For many gymnasts, the 2022 competition season is coming to a close. Summer time in the gym was always my favorite time of year.
No more routines!
No more stress!
No more pressure!
Getting to try new skills, making plans for the future – the off season is so much fun! But honestly, as I think back to my high-school years as a level 10, I could never quite take full advantage of this time of year. My body was so broken from season – I needed so much time to recover, it was like I was playing catch-up all summer long. And while I watched my teammates breeze through conditioning and running workouts, It seemed like I could never keep up. And those dream skills I loved to play with – rarely ever made it into my routines…And as I think back (now with my dietitian hat on), I made so many mistakes fueling my body, no wonder I struggled!
As a former gymnast turned RD, my biggest goal is to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes that my teammates and I did, and have to deal with the same struggles and disappointments as we did. So, as you transition into the off-season here are 3 things to consider.
1. Focus on What You Want
Think about your priorities this off-season. Is your goal to get stronger and faster? Get new skills? Finally get healthy (and get over that nagging injury once and for all)? All of the above? It’s important to align your fueling strategy with your goals in the gym.
No matter what your goal is, working with a Registered Dietitian can help make the process of adjusting your fueling routine simpler, more personalized, and way less stressful! Some of the most common goals I help gymnasts achieve in the off-season include:
2. Don’t Change TOO Much
As a gymnast during the competition season, I made sure to focus on my fueling strategy (obviously, I needed to be my best at meets) – and this year, I know you did the same. But in the off-season, I hardly gave any thought to what I was eating! Now, this does not mean your diet has to be perfect by any means (actually, an all or nothing mindset will probably hold you back from being your best…), BUT, it is something that still needs to be considered.
As a gymnast, I remember training MORE hours in the off-season compared to competition season. Practices were still intense, with a lot of turns on the equipment, many drills and side stations, and even more conditioning! Learning new skills took focus and strength that I just didn’t have…
This seems to be the story for most gymnasts that I talk to. Many of you don’t change your training hours in the off-season (and actually many gymnasts are even in the gym MORE during this time of year!). If you’re still training 15, 20, 30+ hours per week, you still need to be eating enough food to support that.
The easiest way to do this is to focus on your athlete’s plate:
In-season, most of your meals and snacks followed a “Hard Training Day Plate”, which focuses on maximizing your energy coming in from starches.
In the off season, it is likely that this may not change. Depending on your goals, you may want to adjust your plate a little bit to a “Moderate Day Training Plate”, as long as you still feel your best.
3. Adapt With Your Changing Schedule
Off-season usually coincides with your overall schedule changing: school’s out for summer, practice times change (am vs pm or 2-a-days), vacations, trips, camps, and more! This inconsistent routine can leave you without a structure to build your meals and snacks around. So remember:
Gymnasts should eat a meal or snack every ~3 hours. This doesn’t stop when you’re on vacation, at camp, or have a day off.
You always need to eat before, during, and after practice, no matter what time your practice is, or what’s going on after
While the off-season is a more fun and relaxed time as a gymnast, you still have big goals you want to achieve. In order to be at your best, your nutrition still plays a role. You need to have a fueling strategy that aligns with your goals, supports your training, and works with your schedule.
Want to include nutrition as part of your summer programing or team camps? Kerry Bair is available for both virtual and in-person consultations.
For one-on-one consultations, please register your interest here: https://p.bttr.to/3oZjupk
For team sessions, please register your interest here: https://forms.gle/tCApiF2ezj5z2VjK6