4 Lessons From Gymnastics World Champions

Simone Biles. Gabby Douglas. Lisa Mason. Aly Raisman. Young competitive gymnasts can learn so much from these World Champs about perserverance, determination and (most importantly) having fun!

With the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships 2015 kicking off this week, we’re sure gymnasts everywhere are excited to see how the tournament will unfold.

This year will see a record number of gymnasts participating in the history of the Olympic-qualifying World Championships, including Gabby Douglas (USA) and Aly Raisman (USA), who are out to defend their titles this year.

For all the gymnasts involved in these exciting World Championships, getting a place on the team was definitely no surprise – but what I always find to be most interesting is the driving force behind their wills to succeed.

All the gymnasts who make it this far in their careers have had to overcome obstacles, injuries and other bumps in the road to get to where they are today, and there are lessons for all of us in their determination to succeed.

1. Patience (and hard work) is a virtue – Gabby Douglas (USA)

Success was no overnight affair for the lovable 2012 Olympics all-around champion, Gabby Douglas. During her journey to the top, she had every reason to be frustrated, upset or to give up – from being mercilessly taunted by her peers in her earlier days, to her constant self-doubt, to being far away from all her loved ones in the pursuit of her passion.

Through the toughest circumstances, she bit the bullet and constantly reminded herself to keep practicing, knowing she cannot be deterred and that this will all pay off eventually.

With her eyes on the prize and her feet firm on the beam, she took each step as it came and eventually ended up where she is today. And where she is today is truly inspiring – not only is she the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics in 2012, she is also the first African American woman in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion.

Lesson: No one person goes through life unscathed, and everyone faces ups and downs in the gym. It’s how you respond when something doesn’t go your way that makes all the difference in where you end up!

2. Don’t forget to have fun – Simone Biles (USA)

Having fun is serious business for the giggly, wide-eyed, two-time World Champion, Simon Biles. And this reminder serves her well, as she inches closer to the next Olympics.

This cheeky champion is never afraid to reveal her mischievous side, from her frequent winks and nods at the crowd during her floor routines, to her famous escape from a bee while receiving her gold medal.

Having some fun amidst the seriousness of training is key to keeping a level head. Of course, the serious factor cannot be overlooked when you’re training for something as big as the World Championships, but the fun and social aspect is one of the best things about gymnastics. Back when I was a competitive gymnast, I could not have gotten through the stressful times and rigorous training without the support I had from my coaches and teammates – and yes, that included having fun and being silly sometimes.

Similarly, parents of gymnasts can play a huge part in ensuring the sport stays fun for their children. Yes, it’s a serious sport when you move into it competitively, but make sure you are always supporting the fun aspect of it as you safeguard and motivate your child to do their very best – without piling on too much pressure.

Lesson: All it takes is a conscious effort to find the fun in the littlest things. Looking at Simone’s smile, who would guess this is the same girl who goes through 32 hours of intense training each week?

3. Be kind to your body – Aly Raisman (USA)

You can only put forth your best when you are physically and mentally healthy. Two-

time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman has said she always keeps that at the back of her mind, which helps her stay at the top of her game and keep the balance between her workout schedule and her social life.

A competitive gymnasts’ career can be very hard on the body. Training sessions are long and putting too much pressure on yourself can result in injuries. This is why it is incredibly important to listen to your body – push it to its limits, yes, but beware of going overboard.

The skills and athletic abilities of gymnasts leave the doors open for them to transition into many different sports later in life. But in order for that to happen, they need ensure they have looked after their bodies.

Take a page out of Aly’s book. Physically, she ensures she gets enough rest, hydration and proper nutrition. She has also built a solid foundation for her overall emotional wellbeing, with constant positive reinforcements from herself, to herself.

She never hesitates to take a break when the time calls for it – whether it’s when she feels burnt out, when she’s injured or even when she feels the need for a temporary breather.

Lesson: Pushing your body beyond its limits can be extremely counter-productive, sometimes even holding you back from progress or injuring yourself further. Never rush to recover from your injury, know when to push yourself, and when to give your body and mind a break.

4. Don’t listen to the negativity! Look past your naysayers – Lisa Mason (England)

This is exactly the mentality that British World Champion has to aid her bounce back to success.

Having been away from the sport for over 10 years, and giving birth to her daughter along the way, many have concluded 33-year-old Mason would be too ‘past it’ to stage a comeback to gymnastics.

The road has not been easy – she’s faced constant skepticism from her naysayers and pressure to compete against gymnasts who are half her age. Very few people believed she could do it, and she found she had little support along the way. After all, returning to the top of such a gruelling sport in your 30s is almost unheard of for female gymnasts.

Stubborn and determined to prove everyone wrong, Mason went against the odds, trained fearlessly and found herself a place back on the Olympic Team. So there!

Lesson: The ultimate comeback is the best revenge! Through hard work and self-belief, you can always pick yourself back up again and strive to succeed. Don’t let others’ negativity and opinions get you down or distract you from your goals.

Find out more about Gym With Me’s competitive programmes here, or get in touch with Rosanna Trigg at rosannatrigg@gymwithme.com

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