From gymnast to dentist – and back again

Jan 25th, 2013
Desiree Handstand Redo

Janaury 25, 2013

There are many stories floating around online of dentists, young and old, pursuing new hobbies outside of dentistry. Some hobbies have no relation to their professional careers (seethe dentist who rides his unicyle to work), but some have an obvious correlation (see 92-year-old dentist creates works of art from blocks of wood). Some are surprisingly related to dentistry.

“Gymnastics has a lot in common with dentistry,” claims Desiree Walker, a 33-year-old dentist and gymnast from Lumberton, North Carolina. “One thing is skill-based – to be a good dentist, you have to do something over and over again, even if it’s the simplest thing in the world.” She uses the example of your first crown prep: the more you do it, the better you get. “The neuromuscular and fine motor skills that you have in dentistry transfer over to gymnastics.”

The commonalities extend beyond skill. Desiree wants to explore the idea that once you mature, you get less flexible. “Well, you might not stretch as easily [once you’re older], but you can still stretch as much. Think about ortho – you have to remodel and change. You can change your body. You can become a better athlete as an adult.”

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And then there’s the issue of focus in both dentistry and gymnastics. “Just the skill that it takes and the focus – being totally focused and absorbed in what you’re doing. It’s definitely a topic I want to explore.”

Desiree got involved in gymnastics as a result of a New Year’s resolution. While most people resolve to change a destructive behavior or initiate a positive one, Desiree resolved to challenge herself by returning to what had been her norm for most of her life. She resolved to hop back on the balance beam.

In her time away from gymnastics, she became involved in endurance sports – marathons, triathlons – won the NPC National Fitness Competition (which qualified her as a professional IFBB fitness competitor), and became a dentist.

Desiree is not one to sit around and wait for opportunities or hobbies to find her. Her enthusiasm for life is evident in everything she does – from her career to her hobbies to her entrepreneurial spirit.

“I started coaching youth gymnastics in August [2012], and by November, I had decided to compete again.” Her first competition is on February 23, and although gymnastics competitions for adult teams don’t exist, Desiree has found somewhat of a loophole. “There’s a ’15 and up’ group, and that’s where I’m competing.” “So, there’s no limit?” I ask her. “No. You can just be ‘and up!’”

Desiree may be “and up,” but her skills are still sharp. On top of training for gymnastics again, Desiree is starting her own practice. “We’re breaking ground in April, and I’m very excited!”

Follow Desiree’s journey back into the world of competitive gymnastics on her blog, and watch her progress for yourself by visiting her YouTube page.

Lauren Burns is the editor of Proofs magazine and the email newsletters RDH Graduate and Proofs. She is currently based out of New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @ellekeid.

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