Let's face it. As gymnasts, more days are tough than they are easy.
Whether you're learning a new skill that's challenging or dealing with extra off-season conditioning, you're going to go through your fair share of hard days. For every gymnast, their definition of hard is different. It might be injuries, mental blocks, or not learning skills fast enough. Or it might be extra conditioning, mean teammates, or waking up early over the summer.
While hard days can really help you learn grit and tenacity, they can also de-motivate you. In fact, hard days are those days when you might question whether doing gymnastics is still worth it.
So how do you handle these tough days (since they WILL be there from time to time)?
Here are 5 tips for getting through tough days in gymnastics:
Tip 1: Recognize when your mindset is reverting back to old habits.
One of the hardest things about getting through the tough days in gymnastics is that your brain will automatically revert back to its old (often unhelpful) habits. When things get hard, your brain often bails, meaning it finds the path of least resistance which is typically an older habit of negative thinking.
You've likely worked really hard to change your mindset as a gymnast. But in tough times your brain naturally goes where it's comfortable which is to a place of negativity. Always remember that your brain is hard-wired to detect danger. It will seek out all the things that could go wrong (aka negative thoughts) so that it can figure out how to protect you from them.
If you can remember that your brain wants to hang out in negativity land, you can acknowledge that it's just your primitive brain talking. And work in those tough moments to change your mindset around. In tough times this takes extra work but it's well worth it.
Tip #2: Don't allow yourself to hang out in those negative thoughts for too long.
Every thought gains momentum the longer you think it. If you have a negative thought and then dwell in that negative thought, you'll find yourself going down a negative path of resistance. Instead, work to replace those thoughts quickly.
This might look like flipping a thought as fast as you can, even if you don't believe the new thought yet. For example, "I can't do this" quickly becomes "I can keep working." Or "I'm a terrible gymnast" quickly becomes "I'm getting better and better each day."
The key her is not to overthink it. It is to think the new positive thought as fast as you can so you don't allow your brain time to hang out in negativity land. Again, you might not believe this new thought yet, but it's teaching your brain to find a positive thought quickly which is a good skill to have in your back pocket.
Tip #3: Find your spark again.
When things get tough it's easy to lose motivation. This is especially true if you've been working through a mental block or are stuck on learning a new skill for a long time. Over time you start to lose the spark you once had for gymnastics.
This means it's time to light that fire again and get your spark going. Think of what motivates you? What are some ways you feel inspired? Is it listening to upbeat music? Is it watching an inspiring movie? Is it reading motivational quotes? Find the thing that reminds you of your long lost motivation.
One great way to do this is to create a motivation board. You can cut out images of different inspirational quotes or phrases that give you a lift and paste them onto a small poster board. Decorate it and make it pretty to look at. Then put it in a place that you'll see it each day so you can get an instant boost of motivation every time you look at it.
Tip #4: Take a break.
This might sound counterintuitive but sometimes a lack of motivation (especially through those tough days) requires a small break from gymnastics. This might be something like taking a week off for summer vacation or it might be taking a day off and going to the beach! For other gymnasts it's a longer break to try out some new things before returning to gymnastics.
When you can fill your life with joy from other places, it helps you forget about the struggles you're going through in gymnastics and can re-ignite the flame you once had for gymnastics. Also, absence can make the heart grow fonder and it gives you a chance to see if you really miss being away from gymnastics.
Don't worry about losing skills or getting behind. Every skill is catch-up-able. The positives you'll gain from that break may be well worth the minor setbacks.
Tip #5: Keep it all in perspective.
When you get stuck on tough days, it's easy to feel like things will always be tough for you. But remember to keep it in perspective. Have you struggled to learn other skills in gymnastics before? Likely the answer is yes. Remember back to those moments when you felt like you'd never get through that obstacle and yet you did!
Don't allow yourself to dwell in your hard. Snap your mindset into a new positive thought and keep moving forward. These tough days will pass and you'll be stronger for it. But in the meantime, focus on the present moment, one day at a time. When you let your brain drift into what might not happen in the future if you don't get your skills, you're living in a place that you can't control. And when your brain feels like it's not in control, it will make doing gymnastics even harder (because that's when your brain takes over and starts putting on the brakes).
So live in the moment. Take it day by day. And do what you can RIGHT NOW.
Getting through the hard is a normal part of being a gymnast. It's ok to have days when you question why you do this. It's also ok to have days when you just need a break. Gymnastics is a roller coaster ride so hang on for the journey! Just make sure you use some of these strategies (or other healthy ones) to help you get through those tough days.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics