Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Muscles (Miss7) is a gymnast. She is completely consumed by it and loves it. She hangs her competition leotard on the wall of her bedroom so she can see it as she goes to sleep. She practices her tricks on the trampoline at every opportunity and would eat her dinner upside down on the couch if we would let her!

Our local gymnastics club starts it’s kindergym program from 2 years old. I was taking my older daughter Flash (miss8) and ‘wearing’ muscles to the class. From 6 mounths old, muscles loved going to gymnastics. She practiced her crawling and even learnt how to furniture- (mat-) surf at the gym. She loves it when I tell her she learnt to walk at the gym. I often wondered if she enjoyed it more than Flash.

Flash and Muscles at gymnstics in 2007
Muscles was selected for the development program in 2010 and was moved to the National level 1 program in 2011 (skipping pre-levels). In the latest competition she placed third in the ACT. The first two place getters were 8 years old when muscles was only 6. She seems to have a natural talent for the sport.

 Muscles is in blue lookung at the camera (me!)

My concern is that at 6 years old she was training 6 hours per week. This is set to increase exponentially as she gets older. This amount of training is very hard on her body. This week she was almost in tears because her groin was hurting her when she moved. I knew this was a big deal because she is very careful not to complain as she is worried Grumpydaddy will make her stop gymnastics (as he has threatened to do many times….especially when the bill arrives!!).

Muscles apparently does not have natural flexibility in her shoulders and is pushed, prodded and stretched by the gymnastics coaches. I look at the older gymnasts with the amazingly muscular physiques and I wonder is this what I want for my daughter?? I wonder what the long term health ramifications are for such intense strength training. I am worried about the injuries I know she is bound to get.  I cannot be there to watch all her training sessions because 6 hours in the gym per week would drive my other two children mad! So, I have to trust the gym coaches, just as one trusts the school teachers, that they will do the right thing by my daughter, but it still worries me.

I have heard that the mother of a top USA gymnast is going to publish a book about her experiences. I would buy it! I think I need all the help and advice I can get! So far, my way of supporting my daughter is to make sure that she has a healthy and nutritious diet, and is well hydrated. I supplement her diet with multi-vitamins and  I make sure she gets plenty of calcium-rich foods to make her bones as strong as they can be. Luckily, she has not picked up any pressure to be thin and she has no body image concerns what-so-ever. I realize though, that such pressures are inevitable in a sport like gymnastics and I am worried about this too. I also think it is important for her to continue with her other sports; athletics and swimming (which she also does very well in). Hopefully this other activity will make her stronger and more resilient to injury. Although I am worried that it is a very tiring schedule for a 7 year old to keep.

Between you and me, I am not actually a big fan of gymnastics as a sport. I appreciate the strength, talent and training required. However, I don’t like the fact that the sport is judged and points are deducted for mistakes….give me a race to watch any day!! Even at this early stage I find it difficult to watch Muscles in a gymnastics competition. I am so nervous for her and anxious that she will make a mistake and she will be disappointed, that I am so glad when her routine is over that I have completely missed all the great stuff she has done! I wouldn’t mind at all if she chose another sport. But at this stage this seems highly unlikely. So I will be there to support my little daughter and be proud of her persistence and dedication. I am truly glad that for now she is happy doing gymnastics and as long as that is the case I will support her.

Her next competition is the ‘Christmas Cup’ in late December, I will keep you posted!!

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