Summer training has started (or will be starting soon for you), which means your daily routine and practice goals will be shifting.
Increased hours (maybe 2-a-days)...
Upgrades, upgrades, upgrades...
Sure, practice looks different in the summer than it did during competition season - but you still have goals (even though they're different from your goals for competition season).
Summer is the time for you to have fun in the gym, get stronger for next season, get healthy, and learn new skills.
You may think that the only thing that matters this summer to reach your goals is your training in the gym. However, what you do both in and out of the gym will impact your training this summer. Remember, a lot of what you do outside of the gym (how you sleep, manage your stress, fuel your body, etc.) effects how you feel in the gym.
Gymnasts, make sure you feel your absolute best in the gym this summer so that you can reach your goals. In order to do that, you have to take care of your body and fuel properly outside of the gym to do so.
Not sure where to start? Here are my top 4 tips to ensure that you feel your best in the gym so that you can have great practices and reach your summer goals:
1. Stay Hydrated
Gymnasts, hydration is always SUPER important, but it becomes even more important during summer training, since it's so much warmer outside (and likely inside your gym too - especially if your gym is like mine and doesn't have air conditioning 🥵). Higher temperatures mean that you will sweat more to keep your body cool. This leads to more water loss and possibly even dehydration if you don't consume enough fluid!
Dehydration can increase your risk of injury or a serious medical emergency. Symptoms of dehydration include feeling tired, thirst, decreased performance and energy, headache, dry or sticky mouth, dark yellow urine or not able urinate, dry cool skin, muscle cramps, dizziness, or a rapid increase in heartbeat or breathing. If you're dehydrated, you will be unable to perform your best in the gym and struggle to reach the goals you want during your summer training.
Gymnasts, you should be drinking at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water each day PLUS extra for training: In the 2 hours before practice, try to drink between 12-24oz of water (or an electrolyte drink). During practice, you should be drinking about 8-16oz every hour. Within 1 hour of practice ending, drink another 16-24oz of water.
Water, electrolyte drinks (like Propel, Gatorade 0, Nuun, or Liquid IV for example), and carbohydrate drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, or 100% Fruit Juice for example) can all be great sources of fluids for gymnasts during practice. Additionally, carrying your water bottle around with you to each rotation can make staying hydrated during practice easier!
2. Get Enough Sleep
Gymnasts, sleep is SO IMPORTANT for your recovery! You should aim to get adequate sleep each night:
6-12 year olds: 9-12 hours per night
13-18 years old: 8-10 hours per night
18+ years old: 8+ hours per night
Since the body is most relaxed and doing the fewest additional functions, this is the best time for your body to recover and repair itself.
Inadequate sleep will not only make you feel tired and sluggish, but it can also lead to increased injury risk and/or increased recovery time from an injury since you're not giving your body enough time to recover. Actually, studies show that:
Teen athletes who get less than 8hrs/night have 1.7x greater risk of getting injured compared to athletes who sleep >8hrs a night.
Athletes who get 8+hrs of sleep AND eat 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day are 64% less likely to get injured.
Prioritize sleep by going to bed early enough! If you have trouble falling asleep, building a bedtime routine can help. This may include things like:
Using blue light blocking glasses for screen time
Setting a tech curfew 60-90 minutes before bed
Taking a hot bath or shower
Writing daily gratitudes
Preparing for the next day (pulling out snacks, setting out clothes, making to-do lists, etc.)
3. Focus on Recovery
Gymnasts: aches, pains, and injuries will hinder your training and make it harder for you to train at your best to reach your goals.
Sometimes, injuries will happen, and there's nothing you can really do to prevent them. Many injuries occur as a result of poor habits over time. You can prioritize many things outside the gym to help prevent the preventable injuries and recover faster from the injuries you do face.
Try adding some extra stretching or yoga, preventative mobility training, physical therapy (as needed) and physical therapy exercises, mental toughness and visualization, and proper fueling to your week. All can help you prevent and/or recover from injuries.
4. Eat Before, During, and After Practice
Gymnastics takes A LOT of energy! Gymnasts should be eating every 2-3 hours in order to properly fuel and have enough energy for practice. Gymnasts who don't eat enough throughout the whole day, but especially surrounding practice, will lack the energy they need to perform their best during practice and reach their summer goals. Additionally, if a gymnast consistently does not have enough energy, they can develop a serious condition known as RED-S, which affects every body system and has symptoms that will greatly hinder a gymnast's performance in the gym.
Gymnasts, you should be eating before, during, and after practice, no matter what time your practice starts and ends! You need that food to give you the energy you need in the gym!
Prioritize simple carbohydrates (fruit, white bread, cereal, smoothies) before practice, adding in some complex carbohydrates (whole wheat bread, oatmeal) and protein (eggs, protein powder, Greek yogurt, nuts/nut butter) if your stomach can handle it.
During practice, simple, quick-digesting carbohydrates are the best to provide you with energy right away as well as not sitting in your stomach which can make a gymnast feel sick during practice. Simple snacks for during practice include dried fruit, fruit snacks, pretzels, dry cereal, trail mix, crackers, a granola bar, and fruit juice.
After practice, gymnasts need carbohydrates and protein to restore energy and spur recovery. Great snacks for after practice include chocolate milk, tuna and crackers, Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, a smoothie, a protein bar, an apple with peanut butter, and trail mix. You should also eat a full meal after practice (either instead of just a snack or in addition to a snack). Use your athlete's plate as a guide for your post-practice meal, including carbohydrates, protein, color, and fat.