If you want your child to get the most benefit possible from their gymnastics class, you need to optimize your day to support them.
What does this mean? A tired, cranky, hungry, distracted, or dehydrated gymnast is a gymnast who isn’t going to improve during that day’s practice.
As parents, it is our duty to prepare our children as much as possible for the day’s challenges.
Here are 10 simple changes that will help your child get the most possible out of each and every gymnastics class:
1. Drink plenty of water during the day and in the evening after practice.
This might mean supervised drinking time until it becomes an automatic habit for your child.
Being dehydrated leads to poor ability to focus, weakened muscles, and reduced endurance – a recipe for injury.
And here in Carson City we are both high and dry, increasing our athlete’s need for water.
Don’t count juices, sports drinks, milk, or – god forbid – pop as hydration. Just water. Add ice if you want to get fancy
2. Eat something during the day!
I used to coach school sports, and I’d have my athletes keep food journals the first week of practice. Girls were coming to a 3 o’clock practice having had nothing more than a diet soda! Guys were coming in that had had a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew. How the heck are athletes supposed to improve if this is the fuel they are using at practice?!? (Short answer: they don’t improve)
Breakfast. Lunch. And maybe a quick small snack on the way to gymnastics class. That will ensure that our Carson City Gymnastics athletes are fueled at practice.
And afterwards RECOVERY is extremely important. During practice muscles are broken down and they need nutrients to repair themselves. A healthy dinner right after an evening class is essential, even if your athlete isn’t hungry, they need to eat something to bring them out of the breakdown state brought on by exercise.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
All of our gymnastics athletes could use more sleep. Not only does missing sleep lead to wandering attention during practice, it also limits energy and recovery.
8 hours should be the minimum for a hard-working gymnast, and 9 is even better. But.. this is important: they must be quality hours.
That means a quiet dark room. No music or TV playing.
Setting a sleep schedule will help even more, routine bed and wake-up times will train the body to go ahead and get deeper sleep, without the stress of unpredictability.
Limit “screen time” before bed as well. The blue light from computer monitors, smart phones, and TVs tricks the brain into thinking that it is daytime, and slowing the release of sleep chemicals that bring forth restful sleep.
4. Stay active outside of the gym.
This doesn’t mean high-risk activities like trampolining and ice-skating. Walks, swimming, and bike rides will all raise something called work capacity that will support greater efforts during gymnastics class.
These are also a great way to do something as a family, unless you feel like strapping on a leotard and sprinting at a vault platform with your athlete.
The keys here are that the extra activities should be easy and safe. You don’t want to hike up a mountain 2 hours before gymnastics class, that isn’t easy.
And you don’t want your gymnast to get hurt either, so keep it safe.
5. Keep away from poisonous things.
Fake foods are chemical storms that degrade health and erode energy, sapping the gymnast from the inside.
As convenient as it is to pick up fast food, realize that the ingredients in that food will hurt your gymnast’s performance and can even lead to health problems.
Without recommending a specific eating plan, follow the simple 3 step rule: Food shouldn’t need more than 3 steps to get to your table. If it takes more than 3 steps, it probably doesn’t belong in your mouth.
Farm -> Butcher -> Grocery Store (3 steps)
Fast Food Chicken:
Farm -> Butcher -> Processing Plant -> Fast Food Joint (4 steps, avoid!)
Healthy, natural foods will build a healthy, natural gymnast.
6. Stretch at home (to get more practice at the gym)
Most stretching improvement comes from time spent stretching. And stretching is one of the few vital areas that can be trained at home.
If Coach Dave wants the girls stretching for 30 minutes a day, the gymnasts can either do that at home, or spend 30 minutes of supervised practice time stretching instead of improving routines.
Flexibility is an area that the gymnast can have complete control over. You can’t control what other gymnasts will do, but when it comes to flexibility, you can improve as much as you are willing to.
7. Don’t ride the Drama Llama.
It’s natural that parents form a social group, we spend a lot of time together at practices, meets, and fundraisers. But (and this is a lesson from coaching lots of sports teams) don’t ever say anything negative about other parents (or coaches!) in front of the gymnasts.
This is incredibly distracting to young athletes who are trying to make sense of their world, and any drama involving other girls, parents, or coaches will keep them from doing their best.
You don’t have to be Miss Merry Sunshine all of the time, but realize that your attitude towards the other adults in this club will rub off on your athlete and it WILL affect their performance. When in doubt, just remember that during the next carpool the driver will hear everything you said when it was your turn
8. Fork over the dues on time.
Let the coaches be coaches, not bill collectors. If you’re distracting the coach with issues unrelated to coaching, they won’t be as effective during class.
So fork over the cash, moneygrip.
I’ve never heard about any rich gymnastics coaches, your dues are going to silly things like insurance, rent, heat, and lights – all things needed to train your gymnast.
Just because the coaches are cool, you shouldn’t treat the relationship casually. If you have a legitimate issue, talk to the front desk, but stay in communication. Please.
9. Be consistent.
Some gymnasts take the summer off because there are no competitions. Others miss practice all of the time. And then they and their parents are pissed that they aren’t improving as quickly as some other athlete.
Continuity is defined as an uninterrupted connection. It can also be described as persistence towards a goal over time.
When a gymnast is consistent over time, small gains will eventually equal large ones. When there are interruptions, progress will halt and your gymnast might even move backward.
By staying consistent with training, your gymnast will continually improve and be less susceptible to injury.
Consistent training also leads to lower stress as competition season approaches, as there will be less doubt.
Many gymnastics injuries occur from trying to do too much too soon for the body to adapt (especially if there is poor nutrition and lack of sleep as well). As an example, think of all the runner you know who develop shin splints because they had to rush to catch up their training.
10. Use the language of a winner.
Not the language of a loser.
1. A winner says, “let’s find out”; a loser says, “nobody knows”
2. When a winner makes a mistake, she says, “I was wrong”; when a loser makes a mistake, she says, “it wasn’t my fault”
3. A winner goes through a problem, a loser goes around it and never gets past it
4. A winner makes commitments and a loser makes promises
5. A winner says, “I’m good, but not as good as I ought to be”; a loser says, “I’m not as bad as a lot of other people”
6. A winner tries to learn from those that are superior to her, a loser tries to tear down those who are superior to her.
7. A winner says, “There ought to be a better way to do it”; a loser says, “That is the way I have always done it”
If a parent or gymnast speaks like a loser, progress will be slow at gymnastics class. Make corrections to language and actions, then character growth and skill improvement are sure to occur.