Tips for Success at Gymnastics Competitions
This year marks the fourth season my daughter has been competing at gymnastics meets. She is now 9 years old, and a Level 7 artistic gymnast registered with the USAG. She trains at Cascade All Star Gymnastics in Bend, Oregon.
Since she started training years ago, we have learned what does and does not work for success at gymnastics competitions. Lauren has trained with a former U.S. Olympic medalist and has her sights set on making it to the Elite Program, which follows Level 10.
Success at gymnastics competitions requires a dedicated practice schedule, as well as following coaches' tips and suggestions. My daughter currently practices four days a week for four hours each session. She often asks to go to the optional Saturday two-hour sessions, as well. Lauren is in fourth grade.
As with any top-level athlete, the gymnasts on Lauren's team pay close attention to their diet, stretch often, engage in strength training, and get plenty of restful sleep. Of course, competitive gymnastics is stressful, mentally and physically. Meditation exercises are also important to calm nerves before big meets.
For more detailed tips for success at gymnastics competitions, read on!
Gymnastics Training Leads to Success at Competitions
A gymnast does not become strong, flexible or graceful overnight. No matter the natural talent, they must practice consistently and in a "smart" manner to stay safe and avoid injuries.
Gymnastics includes lots of strength conditioning and stretching. Of a four-hour practice at the gym, my daughter's team focuses exclusively on strength training for the first half hour and stretching for the last half hour.
Dance instructors also work with the girls to properly position their arms, legs, and feet. Some gymnastics clubs will require separate dance lessons for girls on the team. At our gym, the dance instructors have a studio upstairs, time is set aside each week for dance training, and their fees are included with the monthly tuition.
An excellent coach will both be present and have additional trained staff on hand to ensure that the gymnasts are not getting fatigued while they attempt difficult stunts. Importantly, proper spotting is key. A gymnast should know exactly "how far" they can go and will be able to listen to their body to rest/recover when necessary.
While injuries may not be 100% preventable, proper instruction will help the gymnast keep body position properly aligned, and strength training will build muscle to help execution of skills and prevent many joint-related issues. Stretching, too, is important for flexibility and injury prevention. Coaches and assistants work with the gymnasts so that stretches for all major muscle groups are accomplished in a safe, effective manner.
Three Days Before a Gymnastics Competition
As with any athletic event, you should start preparing your mind and body at least three days before a gymnastics competition.
Of course, this assumes that you already have been consistently training, following a healthy diet, stretching and getting good rest.
Now, its time to put the crowning touches in your preparation for the gymnastics meet!
1. Diet: The last thing you want at a gymnastics competition is an upset stomach. Be sure to eat healthy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid junk foods and fried selections. Think about keeping your blood sugar level and consistent to prevent spikes and valleys that can make you feel lethargic or irritable.
2. Rest: The body heals itself, and you will also feel less stress when you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Avoid caffeinated beverages and over-the-counter medications, if possible.
3. Stretching: Keep muscles limber and loose with regular stretching as advised by your coach. Be careful not to overdo it before a gymnastics competition. Stay consistent with your daily stretching routine.
4. Strength: Coaches will usually advise you to back off of strength exercises in the 2-3 days leading up to a competition. This will prevent muscle fatigue/failure when you are competing. Keep yourself feeling primed and ready to go, without extra strain.
5. Meditation: Gymnastics, like many sports, requires a solid mental foundation. Negative self-talk, whether from doubts or fears, may undermine your performance. Pick a mantra to repeat during the meet ("I can do this," or "just do your best") and repeat silently to yourself in the days leading up to a gymnastics competition and the day of the meet too!
Aim for Success at a Gymnastics Competition
When it comes down to the day of the gymnastics meet itself, keep in mind that you have done everything possible to prepare. At this point, there is nothing more you can do, but remain calm and focused.
Here are some tips for success at gymnastics competitions:
- Eat a balanced meal at least three hours beforehand with healthy carbohydrates and protein for staying power
- Stay hydrated—bring a water bottle
- Compartmentalize any issues you may be facing: tell yourself that you can worry about your math grade, a best friend's birthday party, or upcoming social event later
- Breathe deeply from your stomach and slowly blow out the breath through your mouth
- Bring a healthy snack to eat between events, if necessary
- Consider declining to watch other gymnasts' performances if you become anxious as a result.
Success at Gymnastics Competitions
In the end, those that enjoy success at gymnastics competitions usually exhibit most or all of the following:
- Natural talent
- Drive to perform well
- Dedication to hours of practice each week
- Desire to stretch and strength build even outside of practice
- Healthy eating habits
- Ability to obtain at least seven hours of restful sleep each night
- Focus and determination
- Ability to "tune out" other competitors' performances
- Ability to "tune out" outside influences including the audience, sources of daily stress, etc.
© 2012 Stephanie Hicks