When Is Too Much, Too Much?

Overtraining Your Gymnast

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Here’s two great things we’re doing with this post. First, we’re answering a question from a parent that subscribed to our email team and the second is releasing our epic preview of the Gymnast Care Podcast Season 2 Interview!

Here’s the Preview with Dr. William Sands:

Here’s the question:

I am concerned my daughter isn’t getting enough down time! She is only getting 7 hours of sleep, before she has to be at the gym to do it all over again. She is 10 years old. She has gymnastics 4 hours in the evening, gets done at 9. She has to report back to the gym the following morning by 8:30  for 4 hours of strength training.  The gym is 45 minutes from our house. She has never gotten hurt as much as she has this summer!!

I feel like a horrible parent forcing her to go, but gymnastics is not a cheap sport!! Suggestions?? Recommended hours of sleep? How much down time does a child’s body need to be recouped from the previous work out?

Your opinion is greatly appreciated!!
Yes, your daughter is training way too much, and she isn’t getting near enough sleep. You could relate her current injuries to the recovery/adaptation cycle.

Sleep Recommendations

First, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations of pediatric sleep. Here’s the rules:
  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

At 10 years of age, she should be getting a minimum of 9 hours and more than likely, 12 hours. The reason why I recommend closer to the maximum is because she is doing 8 hours of high intensity work per day.

Too Much is Too Much

4 hours of strength training is TOO MUCH. Dr. Sands, in our interview said, “If you’re conditioning more than 45 minutes, you’re stupid.” He was making a bigger point, and putting a child through too much working out can be very taxing orthopedically for the child’s muscles, joints, and ligaments.

When it comes to gymnastics, more is not better. My recommendation is for you to allow your daughter to sleep as much as possible over the next 30 days. Let the coach know that you intend to follow the AASM guidelines on sleep, and we’ll be in the gym when our daughter wakes up.

Now, I’ve heard the argument that we do other things in the gym and so it’s OK to be there  a longer amount of time. Well, gymnasts find ways to fill up that time with stuff and it is unnecessary. When they’ve done what’s minimally necessary to make them a great athlete, send them home.

Does A Gymnast’s Body Care About Tuition?

And my absolute favorite quote from the Dr. William Sands interview is this:

“The body doesn’t give two hoots in hell about what your training schedule is or how much tuition you charge.”

Right, it doesn’t matter to your young athletes body that you pay a premium for gymnastics, and it doesn’t change the principles of recovery, injury, and adaptation. This is your little girl. Protect her. Do the right thing by her. Yes, she’s pliable right now, but as Dr. Sands said in a previous interview we did, “Just because she’s pliable, doesn’t give you the right to beat on her.”

She’s injured because she’s training too much, and her body has no ability to recover. Give her time to recover, which then facilitates adaptation, and see amazing things happen!

Hope this helps and leave any questions in the comments below.

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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.