Mental blocks in gymnastics can be frustrating.

At times it can feel like your block will never be over. 

You've probably tried everything already and nothing seems to work. You might even get over your block for a while and then it comes back even stronger.

If you're going through a mental block you might feel helpless. 

But I assure you, you're not!

8 Things You Can Do When Going Through A Mental Block In Gymnastics

Here are 8 things you CAN do when going through a mental block in gymnastics:

1. Take deep breaths to help your brain feel safe.

The most likely reason you are going through a block is because your brain is sensing danger of some sort. Danger can be anything from increased pressure in the gym, deadlines to get skills, having to test up in levels, stress at school or home, bullying from teammates, or anything else that feels stressful.

When you stop to take deep breaths it signals to your brain that the danger has passed, thereby shutting down the nervous system activities that lead to fight-flight-or-freeze.

So let's say you're on beam trying to do your series and you just can't go for it, jump off beam and take a few moments to breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. You might not be able to do your series in that moment when you get back on beam, but you're training your brain not to associate beam with danger. Over time this will help you overcome your mental block in gymnastics.

2. Take a break to listen to what your brain is telling you.

If you are going through a mental block there is a reason! Yet, most gymnasts don't take time to really figure the reason out. Like I said earlier, there is always some danger that your brain is perceiving when it decides to shut down or "freeze" your body from doing skills. 

Most often gymnasts try to push through without figuring out what is really going on. I suggest, instead, when you're in a situation of feeling blocked, take time to talk to your brain. It sounds silly but the goal here is to ease your brain into feeling safer. 

So you might have an internal conversation and say "Hi brain, I know you're not happy right now. Tell me what's going on." And then take a moment to ask yourself - what kind of stress am I under? Are things stressful at school? Am I under pressure in the gym? Do I feel my coach's expectations? 

3. Remind yourself that this too shall pass.

When you dwell on your mental block it can be easy to feel stuck and like nothing will ever change. It might be constantly on your mind. You might worry every time you get into the gym. And this can cause your anxiety to skyrocket.

It's important to remind yourself that this won't last forever. It might feel that way in the moment. But you WILL get through this. 

In fact, this will all be a distant memory in the near future. Think of other obstacles you've had to overcome in gymnastics. You always go through them, even if they took a long time.

So when you're really feeling down, remember that "this too shall pass."

4. Remember that today you are a different gymnast than yesterday.

It's common to believe that if you can do a skill one day, you should be able to do it the next time you go to practice. But mental blocks don't play by the rules. Each day you go into practice you are a new gymnast. You are bringing the person you are that day with you (and not the person you were the last practice).

While this might seem like a simple nuance, it's how your brain works. Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for danger. And if you are extra stressed that day then your brain will do everything in its power to protect you. That means shutting down your skills and making you freeze up on any skill that feels unsafe to your brain in that moment. 

Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised if one day you can't do your skill and the next practice you can, or vice versa. If you are in a situation where you can't do a skill you were able to do the practice before, don't panic! Remember that you are a different gymnast that day and you just have to ride it out. The next time you go to practice you might be able to do your skill again (as long as you don't freak out about not doing it the last practice). 

5. Stay in the present moment.

When you have a mental block in gymnastics it's common to let your mind wander to all the "what-ifs." What if I don't get this skill back in time? What if I have to scratch beam at my next meet? What if I never get my skill again?

But those what-ifs are not helpful AND they can hurt your performance on other skills.

Instead, it's important to focus on what's important in that moment. You want to stay in the present moment as much as possible. Take your breaths and focus on the next thing you're doing. If you're working on your skill, figure out what you CAN do in that moment related to your skill and then work on that. See below for more on this.

6. Communicate with your coaches.

A lot of gymnasts shut down when going through mental blocks. I understand why since many coaches are not too understanding when it comes to your block or think the best way to get through a mental block is by pushing you through one. 

But it's vital that you have open communication with your coaches. For example, if you're stuck on your skill that day, let your coach know that no matter what you do you just can't seem to make yourself do your skill. Let him or her know that you're scared or feeling unsafe and need a spot. Let your coach know that you need a break from your skill.

While it's scary to speak up, it's SO important.

Sure, you might have a coach who shuts you down by saying you "have" to throw your skill or else {insert negative response}. And that can be scary. But if you have a coach like that then you already know what to expect from him or her. However, that doesn't mean you should communicate any less. You should still tell him or her what you're thinking and feeling regarding your blocked skill.

7. Find the ONE thing you can do related to your skill.

I mentioned above that you should stay in the present moment. Now I'm going to take this one step further by telling you to find the ONE thing you CAN do in that moment. 

So if you're stuck on your back handspring series on beam on high beam, what CAN you do? 

Can you go down to the low beam and try it?

Do you need mats to do it?

Do you need a spot?

Whatever it is, just do something related to your series. It doesn't have to be the full series on high beam. It just has to be something.

The goal is to not get stuck on your skill because then you train your brain to repeat those patterns over and over again. So anything you do that you can actually do, meaning doing some part of your skill instead of none of it, will help you get back to doing your series again. Trust me. This works!

While it might feel like you're taking a step back, that's actually part of the process and I assure you it will help you take two steps forward!

8. Have patience and enjoy the journey.

 Mental blocks can sometimes take time to move past. The worst thing you can do is want to rush through the process because then your mental block is more likely to come back. 

Instead, enjoy the journey. Find the blessings in it all. Figure out why this mental block is happening FOR you instead of to you. 

Have patience. Take each day as it comes. In the end you will be better off for going through a journey like this. While it's never fun going through a mental block, you can make it what you want it to be. It doesn't have to be a negative experience all around. 



If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.


Gymnastics Mental Blocks Guidebook for Parents


Helpful Links:



Gymnastics Mental Coach Anna Kojac, M.Ed.

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