Now that a few weeks of quarantine have turned into months, it’s becoming clear that we are going to have to live with social distancing for longer than we might have expected. As a result, if you want your gymnasts to stay in gymnastics shape and to retain as many of their skills as possible, it’s time to focus on the things your gymnasts can do at home to get into a new gymnastics routine in the absence of their gyms.
In the article, Gymnastics Season Is Over – Now What, we talked about how gymnasts should establish a new gymnastics routine for themselves as one of the ways to gain back control over this unpredictable situation. This week we are going to dive into this topic even further since it’s an important part of moving forward under this longer-than-expected quarantine.
So how do you come up with the best at home gymnastics routine for your gymnast?
First, it’s imperative that you and your gymnast evaluate her strengths and weaknesses in order to come up with a plan that is going to be the most effective for her. This will give you a baseline of what your gymnast needs to do over the next few months to stay in tip top gymnastics shape.
While your gymnast was probably working on new skills and/or perfecting some old ones in her last practices in the gym, her home gymnastics routine is going to be filled with less skills and more drills to help her get stronger and more flexible during this time. But remember that when most athletes are left to practice on their own, they will often ignore the drills that they need to work on most and repeat the drills they can already do well because those drills are either easier or more fun to do. So even though they may be practicing, they may not be improving in gymnastics.
That’s why we stress taking a hard look at your gymnast’s weaknesses before establishing a home gymnastics program.
You might ask questions like:
- -Is my gymnast flexible enough? If not, what part of her body needs to improve on flexibility? Can she do all 3 splits? Are her back and shoulders flexible?
- -Is my gymnast strong enough? If not, which muscles does she need to strengthen? Is it her arm strength, core strength, or endurance that need improvement?
- -Are my gymnast’s routines sloppy? Does she need to improve on her dance elements such as leaps, turns, and dance moves?
These are some great places to start when evaluating your gymnast’s weaknesses and are the main areas (flexibility, strength, artistry) that she can improve on the most while at home.
Next decide which exercises your gymnast is going to do depending on what her weaknesses are. Remember, your gymnast should never practice gymnastics skills at home without a spot. So her focus during this time at home should be on drills that will work to increase her strength, endurance, and flexibility depending on which aspects you identified as being important earlier.
If her coach has a specific workout plan for her to do then she should focus on that plan so that she is following her coach’s guidelines. Be sure to check with her gym first if you haven’t already. There are also many workout and conditioning plans available online for free (including our Home Gymnastics Workout Plans). You can even find youtube videos that break down specific conditioning exercises.
One thing to pay attention to is that your gymnast is practicing good form even while conditioning. If she is doing v-ups but bending her legs and flexing her feet then she will benefit less than if she is keeping her legs straight and toes pointed. When she is doing ab and back exercises, make sure she takes her time and isn’t rushing through the exercises. Good form is essential to developing good habits during this time.
Another important element to practice during this time is the dance part of her routines. She should practice them over and over, focusing on straight legs, good form in her feet (high releve and ankles not sickled) and arms that flow gracefully. She can also practice her expression in her face and through her body confidence. While it might be a while before her next competition, these are still aspects of gymnastics that will serve her well to practice. Speaking of competition, did you know we’re having a virtual meet in our SkillTrakker community where gymnasts make up their own routine and then “perform” it for the other gymnasts in the online community?
After you’ve decided on a workout plan, you can decide how many days per week you want your gymnast to practice gymnastics. Whatever number of days she was going to the gym before the quarantine began is a good place to start. For example, if she was going to the gym 4 days per week then it might be a good plan to aim for 4 gymnastics workouts per week at home for her too. This can change but staying consistent with her gym schedule will help her body stay in a rhythm so that when she does get back into the gym it won’t be too much of a shock for her body and mind. She’ll already be in a rhythm of doing her gymnastics workout which is a helpful way to ease the transition back into the gym.
Keep in mind her home workouts don’t have to be as long as her practices were before the quarantine. In fact, they shouldn’t be as long. 30 minutes to 1 hour per workout is plenty of time for your gymnast to get in a good overall workout. Remember, when you are focusing on the right things to work on, your gymnast will see progress faster than if she is trying to focus on too many things. If your gymnast is younger and 30 minutes seems too long, you can start with 15-20 minutes and then build your way up to the longer time frame.
After you decide how often your gymnast should practice, you can then decide what time of day you want your gymnast to practice her gymnastics. Would you prefer her to practice in the afternoon after she completes her school work or in the morning before homeschool even starts? Do you prefer her to move her body in the late afternoon/early evening because her body is already in a rhythm of practicing after school or mid-day because she is getting restless during those hours?
Whatever time you mutually decide, pick a time and stick to it so her body gets into a routine. Muscle memory is important to improving in gymnastics. Also, find out if your gymnast’s home gymnastics practice can count towards her Physical Education requirements. If so, make sure you document her activity so she can get credit for doing it. Many states require a certain number of physical education minutes per week that students must fulfill even during homeschooled hours.
Once you decide on a time for your gymnast, schedule it into her daily routine. Write it down on her calendar and consider it an appointment she must keep. If it’s listed on her daily routine then your gymnast will take it more seriously and is more likely to follow her gymnastics routine at home. As a parent, you should also be diligent about helping her follow through.
Finally, remember to reevaluate your gymnast’s workout routine every two weeks to see if it is working for her. If she’s not having fun or not following through then maybe you need to make a change to her routine. The goal is to have her be consistent with her practice at home so that she can make progress over time.
If your gymnast needs motivation, consider joining a community like SkillTrakker or having her zoom with her gym friends or coaches. Having a buddy or support system during this time can make all the difference, especially for gymnasts who are not intrinsically motivated. It can also prevent feelings of social isolation.
The bottom line is that your gymnast should do her best to keep up with her strength and conditioning as well as her flexibility and dance during this time away from the gym. While it’s not an ideal situation and your gymnast is most likely really missing her gymnastics center, this kind of practice will help her maintain her skills in the long run. This situation will also teach your gymnast to create a plan and follow through with it. It might not be same as being in the gym, but this home situation will undoubtedly teach your gymnast how to handle any adversity that comes her way.