness isn’t easy, but it has benefits in all facets of life. I’ve faced so many challenges, physical and mental, had to push myself through grueling conditioning, searing pain on my hands while on bars, tears when my mind wouldn’t allow me to do a skill, feelings of accomplishment when finishing a beam routine without a fall, unrestrained joy when doing a skill for the first time, and on and on. The ups and downs inherent to gymnastics teach you how to roll with the punches, and fly high when something goes well.

With all the tough physical and mental challenges gymnastics brings, you’ve got to have people going through it with you…

I have made many lifelong friends from the sport of gymnastics, several of whom I would consider to be my best friends. These are the people I trust, the people I go to, the people I laugh with, the people I cheer for, the people I cry with.

Gymnastics has been my free time activity my whole life, so it is inevitable that I am going to spend lots and lots of time with my teammates. In college, I spent so many hours with my friends on the UVM Gymnastics Team, they were the hardest goodbyes (but actually see-you-laters) at graduation.

And I believe that the people I have met along the way are the reason why I am still in this sport. I love gymnastics in part because of them. Practicing gymnastics alone does not sound fun at all…but practicing with my closest friends who understand just how hard the sport we’re doing is? There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that gymnastics defines me, but I would say that I have been shaped and developed for the better because of the sport.

Check in with me in 5 years to see if I’m still competing… odds are, I will be. :)

Cover Image Credit: Cassandra Albrecht

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Marijuana Won't Help With Your Depression

It's a common myth that weed helps everything.

It is a common thought that marijuana can cure any and all problems. But in reality, it doesn't help everything. Sure, it can be beneficial for cancer patients, people with ADHD, and people with strong anxiety. With this in mind, we also have to look at the consequences. Marijuana can be very destructive to some people's mental health.

In my first semester of college, I had a friend who was smoking marijuana almost daily, for the fun of it. She was also on medication for her anxiety and depression. Everything was fine until one night, she had a really horrible experience with her medication and the marijuana mixing in a bad way. She never read up on it before she started to smoke, but when she did, she realized that it was not the best for her to be using both her prescribed medication and weed.

Weed can be classified as a psychoactive drug that mellows people out. Compare that stance with alcohol. “Alcohol is an extreme depressant, and the combination of alcohol and depression is a very malignant condition,” says Dr. Andrew Saxon, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry.

While alcohol and depression can be worse than cannabis and depression, they still don't make the best pair. There is evidence of a toxic relationship between the two. A 2017 study published in the journal Addiction found that teenagers who suffered chronic depression were more likely to develop marijuana-use disorder later in life. Marijuana use has also been linked to depression and anxiety, and with suicidal thoughts amongst teens. However, it is not known whether this is a causal relationship or simply an association.

There is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of marijuana as an effective treatment for any psychiatric illness. Many doctors and psychiatrists agree that while pot doesn't particularly hurt people with severe depression, it isn't helping either, meaning someone who smokes weed and has depression will get nowhere with recovery.

Even though marijuana is not a depressant, it does tend to be sedating. This can promote social isolation or lack of social interaction. When someone is severely depressed, they should not be in isolation because they should be with other people who are trying to help them. Being socially isolated is just going to make someone continue to be stuck in this spiraling hole of sadness.

It is understandable that people who suffer from depression want to turn to weed to numb the pain because it is the easiest to get to. It is such a hard thing to live with. But the fact is, there is no real evidence that proves marijuana will help with depression. People who are suffering need to get real help from a doctor/therapist and get treated the safest (and legal, for now) way possible. To make sure people can get help, we need to reduce the stigma of getting help for mental illness. People won't need to settle for something that may be harmful to them.

Before you do something you're not sure of, read about it. Make sure it is the safest option for you. It could make things worse or make suffering with depression a longer battle than it needs to be.

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An Ode To Caffeine Pills

The energy boosting pill that is legal and effective.

Let me describe a familiar situation in my life:

It's Saturday night, your friends are texting to see what you're doing and if you're coming to the pre-game, but you're exhausted. You happened to go out last night and stayed up late, only to wake up early. As much as you tried to be productive today you got nothing done and now you want to go out again just to get away from the homework vibes.

Only one problem: you're exhausted and can't see yourself making it past 9 pm let alone the time you get to the club. One (legal) solution: caffeine pills! The little white pill hits within half an hour and provides you with enough energy to wake up and actually talk to people. You can buy a hundred for $8 at Vitamin Shoppe and each one is equivalent to two cups of coffee.

After swallowing, you feel a little placebo effect. It's not enough to give you a boost yet, but it's enough to clear away some of the storm clouds lingering above your head. Life is about to get better soon and some good vibes are heading your way. Flash forward to the club, the music is blasting and you're now the only one in your friend group jumping up and down to the beat. Where did all this energy come from? They ask. Two words: caffeine pills. A miracle drug with little repercussions compared to its rivals cocaine and Adderall. It's just like coffee, bro.

Caffeine pills can help you out during the week too. I take them when I have a lot of work to get done and they enable me to sit in one spot without peeing every 20 minutes like too much coffee does to me. When you get comfy that can be a blessing. The pills are a lot more portable than a coffee mug too, which has the potential to spill all over your bag, laptop, or papers. Trust me, no matter how non-spill the brand says their mug is, I will find a way to spill it.

Lastly, coffee has a lot of drawbacks that make caffeine pills favorable. It gives you bad breath, stained teeth, can upset your stomach, and can be expensive. Most of us drink coffee for the boost, not the taste, with the exception of a sugared-up Starbucks Frappe which tastes pretty good. Coffee can be too hot or too cold to drink and some of us want that boost ASAP instead of sipping our coffee like a fine wine. On the other hand, caffeine pills are quick, easy, portable, and skip straight to the good stuff. You don't even have to brush your teeth after taking one!

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