Lately, I have an incredible urge to exercise and get myself back into peak condition. It hasn’t been easy because for some strange reason I’ve been having knee trouble for quite some time now…even doing basic things kind of hurts a bit. But after x-rays and an MRI, it looks like the biggest problem may be a “more annoying than normal” case of tendonitis, and maybe a small loose piece inside of my knee (don’t know where the hell that came from, but it’s possibly from being hit in the knee). Although the diagnosis doesn’t really make my knee feel any better, I don’t feel so bad exercising through the pain. I’m currently on karate hiatus, to keep from taking blows to the knee, but I can’t just let myself go because my knee hurts. So I’ve really been thinking what’s the quickest way to whip myself back into shape?
I’ve started going back to the gym, but I want to do more than the standard “lose a few pounds.” I really want my body to be ready when I do go back to karate, I want to do something cool with my fitness, that I haven’t done before. I remember when I was in my late teens (19) that I had always wanted to learn how to do a back flip. I was so scared to try it though. Every time I’d try on my own, I’d flash back to the time I fell right on my head after a failed spot by one of the neighborhood boys. In just a few lessons with some professional gymnasts, I learned a backflip and a round-off, back tuck. I wanted to learn more, but those private lessons weren’t cheap (I think it was a around $50.00 an hour). Once I learned how, I started doing more and more, and I remember how sore my abs would be after a tumbling session, how I could see all the muscles in my stomach.
Enter, Tsukuba University. I stumbled onto the gymnastics practice area purely by accident, but when I did, I was super excited. I found out it was there several months ago, but I’m just getting around to actually going. This week, I went in and asked if it was okay for me to sit and watch the team practice. Permission granted!
Of course the team members looked surprised/amused to see the large, brown-skinned, bald man watching them train, but it was all good. I watched these super-ripped dudes whirling, spinning, and twisting through the air. I watched the ladies and doing their floor exercises and in addition to being enamored with their abnormally limber joints and tight outfits (sorry, but it’s true), I enjoyed seeing just how different their tumbling was. The ladies’ tumbling was more graceful, and balletic, while the guys had a more powerful, explosive style of tumbling.
I watched some of the guys work the rings, and seeing them at work made me look down at my arms, then at my stomach, and think “Damn, I need to be doing what they’re doing!” They were able to achieve the muscle pump without the weights.
As I was watching, one of the coaches tried speaking with me in English. I thought it’d be a good chance to work on my Japanese, too. So we talked a bit, and I by the end of the hour I knew the all of the main coaches’ names, got a chance to meet the director of the gymnastics program, and was even invited to try do some gymnastics. I haven’t tumbled in SOooo long, but it really felt nice to do it again. I tried getting the basic pommel motion on the practice mushroom (a special gymnastics training device), but it was a little harder than I thought it would be.
The next day, my muscles were screaming from the work that I did the evening prior. Saying that I was a happy dude, doesn’t even begin to explain it.
I went in two days later, and when I came in ready to train, the team members walked up to me, bowed and greeted me, just like I was a member of the team. I was able to practice, use the trampolines and mats, and it didn’t cost a single, solitary yen. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was, and how willing they were to help me with my poor technique (I said I could tumble, I didn’t say it was pretty, LOL).
You know what else was amazing? The freakin’ rings I actually tried the low, practice rings just to see how tough it was. Initially I thought, how bad could it be? That is hands down the most difficult strength training I’ve ever done and I only tried some some basics!! What I didn’t factor in was just how much stabilizing you have to do in order to hold yourself steady on those things. Even a standard dip motion felt like a monumental task. It’s really not easy. I wonder if gymnasts are the strongest people in the world… Sure, weightlifters are strong in their own right, but this is a totally different kind of strength.
I think this may become a part of the workout regimen. I wonder how much of a difference it will make in the next six months…
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