Gymnastics has ancient roots. It was developed in ancient Greece, in Sparta and Athens, as a form of physical activity focusing on strength, stamina, flexibility, mobility, coordination, and balance to prepare men for warfare and other challenges of the days. As society progressed and became more peaceful Gymnastics gradually transformed into a way of physical preparation combined with education of the mind to make movements more aesthetic and individual. It was used in schools to mold one’s physicality, discipline, and character overall.
Nowadays, Gymnastics we see on the TV and the Internet is very advanced and sophisticated. Not many people know that that Gymnastics is not the same as one created in Greece and is called Artistic Gymnastics with the main focus to transcend somebody’s else records. In other words, Artistic Gymnastics is a competitive sport where the physical ability of an athlete immensely tested and stretched to its very limit.
Artistic Gymnastics requires many years of hard work and discipline. The athletes would typically start training at a very young age and achieve their peak performance by the age of 20-25. After that, many would quit competing and continue as coaches or pursue other careers.
That is why, when we watch Gymnastics on the TV, we are highly impressed and mesmerized by all those fantastic elements performed within such a short time with a great deal of precision and accuracy. We see the pinnacle of the athletes’ many years of strict training and even in our wildest dreams cannot imagine trying Gymnastics as a form of physical fitness.
You might have noticed that in the previous paragraph, I used the word “Gymnastics” and not “Artistic Gymnastics.” It is because, at some point in the late 1800s, a competitive ramification of Gymnastics appeared and became popular so much so that in 1896 it was included in the first “modern” Olympic Games. In the mid-1900s, Gymnastics and its competitive namesake Artistic Gymnastics merged into one term "Gymnastics" losing their distinctions from one another. For that reason, the image of Gymnastics, as something incredibly tricky and privileged only to the young people, firmly entrenched in people's minds.
At this point, I want to say that it should not be the case. You should not be scared of Gymnastics as it is an excellent tool used for thousands of years to improve health and the mind. Simply put, Gymnastics has always, first and foremost, served one purpose - to develop an ability to move and bend freely.
In the USSR, Gymnastics was a valuable component of physical education in many branches of its society: schools, universities, workplaces, factories, and the army. Regardless of your age and fitness, you would do Gymnastics as a part of everyday life.
The goal was to maintain and develop the functional fitness of the general public. Not that the government was concerned about its people per se, they just wanted better productivity at workplaces across the country. In fairness, not everyone did Gymnastics in Soviet Russia as we had and still have many other great sports. The popular western idea that the Russians are born doing Gymnastics, drinking vodka and dancing with bears is not entirely true…we do not dance with bears.
Jokes aside, Gymnastics is a great way to exercise at any age. It is not nearly as intense as Artistic Gymnastics but shares many things with the latter. That is why as a trainer with a relevant background I have come up with a fitness approach merging both into the method of physical preparation which is highly modifiable to accommodate anybody’s fitness and improve it. Its key components are still the same: strength, stamina, flexibility, mobility, coordination, and balance.
In my next article, I will outline what good fitness is and tell you how it all works in the body. Stay tuned!