Chellsie Memmel is just like any other elite gymnast working for a spot on the 2021 Tokyo Olympic team...oh, except that she’s 32, married with two kids, coming back out of retirement after eight years off...and a few other differences.
Since retiring in 2012, Memmel decided she missed the sport and decided to make a comeback as an adult gymnast. With her return to the sport she’s proving that age is just a number, and what was once thought of as a sport for young girls can be for anyone.
I followed Chellsie Memmel around to see a day in her life and was surprised by 12 things she does throughout the day that most elite gymnasts don’t. If you find something I missed, let us know in the comments!
When Memmel wakes up, she gets her older child Dashel’s lunch ready for school, then packs her own breakfast and lunch for the day. She then gets her younger child Audrielle up and ready for the day.
She drops Dashel off at school and brings Audrielle to her mom’s house before heading to the gym. After doing all of this for her kids, Memmel spends her “me” time in the car “listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks, nearly every day,” she shared.
1. Has two children!
Most elite gymnasts don’t have kids.
2. Gets her kids ready for the day and drops them off at school.
Memmel usually drops the kids at their grandparent’s house while most elite gymnasts only get themselves ready in the morning, and some are young enough that their parents still pack their lunches!
Around 8:45 Memmel arrives at M&M Gymnastics in New Berlin, Wisconsin, to begin her training. She starts her day with a banana and peanut butter. “I don’t like eating a ton before I work out and that’s what I’ve found gives me enough energy to get through a workout without feeling too full,” she shared.
Memmel starts her workout with a warm-up, a bit of conditioning, then bouncing on the tramp before starting her events. She generally trains in the order of vault, beam, floor, bars.
#tbt to last week. I never EVER thought I would find myself not completely disliking/kind of missing it. This is crazy. Vault really was my least favorite thing to do. The event I tolerated and did because I had to. Now I cannot say I dislike it anymore. pic.twitter.com/3hiXGO50tD— Chellsie Memmel (@CMemmel) October 8, 2020
She only trains events on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, giving her about 15-16 training hours a week, much less than she did back in 2008 and less than most elite gymnasts today.
“Before we trained six days a week, and three of the days were two-a-days,” Andy Memmel shared. “It’s way fewer hours, but she did all of the numbers when she was a child. We can keep numbers low because she stays on and hits. She’s so much smarter now, and the muscle memory is there.”
“It’s quality over quantity,” Chellsie added, “and that’s the same as it is with conditioning. I’ve found what works for my body, found a more balanced, healthy diet and eating habits. I think the combination of all of that is why it works.”
During these training sessions, Memmel not only re-learns old skills, but she’s also working on new ones she’s never tried before.
“It’s not worth coming back to do what you used to do, or even a level below what you used to do. It’s only worth coming back if you can push the envelope to the next level,” Andy Memmel stated.
When it comes to re-learning old skills, Memmel said she’s aware it’s “highly annoying” that she can do a standing Arabian without trying any drills or working herself back up to the skill. But as an adult gymnast, she’s done all of the work to learn the skills when she was younger, so now it’s just about using muscle memory to re-learn it.
3. Trains only three days a week.
Most elite gymnasts do something more similar to her 2008 schedule, often training most days in the week, and multiple times a day.
4. Re-learning old skills.
Most elite gymnasts don’t take any time off, so they never have to re-learn skills. Memmel, on the other hand, took eight years off, so her comeback has to involve re-learning of certain skills.
Depending on how quickly she gets done with her training, Memmel finishes around noon and eats her lunch at the gym before going to pick up her daughter Audrielle from her grandparent’s house after training.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, her recovery days, Memmel gets to the gym at noon or so, because she teaches an adult gymnastics class that begins at 12:30. After her adult gymnastics class, it’s more coaching - she warms up her teams at 2:00, completing their warm-up and conditioning alongside them before breaking off to do some more conditioning of her own, then coaching the kids.
“The coolest thing about this comeback is that I’m stronger. I’ve never been this strong. I take those recovery days seriously, which is why we’re still doing on-off-on-off days with training, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to progress.”
Memmel also credits her body staying so healthy to the products she uses from Tumbl Trak.
Was not part of my floor assignment today but I had to do one anyway because they are my favorite 🙃 #chellsiesadultgymnasticsjourney #ilovetotumble #doublelayout #tumbltrak #airfloor @tumbltrak pic.twitter.com/5OZ7lhKpqp— Chellsie Memmel (@CMemmel) August 26, 2020
She gets a lot of questions about why she uses the air floor and when she plans to lose it, to which she shared, “I will never, ever lose the air floor, no matter where I’m at or what point I’m at in my training, even if it’s leading up to a competition. Leading up to 2008, I was using the air floor twice a week.”
Memmel shared that the air floor gives enough cushion and protection for the body that it makes sense to use, no matter your age, to get more reps in without pounding on the body.
Another training tool Chellsie and Andy utilize is their cell phones, taking videos and playing them back to see what she needs to work on during her next turn. “We didn’t use phones as a tool as much last time. We had, like, our blackberries, and even that was more in 2012 than in 2008” Memmel said, laughing.
5. Coaches gymnastics on her recovery days.
Most elite gymnasts don’t coach gymnastics at all, especially to adult gymnasts!
6. Uses cell phone recordings as a new tool.
Many elite gymnasts these days likely don’t remember a time before you could record skills on your phone, or training without that tool.
Memmel hangs out with her daughter the rest of the day until they go to pick up Dashel from school.
7. Takes care of her kids.
Many elite gymnasts spend their days after training working on schoolwork if they are a younger elite, or getting other things done if they are an older elite gymnast, but most don’t spend their afternoons with their own child!
3:00 - Bedtime
They pick up Dashel from school, then spend time together as a family. When Kory, her husband, gets home from work she often goes for a short bike ride, walks around the lake she lives near, or swims across the lake when it’s warm enough to do so.
Spending time with her family, both her husband and kids as well as her sisters and parents is important to Memmel. Getting back into training, in fact, came from a Christmas joke from her parents and siblings back in 2019. As a Christmas present, they got Chellsie a USA leotard and all wore matching “Tokyo 2020” shirts.
“We all thought she could make a comeback and should, so it’s kind of funny looking back now that we all thought that,” Andy Memmel shared. “She got in shape and looked really good, so we were all like, you’re in shape enough to wear a leotard. It was really a joke at first, a fun joke. And then it turned into reality,” Andy Memmel said.
It took six months, until July 2020, that Chellsie announced her comeback - because it took her that long to decide for herself.
Memmel also likes to read in her spare time to relax or plan new workouts for her and the team. Even though she’s at home, planning for training never really ends, especially now that she knows the sport as a coach and judge herself.
When asked how coaching and judging positively affect her gymnastics, Andy Memmel shared, “I think she understands more now about the importance of making and doing things properly, with the form, with the extension, the amplitude. She knows more now as a judge, that this better get credit, or why waste my time doing it?”
Andy also shared that her knowledge helps them select which skills go into the routines. Right now, they’re both helping decide what is going to make it into her final beam routine. “We’re toying with huge skills on beam. We’re working a flick Arabian pike on beam, and a flick full on beam, and I think they’re both in the same stages right now. Each one has it’s plusses and minuses.”
Recently, she found new floor music. When asked if it will be similar to her old music, she said “It’s kind of a mixture. Some of it is very similar, and some of it is a little bit different.”
Memmel also spends some of the evening online, talking to her growing internet fanbase. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to share and put stuff out there, but it was like, I’ll just see what happens, and then people just started responding to it. I’m still just overwhelmed with how awesome people have been about my training.”
She puts out weekly videos on her Youtube Channel about her training, daily life, and making a comeback as an adult.
“I want people to know that they don’t have to stop something that they like doing just because someone tells them it’s time or says this or that. I think a lot of times as adults, and with jobs, and making everything work, and trying to figure out our schedule, we forget that you need to do something for you and something you enjoy, and I feel so lucky to have gymnastics,” she shared.
8. Waits for her husband to come home before getting more exercise.
Many elite gymnasts are not married yet, so this just isn’t a reality for them!
9. Had their comeback made into a Christmas joke.
For most elites, training for gymnastics is a serious decision, but Memmel got back into it just by having fun, and of course with a little encouragement from her family!
10. Uses her knowledge as a coach and a judge to plan out her own routines and workouts.
Most elites rely mainly on their coach to craft their routines, know the Code of Points, and create their workouts. Though Chellsie could never do it without Andy, she comes with a lot of knowledge herself!
11. Has an internet fanbase made of mostly adults.
Many elite gymnasts have fans online and in-person that are in the gymnastics world, but Chellsie Memmel’s journey back into gymnastics has inspired kids, adults, gymnastics fans, and even people who know nothing about the sport!
12. Challenges the stereotype that the sport is for young gymnasts.
By making a serious comeback as a 32-year-old, Chellsie is challenging the status quo when it comes to gymnast’s age, and showing that adult gymnasts are to be taken seriously.