Soreness, Eating, Training, and Getting Big….5 Questions Answered That Will Impact Your Gymnast TODAY!

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Welcome back to Gymnast Care! We’re incredibly glad you’ve come to our site to learn more about keeping your gymnast safe!

Your Gymnastics Health Questions Answered!

We know there are a ton of gymnastics injuries right now because our email list is growing by leaps and bounds! We know that when your gymnasts are under stress, their bodies break down, and you come to us to find out why, and what you can do to prevent and care for these injuries.

Join Our Email List Now, Be A Part of Our Team, and Learn Amazing Information for Your Gymnast! Just Click Here.

When you sign up for our email list, our first email asks you to let us know what you are struggling with in gymnastics, and our goal is to get yo answers…so here we go!

Aches & Pains vs. Soreness

1. I’m always challenged by her aches and pains…are they just part of being a gymnast and a growing body or more serious?  She is dealing with ankle issues right now.

Thanks Janet for your question.

Soreness is a part of being an athlete, but aches and pains can be a sign of overtraining. Children and Adolescents shouldn’t be experiencing constant pain, and they shouldn’t be constantly struggling with aches and pains on a daily basis.

Here’s a couple thoughts on this subject:

  • Does their coach/gym think about recover? Is this something they’ve brought up to you in meetings, emails, or other discussions?
  • Are you planning out your athletes meals to make sure they have enough to make it through (Check out our sister site Stay Fueled for more info on nutrition)
  • Is their resting heart rate increasing or maintaining?
  • Is their weight decreasing? Weight for a growing athlete should never decrease (unless their are specific medical conditions)…decreasing weight is a sign of overtraining.

Over the next month, tracking your athletes performance is going to be Gymnast Care’s focus…so stay tuned!

When Should Your Gymnast Eat?

2. We have a gymnast daughter of 7 years old who trains 14hrs a week and we are mostly concerned about the eating habits and/or timings.

A few examples:
* On Monday’s and Friday’s she eats before her training, but afterwards she wants to eat again, is that allowed? (And i don’t mean snack but really eat) This is around 20:30h in the evening so she also needs to go to best fast at that point 🙂 But If we would allow that it would mean she has 4 meals a day …
* Thursday she doesn’t have time to eat before training so we give her a proteïne shake and a healthy snack, after the training she takes her mail, is this a good thing to do?
Sam, we love hearing from our friends from across the pond, so thanks for sending over this great question!
As we went over above, nutrition is critical for your athletes performance! Athletes, and specifically gymnasts have to eat many times each day in order to fuel their body for performance and protection.
So keep eating, and encourage your gymnast to eat great food!
The right food, at the right time, always has this amazing effect:
  1. Their performance soars
  2. The are less likely to get injured
  3. They will look exactly the way they were intended to look….which is beautiful!!!

Everyone’s body is genetically designed differently, and when those genes are expressed optimally through proper training, eating great food, and eating it at the right time, your young gymnast will be an exact expression of how she should look.

When we start messing around with our food intake (i.e. restricting intake or eating the wrong foods like disgusting fast foods), we not only increase the potential for injury, we also mess with the proper expression of our young athletes genes….and consequently we see psychological issues develop as well.

Check out this podcast that specifically addresses when to eat and eating after practice: The Post Workout Meal

Sever’s Disease

3. Hi, I have an 8 year old daughter who’s gymnast coach says she is 99% sure she has Servers disease. It’s only been a week since she has been in heel pain, but after researching the condition I decided to order The X Brace, and tape until it arrives. I have also been following the heel pain protocol. She is very talented, having won all competitions so far, and she would be heartbroken if she had to stop. She has had slight knee pain too, since her heel pain, so maybe they are connected?. We live in Iceland. My daughter has an amazing couch, and she trains for 7 1/2 hrs a week. Her main pain seems to come from back flips, and jumps.

I am so pleased I found you guys on the net, it’s nice to know you are connected to people who care.
Thanks Kay! We love a pat on the back so thanks for sending that over.
It sounds like your athlete is in a stage of intense growth.
During growth cycles, young athletes will be more at risk for growth plate injuries, so make sure you’re watching for these injuries as a sign of overtraining.
The most important thing we can do is allow our athletes to grow properly and recover properly and not push them through this pain. Know that they won’t always be in cycles of intense growth, but if we push them through times of growth and pain, we can do permanent damage both psychologically and physically.
The other thing we can do to alleviate some of the pressure on their bodies is to make sure they are moving right in the gym, and doing proper at home recovery techniques….
That’s why we created the Gymnast Care Book on Injuries. Everything from Sever’s (heel pain) to knee pain, and up to back pain. Get the Book on Injuries and start implementing the protocols today!
Oh, and by they way, it’s been on the Amazon Best Seller list for over a year…We’re pretty proud of that!

How Many Hours Should Gymnast Practice?

4. Since being on the elite team my daughter is now training 10 hours a week, the training sessions are quite intense (which i understand they have to be at this level), and if the team and girls are intending to compete at regional and national level –  so my query is that what is the healthy and safe maximum number of hours that gymnasts should be training at this age and level? 
Thanks Emma for sending that over!

Great question and the “how many hours should a gymnast practice” will be debated for years to come! Here in the States, some of the clubs practice their 7-9 year olds 30 hours per week…this of course borders on abuse! Yes, I said abuse, because you’re taking a child into areas their body cannot handle. I’ve seen serious back fractures and injuries in athletes as young as 8 and 9…insanity!
What you need to watch is her recovery rate…is she able to recover (resting heart rate stays the same, she doesn’t experience weight loss and/or she doesn’t have attitude changes (or even sleep changes) to know if she is practicing too much. As long as she’s recovering, I think 10 hours is fine for an 8 year old if she is able to recover, grow, and emotionally stay strong. Otherwise, cut it back.
Special Note from Dr. Josh:
For my 7 year old, we have her practice 3 hours a week. If the chance of going to the Olympics is about .01%, then why would I train my daughter for a chance at that level at 7? Statistically, physiologically, and emotionally it doesn't make sense and I'm not willing to put her through such intensity.
(Disclaimer: These are the thoughts and feelings of Dr. Joshua Eldridge and do not necessarily reflect your local club, the gymnastics establishment, or those crazy coaches that think training a 7 year old 20-30 hours per week is a good idea...and probably my ideas don't reflect the ideas of the Chinese or Russians in the 1970's who had no problem practicing their young for this long. So if you enjoy this type of antiquated training method, please continue and disregard this disclaimer!)
Anywho…on to the next question!

Why Do Gymnasts Muscles Get So Big?

5. I think my daughter is in the no win situation of muscle hypertrophy from her training. She is 16  genetically short and strong has trained 28hrs plus since 8yrs old, quite a few injuries along the way. Coach asking her to eat less (I am the one who still can’t access stay fueled via paypal)  I agree she should eat a diet to perform and we are working on that.  In the last one and a half years I feel she has been transformed into a bodybuilder with shoulders ,thighs and butt. I have read the article from Dr Sands and was wondering if you had any more information and help eg what steps to take to establish this is the problem and plan to fix. Also was interested in your thoughts on the difference in strength program for before and after puberty and maybe different body types as our whole squad from 9yrs to 16yrs do the same and I was thinking it should be a bit more individualised.  Thanks for your help.
Monique…you’ve got us jumping from the frying pan into the fire!!!
If there are any of you that haven’t yet read the article from Dr. Bill Sands on proper weight lifting for female gymnastics, stop everything, and read this now!
Here’s the deal, and one of the reasons why gymnasts have so many overuse injuries:
Gymnastics coaches train skills in order to gain strength…instead of building the strength for the skill first, then incorporating the skill.
5 Steps To Keeping Your Athlete Safe and Injury Free
When we do a movement over and over again to gain strength, we increase the chance that our athletes muscles will hypertrophy. The problem with hypertrophy is you don’t get the same amount of strength as you do muscle growth (because most of that muscle growth is the fluid inside the cell and not muscle fiber increase). So, we end up with gymnasts that have very big muscles, but they don’t always have the proper and effective strength they need in order to do skills properly.
Building strength first, is the key!
The reason why Dr. Sands encourages the use of proper strength building is strength is the key to protection when doing big skills. But if we build strength on top of improper nutrition and improper movement, your athlete WILL get injured.
It’s not a question of IF, but WHEN.
Dave Tilley, DPT, over at The Hybrid Perspective, implemented weight training into his optional gymnasts summer training by using an Olympic Weight Lifting Certified Trainer who specializes in teaching athletes how to properly strength train. A great strength trainer will work with your program and give you specific recommendations so that the weight training can complement the gymnastics training and not cause further injury.
We will write a specific post on this before summer too so you can implement this into your gym as well.
Well, thanks for joining us…if you have a question, leave it in the comments below or join or email list and send us your question!
See you soon!
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.