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Gymnasts around the world aspire to compete in the Olympics and win gold one day. Staying healthy and participating in gymnastics is the key to making gymnasts dreams come true.

Here are five tips for staying healthy while gymnasts continue to flip on the beam and tumble on the floor. They can also vault through the air or swing on the bars.

Flexibility is key

Gymnasts have a lot of flexibility, right? Not always! Gymnasts tend to have one side more flexible than another. You may, for example, have split your right leg all the way down, but not your other side. Gymnasts can have a lot of flexibility in certain parts of their body, but less in others. This can cause back and joint pain. You may, for example, stand with a raised arch in your spine. Gymnasts often think that their backs are flexible, which is why they have such bad back pain. It is partly true, but you may also be experiencing back pain because your hips are tight at the front. By stretching your hip flexors, and becoming more aware of posture, this can be reduced. Stretching your shoulders will also help to reduce the strain placed on your lower spine when you perform bridges or back walkovers. Not all gymnasts have a natural flexibility. Flexibility is something that can be improved, but it requires time and dedication. By being flexible and working on both sides equally, you will be able to reduce your risk of injury, improve your skill technique and learn more advanced techniques.

Stay Balanced

Gymnasts are some of the most powerful athletes in the world, but their strength didn’t just appear over night. It takes many hours of training and conditioning for the muscles to be strong enough to support the joints. It is important to note that just because you’re a gymnast, doesn’t mean all of your muscles are strong and developed. Gymnasts have weak hip muscles, usually their gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. These weak muscles can cause injuries to the hips as well as the knees and lower back. Gymnasts tend to favor one side so it’s important to train both sides to maintain balance. It also improves proprioception or the ability to sense where your body is in relation to the rest of the world.

Take conditioning seriously

 Gymnastics requires a lot strength. Coaches spend time coming up with conditioning exercises that will make their athletes stronger. Gymnasts can reduce their risk of injury and perform more difficult skills, allowing them to progress. Gymnastics is a sport that places a great deal of stress on the body because of the number of repetitions required to master a skill. Your ankles, wrists, and knees will be protected by doing your conditioning exercises. Pay attention to the form, listen to your coach, and do the correct number of repetitions. Don’t neglect your conditioning. You will need it to make it through the long practice sessions and routines. You want to be healthy throughout the long season of competition to reach the State Meet and beyond.

Be a good communicator

Pain is the body’s way to tell us that something is wrong and protects us from further injury. This is normal and expected when you are in gymnastics. If your muscles feel tired, or if your hamstrings feel stretched during splits. If you experience sharp pains, stabs or pulls in your muscles, or a deep ache, it is important to tell your parents and coach. If you wait to tell someone, the problem can become more severe, last longer and be harder to treat. A health professional should be contacted if pain or injury are preventing you from participating in practice. Gymnasts who are managed properly should be able stay in the gym, modify their practices and allow the injured part of the body to rest. They can then focus on events and conditioning that don’t stress that particular part. Report any pain or anxiety to your coach when returning to practice following an injury. This will help you to make a gradual return as you increase reps, reduce the use of mats and gain confidence.

Fuel Your Body the Right Way

Gymnasts must pay attention to nutrition in order to maintain a strong body and be properly fueled during long practices and competitions. Plan to eat and drink every 3-4 hour to fuel your body. Start drinking water when you awaken to hydrate yourself for the workouts of the day. Eat high-carbohydrate food 1-3 hours prior to practice (no fried food!) To build strong bones, consume at least three high-calcium foods or drinks per day (a cup of yogurt with a slice cheese, a glass milk, a cup a yogurt, a piece of cheese, and a glass calcium-fortified fruit juice). At meals, balance your plate with 1/3 protein (meats, fish, legumes, cottage cheese, and peanut butter), and 2/3 carbohydrate (grains, cereals, pasta, rice and fruit). You can include “good fats” that will help you recover in your diet. These include nuts, seeds and soy nuts. Also, dressings with oil or olive oil. Your diet is an important part of your training program to achieve your goals.

Gymnasts can’t avoid all injuries, but how they deal with them and take care of their bodies will determine how safe they are to continue doing the sport they love. Gymnastics can be fun and teaches tricks that many people would never learn. Listen to your body and work hard. You never know which gymnast will be on the Cornflakes box next.

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