In summer, I can breathe again


Me doing gymnastics (outside of the gym) last summer.

My summer begins the second my meet season is over. 

It could be hailing and five degrees below zero outside, but if I’m in the gym, and I don’t have another upcoming meet to think about, I’ll still only think about having ‘summer practice’ that day. 

Gymnastics during this past meet season hasn’t felt like breathing at all. Until recently, I hadn’t been breathing for months.

The date of my summer starting is marked by the moment when gymnastics begins to feel like breathing again. When anxiety isn’t clawing up my throat every time I think about an upcoming meet or a skill I still don’t have. 

Our official practice schedule doesn’t even change until mid-June, but in the early weeks of April, I can already feel the hints of summer creeping into the gym and restoring the part of me that I was missing in the previous months.

I cried at State Meet when I fell on beam and didn’t make the cut for regionals, but those tears seem arbitrary now. 

If I had made it to regionals, I would have dragged on what was inarguably the worst competition season of my gymnastics career for another month. Instead, I now get to forget the atrocity that was my first season of competing at level eight and focus on the possibility of a much better second one. 

Gymnastics during this past meet season hasn’t felt like breathing at all. Until recently, I hadn’t been breathing for months.

Everyone who has competed in gymnastics at least through level eight agrees that for whatever reason, competing at level eight for the first time is the hardest competition season you will ever have. Now that I have experienced it, I have to agree with them. 

The five months of meet season were filled with mental blocks, anxiety, and so much frustration that I almost forgot why I first fell in love with the sport I’ve been competing in for over 10 years of my life. 

But, in summer practice, I can feel myself starting to breathe again. 

In the summer, I could stay at the gym all day, relishing in the feeling of just being a gymnast.

Summer practice is open garage doors and brightening windows, staying too long in the locker room after practice, and walking barefoot across the cement.

Gymnastics in the summer is laying under the air conditioner every day after warm-up, writing goals and taping them onto my bathroom mirror, and finally being allowed to warm up outside.

In summer, deals between gymnasts and coaches are made to get new skills. “I’ll go if you go” and “I’ll buy you candy if you do this” are so commonly heard while we work on upgrades in the summer that I miss them during meet season.

Summer is eating Culver’s on the floor in the middle of practice because someone finally got their clear-hip handstand, and our coach promised us ice cream if they did. 

I can breathe again in summer, even if it’s still snowing outside.

During summer practice, when my long-lost motivation is returned to me, I am finally reminded of why I’ve kept coming to the gym day after day, year after year.

I am reminded of what it’s like to breathe again.