A 63-year-old man does double back flips on the trampoline. Nearby, a 56-year-old woman nails a cartwheel on a gymnastics beam. In the next room, a 42-year-old man practices for a movie shoot by "falling" off a 20-foot-high scaffold.

"All you're seeing is an old guy having fun," said Jim Grindeland, 49, of Eagan, speaking for his peers at Gleason's Gym. Every Wednesday night for two hours of classes and "open gym," these middle-aged folks perform leaps and bounds with gymnasts who not only are young enough to be their children, but often are their offspring.

That's one of Gleason's recreational director Dave Kennedy's primary recruiting tools.

"I walked in here five years ago with my 12-year-old son, and Dave looked at me and said, 'I have got the class for you,'" said Rob Perry, 54, of Bloomington, who enrolled in a trampoline class.

Kennedy insists that the recruiting part is easy. "The trampoline just sounds fun," he said. "Fitness is a little bit more and more getting to be a factor for people coming. But I think mostly they've been looking for something different to do, something fun, something challenging."

The first challenge: Forget everything you ever knew. Perry's family had a trampoline in their Bloomington back yard, and he had mastered a forward flip. Or so he thought.

"They had to erase everything because no one had taught us the right way to do it," he said. But what he was taught at Gleason's about flips "doesn't take nearly the effort. When you do it right, it's easy.

"Anybody's body here can do any of this stuff. It's your brain that gets in the way."

Turns out that for such a youthful pursuit, a mantra from baby boomers' youth applies: "free your mind, and your body will follow."

A smart-aleck would say that an empty brain is a fitting characterization for such pursuits. But to a person, these budding acrobats, none of whom is likely to grace the cover of Middle Aged & Buff magazine (if such a publication existed), insist that de-cluttering the old noggin is crucial.

"Thinking can cause problems," said Grindeland, while eyeing the trampoline. "So much of it is the head game. There's a natural sense of self-preservation. You need to be able to say 'I'm safe' and put that aside and be safe, but you start to go, 'No, I can't do that,' and then you fall."

Connie Kupferschmidt, the cartwheeling gymnast just back from three months on the national curling circuit, calls it "a kind of Zen concentration, the same as swinging a golf club or delivering the curling stone.

"But I have to say, most people my age [56] can't do a cartwheel on the beam. Of course, I didn't say I could, I said I'd try."

And she succeeded.

In the next room, another father-son duo is diving/jumping/flipping onto a pile of mats from varying heights. Jasper Morgan, 16, has cajoled his dad, Andy, since enrolling in this "high falls" class, taught by Jason Hilton, the stunt coordinator for a World War II movie to be filmed in St. Paul this summer.

"One day we're driving home, and Jasper said, 'Dad, why don't you do that?' The next week, the teacher said, 'I heard your son convinced you to take the class,'" Andy Morgan said with a chuckle. "I said, 'Well, if you'll comp the class. ... '"

Now Morgan, 42, takes the plunge from all heights of the scaffolding, deftly if not as spryly as Jasper. "As you move up in height, it's all about precision," he said. "You learn how to move and twist your body without any resistance.

"Once you get into it, it's like any good drug: You just want more. When I did 10 feet the first time, it took me about 5 minutes. When I got to 20 feet, it took like 10 seconds."

Another Wednesday-night regular who originally showed up to bounce with his daughter -- "these guys are the real stars," said Kupferschmidt, "the ones who saw their kids doing this and got into it" -- is Paul Armour, the 63-year-old double-back-flipper.

"A lot of people misunderstand the trampoline and probably think what I do is stupid or adventurous or daredevil," said the Apple Valley resident. "The reality is that it's like any other piece of equipment. If you use it improperly, it's gonna bite you."

Armour laughed while recounting the saga of some friends warning him about the dangers of trampolines. Turns out they had done some carousing and decided to jump off a roof onto a trampoline and then into a swimming pool. Broken bones ensued.

"They didn't blame the inherent stupidity of what they did," Armour said. "They blamed the trampoline."

With proper training from Kennedy and a little practice, Armour flips with aplomb. Wearing goggles and orange sweatpants, he could pass for someone a couple of decades younger while on the trampoline, even with a physique that's more burly than wiry.

"We have had a number of people in here with a wide variety of body shapes," he said. "There's really nothing hard about this.

"My skill is less than what an elite athlete would have. I don't go through a major regimen. At my age, I don't have to."

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643