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Olympic Fitness: Gymnastics

Fitness, General, Human Interest

This blog is one in a series about how watching the Tokyo Olympic Games can inspire your own fitness and fun.

Gymnastics continues to be one of the Olympics’ most-watched sports. From vaults and floor to bars and beams, gymnasts seem to perform acts that defy gravity. The sport has captured the attention of audiences dating back to the ancient games in Greece.

Adventist Health Portland OB/GYN Dr. Claire Steen — seen in these photos — started in gymnastics around the age of 3. She began competing at age 6, continuing to the national level in high school. She went on to join the Oregon State University team. “My favorite apparatus was balance beam because of the precision and focus it required and the feeling of accomplishment after performing my best,” she says.

Gymnastics taught Dr. Steen the value of working as a team and a deep respect for what the human body can accomplish. She says she also developed compassion for the struggles and hardships women can face — not just in sports, but in everyday life.

What does it take to be a gymnast?

Like Dr. Steen, most gymnasts begin the sport at a young age. Often, the demands of training and competition require years of nontraditional school, like home schooling. She says days off are few and far between.

“There is no off-season, just a competitive season and a noncompetitive season,” explains Dr. Steen. “The hours of training remain the same all year around. It is an intense sport to say the least!”

Qualities to learn from gymnasts

Obviously you can’t start training today and make it to the next Olympics. “But watching elite sports can certainly be fun and motivating to make healthy changes to your lifestyle and outlook,” Dr. Steen says. “Allow the Olympics to energize you to get out and explore your interests.”

She notes that successful gymnasts combine several important factors that can benefit anyone. These include:

  • Focus
  • Positive thinking
  • Good nutrition and hydration
  • Flexibility
  • Practice, practice, practice

“Think about the areas in your life where these positive attributes can be applied,” advises Dr. Steen.

Adding the Olympics to your family’s fitness

Dr. Steen says to be sure you take incremental steps if you’re feeling inspired to take up a new sport or increase your activity level. This goes for kids too, as they start to tumble and try handstands.

“Read about your activity of interest and get tips from experts on how to start,” Dr. Steen says. “Maybe even get help from a coach to guide your progress.” If your kids are interested in gymnastics, the greater Portland area is home to several clubs offering classes, camps and competitions.

Just be careful not to compare yourself or your kids to Olympic gymnasts. “Get excited about their performances, then channel that excitement into your own interests,” says Dr. Steen. “Think about your current activity level, then make reasonable goals that allow you to live the lifestyle you want.”

She also wants everyone to remember we all aren’t meant to have the physique of elite athletes. “Remember that your body is beautiful and normal the way it is,” she says. “Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.”

If you or someone you love needs the support and care of a women’s health expert, Dr. Steen is accepting new patients. Call Adventist Health Women’s Care at 503-261-4423 to schedule your appointment.