I had no interest in gymnastics until two years ago. Sure, I took my kids to a gymnastics club, but parents were not allowed to watch the sessions, so I had no idea what my kids were up to. It looked nice, but it was simply another sport I was vaguely aware of.
A couple of years later and I like to joke that I am a fully-fledged gymnastics dad. The kids are both at a new gymnastics club, one that allows mums and dads to sit in on the sessions, so I can see what goes on and engage with the sport.
Helen, my oldest daughter has competed in competitions, winning a medal in one them, something that did huge amounts for her confidence.
Most days I can be found helping Helen practice aerials, back flips, round offs and so on. Izzy and I meanwhile, work to perfect her forwards rolls and cartwheels. I’ve learned a lot of gymnastics terminology and developed a real appreciation for the sport.
With this background, I was very interested to hear of a ‘gymnastics zone’ called Gymfinity Kids. It had opened up a new venue a short distance away from us in Farnborough, near Guilford. I was asked if I might like to pay it a visit. When I mentioned this to the kids, the reaction was a resounding yes. In fact, so strong was their desire to see this place I ended up going twice, but we’ll come on to that in a moment.
What is Gymfinity?
Gymfinity is like any other gymnastics club in that you pay a fee to be a member and can go along for regular lessons. In addition to Farnborough, there are venues in Leeds – Bramley, Colchester and Reading and it provides access to bars, air tracks, trampolines, beams and all the equipment you might expect to see in a gymnasium.
There are, however, some big differences. Gymfinity can be booked as a party venue. It also offers a Baby Balance group for parents and children aged three months up to walking and these sessions are completely free of charge and older. It also runs holidays clubs during school breaks and, wait for it, adult classes!
In a very forward thinking move, Gymfinity also runs sessions called Ninja Knights. These sessions are open to both girls and boys, although it can be a great way to introduce boys to take part in gymnastics as the sport can, unfortunately, be perceived as a bit girly (a completely inaccurate stereotype. Have you ever seen how much muscle your average gymnast is packing?).
Ninja Knights sessions are a combination of gymnastics, parkour and marital arts but rely on various gymnastics skills. Should you have a son who is reticent about trying gymnastics, this could be a way to introduce him to the sport.
One further big difference is that Gymfinity is about fun, getting children active, introducing them to the sport and giving them a chance to socialise.
Prior to handing over any money, you can book a free trial. This is what I did with Helen.
A word of advice, if your child, like Helen, is quite an advanced gymnast, make this clear at the time of booking. As you can appreciate the trial is held to establish your child’s level of experience and recommend an appropriate class for them to join.
In Helen’s case she did a group warm up, and then was taken off by a coach to use the bars, air track, trampolines and do aerials (no handed cartwheels) into the ball pit.
I had been told that all the coaches were experienced gymnasts themselves. It was obvious from casually watching them that they all know what they are doing and Helen’s coach, Hayley, was superb. She encouraged Helen without being pushy, praised her when she did things well and Hayley had no issue with doing aerials into a foam-filled ball bit with Helen.
Helen absolutely loved it. It was a fantastic chance for her to use equipment that she doesn’t get to use every week, such as bars.
It had been my intention only to visit Gymfinity with Helen. On returning home and hearing what a great time Helen had, little sister Izzy wanted to give it a go and so a few days later, I found myself returning to Farnborough with her!
Izzy’s not quite as advanced as Helen so she stayed in a group through her trial session. Even so, she got to use the trampolines and did a lot of tumbling work such a forward rolls and cartwheels.
The group was small and manageable and her coach went up to each of the parents in turn after the session to say how well they had done and recommend which lesson would best suit them. It was a very nice, personal touch.
If you wish to sign up and become a member, you will need to pay a £30 annual fee to cover insurance costs. On top of this, lessons start at £5.99 a session. Alternatively, at most Gymfinity venues you can pay for one off Open Gym sessions without signing up to be a member for £15.
This is all standard stuff you would expect with any gymnastics club. The fees are also in line with what we pay for Helen and Izzy’s classes so I would say they are very reasonable.
Final thoughts and further information
Firstly, there is no question we will be returning to Gymfinity. For us as a family, it is a bit too faraway from home to make weekly lessons practical. The range of equipment, however, is superb and I think Helen and Izzy would benefit from having occasional open gym sessions using bars, beams and other large items we can’t practically keep at home.
The coaches and staff I dealt with were all fantastic. I was confident they knew what they were doing and they were all very encouraging.
The fees are in line with what you will pay at any other gymnastics club. I can only tell you I was very impressed. Helen and Izzy also thoroughly enjoyed the experience
Further information can be found online at the Gymfinity website. Various new venues are in the pipeline so if there isn’t one near you at the moment, do check because venues are planned in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Bracknell and Maidstone.
Disclosure: This article was commissioned by Gymfinity Kids. Thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.