Nature is a wonderful place full of amazing sights to see! From the tall trees found in the Amazonian Forest to the deep-sea floor of the Pacific Ocean. Even more incredible are the animals that live in these amazing locations.
Each animal across the globe has adapted to it’s specific environment for their best chance at survival. They have learnt to hide, hunt, run, jump, twist, fall and display their skills for all to see.
Of course, being a Gymnast we don’t have to hunt and escape dangers in the gym… however there are LOTS of similarities to be found inside the gym as well as outside in the world of the animal kingdom.
Animals are amazing athletes and their skills in the wild are almost unmatched. Their abilities are often desirable for elite gymnasts due to their power, stamina and grace. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to be like one of these animals also!
Big Cat’s are one of the easiest to compare to a gymnastic display.
Cheetahs are well known for their speed, as they can reach up to speeds of 75mph. However, they aren’t truly recognized for their agility. They can perform twists and turns at speed, fighting against incredible G-forces that would damage a human body.
The easiest comparison to a gymnast would be a Vault Run. The speed of a gymnast's sprint towards the Vaulting Table needs to be swift and agile, setting themselves up for a successful trajectory over the table and preparing to land on their feet.
A gymnast must use their forwards momentum as does a Cheetah, to propel themselves forward. Leaning their chests forward and upright - legs and arms swinging and extending with force to build up their speed. Prepared to extend their bodies for their final target.
Here's an animal that you might not first consider when thinking about gymnastics is the very large and majestic Humpback Whale. Despite their impressive size and weight, the Humpback Whales are exceptionally acrobatic. They can often be found leaping and jumping out of the sea, before diving back under the waves.
Whales often twist and spiral in the air, using their large muscles to pull their bodies around in a tight rotation.
The Humpback Whale’s impressive twists can be compared to that of a trampolining gymnast. As a whale uses their momentum under the sea to propel themselves upright, a gymnast uses their downwards push from the trampoline to propel themselves into the air. Twisting in the air relies heavily on aerial awareness and a strong tight body shape. A gymnast can use their hips, core muscles and arms to direct their twists in the air.
Much as a whale does to twist their large body mass.
Another fantastic example of natural gymnastic displays can be found in Chimpanzees. They possess some of the strongest grips that can be found in the animal kingdom. Their incredible grip is up to 1.5x greater than that of a human, all due to their specific ratio of muscle tissue fibers located in their arms and chest.
Humans and Chimpanzees have a lot in common from a biological stand point, which makes this comparison rather easy.
A Chimpanzee swinging high in the tree tops would closely resemble that of a gymnasts Bars routine. Both High Bar and Uneven bars could be used for this example. The Chimpanzee climbs trees with great power, which can be attributed to its feet and hands. They also have the ability to stand upright to jump and glide for higher vantage points.
A gymnast works in a very similar way. They can reach and extend their bodies to glide, swing, twist and roll around the bar. A gymnast will use their hands to grasp the bar using their super strong forearm muscles much like a chimpanzee would. A gymnast may also stand on a bar using their feet and legs to support their body upright before launching themselves to the next bar.
Often, we also use “What a little monkey you are!” as a compliment for any child who does an impressive hang!
Animals are amazing at demonstrating incredible strength and grace, but sometimes... they need a little bit of assistance.
Here’s a super fun and cute video of baby Sloth’s learning to hold onto objects, and hang safely. Just like a Gymnastics Coach would with a little gymnast!
I hope you enjoyed today's blog post! I think it was a very fun post, that reminds us of our differences as well as our similarities with those around us.
Did you enjoy today's blog post? Do you have any fun ideas of how to move around the gym like an animal?
Let me know in the comments below!
Signing off for now,
Gymnastics is a challenging sport that can really put a human body through its paces. No matter how careful a gymnast is or how soft and padded the equipment is to protect a gymnast… accidents can still occur.
The most common injuries we see in Gym’s as coaches are rips on our little gymnast’s hands. Even the most veteran of gymnasts are still susceptible to rips and tears. Unfortunately, those nice grips won’t entirely stop it either. They will however, remove some of the friction off the gymnast’s hands and onto the leather strap instead.
A trip and a fall over a crash mat could also result in a carpet burn on a knee or an elbow. As well as all the tiny mystery bruises that will appear overnight… and you’re not quite sure where they came from.
These are what we will call “minor injuries” for the sake of this blog post.
A rolled or twisted ankle in another injury that we can try our bests to avoid but can still occur, despite our best efforts.
This we will consider as a “moderate injury”.
Breaks, fractures and ligament ruptures will be considered as a “major injury.”
We can all agree that injuries are terrible, and we wouldn’t wish that on any athlete or gymnast. However, injuries are the reality for most athletes.
Yet there is always a positive outlook to be found… but “where is the positive in an injury” I hear you ask! Let me explain.
An injury is a direct result of some form of “trauma”. Either it be a bump, scrape, or something else entirely. The injury could be related to a training program, a gymnast’s technique, a body’s strength or flexibility as well as the warm up and cool downs. By identifying the cause, steps can be taken to PREVENT the injury from reoccurring.
This is how injuries can be a gift in disguise. It allows time to identify physical weaknesses or improvements that can be made to a gymnast's technique. As well as allowing for personal growth, and the opportunity to become more aware of your body.
Let’s use a hypothetical story to help explain this further!
Hannah is an adult gymnast who has been training for a few years, and she has been working hard on her bars routine. She is comfortable in all her skills and is going through her regular training process. One of Hannah’s favorite skills is a cast to handstand. Hannah casts into her handstand with a bit of effort and manages to complete her routine.
After her routine, she notices her shoulder is a little bit tender when she raises her arm but continues with all her other training.
The next day her arm is very tired, and she finds it difficult to hold anything heavy on that side.
She goes to a physical therapist who has a look and determines that she has an imbalance in her Anterior Deltoids on both arms. Which is causing her to push into her handstand, with more body weight on one side which is only encouraging the weaker muscles to stay “dormant”, so to speak. This is what has caused her injury.
She is advised to take some time off from training, and the physical therapist recommends some strengthening and conditioning exercises that will help Hannah to repair and to prevent any further injury.
Unfortunately, it took an injury to occur for Hannah to find out this information. However, on the positive side Hannah is now able to identify her strengths and her weaknesses and take all steps necessary to improve her gymnastics.
What do you think of today’s blog post? Have you had a positive outcome after a sports related injury?
Signing off for now,
No Coach Thomas's were harmed in the taking of this image.
Ah gymnastics. How graceful, strong and impressive it is… until a gymnast takes a tumble and then maybe not so much? Or maybe it still is.
Behind every well executed skill, are dozens if not hundreds of falls, slips and blunders.
Before a skill can be mastered… its critical a gymnast knows how to FALL out of the skill. Every skill is going to place them in a slightly different body position to a previous skill learnt. With that body position change, comes weight distribution changes and change of balance.
This means there are going to be numerous ways to fall out of a skill.
The better prepared your gymnast is to safely fall out of a skill, the better!
Safety Rolls allow gymnasts to absorb the impact of a fall over a larger surface area of their bodies. Allowing for a smooth, and a “stress free” recovery. The gymnast should roll in the direction of their movement – forwards or diagonally, backwards or sideways – instead of fighting to suddenly stop the momentum.
Behind every safe fall is a technique used to protect a gymnasts limbs, head, neck and joints.
For a Gymnast, a fall can be a make or break when it comes to developing a Mental Block. A fall can have a negative effect on skill development and can take a longer duration to recover from.
I believe it would be fair to say that for the most part, a Gymnast is more fearful of the fall than they are to learn a skill. The skill is a known, you can see it demonstrated… understand its movements. What is unknown, is what it will be like to fall from it.
The human brain will create new neurological pathways as your gymnasts learns and explores different outcomes. Each slip, stumble or miss… is critical for their gymnastics journey.
Learning to fall safely is a SKILL FOR LIFE. Learning safe falls now, might just help them later in life.
“Falls are a major health issue in the community with around 30% of adults over 65 experiencing at least one fall per year” – Australian & NZ Falls Prevention Society
Here is a video of some SAFE falls in action:
Had you ever considered falls to be an art form of gymnastics? Do you have an experience with a fall in the Gym you'd like to share? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Signing off for now,
Did you know that FCGC offers free classes for children who are not yet walking? We believe that this stage of development in a child’s life is so fundamental that every parent deserves access to education to give their baby the best chance. So why not pop down on a Tuesday from 12.30-1pm and join us to learn!?
1 – Get them standing
Baby’s from around the age of 4 months will be able to support themselves with their legs when held upright. This a great way to start building the strength needed through the hips and legs and also promotes mental stimulation. Children learn by looking, while standing babies are able to see things from a different level and are encouraged to learn.
2 - Playing with others
Children learn by watching. The more you can get your little one around children who are a little bit older and more physically advanced the sooner your will wanting to catch up and join in. Before you know it, they will be pulling themselves to stand trying to catch up with the older kids.
3 – Work to play
Rather than making play time simple by handing a toy to your child place it on a secure and reachable height. This will encourage your child to pull themselves up to be able to gain access to the toy. Start with a low surface and gradually build up the height over time.
4 – Squatting is key
Children have a beautiful squat but it something they tend to lose over time. By encouraging your baby to squat down when picking something up you will be fostering the development of leg, hip and core muscles that are all required for walking.
5 – Barefoot baby
Sensory activation is key when it comes to walking. Your child needs to be able to feel the floor underfoot to appropriately adjust their balance. Difference surfaces require your baby to engage their body in different ways. So, when they can’t feet what is underfoot it hinders their learning process.
6 – Music and Rhythm
Children love to move to music, so where possible pump those tunes and dance with your baby. You will notice your little one will do a lot of bouncing up and down which will only continue to help strengthen the muscles needed for walking. The earlier children can understand rhythm the better of their walking will be. When your child is ready to walk they will mostly likely take uneven steps and not have a pattern to their movements. But with the assistance of music we can encourage baby to walk with a rhythmical quality which will increase balance and overall stability.
This might seem like a logical one but is missed by many. Crawling is a key developmental millstone not only for walking but for many other daily activities such a writing, eating and other gross motor activities. If your baby is starting to take some steps but hasn’t crawled yet get down on the floor with them and crawl around, turn it into a game. The benefits will be monumental.
8 – Cruising
Cruising is explained simply by a child walking with assistance of something like furniture. These may be the first few wobbly steps you see your little one taking and will be a big benefit in building up their confidence to one day take these steps independently.
9- Offer the right physical support and assistance
As adults out first thought of how to offer assistance is often to hold our little one’s hand, but did you know that there are other options that will benefit you child more? Support you child from around the chest/underarms will actually allow them to engage their core and center their own weight meaning they can learn to balance themselves. By holding hands, we allow the child to lean their weight onto us meaning they are not balanced just supported.
10- Always encourage
You baby will always want to continue trying an activity if you are excited and encouraging about it. By being their biggest cheerleader, you are actually helping them develop in ways you may not even know. So continue to offer encouragement every time you little one is up on their feet.
If you have any tips for helping little ones walk for the first time, email them through to me so we care share them with the wider community – firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for my next blog – “The power of play”