Recently I had the pleasure of wheeling in Marburg with the phenomenal Katharina Arnold, and her wheel club. As a wheeler who was not born in Germany and who did not start rolling when I was 9, oh yeah they do that in Marburg, (check out this weeks video for proof!) I am constantly playing catch up to wheelers who spent more time in a wheel before puberty than I have my entire life. One thing I was struck with while I was watching the kids roll all over the place, was the sense of play. Anyone who has spent significant time alone with a small child knows they have a propensity for fixation. Looking out across the gym I would see kids rocking on a bar all the time. Anytime Ka (the head coach) would give them a minute alone they would be rocking, rocking, rocking, 2 seater, solo, standing sitting, just running around inside the wheel. in one day I personally saw a student practice a certain balance trick over and over again for over 30 minutes. The time these students spend everyday getting themselves into and out of crazy wheel situations makes them confident, connected, and ultimately very safe wheelers, because they know the wheel and they know how to keep themselves safe inside it.
So obviously we can’t go back in time and put you in a wheel at 5, but developing that “wheel sense” is something we can work on. I have been working on developing a few exercises to train your sense of where the wheel is and how to feel more confident in your ability to get yourself out of dangerous situations. Here are 3 basic categories of balances.
1. Balancing on top of the wheel
2. Standing on anything
3. Freehand transitions
Here are 3 basic ways to work each category. Only the first needs spotters the other are perfect solo exorcises.
- have 2 spotters one at either end of the wheel and pull the gymnast up to the top and have them practice balancing the wheel while straddling the hoops. Here is a photo of a bunch of German girls all practicing this by themselves.
- Walking/running/ jumping in the wheel. This is good for working alone, walk along the hoops/bars/handles. Get comfortable standing anywhere in a wheel.
- Rocking on the bar, rocking on the handle, rock on the boards. Squats down on a handle and rock back and forth. You should be comfortable enough to rock without hands anywhere inside a wheel.
So think about these exercises like a kid might. make it a game, how high can you rock, can you do it with 1 hand? With no hands? take it slow we don’t bounce off the floor as well as 9 a year old, but try to infuse your training with some of that play, experimentation, and joy.
Keep on rocking!