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Gymnastics Training Article: Mental Blocks, Fear, Visualization
By Karen Goeller, CSCS

Copyright © Goeller
This article is not for reprint without written permission from the author.

 

Check out the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Books!

 

Gymnastics Article: Mental Blocks, Fears, VisualizationMental blocks and fears happen for many different reasons including falls, injury, fatigue, dehydration, poor nutrition, poor skill technique, and too much pressure to perform from the coach and/or parent. Sometimes when a gymnast is expected to learn too many new skills within a short time frame they develop mental blocks due to the pressure they feel. Many gymnasts put pressure on themselves so the added pressure from a coach or parent can crush them. The best thing to do is allow your gymnast to relax and not put any pressure on her.

 

If there is a problem with a specific skill visualization often works really well. A gymnast must be able to visualize herself performing the skill over and over again. You can show the gymnast a video of other gymnasts performing the same skills she fears so that she has a better understanding of the skill. She must be able to visualize herself performing the skill on a daily basis, especially in the gym.

 

One way to help gymnasts with visualization is to hold a visualization class for the team. Bring in videos of many gymnasts, allow your gymnast to watch a short video clip of a skill or series, and then tell them to close their eyes and replay the video in their minds. (Make sure the video they are watching is being performed by a gymnast with excellent technique.) Do that several times, run the video and picture the video. Once the gymnasts can clearly see the picture in their minds of the video they just watched, ask them to picture themselves performing a skill that they have been performing for many years, such as a cartwheel. Once they can do that really well have them visualize themselves performing more difficult skills. Go through that process of watching a video clip and visualizing many times throughout your visualization class.

 

When the gymnasts return to the training area have them visualize themselves performing a simple skill such as a cartwheel. Next ask them to perform the skill they just visualized. Allow your gymnasts to practice visualization with simple skills, more difficult skills, then move on to series and routines. That may take a few weeks. It may take several months for some gymnasts to master visualization.

 

Once the gymnasts learn visualization take it a step further. While performing their floor routines, as they wait for their turn, ask your gymnasts to kneel and perform all of the arm movements for their routine as they visualize themselves performing the routine. After practicing visualization for several weeks you may see a big transformation with increased confidence with some gymnasts. They may also begin to pay close attention to detail and compete more successfully. The visualization should be performed on every event and during every training day. The arm routines while kneeling can be performed for beam and bars as well.

 

Besides the visualization, to reduce fear and improve technique, your gymnasts must perform many drills for skills, the proper conditioning (general and sport specific), and they must be spotted for skills until they feel very comfortable performing them on their own. Keep in mind that the worst and most dangerous thing to do is to push your gymnast too hard or add more pressure because that is when injuries can occur. Adding too much pressure is not the same as encouraging your gymnast with a positive attitude. Remember, a gymnast MUST be relaxed in order to focus properly and perform safely.

 

A note regarding nutrition... Nutrition and hydration play a very large role in performance and many people do not realize this. To be sure your gymnasts are getting enough of the nutrients ask their parents to visit the following websites and be sure to visit them yourself www.mypyramid.gov and www.gssiweb.com. These websites have safe and accurate nutrition information, nutrition tools, and sports science articles.  It is a great idea to print articles from these websites and hand them out to your gymnasts on a regular basis. An article is often a good reminder for parents and athletes to check whether they are eating enough high quality food. Make sure nutrition is presented in a positive manner, make good food choices for energy and health.  

 

Another thing many people do not think about when it comes to training is quality of sleep. Please discuss this with your gymnast's parents to be sure they are getting high quality sleep. Quality of sleep greatly effects an athlete's mind, body, and performance.  If a gymnast's performance is negatively effected due to lack of sleep their safety may be at risk.

 

So get in the gym and practice visualization, discuss good food choices, and encourage a healthy lifestyle with your gymnasts. Their performance and their confidence may greatly improve!

 

Feel free to contact me directly if you think I can help your gymnasts. My contact information is on the top of every page of this website.

 

By Karen M. Goeller
Karen Goeller has been training athletes since 1978. She has an education that includes training in emergency medicine, physical therapy, and nutrition. She has held certifications that include NSCA-CSCS, Fitness Trainer, EMT-D, Nutritional Analysis, and many Gymnastics Certifications among others. Besides being author of the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning books, Karen is the author of the Swing Set Fitness books. She has also published journals, training programs, and articles. Her books are used by fitness experts, coaches, teachers, and athletes worldwide. Karen has worked for world famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, owned a gymnastics club for ten years, and has been featured in several newspapers and on television many times. She offers sports performance training and private gymnastics training in NJ. For more on Karen visit www.KarenGoeller.com.  

 


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