Gymnastics provides a springboard to a lot of places in life: coaching, counseling, college scholarships, gym ownership, a lifelong love of physical fitness; a rarefied few make it to the Olympic podium. For Chris Lung, beginning gymnastics at the age of 4 paved his path to entrepreneurship as the founder of GymnastX.
Like GMR, GymnastX is a gymnastics gear and apparel company that cares. They sell silicon bands that secure the velcro grips gymnasts wear to prevent them from ripping off the bar. They sell stylish sports wear and specially treaded socks that keep gymnasts from slipping on the floor. Of significant importance, they provide financial support to individual gymnasts and causes near and dear to the hearts of the community as a whole.
Today, we are excited to announce that we are partnering with Chris and GymnastX to sell a selection of their X Band designs on our website with Free Shipping in the contiguous United States.
GymnastX Founder and CEO, Chris Lung’s life follows a course familiar to many gymnasts. He began his love of gymnastics as a pre-schooler. He went on to excel in the sport throughout his education. When he was on the gymnastics team as a high school senior, Chris made it to the United States’ national team where his hard work, skill, drive and dedication earned him the title of National Champion in the pommel horse event.
Good grades and gymnastics excellence garnered him a scholarship to the University of Illinois where he competed all 4 years. His senior year saw Chris take leadership of the university’s gymnastics team as its captain. That same year, the team won the Big Ten Championship and Chris earned the esteemed title of All-American in his best event the pommel horse. Though, if you ask him, Chris will tell you the high bar is his favorite.
After graduation, Chris went to work on his MBA from Babson College, a school renowned the world over for its focus and excellence in turning students into entrepreneurs. It was in an assignment for his entrepreneurship class that GymnastX was born.
The assignment was to “take a business idea and see how far you can run with it.” With 20 years of his life devoted to gymnastics, Chris says, “It was only natural for me to take that passion and experience into my future in the business world.” 5 years later, Chris is still running with it in his own company.
Chris says, “The Babson entrepreneurship class afforded me the opportunity to talk to lawyers on how to form a company and patent products, to develop our logo and marketing strategies, to research product manufacturing and sell in the e-commerce environment. At the end of the class, we all did a presentation like the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ to pitch our ideas in front of a ‘board’ of professors and other students. It was a great experience!”
As with Mike, ‘The Old Gymnastics Guy’, in his now 50+ years of experience in the sport leading him to innovate new equipment, gear and apparel, Chris’ 20+ years as a gymnast led him to develop his signature product: the X Band. Chris asserts and Mike agrees, “No one understands the needs of a gymnast more intimately than someone who has spent large chunks of their life training and competing.”
On innovation and our new partnership, Chris says, “GMR is one of the largest resellers and innovative manufacturers in the nation. I’m really excited about a partnership with them. I look forward to the new opportunities we can tackle together.”
Chris and his high school assistant coach, Dan Young, got the idea for the functional element of his X Band design from seeing his teammates using everything from tape to plain ol’ rubber bands to Livestrong rubber bracelets to help keep the velcro strap of their grips from ripping open while they work the bar. Chris recounts, “While those improvisations worked as an okay-ish way to hack keeping one’s grips on, I knew there had to be a better way.”
In Chris’s design, the X Band brings the width necessary to safely secure the gymnastics grips’ strap in the dynamic environment of gymnastics work. Made of a highly durable silicone, X Bands are simultaneously small enough for a gymnast with a tiny wrist; they also offer the stretch needed to comfortably accommodate large-wristed athletes. “There’s no need to measure and figure where you fit on a size chart. One size fits all: male and female.”
“On the subject of aesthetics”, Chris says, “When I was competing, I wore a pair of grips with an ugly green strap. If I’d had more options, I would have preferred to wear something that matched my uniform or represented the University of Illinois. Now with our X Band, gymnasts and gymnastics teams have that choice.”
Indeed they do. Chris tells us, “GymnastX offers a variety of grip safety band colors, so gymnasts can coordinate their wrist bands to match their leotard or uniform. We also do custom orders that allow gymnastics clubs and teams to rep their club or school. The sky’s the limit for the custom colors and designs we can make happen.” For custom orders please visit the GymnastX website to order directly from Chris.
Design-wise, Chris and GymnastX weave financial support for causes important to the community by donating a percentage of the sales from specially designed X Bands. “Giving back to the community is one of the reasons I started the company.”
One such X Band makes the statement #WeStandByYou. This design speaks to the tragedy of the sexual assaults that rocked the community when the crimes of Dr. Larry Nassar came to light. It says to gymnasts that their community supports them and will not tolerate any abuse of its athletes. In addition to that show of support and in an effort to erase any vestige of stigma toward survivors of sexual assault, GymnastX takes action against sexual violence by donating a percentage from sales of the #WeStandByYou band to the non-profit RAINN. RAINN stands for Rape and Incest National Network and is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the US. RAINN’s services include advocacy for the rights of sexual assault survivors, a sexual abuse hotline for civilians and members of the military, sexual abuse prevention programs, assistance to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and resources to help survivors heal from the trauma of their experiences.
Another area of concern to GymnastX and the gymnastics community at large is the disappearance of university gymnastics programs across the country due to lack of funding. It’s no secret that some sports receive more money than others. We’ve lost too many college gymnastics programs to this issue. Proceeds donated from sales of the #SaveUICGym band serve as a way to help mens and women’s NCAA gymnastics programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago which are suffering financially and in danger of being shutdown.
Of course, for an individual athlete funding gymnastics training is a very expensive endeavor, especially for elite gymnast putting in the long hours required to realize their dream of competing at the Olympics. The problem is compounded for male gymnasts, as often more money is put toward women’s gymnastics training initiatives.
To help support gymnasts facing funding issues, GymnastX offers a percentage of proceeds from X Band designs with the names of talented athletes such as Chris Brooks, Donell Whittenburg, Akash Modi, Donathan Bailey and Paul Ruggeri. Chris tells us that he has seen, “too many gifted gymnasts have to make the hard choice between training for the Olympics and devoting their time to working at a job to survive in a difficult economy. Two of my goals in starting GymnastX are to help individual athletes not be forced to sacrifice their dreams and to be able to provide financial assistance to expand the US National Team.”
Chris witnessed this first hand in the struggle of his close friend, talented teammate and now ambassador for the company, Paul Ruggeri. Ruggeri helped Chris develop GymnastX. “We worked together to design a logo with meaning. We drew about a million X’s to come up with a design that incorporates the infinity symbol which speaks to the demands of the sport. In gymnastics it takes hard work, drive and dedication to make the impossible, possible.”
Even in manufacturing, Chris feels that “more money is spent on other sports than on gymnastics. You don’t see as much innovation in the gymnastics industry. Part of my vision for GymnastX is to give gymnasts and coaches more products to do their craft.”
“Given that I started out as gymnast in men’s programs, I have more contacts with male gymnasts. Another element in my vision for the company is to reach further into the women’s community with products and designs that answer their needs and cater to their desires.”
“I was super excited to see the Dutch gymnast Nina Derwael win the 2018 World Championship in our gold X Band!”
“What started out as a class assignment is now helping gymnasts win world championships! It’s been awesome! Seeing Olympians wearing our products on the world stage… I couldn’t have foreseen how far it’s going to go. I really think its a cool opportunity that I stumbled on and one that I’m proud of. I love that it keeps me connected to the community and will keep me giving back for years to come.”