Chapter 1: Choosing Gymnastics There are so many great reasons to choose gymnastics -- and if you're reading this, you probably don't need much convincing. Let's discuss some of the benefits that gymnastics has to offer. A Sport of All Sports If you are involved in sports like diving and skating, your coach may encourage you to learn gymnastics to build your strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and self-confidence. But gymnastics doesn't just improve strength and flexibility -- it also has positive effects on other aspects of your life. A Sport for All Ages People of all ages can benefit from gymnastics. Whether you are 2 years old attending Kindergym with a caregiver, or an adult learning gymnastics for the first time, gymnastics will help improve your flexibility and strength. It would be ideal to start learning gymnastics early in life, but it's never too late to start. A Sport with No Gender Bias One of the best things about gymnastics is that it's open to everyone. The apparatus doesn't discriminate -- from rings to uneven bars, girls and boys are equally capable and welcome to try. At the Olympic level, however, only women compete on the balance beam and men compete on the pommel horse, though anyone can enjoy these events at a recreational level. Balance, coordination and strength are qualities that should be pursued by everyone. And Speaking of the Apparatus... Don't worry about having to leap over an Olympic-sized vault. Recreational facilities typically offer scaled-down, recreational-sized equipment. You can always progress to competition-sized apparatus later. The Gymnastics Family The gymnastics family has several branches: artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and exciting new alternatives such as sport aerobics, sport acrobatics and tumbling. In artistic gymnastics various skills are performed on an apparatus. Women perform on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. Men perform on the floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar. In rhythmic gymnastics skills are performed with an apparatus such as a rope, hoop, bar, ribbon and clubs. This book will focus on artistic gymnastics and trampoline, since they are typically what you'll encounter at the beginner recreational level. Once you've mastered these disciplines, however, you can explore other exciting options. Overall... the sport of gymnastics is all about fun, fitness and fundamentals: FUN because it's fun to jump, tumble and swing; FITNESS because you'll gain flexibility, strength, power, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, balance, agility, coordination, body awareness and spatial orientation; and above all, FUNDAMENTALS because the moves you learn -- landings, static positions, locomotions, swings, rotations and springs -- can be applied to almost any sport.Schlegel, Elfi is the author of 'Gymnastics Book The Young Performer's Guide to Gymnastics' with ISBN 9781552094167 and ISBN 1552094162.