From a level 10 gymnast and part-time coach.

#10. Condition, condition, condition!

Ah yes, the dreadful words that nobody likes to hear, but is necessary for the gymnastics survival kit. This sport takes incredible strength. We are teaching ourselves to defy gravity and the laws of physics. This is not an easy task on its own, and if one doesn’t have the strength, it will become even harder to pursue. Don’t overdo it. Take it a day at a time and work on all different types of conditioning, even the ones you don’t like.

#9. Do not work on someone’s else program. We are all built differently!

Everyone works on a different program. I constantly compared myself to other gymnasts throughout my career and undermined my skills because they were different. I was doing different skills that contained the same difficulty. That’s the beauty of gymnastics. You are given a pleather of options that are handpicked just for you, just like the floor music you choose to display your personality.

#8. Channel your inner child and creativity.

The sport of gymnastics is an art form. It’s a sport of elegance and new skills are always being thought of and attempted. Things once deemed impossible are now common. I’m sure a couple of years ago Simone Biles didn’t think she would compete a triple-double and have another skill named after her. . Don’t be discouraged. The greatest gymnasts started off like you.

#7. Use food as fuel to enhance your performance.

Gymnastics among other sports almost stress nutrition too much on their athletes and have created a toxic culture in sports. Based on former experience, everyone should understand their body, eat when they are hungry and do not take the number on the scale seriously. Gymnasts weigh more than average because they have a larger muscle mass in order to pull themselves up and through the air. However, I will advise every athlete to make sure they are using food as fuel for their daily workouts. Eating artificial sugars and fatty foods led me to get injured very frequently and my performance suffered. Instead, try to replace those snacks with natural sugars found in fruits and berries. You’ll see the effects on how you feel and your energy levels immediately.

#6. Be ambitious and stay organized.

Write down long and short term goals to improve maximum effort and will power in the gym.

For years, my coach told me to write down the conditioning I did at home. I never did until I started the college process. I should’ve started making weekly programs for myself years before. Take time on the weekend and plan out your week, your skills, your reps, and your goals. By putting it on paper you are scientifically more likely to accomplish it. Give it a try.

#5. Separate the sport from the environment.

Individuality plays an essential role in becoming a good gymnast. Throughout my career, I have found that there will be people that will try to bring you down, or end up bringing you down with them. It’s essential to focus on your own goals and as a result, it will become a team benefit. If you are trying to succeed in this sport at a high level, as hard as it may be, every second you waste talking to others is a second you stray away from your goal. Teenagers want to talk about vacations, relationships, and school, so this seems an impossible task at first. Gymnastics teaches discipline and this is a thought to keep in your head which will be practiced and learned throughout time.

#4. Gymnastics isn’t your entire life.

Hobbies and social life are just as important to keep a strong mentality. It’s important to recognize yourself outside of the gym. Being a gymnast should not be your only identity whether you are a student, friend, child, relative, etc. A sport should not define you. Gymnastics should enhance other aspects of life like school and friendships. It should not take away from your grades and relationships. Balance is key.

#3. Fear is your biggest competitor, use it to your advantage.

Every gymnast has come across a skill that they dislike with a passion. The skill that ruins the whole event for them. The skill they dread even thinking about. For me, it’s a round-off dismount off the beam. I sprained my ankle trying to land that skill at a competition. I’ve had one-foot slip, two feet slip. I’ve hit my poor coach across the face several times. I was terrified to step on the beam. I used my fear as a match setting my frustrations aflame. Fear was no longer consuming me. Instead, I fought alongside it as an equal. This force I once thought was superior made me delve deeper into the mechanics, the mentality, and future steps I needed to take if I wanted to improve. Eventually, I beat it.

#2. Do not compare yourself to other’s technique, physique, or performance. You are the best version of yourself.

Everyone is biologically constructed differently from the tiny, invisible strands of our DNA. We are all unique and it’s time to embrace it! Your body shape differs from your teammates, just as Simone Biles’ body contrasts Nastia Liukin’s. However, both were Olympic champions and remain a symbol of elegance and beauty in the gymnast world. Gymnastics is a truly unique sport that can be used to fit each individual standard and need. Everyone is built and works in different ways. Don’t be discouraged, be inspired.

#1. Strive for progress, not perfection.

When you are evaluating your skills and performance don’t be so hard on yourself for not reaching that first place podium, or for not getting on the podium at all. If you aren’t a competitive gymnast then don’t get frustrated over a bad day. Frustration will hold you back. A bad mindset is the number one threat to someone’s gymnastics. If you believe you can’t do it, you won’t even try. If you believe you’ll get hurt, your focus will stray from your form and ultimately mess you up. Instead, I’ve found you shouldn’t compare yourself to what you strive to be, compare yourself to what you were yesterday. Focus on the one correction you’ve done better, whether it’s pointing your toes, keeping your head in, or catching a release move only once. The goal should never be a success, the goal should be an improvement. And with improvement, I assure you, success will travel alongside it.

student athlete, poet, author of you look good in blue, a realistic optimist