Be The Boss

Be The Boss: A Gymnast’s Guide to Protecting Herself

Part of the Campaign To Keep IT Sane Series

The whole point of this post is for our community to realize that we all need to take personal responsibility for our training. As a gymnast, you have responsibility and at Gymnast Care, we want you to know how to use it properly.

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Who’s Really In Charge In The Gym?

Who truly has control in the gym? Is it the coach that is screaming? The parent that is glaring? The owner that’s trying to push her agenda? The doctor that said no?

It’s none of them. They have oversight. They have suggestions. They have expertise, but they can’t change a thing your gymnast does.

The only one that can change what your gymnast does, is your gymnast. As a gymnast, YOU ARE THE BOSS!

Keep reading to find out what great responsibility being the boss entails, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Ground Rules

Let’s get a couple of ground rules for being the boss. Being the boss doesn’t mean you get to be a brat! You don’t get to hold your position over other’s heads, you don’t brag about it, and you don’t overstep your boundaries. You have to be gracious with this new found authority.

What being the boss means is that your body belongs to you and you are the only one that can protect it!

It’s responsibility. It’s great responsibility.

Playing Through Pain

Gymnasts have been ingrained with the belief that they should sacrifice their bodies for the sport of gymnastics everyday. If you’re not experiencing pain, you’re not working hard enough.

I even heard one owner say to a gymnast with back pain, “My daughter did gymnastics through a back fracture, and you’re complaining about your back hurting?”

Not the best advice for an athlete.

As a gymnast, you’ve been given an enormous amount of talent and ability, but your body is being pushed past what most bodies can handle. When you’re at this level of training, you need to be aware that injuries WILL happen.

Be prepared for them, and know that if you take care of injuries, you’ll be back to doing gymnastics.

If you fail to protect your body, your career is limited.

The Most Important Statement for You To Learn

Coach’s are overworked, underpaid, and overwhelmed. At larger gyms, the ratio of coaches to gymnasts can reach 1 to 2o. A coach cannot concentrate on your individual problem. It’s impossible.

As the boss of your body, you need to learn what to say to your coach to make sure they know you’re experiencing pain, and that you need rest.

If you say, “Coach Bob, my back hurts.” Coach Bob has no ability to process this information because he is responsible for 20 gymnasts. To process this information, he’d first have to stop, do a history of your pain, an examination, and then come up with a treatment plan. Coach Bob has neither the expertise, nor the time to do this type of examination. He’s a great gymnastics coach, not a doctor.

So as the boss, you need to give Coach Bob options. Not arbitrary options, but rather options that protect your body and Coach Bob will be excited that you are taking initiative.

Here’s the most important statement for you to learn…in this example we’re using back pain:

“Coach Bob, when I do back walkovers on the beam, my back starts hurting. I know it’s important that I work hard on my events, so instead of doing back walkovers, can I work on beam dance instead.” Or insert another drill here that does not cause pain to your back.

The main point here is to give your coach the information, and then give them an alternative activity so they feel you are actively participating in your training. When you tell them something hurts, without an alternative, they’ll be more likely to feel you are trying to get out of training, and are not interested in working hard.

Taking Full Responsibilities for Your Actions

Being the boss isn’t easy. It means that when you feel uncomfortable, or when you feel your body is put into a situation where it could be injured, you have to step up and STOP IT!

This can be a very difficult thing to do. People will try to convince you that your body is not your own….that it is somehow theirs, but you have to be willing to go to battle in order to protect yourself.

When you’re in a gym that really cares about you as a person, battle will not be necessary. It will be easy for you to come forward and let them know you’re in pain and that you need to do something different.

But if you love gymnastics, and you push your body through pain, you will experience serious injuries and you will be putting yourself in a position that could mean the end of gymnastics, and possibly an end to all athletics in general.

Being The Boss Means Doing The Little Things

I hate doing the little things sometimes. For a gymnast, the little things include doing your core work daily, landing properly in the gym, doing your pre-hab, and making sure you eat for your performance. Sometimes it’s so much easier to go through the fast food drive-through rather than going home and making a home cooked meal.

Core control is the base of your training, and if you don’t follow through with this base, your body will be left at risk of injury because you’re not being the boss of your body.

Making sure you follow through with the soft tissue techniques found in the Gymnast Care Book on Injuries is another critical part of your training that you have to make sure happens. If you’re not doing your daily stretches; calf, hip flexor, glute, low back, neck, and pec soft tissue, then you’re not following through with the little things. Doing these things not only gives you an edge over your competition, it helps your body recover and function in the best way possible.

Nutrition is key when it comes to being a high level athlete. Eat like an Olympic champion! Gymnasts are healthier and have less chance for injury when they consume more energy producing foods. If you don’t know what to eat, make sure you follow the Roadmap to Success by clicking here.

Wrapping It Up

You have the ability to change gymnastics and to protect other gymnasts from injury by being an amazing example of Being The Boss. This requires that you have a great attitude and step up and protect yourself, both in and out of the gym.

We’re changing gymnastics together and without gymnasts understanding that this is a great responsibility, and without you taking a stand, all of our efforts will be lost.

We’d love to hear your story of how you protect yourself when you’re doing gymnastics….or if you have a story where you were pushed beyond what you could handle, let us know about that too in the comments below.

Thank you for joining us for another series in the Campaign to Keep IT Sane! If you want to follow along with what we’re doing, make sure you click here and sign up for our Campaign to Keep Gymnastics Sane email updates.

Click here to read more about the Gymnast Care Campaign to Keep Gymnastics Sane!


Dr. Joshua Eldridge

About Dr. Joshua Eldridge

Dr. Joshua Eldridge has specialized in protecting gymnasts from injury. He is the inventor of The X Brace, and has developed a treatment protocol for Sever's disease and heel pain that has helped thousands of gymnasts throughout the world. Dr. Eldridge brings practical, easy injury care and prevention that can be done at home.