Everything That Happened When I Worked Out With Olympian Dominique Dawes

Photo by Photographer for Tide
When the opportunity to work out with the legendary gymnast presented itself, I literally jumped at the chance.

Let me start off by saying that even though I write about athletes I’m far from one—but when the opportunity to work out with legendary Olympian Dominique Dawes presented itself, I literally jumped at the chance. 

I mean would you say no to Dominique Dawes? Yes, *that* Dominique Dawes—the first African American to win an individual Olympic medal in women's gymnastics. Didn’t think so. After weeks of pure laziness, besides taking a SoulCycle class here and there, I decided to channel my inner Simone Biles/Gabby Douglas and throw myself into this workout with Dawes. 

When I met up with the 5’2” ageless beauty at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan I assumed (all right, hoped) we'd just kick our shoes off and head straight for the beam. Instead we warmed up with jumping jacks—where I learned my stamina is at zero—and stretches (lunges, jump ropes, etc.) Then we stretched into splits. Lucky for me I’m super flexible and Dominique took note. That’s right my perfect split-form was complimented by an actual Olympian. #Winning

“So far, so good,” I thought. 

Then hell happened. What gymnastics creator/coach decided across the floor workouts were necessary to train? I was completely out of breath after one jump, and in my quest to impress our host with the most, I forgot that I have rolling ankles. One wrong knee to chest move and I won’t get to do my beam routine, I thought. Because, yes that’s what I really came here dressed in spandex for—my very own beam moment.

Next, we moved on to tumbling. Now in my days as a cheerleader (only junior high, because I didn’t make the team in high school) I could do a good cartwheel and even a roundoff. The coaches decided to have us flip on lifted mats while I'm thinking to myself, wouldn't the low floor have been just fine? And what was I thinking letting this man flip me over, backwards of all things? BACKWARDS! 

Another case of swollen ankles coming soon. But, I was killing those floor rolls, right? Just look at that form!

“Trampoline time,” she said next. Now quick confession—I’m terrified of heights, but I got my entire life jumping across the trampoline. Just look at my smile.

Okay, so maybe I look a tad stir-crazy, but I really was in the zone. Other classmates even noticed how determined I was to stick my landing at the ending like a true pro. Blame it on the fact that I’ve watched the movie Stick It, far too many times. (I'm actually watching it right now.) I only managed to stick it once, but hey, that counts for something right? Everyone starts somewhere.

After a few rounds of defying gravity, we moved on to my favorite part—the beam. But, who knew the absolute smallest beam could actually be so high. High off Team USA’s gold medal win I wanted to do some turns, jumps and killer arm choreography just like Simone Biles, but my thighs wouldn’t let me be great. There was too much wobbling for me to stay balanced enough to walk, let alone jump, up and down. Also: never go to a gymnastics class without a pedicure—they make you take off your socks and shoes. And on a good day my toes might look halfway decent. Other days it’s best if I keep my shoes on. Guess which day this was?

Yes, everyone I met Dominique Dawes with ashy feet and chipped toe nail polish and I’ll have to live with it for the rest of my life. 

Despite the foot fiasco I only managed to fall off the balance beam once. And that dismount (i.e. I just jumped off)? A perfect 10—err 16. Dominique was proud of my landing, I know it. 

I was a little sad that we didn’t get to go on the vault or the the uneven bars, but maybe that was God’s way of saving me from a trip to the hospital. Guess I’ll try out the “Biles” in another lifetime. Although, the chocolate covered bacon waiting for us in the refreshment area quickly erased my disappointment.

This brought us to the end of the class where we chatted with Dominique about what it was like winning in 1996 and what it’s like to see two more African-American women dominate in the sport today. And you could literally feel the proudness in her voice. Total #BlackGirlMagic moment. That moment made this entire hour and a half display of public humiliation completely worth it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this work out as much as the next carb-counter, but the truth is, replicating gymnasts’ moves is hard as hell. I see you Dom, Gabby and Simone, but I’m going to stick to writing.

To be even more inspired, check out this video from Tide Pods featuring gymnastics greats like Dominique and Simone, who have showed us that size doesn’t limit the power of performance.

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