While growing up, I had several close friends who were gymnasts. My best friend, Kasie Rueff, practiced long enough to start competing, and I was her biggest cheerleader. I went to several of her meets, helped her pick out her outfits and even helped her style her hair in the most perfect bun. But I never, ever competed myself. In fact, I couldn’t even do a cartwheel, and the closest I ever came to gymnastics was when Kasie and I would play popcorn between her practicing toe touches on her trampoline. This all changed, when I was asked to try out an adult women’s gymnastics class at Singularity Gymnastics for this story. “But I’m not flexible,” I said. “I don’t even think I can do a cartwheel. Are you sure I can come?” I asked. But the class was open to “all skill levels,” and they welcomed me with open arms.
Open since July 2012, Singularity Gymnastics in Nixa offers artistic and acrobatic gymnastics for women ages 3 to adult. With nearly 90 percent of the clientele practicing artistic gymnastics, the gym is fully equipped for training with a competition spring floor, a 50-foot rod floor, a 50-foot tumble track, eight competitive beams, four competitive bar sets, two competitive vault runways, two deep foam pits, an inflatable foam pit and an in-ground trampoline. “Artistic gymnastics is basically anything you’ve seen any time that you’ve tuned into gymnastics on TV,” says Daniel Schmitt, who owns the gym with his wife, Jodi Schmitt, and head coach Dwan Parkyn, who has been involved with competitive artistic gymnastics for 22 years. “We just started offering acrobatic gymnastics last fall,” Schmitt says. “We compete in both.” The gym also has a TRX training system to supplement athlete conditioning.
Singularity Gymnastics recently started offering adult women’s gymnastics classes, open to women of all skill levels who are age 16 or older. The classes are taught by instructors Jessica Boling and Samantha Mayo. Boling is a professional coach, is registered with USA Gymnastics and was a level 10 competitive gymnast. Mayo was a class 1 gymnast when she competed years ago. Being open to both newcomers and advanced gymnasts, the adult women’s classes are a fun, laid-back way to enjoy the sport. “I tell people it’s a great way to relive your childhood in a woman’s gymnastics class,” says Schmitt. “And if you missed that opportunity, now is your chance.”
At Singularity Gymnastics’ Adult Women’s Gymnastics Class, instructor Samantha Mayo (left) practices the splits with Brianna Scott and Jena Ingram.
We started the class with a few basic stretches, then we “warmed up” on the floor. During that time, I watched a couple of other class members flip their way down the floor doing back and front handsprings, and I tried to think how I would ever, ever work my way through an hour of this stuff. There was absolutely no way I could do anything they were doing. I was panicking, burying my face in my hands and trying to think of how I could possibly fake an ankle injury and head home. Finally, just when I was about to suggest a non-experience story on the class, Mayo (who was a guest that day but teaches the class on Saturdays) finished a few perfect cartwheels then came up to me with a smile. “Want to give it a try?” she asked.
My face turned beet red. I didn’t know what to do. A cartwheel? I had not even attempted a cartwheel since fifth grade. I’m not limber! I have the furthest thing from a gymnast’s body! But I sucked it up. I stood on the spring floor, pointed one foot in front of the other and gave my best attempt at a cartwheel. Once I was finished, all the other members in the class started to clap. “That was really good!” said Boling. And then I heard another class member say, “That’s really great for not even trying one since fifth grade!” Now, in my heart I knew that the maneuver I just tried probably looked nothing at all like an actual cartwheel, but with the coach and other class members cheering me on, I felt a little bit like a superstar. I had the courage to go on with the class.
We went on to try out handstands (I held one against the wall for a good 20 seconds), then we moved to try exercises on the bars, beams and trampoline. While I couldn’t do a lot of things more advanced women in the class were doing, Boling modified the moves for me to try. I even walked back and forth on the high beam! For just 60 minutes, I got a taste of the life of a gymnast.
Senior Editor Savannah Waszczuk braved the beams, bars and more while trying out an adult women’s gymnastics class.
If done regularly, gymnastics greatly contributes to core strength. “Competitive gymnasts probably have the most developed core strength of any athlete in any sport,” Schmitt says. Gymnastics also improves flexibility, balance, coordination, concentration and mental fitness.