The Adult Gymnast Blog: Mental Battles - British Gymnastics

The Adult Gymnast Blog: Mental Battles

Kat Pugh cartwheel 2
I’ve just been completing a piece of training on professional resilience and came across a TED Talk by Jordyn Wieber where she talks about how following her disappointment of not making the Olympic All-Around final, she was able to bounce-back just two days later to compete for Team USA helping them to go and win the team Gold. Wieber talks about how she had learned resilience from all the many years of falling off the beam in training and getting back up again. She talks about how she could have given up or she could have summoned up the courage and moved forward. Wieber argues that resilience is "the ability to feel the emotions and make a choice on how to respond."

I’m sure as you’re reading this, you’ll be starting to think back to your own training sessions. Some days will no doubt have been better than others and you will have been wondering why you’re even doing gymnastics at all, because you simply can’t manage a skill that seemed to go so well in your last session. Or perhaps now, you’re wondering if you’re ever going to be able to train again and if you do, will you be able to do the things you were working on previously?

One of the things which frustrated me a lot was the fact that I had been working on a cartwheel on the low beam, I’d stuck this several times, and then I scaled up to the high beam (although the high beam was set at a slightly lower height than it should be). Again, I surprised myself by managing to stick it. I came back to gymnastics the following session and couldn’t do it and haven’t been able to do it again. I am lucky as I have a floor beam at home, so I have been working on this skill during lockdown. I’m also trying to visualise it so that when the gyms re-open I can try and imagine what it’ll be like doing it on something in the air. But even in the time that I’ve been practicing this skill at home, there have been some days where it’s been a lot better than others and I think to myself – why can’t I do it as well today?

Then there’s the vault. I spent all of last year’s competition preparation agonising over my vault. I could not for the life of me bring myself to commit to the vault. Every single time I’d panic as I got closer and my run-up would slow. There was nothing wrong with the height as we’d set up a crashmat version that was higher, which I had no issue clearing. I then tried thinking of things I was frustrated with – no, that didn’t work. Finally, I tried out the vault at another gym and was able to get over it there, which was a different make. Not ideal of course! Nevertheless, in my very first competition in Colchester I cleared it so confidently I didn’t stick the landing. Thankfully, it’s the best of two vault scores and my second vault was great.

These mental blocks, every gymnast has them at some point or another. It is important to hold onto the feelings of things going well to remind yourself of what you have achieved when you’ve had a tougher day. I’ve found in adult gymnastics it can be the things which seem like small things like getting your splits back again or surprising yourself when you manage to do something new like this handstand on my floor bar. Gymnastics certainly challenges you physically, but it is definitely a mental game too.


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