The Balancing Act of a Gymnast
Can you believe it? The school year is right around the corner... crazy right?!
Hopefully, you had a fun summer both in and out of the gym -- hanging out with friends, going on vacation, and reaching all of your gymnastics goals!
Now, the upcoming school year is upon us... This means a change back to your fall practice schedule, (and a change in focus to get ready for season), long school days, homework assignments, and possibly other extracurricular activities such as soccer, band, or cheer. Put this all together and you start to notice that a gymnast's life is just like a beam routine: they both rely on balance.
Gymnastics at any level is a HUGE commitment (I know I'm preaching to the choir here), which can make it daunting to balance other parts of your life like homework, family and friends, other sports if you do them, and other extracurriculars such as band or volunteering.
Gymnastics also requires SO MUCH energy. Adding in other physically demanding activities to your day, such as band, weight lifting, walking around a school or campus (even that 1 hour gym class at school), and/or other sports increases your body's energy requirements. This makes proper fueling so important in order to keep your energy levels up.
If a gymnast's life is like one big balance beam routine, how can they "hit" that routine?
Here are 4 of my favorite strategies for nailing the routine that is the life of a gymnast (and finding the time for all of your hobbies, commitments, and reaching balance in your life):
Keep Your Schedule Straight
With all of these commitments you have on your plate, I know your schedule each week is probably going to get busier and busier, and your to-do list will only get longer and longer. It's easy to get overwhelmed (and important things like sleep and fueling your body will fall to the bottom).
Invest in a planner or calendar (either physical or electronic) and write down EVERYTHING -- everywhere you have to be, when you have to be there, and what you have to do each day. This can help alleviate some of the stress in a busy schedule. Additionally, having a written down schedule and to-do list can help you find the times in your day to fuel, along with reminding you when you should eat, since it's built into your day.
If growing up as a gymnast taught me anything, it was how to make the absolute most out of my time - multitasking, making use of any free minute, or just being efficient - these are all skills I use every day in my adult life and I can attribute back to being a gymnast.
Use your planned out day to your advantage -- use any available time to work on homework: study hall, homeroom, sitting in class early while it's still the passing period, in the car to and from the gym (if you don't get motion sick)... these are all times when you can chip away at your homework assignments, so you don't have as much to worry about after practice. This way you're done with homework earlier and can go to bed earlier in order to get enough sleep.
Additionally, use any available breaks in your schedule to fuel your body. To ensure you're eating enough even with a hectic schedule, utilize any opportunity to fuel. Snacks and even meals can be eaten in between classes, between school and meetings, in the car (especially when you have a long drive too and from your gym) or any other time! On the go options like single size snack packs or granola bars for snacks and meals packed in a lunch box, Tupperware, or thermos are helpful for on the go fueling!
Know When to Say "NO"
Unfortunately, even for the best, most organized gymnast, there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Burn out is real and it never ends well...
By putting too much on your plate, trying to be everything to everyone, and overextending yourself, it is likely you'll end up struggling to do it all, and what's most important to you may suffer --such as doing well in school, reaching your goals at practice, and being there for your family and friends when they need you most.
It is essential for you to know your priorities (be realistic, but also be ok if your priorities change over time) and establish boundaries. Sometimes you will simply not have time for certain activities that may be lower priorities for you, and you have to be able to say no in order to not overextend yourself and wear yourself out.
Keeping Up Takes Fuel
The busier and more active you are, the more food you need to energize all of your daily activities. As I've talked about so often, gymnastics takes so much energy on top of all the energy you need for basic survival processes and non-exercise activity such as walking between classes. Adding in other sport practices (or activities such as band) will require EVEN MORE energy, while also making you busier and causing fueling properly to be more critical and more difficult.
If you're not eating enough or not fueling properly, you will likely feel tired, sluggish, and weak by the end of the day (which is also probably when your gymnastics practice is...), which will cause skills, conditioning, routines, and practice overall to feel more challenging, hindering your progress toward season.
Keep up with your nutrition by physically marking your schedule or determining for yourself (using your schedule) when you can eat meals and snacks--about every 2-3 hours--to help ensure that you have the energy you need all day long! If you go from school to a practice, be sure to pack snacks. If you're going straight from practice #1 to practice #2, you'll likely need more snacks and extra hydration. And remember to eat before, during, and after gymnastics practice, especially if you're coming right from school or another activity. These can drain your energy, and a meal or snack will help you refill your body with the fuel and energy it needs to power you through practice!