How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

Gymnastics is about more than just flips.
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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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If You Wear XL T-Shirts And Shorts, You're The Woman Of My Dreams

Enough with the war on comfort!
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Comfortable can be sexy, simply put.

For some reason there are people complaining out there about the Southern college trend that has been happening the past few years: big t-shirts and shorts, also known as the "srat uniform." There seems to be a clash between the girls who dress "nice" most of the time and girls who dress for comfort. As a guy, I don't see what the big deal is?

For college in the South, there are two reasons to dress up: college football (Roll Tide) and date parties. Any other time, you can find a majority of the female population in shorts and a big t-shirt that makes it look like they're not wearing pants. As a man, I personally don't see anything wrong with this. I love being comfortable as much as the next person, and most guys find the baggy t-shirt and shorts outfit to be cute. There's always a time and place for dresses and rompers.

But for all the haters out there that call these girls in XL t-shirts and shorts lazy, you've got it all wrong.

There are 4 reasons why the girls who don the "srat uniform" have it all figured out.

1. Girls have it rough.

See, it's tough being a girl. I don't know from experience, but I hear it enough and I've seen it enough to know it's true. When girls aren't dealing with f***boys, periods or having to do their hair and makeup routinely, they are being overly criticized by our society. I think society owes girls a break, and that break comes in the comfortable baggy t-shirt and shorts.

2. Southern Not-So-Comfort(able) weather.

Also, for all of the haters, maybe y'all haven't noticed that it's hotter than Satan's balls in the South! Tight, dressy outfits and pants constrict the body and cause you to sweat. I'd rather see a dry girl in a baggy t-shirt than a girl drenched in sweat trying to look cute with her outfit.

3. Perfect doesn't exist.

It's admirable when a girl can unapologetically be herself. A girl in an XL t-shirt and shorts is a girl that is saying "yes, I may have just rolled out of bed and brushed my hair, but I'm here dammit." Social media tells us we all have to be the dolled up, most "perfect" version of ourselves all the time, so it's nice to experience that reality check.

4. Guys think it's cute, regardless.

9 times out of 10, guys in college do not care what you're wearing. Trust me, we aren't doing much better. You could probably put on a garbage bag and we still think you're cute. Any guy that dates a girl that dates a girl only because she dresses nicely all of the time is a shallow man. You're cute, you're comfortable, and that makes for a much better vibe. We all win.

So, in the battle of dressing "nice" and dressing comfortable, I think that the girls who wear an XL t-shirt and shorts chalk up a win in my record book. No, I'm not bashing on girls who have a true sense of style and wear nice clothing... that's a great thing in itself! But, this is college and there are more important things to focus on besides what we're wearing.

Ladies, wear your srat uniform with pride. Some us think it's cute :)

*I want to thank the beautiful ladies at the University of Alabama for inspiring this article.*

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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5 Reasons I'll Choose Going To A Lake Over The Beach Every Time

Peaceful lake > crowded beach.

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I am definitely biased because I grew up near lakes rather than beaches. Lakes are very serene and calm whereas oceans have waves and seagulls. All in all, these are my five reasons for going to a lake rather than a beach.

1.There are less people on a lake

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Often at the beach, your first problem is parking. There are so many cars and even more people that pack into them. Especially when it's a great sunny day, a lot of people flood to the beaches to find relief from the ungodly heat. On lakes, the only people crowding the beach are the people the people who live in a five-mile radius. On any given day I rarely see the shore of the lakes full of people. Sometimes there isn't a beach at all. There would only be rocks that lead the way into the water. All in all, you will definitely find fewer people on a lake rather than on a beach.

2. The waters are calmer on a lake

Huge Waves

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There are slim to no waves on a lake. The waves on a lake mostly come from a large boat with a tall bow. The larger the boat the bigger the waves. But those waves cannot even compare to the waves I've seen at some of our beaches. Not many beaches in Connecticut have large waves, but some of the waves I have seen in RI are pretty big. Therefore if you are looking for a calm day with serene waters, I would travel to a lake rather than a beach.

3. There are less birds

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If you bring food to the beach, the seagulls will eat you alive. They will first surround you and wait until you're not keeping a watchful eye on all of your snacks. Don't even think of walking away either cause by the time you come back they would probably have dragged your food 50 yards down the beach gobbling it all up. When you're at a lake there are ducks and geese that will only come if food is offered to them. Often they are friendly birds that don't stay long and usually go into the water to search for more fresher foods like the algae. Birds are less of worry when you're at a lake.

4. Feeling refreshed and not sticky from the sand

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After swimming in the ocean, you feel sticky and gross with a lot of sand sticking to you. As you walk back to your towel or chair you have sand blowing on to you from the wind. All of this can be uncomfortable and doesn't happen when you're on a lake. Since lakes are predominantly fresh water, they don't leave you feeling sticky, but actually refreshed. The lake is a great place to unwind and decompress and leaves you feeling more comfortable.

5. Lakes are more friendly to boats

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The waves on the ocean can be overwhelming for a boat with the dips and large waves that can almost capsize the boat. Some boats can be better on the lake because there are serene waters and not many large waves. I have been on more boats on lakes than the ocean so I am biased in saying that they are better. There are beautiful sights of sailboats, motorboats, and fishing boats on the water that I can't imagine comparing it to the ocean.

I love and prefer lakes, but that doesn't mean I am going to avoid the beach all summer. I will hopefully be traveling there soon. I also hope if you're a beach person you try the lake life and jump out of your comfort zone!

Cover Image Credit:

Juliana Ferrari

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