FOCUS in Gymnastics… It’s a SAFETY issue

FOCUS in Gymnastics… It’s a SAFETY issue!

What is the ability to concentrate?

Concentration is the key to success… But there’s more to it than just thinking about the skill or routine to perform. What is the ability to concentrate? Believe it or not, what an athlete does outside of the gym is just as important as what they do inside the gym. An athlete’s hydration, eating habits, sleep quality, and medications have a major impact on a gymnast’s training as well as their performance in competitions.

Dehydration… Did you know that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated? Gymnasts can experience a performance loss of up to 30% when dehydrated. Even a 2% dehydration has a negative impact on your athlete’s body, mind, training and performance. Mild dehydration can cause confusion, irritability, constipation, drowsiness, fever, and thirst. Mild to moderate dehydration symptoms include dry, sticky mouth, muscle weakness, stiff joints, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, cramps, decreased urine, cool extremities, slow refilling of the capillaries, and sunken eyes. With moderate dehydration, your gymnast may experience hot flashes, low endurance, rapid heart rates, elevated body temperatures, and rapid onset of fatigue. Severe dehydration is the loss of 10-15% of body fluids and is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Signs and symptoms of severe dehydration include extreme thirst, irritability and confusion, very dry mouth, dry skin and mucous membranes, lack of sweating, little or no urination, any urine that is produced is dark yellow, sunken eyes, wrinkled and dry skin, rapid heartbeat, fever, coma, and even death.

Dehydration of any kind will not correct itself. It is imperative that your gymnasts stay hydrated before, during and after their workouts. The good news is that mild to moderate dehydration can usually be reversed by drinking fluids. The bad news is that if your gymnast is moderately dehydrated, they can lose focus. With a loss of concentration, your gymnast is at risk of being injured in an accident. The consequences can be serious to catastrophic. Some accidents and injuries could be avoided simply by drinking plenty of fluids.

Drinking while working out is one thing, but if your gymnast hasn’t taken in enough fluids throughout the day, they’ll be heading to the gym dehydrated and already at risk of serious injury. As coaches, we need to encourage our gymnasts to stay hydrated before, during and after practice. How much fluid should you drink? It is recommended that your gymnast consumes fluid equivalent to half their body weight each day of normal activity. For example, if your gymnast weighs 100 pounds, their fluid goal is around 50 ounces per day. This is not the same as serious training time. Your gymnast would drink more during an intense workout. What should your gymnast drink? It is recommended to use a sports drink for those who exercise for more than an hour. Athletes NEED the carbs and electrolytes in these beverages to sustain their workouts. Professional athletes use Gatorade for a reason, because it works. Don’t wanna do Gatorade? Use coconut water! Coconut water works very well and it’s healthy.

nutrition in relation to performance. Without enough carbohydrates, your gymnast will not have the energy needed to safely get through their training or competition. If the diet does not contain enough carbohydrates, the energy comes from protein. When your body is forced to use protein for energy, it gets that protein from muscle. When the body is forced to use energy from muscle on a regular basis, it becomes difficult to build or maintain strength and muscle mass. The long-distance runner is an example of someone whose body uses protein for energy. You have very little muscle mass. It is counterproductive for a gymnast to allow the body to use protein (muscle) for energy on a regular basis. Gymnasts need energy to train and strength to perform skills and routines. Lack of energy and strength will severely affect the gymnast’s ability to concentrate. Lack of concentration can lead to catastrophic injuries. There is not enough space here to fully discuss nutrition, but you can visit Dr. Fred Bisci or Dr. Visit Joe Kasper to learn more about nutrition.

And finally, sleep… We all know how difficult it is to function when we’re tired, especially if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep for more than one night in a row. How can we expect our gymnasts to perform confidently when they don’t sleep well? We can not. Imagine a gymnast learning a new skill or performing an entire routine when they haven’t had enough sleep. Would you be comfortable doing a double back if you are chronically tired? It’s difficult for your gymnast to concentrate when they’re tired and it’s extremely dangerous. Your gymnast’s ability to concentrate and react will be reduced when sleep deprived. Again, lack of focus can lead to an accident, a catastrophic one. Driving tests have shown that people who are tired drive just as badly as those who are under the influence of alcohol. They cannot react as well as rested people. Did you know that November 2010 was the National Fatigue Driving Prevention Week? This is how tiredness affects the ability to concentrate and react. According to a new study by the Foundation for Traffic Safety, about one in six fatal auto accidents in the United States is due to sleepy driving. I wonder how many gymnastics accidents are caused because the gymnast was tired due to poor sleep habits. It is imperative that your gymnast is well rested and able to concentrate.

Remember that accidents can and will happen when focus is lost. As coaches, we have a responsibility to discuss hydration, nutrition, sleep, and even medication side effects with parents. Many parents do not seem to be aware of the direct connection between everyday life and performance in training and/or competition.

So I still say that FOCUS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS, but more importantly, FOCUS IS THE KEY TO SAFETY. Without adequate hydration, nutrition, and sleep, our gymnasts cannot focus well, which puts them at risk. I think we should call these risk factors – hydration, diet and sleep – the SAFETY TRIO. It’s quick and easy to memorize the phrase I just said. The SAFETY TRIO is as important as all the drills and conditioning used to prepare our gymnasts for new skills, routines and competitions. Without all of these factors, our athletes could be at risk of injury. Good luck with your training and always keep safety in mind when training.

Thanks to Karen Goeller | #FOCUS #Gymnastics #SAFETY #issue

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