A while ago, I heard from a friend that a local sports centre opened a trampoline park and as a former gymnast I have been itching to get in there ever since!
Well, after months of life getting in the way, my husband and I finally decided to take the plunge and “jump on in” (pun intended) with our three young sons.
I was not sure who was more excited, me – or the boys. Just kidding, I win on the enthusiasm hands down. In fact, I figured I should dress appropriately so dug out my favourite sports gear – black running leggings with a pink stripe down the calves, and a bright pink baggy t-shirt with “#Workout” on the front.
Yes, Oh yes, I was ready for some bouncing fun! Now, I did not know what to expect with this park. All I knew was it was called “Better Extreme” and that there were trampolines. My seven year old asked me whether there were trampolines on the ceiling. Which made me wonder what we were getting ourselves into…
A little back story…when I was 13 years old, I was a skinny girl who did Gymnastics and trampolining. I was reasonably good and very flexible. Although I did not continue for long, I have ever maintained that I can still do what I did back then. Even as a nearly not-skinny, thirty year old mum of three…
Ok so we’re back to the events of earlier today. My family and I were booked in for an hour session this afternoon. Availability was reasonable but I noticed that as we approached the session times, they did seem to book up.
I’ll spare the details on getting to the desk and putting on the florescent orange grippy sock-thingies that they provide (at extra cost)…and the 3 minute safety video in the “briefing room” before we were able to actually get into the trampoline park.
Once the attendant opened the double doors to the park and said “Right through here guys,” my heart was thumping. I practically ran through with the kids eager to start the fun!
“THIS IS AMAZING” I cried out to my husband as we walked along a walkway. It was much like walking into an arena, we were in a large hall with a path along the edges. All the action was in the middle. You could totally come as a party dressed for the Hunger Games and have a blast.
There are segments with a different activity. To the front are a large stretch of square and rectangular trampolines with trampolines on a slope along the walls. To the left was some sort of high barrier to jump from. And near the back are a few sections of a bouncy pathway towards a basketball hoop.
As we walked further I noticed a pit with foam shapes and two people were standing on a beam over it playing with giant batons that reminded me of the 90s TV Gladiators! Behind them appeared to be a tightrope!
In the front right corner is a giant foam pit with various levels of platforms for people to jump in. I stared for a few moments just looking around and all the people casually jumping from one floor to the next, it was like everyone was walking on the moon! Relaxed, defying gravity, having fun!
The energy was really great. With staff sat on every section in the room to supervise, no one was getting silly or boisterous. The adult to child ratio seemed to favour adults slightly when we were there in the late afternoon. Yet, to my surprise, I was the ONLY adult dressed in fitness gear. Everyone else were wearing jeans.
Let’s set the scene…
I followed my family onto the floor of trampolines in front and settled onto a square one, ready to begin. I cleared my throat, channeled my inner 13 year old gymnast, raised my arms above my head, then promptly bent my knees, swung my arms down and….I was flying! Up, up, higher and higher than anyone else. It was exhilarating. As I bounced, I felt all of my cares and worries just float away and it felt GREAT.
Unfortunately, what happened later may have been due to the fact I had lost my inhibitions which perhaps was not entirely a good thing. Little did I realise, until my husband pointed out, that I appeared to everyone else like this hardcore trampolinist (Is that even a word?) But I am NOT a hardcore trampolinist. So the scene is set…
I started off serious, I did the gymnastic pose with my arms above my head, I got incredible height just like a gymnast…and then….I stopped and finished with a pose again before walking onto the next trampoline. I guess to onlookers that was a bit of a let down. I wondered if I should throw in some tricks, a somersault maybe? A backflip? How about I swivel my hips in the air and land in the opposite direction? Yeah, I’ll try that. I jumped, swivelled…and landed wonky…ouch. Try again…jump, swivel and YES! I LANDED STRAIGHT ON! Triumphant and extremely proud of myself, I arched my back and finished with my arms over my head again.
Time passed by with a few seat drops (landing on my bottom with my legs out straight) and knee drops when suddenly I realised that lots of jumping does not mix well with a body that has been through childbirth three times. So…I needed a break.
I staggered a little across the trampolines to get to the floor and took a gander at the tight rope. It was not actually made out of rope, and the sign said it was a “slackline.” It sort of looked like a belt I used to own in the early 2000s and people were attempting to walk from one end to the other. Well, I reasoned that I was used to walking the beam how different could slacklining be?
I lined up behind four small kids as one by one they all ran across the belt and fell at odd angles into the foam pit. I watched “The walk” recently which was all about a guy who did this type of thing, so I figured I’d try and channel him while I took a go.
I stood tall at 5ft 10, towering over the kids waiting behind me and tried to block out the stares from the people all around me. What I must have looked like, in my active gear, now standing on my toes with my arms by my hips and my wrists bent ready to throw my arms up in a balance. I raised my right leg straight out in front of me and pointed my toe, ready to mount this curious belt.
Confidence oozed through my whole body as I slowly lowered my -considerable – weight onto my right foot. The belt jolted back and forth so violently I thought it might have a life of it’s own. It was extremely hard to get it to calm down and give me confidence to bring my left foot in front. The belt stopped moving and I took a breath. My arms now spread eagle wide and shaking slightly I bit my lip with concentration. “I can do this” I muttered to myself as I lunged forward with a swift action. In my head, I was as elegant as a swan, but to the bystander I must have looked like someone doing the chicken dance on a rope. Suddenly, the belt sprung back into life and I promptly fell right into the pit.
Determined not to admit defeat, I headed for the edge to climb out and rejoin the line of young kids to take another go. However, climbing out of a pit of foam shapes is like getting that horse to come out of the sinking mud in the Never Ending Story. It felt like the shapes clung to my legs, pulling me down the harder I tried. I soon learned that the knack is to swing your body from side to side in a weird army crawl to get out.
When it was finally my turn again, I decided to take a more casual approach. No one needs to see me on tip toes with my arms above my head. So I took my foot out and leaned forward, levering my weight onto it, this time I was thinking about the latest movie I watched “The Greatest Showman,” which is perhaps more appropriate because my antics were totally perfect for the circus. I did my yoga breaths, focused on my balance, tamed the wild belt from bouncing around and took a step. I maintained balance, swung my right foot forward and took another step. I was half way and sheer pride flooded my senses and I almost smiled at myself before the most horrible thing happened. It was as if I fell in slow motion, I could hear the low droning “noooo” as if I was watching myself on replay in slo-mo mode. As I came crashing down, my right arm got caught in the belt and it yanked my shoulder so that once I was in the pit all I could feel was blinding pain.
And now, my friends, I became a character in a scene from “Saving Private Ryan” I clutched my right arm close to my torso and wriggled out of the pit. It took every part of my grit and determination to get out. I shakily stood up and took a long, pitiful walk to the edge of the hall where I could sit down. I took a glance at my arm to see a bruise forming and dramatically turned my head away, I couldn’t look again, it made me feel queasy. Oh what a fool. Why did I think I could do that?
While I rested I took a moment to look at everyone around the hall, I realised that pretty much no one was taking this experience seriously. Except me. All I saw were laughing, casual bouncing, people sitting around and talking and lots of kids gleefully jumping around to burn off some steam without getting told off. (You know the saying “my kids are bouncing off the walls?” well, here you actually can and get away with it)
So I decided to blend a little more. I half-heartedly jumped across some of the trampolines and played with the kids. But I realised that blending in, doing this activity in a laid-back manner is so incredibly unfulfilling. Then I saw my husband jumping off the highest platform over the giant foam pit. Something stirred in my gut – yep, it’s my competitive strike. I can do that. And I can do it better.
So, yes ladies and gents, I marched over to the giant pit and climbed the ladder to the top of the highest platform. I’m no good at measurements but I’d say it was about 3 or 4m high. Once at the top I was behind a little girl who could not be any older than 9 and was facing me as she clung onto the rails and leaned backwards, staring at me with terror in her eyes. “It’s ok, it’s not very high. Go on, you’ve got this” I said confidently. She trembled as she lowered herself and suddenly dropped out of sight. So I stepped up, I was back to my 13 year old gymnastic self and on my toes again, back-arched and arms above my head. In my mind, I was going to do a beautiful somersault into the pit and the whole room would explode in cheers and clapping. Instead I hesitated. I realised that the likelihood of me breaking my neck was unknown but undeniably higher than I was comfortable with. I considered jumping bottom-first, but what if my legs went above my head and I broke my back? That would be no good. If I jumped in feet first maybe I’d break an ankle…scenario after scenario flooded my mind as more children lined up behind me, waiting for me to jump. I pointed a toe and lifted my leg out straight ahead as if to jump…then… desperately tried to find a way out of this situation without looking like I just chickened out. Then suddenly an idea struck me! The kids! I’ll blame it on the kids! “Oh, I hear my son, you go ahead love, I just need to go down and help my son” I said in fake urgency while edging past the kids and sheepishly walked down the steps to find my husband smirking and totally seeing through the fascade. “Chickened out then,” he said with a smile.
Well, with ten minutes left, I jumped around with my family and cheered the boys on as they went head to head on the gladiator beam. I may have been the worst gymnastic impersonator in the room, and made a total fool of myself but what I can truly say is this: Better Extreme absolutely brought out the inner child in me and helped me to forget the stresses in my life, whilst making some wonderful memories with the family.
So if you haven’t been there yet, I really recommend you go and check it out. My only advice is, leave the gym gear at home and don’t take it too seriously.
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