Recreational and adaptive gymnastics for kids

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How to Stay Fit While Traveling

Summer is finally here and school is out! Along with the excitement of lazy days by the pool comes the busiest vacation time of the year.

While many vacations are typically jam-packed with activities, athletes typically do not have time or equipment to practice their sport. But have no fear because there are many ways to stay fit and physically active while on vacation. Whether you’re in a hotel, a cabin in the woods, or a house on the beach there are many simple, yet fun exercises that you can do with your child to keep up their cardio and maintain strength. This will also help for a smoother transition when athletes return to their sport.

Road Trip

A lot of families pack up and hit the road for long road trips. While long drives can be a beautiful way to take in the scenery, children can also feel confined to the back seat. A good way to break up the drive and relieve some of that energy is to take full advantage of rest stops. If there is a grassy area that is safe and away from traffic, you could play a game of red light, green light or a quick game of tag. You can also give them a set of jumping jacks that they have to complete as fast as they can. This can be turned into a family challenge and see who can finish the set of jumping jacks the quickest. 


At a house or cabin somewhere in the woods for a week or two? Not a problem. Hiking and walking on trails is a great physical activity that will help keep those legs moving and get that heart rate up. While you’re on a trail, you can make a fun challenge by playing Simon Says or Follow the Leader. You can start by walking then switching between variation of runs, such as skipping, “high knees,” sprinting, and jumping jacks, just to name a few.






If you’ve ever tried running on the beach you can attest to the fact that it’s much more difficult than any flat road. Whether you play a running game close to the shore line or higher up on the soft sand, you’re guaranteed to get a great workout.

In addition to that, here are some strength-building exercises:

  • Lunge walks down the beach (lower body)
  • Mountain climbers (lower body)
  • Shuttle runs down the beach (lower body)
  • Games on the beach
    • Beach volleyball, frisbee, or even playing catch


Let’s say you’ve decided to go to Walt Disney World or some other destination for a week and you will be staying in a hotel. Walking around the theme parks all day is certainly a great way to keep moving and stay active, but if you find you have downtime in the hotel, here is a list of exercises that can be done in the hotel.

  • Push up position hold with high fives OR push ups with high fives (core and biceps)


  • Step ups on a chair (Quadricep and calf muscles) 

  • Squat to stand on a chair (quadricep muscles)

By: Casey McLaughlin

The People of Balance 180: Emily Reid

When Emily Reid was a gymnast, she loved to win. She liked to travel to meets, spray her hair with glitter, pull on her shiny leotard and compete to the best of her ability. She enjoyed the thrill of watching her scores improve every meet, knowing that all of her hard work and sacrifices were paying off.

Flash forward to today, and Emily Reid has enjoyed being a gymnastics coach for the last ten years. She is currently one of Balance 180’s competitive coaches, and she also previously served as the head coach for our Adaptive Gymnastics program several years ago. She still likes to win, but her philosophy has evolved over the years. As a coach and prior gymnast, she understands the stressors, mental battles, and obstacles that many gymnasts face.

“The sport is a disciplined sport, and it always will be, but it’s important to understand that the expectation isn’t to be perfect – it’s to get better and to grow.”

Emily believes that gymnastics is a gateway to teaching other life skills. She thinks it’s essential to run a disciplined class where athletes are motivated to grow and push themselves but also to maintain a balance and incorporate elements of fun. Emily understands that as a coach, you have the ability to impact so many athletes lives and your role is critical as the young athletes develop. She tries to find the joy in all aspects of life and serve others.

“I try to pour into people every day. And that’s for everyone in every situation: gymnastics, in school and life.”

Her passion for working with children who have special needs developed in high school. She participated in the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) program where she got to exercise and engage with children with mental and physical disabilities. She immediately enjoyed the interactions and understood that what these kids wanted was to be accepted and make friends like everyone else. When Emily went to college, she discovered the field of occupational therapy and was set on a course that would ultimately become her profession.

Balance 180’s Adaptive Gymnastics program was a big part of Emily’s life because it sealed her decision to pursue her master’s in occupational therapy (Emily graduated in 2017). Emily was passionate about growing an adaptive gymnastics program and giving kids with special needs the opportunity to enjoy the sport that she loved as a child. Emily notes the importance of a program that brings together children with special needs who can benefit from community resources and still get that experience like any other typically developing child. Today, she even teaches her pediatric patients how to do a cartwheel because she believes in making skill progressions fun.

“I use my gymnastics background to make occupational therapy more fun and more meaningful while working on the patients’ goals.”

Emily’s advice to anyone who wants to pursue a degree in physical or occupational therapy, speech therapy or any other health profession is to volunteer in the adaptive program where students get hands-on training as they lead athletes in an activity. There are few places where students can learn and have fun at the same time, all while making a difference in the community. As to her advice to parents, gymnastics is a beautiful way for kids to learn both motor and life skills, make friends and have FUN!

Written by: Julie Walter 

A Kid’s Guide to Summer

The end of the school year is quickly approaching, so we wanted to know what our athletes were most looking forward to this summer! From family vacations to beach days to grandma’s house, sounds like our athletes have tons of fun ahead of them!

Written by Jillian Tartt

Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the times you picked me up when I fell down.

For cleaning up my boo-boos and kissing them to make them feel better.

For drying my tears and replacing them with a smile.


Thank you for reprimanding when I mess up, so I can learn.

For arguing with me and teaching me the value of communication.

For making me do chores, so I know how to work.

And for putting me on time out, so I know the importance of discipline.


Thank you for driving me to friends’ houses, sports and anywhere I need to go.

Thank you for holding my hand at the doctor’s office, so I am not scared.

Thank you for taking off of work to come to my plays, games, and competitions.

Thank you for showing me what a strong woman looks and acts like.


Thank you for all the advice you give me;

And for not giving up when I don’t hear it the first time.

Thank you for holding my hand, even when I think I am too old.

Thank you for calling every day;

And never giving up when I say I don’t have time to talk.


Thank you for every hug, kiss and laugh you have ever given me.

For every smile, we have shared, and all the comfort you have given me through the years.

Thank you for knowing I always love you, even when I don’t say it.

And most importantly, thank you for making me feel loved even when we are miles apart.

I love you, Mom. To the moon and back.

Written by: Julie Walter 

The People of Balance 180: Matteo Gavilano

“I have Asperger’s, don’t worry it’s not contagious.”

As a child, Matteo Gavilano didn’t talk a lot. He was quiet and didn’t like walking on grass or sand.  Sometimes stretching his arms and his legs out was just too difficult. So at 2 years old, his family decided to visit a doctor and get a medical opinion. Matteo was diagnosed with a speech delay and then later with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  

“It was hard to accept in the beginning, he was so little and scheduled for therapy every day of the week. But in the end, early intervention made a big difference and paid off.”

Matteo has been a part of the Balance 180 gymnastics family since early 2012. Six years later, he is training on the Special Olympics Competitive team. He was chosen for the Jaime Gomez Scholarship, an award given to the athlete who most embodies one of our late founders Jaime Gomez.  And this past month, he gave a magnificent speech at the Young Athlete’s Program’s Culminating Event.

“I never thought I had a disability before the day my dad told me.”

Matteo is in fifth grade and preparing to undertake middle school at the Howard Bishop gifted program next year. Starting middle school is scary for everyone but preparing a child with autism can be a bit more challenging. Matteo’s family decided it was time to tell Matteo about his diagnosis.

They started by showing him videos and told him why he is so unique. They explained what made him different from other kids, especially when it comes to social interactions. Matteo now understands autism and explains it as “the reason he is special”. But Matteo wasn’t the only one his parents had to inform. Matteo’s sister, Camilla and the rest of the extended family in Peru also had to be educated.

Giovana, Matteo’s mom, says educating the family is a process. They understand his diagnosis, but there are certain things they can’t comprehend. When situations come up, it’s hard for them to know how to respond in the best way.  It’s one thing to know what autism is, but it’s very different to live with it.

Autism awareness in the United States has made incredible progress, but in Peru, there are far fewer resources available for families who have children with special needs. Giovana’s is grateful that her children were born in the US where Matteo can get the education, supportive recreation, and therapy he needs. She says through therapy sessions and gymnastics classes two to three times per week he has been able to gain more confidence, improve his flexibility and strength tremendously and create valuable social connections. Matteo Gavilano has grown into a strong and independent young man, and we could not be more proud of him.

Written by Julie Walter.

People of Balance 180: One story at a time.


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