When you dedicate your life to a passion, no matter what it is there are sacrifices to make. Whether it is art, academic, or physical people always have to give things up and endure certain things in order to follow their dreams. No one knows this better than professional athletes, whose lives revolve around training their bodies to be at their physical peak so they can execute their sports with their best performance. One of the most intense sports is gymnastics. Not only does it use every part of the human body which can’t be said for other sports, it just forces the body into movements and positions that it honestly was not meant to go in. This is why the retirement is so young for professional gymnasts. It is not unheard of for 18-year-olds to already have gone to the Olympics for gymnastics and retire by that age. Contrast that with other sports, like swimming that have people competing in their thirties.
There are also a lot of ridiculous and really hard rules that gymnasts have to accept as a daily part of their life. Gymnastics is not only hard physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. They probably just see it as the cost of doing what they love and hopefully performing on the world stage one day, but some of the stuff is just down right wrong. Coaches and doctors take advantage of them, they are held to near impossible body standards, and are expected to train like a super human. By the time you finish reading this you will get secondhand tiredness from the life of a gymnast. Hopefully things in the sport change for the better, but gymnasts have to deal with the stuff on this list on a daily basis presently.
15. Gymnasts Must Exhibit ‘Self-Control And Calmness’ Even While Falling Or Hurt
No matter how good you are getting at gymnastics, the nature of it means that even the best athletes will fall and slip at times. When a person falls it is our instinct to flinch and brace ourselves, and those kind of reactionary instincts are very hard to control and break. Gymnasts have to though. No matter how badly they fall or from what height, they have to look graceful doing it and keep a cool face and demeanour. When a gymnast is doing a jump, by the time they are in the air they already know whether they will be able to land the trick properly or not so it gives them some time to be able to prepare themselves if they know they are going to have a bad fall. They’re already losing points for their mistake, so it is good motivation to keep a calm demeanour to keep from losing more points. Always be graceful!
14. If They Have A Clothing Mishap While Competing, They Cannot Fix It Until They Are Done No Matter What Is Showing
Well, it’s not that they are strictly not allowed to adjust their clothing should it fall into some cracks while they are competing, but they will lose points if they do. You can imagine with the kind of stunts they perform and the leotards they wear, things are going to be sliding around. It seems like it is almost physically impossible to not get a wedgie while you are performing gymnastics in a leotard, it is almost a cruel joke on gymnasts. One of the methods that they use to keep their leotard in place while they are performing their crazy moves is by using lots and lots of talcum powder. A lot of gymnasts will tell you that talcum powder is their best friend for many reasons, the main reason is keeping their leotard from getting into their bits and pieces.
13. Training Gymnastics From A Young Age Delays Puberty
Female gymnasts have a very specific look. They are very muscular, and as they get older and age through puberty they don’t seem to develop the way other girls do, especially in the chest area. There are a lot of theories as to why this happens. One of the prevailing theories is that it happens because they start training at a very young age normally and their body gets used to having a very low percentage of body fat. The body basically thinks to itself, I don’t have a lot of body fat right now I will wait a bit to go through puberty. And since as children they are a lot more physically fit than other kids, it imbalances their hormones and just sort of messes up their puberty process.
12. Coaches Take Extreme Measures To Train Girls
Cheerleading and gymnastics have a lot in common. While cheerleading has elements of step and dance, it is mostly gymnastics. At the very least the good cheerleading teams do mostly gymnastics! They have to contort their bodies in ways the rest of us couldn’t imagine and throw themselves through the air. It doesn’t look easy, it isn’t easy, and learning how to do it isn’t easy either. Some coaches have more extreme methods than others, like one cheerleading coach that came under fire after a video of him pushing one of his cheerleaders down in a split while she screamed went viral. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence in the gymnastics world. Gymnasts are routinely pushed down so they can do a split. There is plenty of evidence online of the extreme methods that are used on gymnasts, including standing on their legs at a very young age.
11. McKayla Maroney Had To Undergo ‘Treatment’ During Her Career
This is not so much a rule as it is a reality for many gymnasts, athletes, and women across the globe. When an athlete makes it onto an American Olympic team, the Olympics association has their own doctors that provide treatment and care for the athletes. This is a rule that all athletes have to adhere to if they want to go to the Olympics. For McKayla, this turned into a nightmare. She recently opened up about what she went through from the age of 13 until 20 at the hands of the Larry Nassar, the USA Olympics team doctor under the guise of treatment. “It started when I was thirteen years old and it didn’t end until I left the sport. I had a dream to go to the Olympics and the things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.” McKayla shared on Twitter. Thankfully Larry Nasser is awaiting his trial now for his gross crimes and hopefully the Olympics association protects their athletes better, especially the young ones.
10. When Competing, They Are Not Allowed To Wear Underwear
This may not seem like a big deal to some people but to others this could be a deal breaker that would keep them from ever trying gymnastics. It’s true, when they are wearing those skin tight itty bitty leotards they are not allowed to wear underwear. Did you really think any underwear would fit in there when you saw them? Those leotards are so tight anything you wear underneath would just be way too uncomfortable. Everything needs to look seamless and smooth, so definitely no panty lines. It also helps from their leotard sliding around and giving them a wedgie while they are competing because they can put talcum powder directly onto their skin. And lets be honest, when they pull some of their moves seeing underwear peek out from the leotard would not be a good look.
9. When Doing Stunts, Most Gymnasts Will Lose Control Of Their Bladder
There is a lot of sports where this is just one of the things athletes have to deal with, and gymnastics is no exception. When you are throwing yourself through the air like gymnasts do and your body is twisting and stretching in ways the rest of us could not even imagine, it is hard to keep control of your bladder! Much how the same thing will happen to marathon runners and bikers, gymnasts are not even phased by it. Female gymnasts have to worry about it more than men do, and around 67% of female gymnasts say that it happens to them on the daily while they are training. What can you do other than just keep going and hope you don’t get any in your eye. And remember, they don’t wear underwear so there is even less of a barrier to catch it than there normally would be.
8. Getting Yelled At And Judged Is A Daily Reality, A Thick Skin Is A Must
This is something that is prevalent throughout sports and competing in general. Coaches want to win, and for a lot of them they find that negative reinforcement yields better results than giving positive reinforcement. This unfortunately spells out daily verbal abuse for a lot of athletes. And they just have to deal with it and accept it. If they don’t, there is someone that is willing to take their place and deal with it in an order to take a shot at their dreams. It is kind of a brutal reality, but it does create very thick-skinned athletes who are not easily phased by much. Competing professionally as an athlete is not for the faint-hearted or soft people, and only the tough make it. This is just another one of their many trials on the path to their dreams.
7. A Gymnasts Hands And Feet Will End Up Looking Totally Gross
A lot of people admire athletes for their bodies. They have beautifully sculpted bodies that are at their peak performance. It comes at an extremely heavy price though, a lot of people do not realize that professional athletes are ultimately sacrificing their bodies for their sport. For gymnasts, their sport basically impacts every part of their body and it is something that they all accept. Their hands and feet take a lot of the damage. From having to grip the balance beam with your feet to using your hands to swing on poles, their extremities go through a lot. Every gymnasts knows that their hands and feet will not be looking cute and as they get older and it will only get worse. It’s worth it though for them!
6. They Have To Practice Crazy Hours
Training as a professional athlete is a full time job, except for it is about 50 times more physically exhausting than most other careers. This is why competing as an athlete has such a short career span, people burn their bodies out pretty young. Especially in gymnastics! Most gymnasts train 6 days a week, for at least 4 hours every day but more like 6-7. With breaks of course, but still. For example, USA Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles practices 32 hours per week every week. Aly Raisman, another American Olympic Gymnast also has crazy training hours. “I don’t finish workouts most nights until 9 p.m., so I try to get home as quickly as I can. By the time I shower and everything, probably around 10:30-11, which is when I kind of wind down, because after a four-hour workout it takes me a bit to get myself to fall asleep sometimes.” And then it’s up bright and early the next day to do it all over again.
5. There Are Gruelling Low Weight Expectations And Crazy Diets To Accompany Them
No sugar, little to no carbs, and lots and lots of protein. This is the diet of professional gymnast. Some gymnasts take it too far though. There is a healthy way to train as an athlete and make sure you are getting the food you need. Some focus too much on maintaining a very slender gymnast physic and cut down too much on food. Sometimes on their own accord, and sometimes because they are being pushed by their coaches. This kind of unhealthy dieting has its own name in the gymnastic world, ‘The Starvation Diet.’ Considering how many calories they are burning every day, you can see why this is a problem. One Olympic Gymnast was on this diet and it got out that she would train 7 hours per day, while only eating a very light breakfast and lunch and totally skipping dinner.
4. Coaches Work Their Gymnasts ‘Till They Cry
Well they mostly cry only when they are starting out and still young, like the young girl above. Then they are broken in and learn to tough it out. Many coaches then will train their gymnasts past the point of exhaustion. They literally won’t stop until the gymnast starts to cry or even vomits because only then the coach will see that as a sign that their body has finally been pushed to do all it can do. Until that happens, they will keep pushing their gymnasts past the point of what they think they can do. While this is obviously something important for athletes to learn, pushing their bodies to their very last point, but there must be a better way of doing this without scarring the gymnasts. If it hasn’t become clear yet, gymnasts pay a heavy price in so many different ways in order to chase their dreams.
3. Their Career Span Is Very Short And They Are Worn Out Very Young
Take for example Michael Phelps who at 31 will still go on to compete in the next Olympics as a swimmer. A professional gymnast is lucky to be competing at 22. McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Raisman are all considered ‘old’ gymnasts. Their ages range from 20-22. McKayla is the first to retire, and while the rest of the girls may be hoping to be in the next Olympics but it will definitely be their last one. Gymnastics takes such a gruelling toll on the body that it just is not a spot that can be done intensely for long term. There is one Olympic gymnast, Oksana Chusovitina that competed at the age of 41 which had never been done before. Normally, there is no one over the age of 25 competing.
2. Professional Gymnasts Have To Accept Always Being In Pain
Actually, most athletes do. This is just a fact of life for them. When you are using your body day in and day out the way that they are, it’s going to be sore. Of course they get used to it so it is not as horrible as it sounds, but it is another trial for them on the path to their dreams. Not everyone could deal with soreness, aches, pains, and injuries constantly. They do a lot to mitigate the pain by icing a lot, getting physiotherapy, and lots of epsom salt baths for sore muscles but there is only so much you can do. And then when they finally do retire, their body will carry the legacy of their gymnast careers for the rest of their lives. No gymnast that has trained for years has not sustained some kind of serious injury. They take it all in stride though, and that is why the best ones end up in the Olympics.
1. They Aren’t Allowed To Drink Gatorade
This is by far the most bizarre item on this list, which is why we save it for last. We wanted to highlight this because most people associate Gatorade with athletes and being healthy. Even though Gatorade and other like sports drinks are full of electrolytes that do wonders to hydrate a body that is going through strenuous training, it is also full of sugar. While some athletes can get away with drinking Gatorade, for professional gymnasts it is a big no-no. The sugar content in it is not worth its hydrating powers, so they just have to stick to plain old water, and maybe if they really want to get crazy they can drink some tea. This is just one aspect of a professional gymnasts diet, they are basically allowed nothing that could be construed as tasty. Just part of the life.
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