Happy January! It’s the beginning of the month so we all know what that means. Goals. Resolutions. Dreams. Starting over. Clean slate. Fresh perspective. The list goes on. I for one love setting goals. I like to have yearly goals, monthly goals, and even daily goals. So for me, January is fun because I get to think about what I want to happen in the next year, what I want to do, where I want to go etc. It doesn’t mean I want to have every minute planned out, but I think it’s important to sit down and focus on what you want for yourself. It’s especially important in a sport like gymnastics as well. You need to know what you’re working towards (maybe you want to become a college gymnast?), so when you’re having a rough day, when you’re struggling to remember why you’re in the gym on a hot summer day doing 50 pull ups when all your friends are at the pool, you’ll be able to think about that final goal and push through.
While I think you can set goals at any time of the year, January has that whole crisp ‘new year-new beginnings’ vibe to it that we should really take advantage of. Below are some tips for making gymnastics goals this year, although I would also encourage you to talk to your coaches as well. Really use them as a resource to come up with your list of goals and how to realize them. They might already have some sort of goal making plan they want to implement, but if not, here are some things to keep in mind when making up your own.
1. Break down your goals.
Having a goal to “Learn a back handspring” is great, but you need to break it down into steps. This way you know where you are in the process and what exactly you need to do next. For example, some steps for the goal ‘Learn a back handspring’ may include “10 clean back handsprings in the training belt each practice”, progressing to “10 back handsprings on the tumble track with spot”, and then “5 back handsprings on the tumble track without spot” to “5 back handsprings on a sting mat on the floor with spot” etc.
2. Include conditioning.
Whether your goal is to master a new skill or to score higher than a 9.0 on vault, you need to make sure you include conditioning as part of the process. Great gymnasts are strong- there’s no getting around that. To make skills look effortless and flawless, you have to put in hours of strength exercises. Meaning that if your goal is to “Learn a back handspring”, you need to also factor in what conditioning exercises will help you achieve that goal. To be able to move from doing a back handspring on the tumble track to doing it on a sting mat on the floor you have to be able to powerfully jump backwards, quickly snap your legs down and pop your arms up again. So, including “25 snap downs every practice” and “50 mountain climbers every morning” will help you move from step to step. Get some more conditioning inspiration from my Gymnastics Conditioning pinterest board.
3. Make your goals specific.
As you have seen from my examples above, goals should be specific and detailed. Simply saying “Learn a back handspring” doesn’t mentally prepare or focus you for the process. Break down each step or task as much as possible. Include a number for conditioning, a specific place or type of mat you want to use, or even a ‘light one-handed spot’ or ‘heavy two handed spot’ if necessary. Being able to cross off another step is great for motivation and helps keep you focused.
4. Keep them actionable.
When setting goals, make them action-based. Having a goal of “I want to get a 9.0 or higher on the balance beam” is fine, as long as you back it up with action steps. You can’t technically control what the judge gives you, but you can do things to raise the start value of your routine by learning new skills and reduce your deductions by cleaning up your form. Some examples of action based steps for that type of goal could include “Stick 5 dismounts every beam practice”, “Add an extra B level skill” and “Stick 5 back walkovers every practice with straight legs and pointed toes”. I’m sure coaches would be more than happy to help you pick what skills/aspects to focus on. Or you can check out these gymnastics home workout plans.
5. Make time.
When you make new goals, you also need to make time to achieve them. Making sure you utilize every minute of your practice time is a given (I mean, you — or more likely, your parents 🙂 – are paying for it!), but you may need to do some things on your own time. If your goals include new skills or getting better scores on floor or vault, ramping up your cardio workouts could be beneficial. Many serious gymnasts go out for early morning jogs to get in the cardio workouts necessary to power through floor routines. Flexibility, strength and cardio are all things you can easily do on your own time and at home. Running 3 times a week at 7 am may not be fun or super glamorous, but won’t it feel good when you can barrel down that vault runway and bust out a tsuk?
6. Think of all the components.
Don’t forget to think about other factors of your life that may be affecting your gymnastics. Eating well, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water are just as important as getting in your push ups and hollow holds. Prioritizing sleeping 8 hours every night, drinking 64 oz of water a day, taking a multivitamin every morning are nice, simple goals to start off with.
7. Ease into it.
My last tip is to tell you to relax. Resolutions and goals are great, but don’t think you have to change everything about your daily habits and routines immediately. In fact, that’s the last thing I’d recommend, because when you change too much too quickly it’s hard to make everything stick. This can lead you to feel stressed, discouraged or burned-out. I suggest implementing one action step every week or two weeks (or whatever time frame is comfortable for you). Once you’ve successfully added in all the action steps for one goal and it’s part of your every day/every week routine, move on to the next big goal you want to focus on. With four very different events, it’s good to have different things you’re working towards. Your focus and attitude changes with each event, but make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with an extra ten action steps each 3 hour practice.
Hope these tips help! Learn more about setting gymnastics goals in this post about mentally strategies for success. Now start making your goals and breaking them down! Tell us in the comments what goals you have (gymnastics or non-gymnastics related) for 2014 and how you’ll be making them happen.