Looking for a mom to motivate you to achieve whatever your 2021 fitness goals are?
Meet Chellsie Memmel.
When the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed, Memmel, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist in gymnastics, 2005 world all-around champion, and a mom of two, saw opportunity. The 32-year-old had become well known in the gymnastics community for her social media accounts. After returning to the gym to coach after the birth of her second child, she concocted “Chellsie Challenges” — conditioning exercises for gymnasts, posted on Instagram.
The exercises were great for former gymnasts, Cross-Fitters, and others. She often would demonstrate the challenges herself — be it leg lifts while squeezing a foam block with your feet or pistol squat variations — and many of the gymnastics fans who followed her noted that she was in even better shape now than during her competitive years.
She started training more gymnastics skills and posting the results on YouTube, and then in a mid-summer video she admitted she was making a comeback to competitive gymnastics. Since then, she has shown a return to the uneven-bars skills that made her a superstar in the early 2000s and has started to put together routines for future meets.
Memmel won’t be the first mom to mount an elite gymnastics comeback — just two years ago, former U.S. junior champion Kristal (Uzelac) Bodenschatz made an elite comeback after having three children. She didn’t qualify for the national championships but inspired so many in her attempt that she pivoted her outreach toward inspiring moms in their fitness goals via her Instagram account.
Gymnastics isn’t often seen as a sport one can pursue as an adult — we moms tend to drop our kids at the gym door, wistfully look at the equipment we may have loved ourselves as a kid. We never consider it as something we can still do. But adult gymnastics continues to grow, with more and more gyms offering adult classes for gymnasts of all abilities. There is even an adult gymnastics summer camp in New Hampshire (in non-pandemic times) that draws older gymnasts of all levels from all over the country. And successful elite gymnasts are showing that the sport isn’t just for teenagers — the world’s most decorated gymnast, Simone Biles, is about to turn 24 and is doing harder skills than she ever did as a teenager.
No matter how far Memmel’s comeback goes, she admits that the challenge has made her a better mother. In an interview with NBC Sports, she echoed a sentiment that many moms who start a fitness journey of any kind feel: “When I started working out and taking time each week to do something that was just for me, it made me a happier person, and it made me a better mom.”