Gymnastics and cheerleading are excellent sports to develop a strong body and lean muscles. Practising both activities requires safe Air Track mats, so people can jump directly on them without injuring themselves. These kinds of mats aren’t specially made for gymnastics only but can be used for a variety of other sports such as martial arts or parkour.
If you’re looking for a gymnastics Air Track for home practice or a professional studio, here are the steps to help you find the right model.
Pick an Adequate Size
Inflatable gym mats are generally around 90 to 110 cm wide, and their depth/height ranges between 10 to 20 cm. However, these dimensions aren’t final and you can find more variation depending on your needs. When it comes to length, Air Track mats range from 45 cm to an impressive 11 metres which are usually reserved for professional competition events.
Considering this, when you purchase a gymnastics Air Track you should make sure that it’s big enough for your needs, but also fits well in the space where you’ll use it. Activities such as martial arts or yoga, require a mat that’s 120-150 cm long. If you only need an additional takeoff point, you could easily do a small mat (60 by 60 cm).
Other sports and techniques such as tumbling and cheerleading may require larger space. If you don’t have a lot of space to set up your mat, be extra precise in your measurements. In case space isn’t a problem, be cautious with your safety. Always pick a longer mat instead of a short one.
Consider the Materials Used
An inflatable gymnastics mat should protect your body during difficult aerial maneuvers and benefit your performance. This means the materials have to be of top quality. These are the best materials for such mats.
PVC is durable and strong and is often used as an outer covering for these mats. The top side of the mat may have a softer layer to protect your skin from scrapes and abrasions.
Double-wall or drop-stitch
Double-wall or drop-stitch technology is known for decades. This technique includes thousands of polyester threads that join two woven pieces of polyester. The threads allow the mat to be filled to high pressure and yet maintain a flat surface. If the threads aren’t holding the polyester in place, the mat would swell under the constant air pressure.
Rail tape is usually made of PVC and wraps around the exterior edge of the mat to protect the seams and the area around the valves.
Check for Dual Valves
The most important thing for successful use of a gym mat is controlling the air pressure. A dual valve design offers more control, enabling you to fill or let out just enough air to reach the right pressure without changing overall inflation. One valve is used for inflation while the other is used for pressure adjustment.
Decide Whether You Want to Connect Several Mats Together
The available dimensions of Air Track mats may not be enough for some users. And then, there are some who want to have the ability to customise their setups. If that’s the case with you, look for splicing features. Some mats come with Velcro strips on the edge of the bottom side. This connector strip can be used to connect two mats side-by-side. There’s also the option to request or purchase a connector strip individually.
Look for Orientation Marking
Staying centred when you’re using the mat may be a challenge. Almost all inflatable gym mats come with a thick centre line that stretches to the entire length of the mat to give orientation. Some mats also have a cross line that separates the mat at the short centre axis that indicates the halfway point.
Make Sure the Mat Has UV Coating for Outdoor Use
Backyard gymnastics is a lovely way to relax after a long day, stretch your body and strengthen your muscles. If you’re someone who enjoys outdoor workouts, you should keep in mind that the UV rays aren’t your friend. Besides applying sunscreen on your face and body, you should purchase a mat that has UV coating.
Some gymnastics air tracks have a protective UV coating to lower sun damage to the mat. Make sure you don’t leave the mat in the sun for too long, even if it has a UV coating. Even in that case, the UV coating can only do so much to stop the breakdown of PVC.
Tips For Use
Make sure that the area is clear before you use your air gym mat. Even if it has orientation markings, it’s easy to drift off the mat, especially when doing multiple tricks. There should be plenty of space around you. Make space to the sides, at the head, and at the end of the mat so you won’t hit or run into anything.
Be wary of heat and sharp objects. Inflatable gym mats are quite durable unless they get overheated or pierced. The heat will weaken the PVC, which can lead to bulges and weak spots. After practice, place the mat in a place away from sunlight and heat. Double-check before placing it on a surface that is frequently used, since even tiny rocks or spikes may pierce the mat and ruin it.
Many models are waterproof so you can use them next to a pool (or in a pool). If you’re doing water yoga or any other water activity, this mat would serve you well. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations since not all mats may be designed for this use. The same goes for using the mat on a grass (some manufacturers advise adding a layer between the mat and the grass).