Gymnastics Class for Grown-ups

Olympic gold medalist Kyle Shewfelt’s gym offers classes for adults, including those of us who haven’t attempted a somersault since pre-school

When’s the last time you tried a somersault? Chances are you still wore your hair in pigtails – and not just for Stampede events.

A lot of people take gymnastics class as children to develop coordination, balance, flexibility and, frankly, because it’s a pretty fun thing to do. But, unless you demonstrate some pretty incredible abilities early on, generally speaking, gymnastics is one of those sports that gives way to other activities as we age.

Thanks in part to the immense popularity of the sport of crossfit and the fact that many of its fundamental movements are based in gymnastics training, Calgary’s adult gymnastics classes have been experiencing a popularity boost of their own recently.

Not only do the eight-week adult sessions at Olympian Kyle Shewfelt’s southwest gym offer grownups a way to step outside their workout comfort zone. Adults can work on oft-overlooked areas of fitness like flexibility and mobility, but it also allows parents with children enrolled in their own program a chance to work on their skills instead of chilling in the waiting room and playing CandyCrush.

First, the bad news: It turns out that as we age we develop fears of thing like, oh I don’t know, hurling ourselves from one uneven bar to another. The good news, though, is with a little effort and determination, these fears can be overcome. Added bonus, as an adult, you no longer need to prance around in a glittery leotard to work on your tumbling skills. Yoga gear or shorts and a T-shirt will do just fine.

“We start with getting everyone on the same page with basics, stability, and safety. Then we progress to movements, twisting, and rotations – going both forwards and backwards – getting comfortable being upside down, and then working with different comfort and skill levels in progressions,” explains Tanis Tzavaras, the coach of the adults offering at Shewfelt’s gym. During each 90-minute class, students work on aparati like trampoline, tumble track, rings, bars, ropes and balance beams, as well as floor skills like cartwheels, roundoffs and handsprings. Each week slightly more advanced options are offered for those who are ready and those who are not yet comfortable with a particular movement can just keep practicing.

If the rise in Instagram accounts and YouTube channels dedicated to daring movements is any indication, gymnastics as a training method (and way to show off) is having a moment. “There’s been a rise in activities and challenges using the body – mainly strength to weight – and that is everything that gymnastics is!” says Tzavaras on the subject. “All of these obstacle courses and crossfit-influenced activities can be linked back to the ‘origin’ of gymnastics because, throughout history, gymnasts have discovered some pretty cool and challenging ways to use the body.” The chiseled muscles and toned physique that comes along with regular practice doesn’t hurt the sport’s popularity either.

They say a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. A lot of things (like physical strength and mental courage) grow at adult gymnastics class. It’s simply a case of feeling the awkward discomfort and doing the handstand anyway.

The eight-week registered adult gymnastics classes at Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics are $172. Wednesday night is adult drop-in night from $10 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. (104, 3442 118 Ave. SE, 587-349-2004,

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