Gymnastics is a blast, great for overall body toning, strength and coordination, but it has one big problem: It's set up for kids whose trim and limber bodies can do just about anything.
But grown-ups with a desire to tumble have options in Southern Oregon, too.
Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy isn't the only place in the Rogue Valley where adults can satisfy their need to flip.
America's Best Kids, 1914 Skypark Drive, Medford, has been offering an adults gymnastics class for three years. The class, which meets Mondays at 7:40 p.m., consistently draws from seven to 16 participants, says ABK general manager Christopher Blache.
"We always have a population of ex-gymnasts," says Blache, "because once you do gymnastics, it's hard to get it out of your system. But we have other folks who get interested as adults.
"And then there's another percentage from what I call the X-Games generation — young adults who grew up watching extreme sports who have always had an itch they wanted to scratch and want to try gymnastics."
Classes at ABK cost $40 per month, with a drop-in fee of $12. For more information, see www.abkfun.com or call 541-245-0432.
Adults — who may be struggling with weight, coordination and confidence issues — can brave gymnastics' tucks, flips and cartwheels, cross-train for other sports and, as 53-year old Marsh Chamberlain of Ashland says, "do party tricks, tuck into the pool and amaze your friends."
Like other adult students at Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy's Wednesday evening class, Chamberlain uses gymnastics to help with flexibility and "awareness of my body" for kayaking, snowboarding and biking.
"The first two weeks were hard," he notes. "I felt really pathetic. But as I got stronger, I've been making good progress. It's helped my body IQ big-time."
On a spacious mat, students warm up with simpler moves — handstand-roll, cartwheel, handstand-hop, handstand-pirouette, round-offs — with plenty of instruction, so they seem to glide through the air rather than looking like thrown sacks of potatoes.
Gymnastics is a discipline unlike all other workouts. It gets at cardiovascular conditioning, resistance and stretching, but the real focus is on core strength, movement and mind-body interaction, says teacher Ilian Alexandrov.
"It's basic in every sport. It's what the Olympics were all about 2,000 years ago," he notes. "It's great for coordination and helps tremendously in snowboarding and doing flips on the mountain. But it's a lot safer to start here — doing front, side and double flips and landing on soft mats and in the foam pit."
The foam pit is very forgiving, providing what look like giant Jell-O cubes to cushion jumps, as demonstrated by Romulus Iusan, 37, of Medford.
"I do it for exercise, stretching and fun," says Iusan. "It's not hard. Of course, I had gymnastics 29 years ago. It's good for muscle and balance — and it just makes me feel better and happier when I leave. I'm not sitting on the couch as I get older."
The ones who did gymnastics as kids are recognizable at a glance. Suzye Collison, 26, of Medford, took gymnastics classes for 13 years and has returned with her husband, Steve Collison, also 26. She executes effortless round-offs and multiple cartwheels, noting the key to cartwheels is "stay in a straight line and keep your arms extended."
Picking up tips from his wife, Steve Collison says he's working on body control for triathlons and kayaking.
"It's a neat experience and good workout — like CrossFit," he says, after nailing a back-handspring, back tuck and round-offs.
"It's really fun," says Suzye Collison, "but it's not all coming back, not yet anyway."
While many adult gymnasts favor sports featured in Outside Magazine, Randy Gleysteen, 34, of Medford, is a little different.
"It's great exercise, and my goal is to use it for being a ninja and running up walls."
"Yes, you can do that. Back flexibility is the key," he says, knocking off several gainers, a maneuver that involves running, flipping, twisting and ending up facing the opposite direction.
The adult gymnastics class is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at SOGA, 3001 Samike Drive, No. 112, Medford.
The cost is $75 for 10 classes or $8 per drop-in visit. For information, call 541-245-9379 or see www.soga-gym.com.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.