How To Deal With Gymnastics Mental Blocks


Authored by Douglas Mefford in Recreation and Sports
Published on 06-12-2009

All sports activities tend to require a person to push their bodies in a way that is unnatural in order to perform the specific actions that comprise the play of the game. In gymnastics this is especially exemplified. When straining the body to perform in ways that are not normally part of a normal range of motion, there is always a greater possibility of injury. This can easily lead to the development of psychological fears that can slow down and even completely block a person’s ability to perform. Dealing with these gymnastic mental blocks requires a great deal of patience and understanding from not only the training coach, but the performer and their close friends and family as well.

The main purpose of practice is to train the body to perform without having to think too much about what action it is taking. Over-thinking about a maneuver can easily create a mental block. The thoughts about what could go wrong can develop negative reactions that slow reaction time and add to the development of a “fear factor” in the athlete. Banishing these types of negative mental blocks requires the gymnast to replace the images of what could go wrong, with the positive affirmations of performing successfully. Some level of self-hypnosis or meditation can slowly erase such negative thoughts and help the athlete regain their confidence.

Learning to relax and take charge of any feelings of anxiety are crucial to continued good performance. If one catches themselves thinking of the possible injury they could receive they need to consciously and forcefully relax. They should focus instead on the amounts of practice and preparation they have undergone to get the maneuver correct. It has been shown to be effective to watch videos of yourself performing the maneuvers correctly to reassert that it is a skill you have mastered so as to overcome any fear that developed while you were learning it.

If a gymnast has developed a mental block concerning a specific maneuver they have previously learned, then it can also be of help to drop back for a while and begin the exercise all over again as though it were being learned the first time. This will help the individual regain their confidence as they once more go through the preliminary motions of developing the routine. Often the relearning will point out the flaw in the “fear factor” that created the mental block, and will give them renewed encouragement.

Gymnasts, as with any trained athlete, need positive reinforcement to keep the mind and body sharply focused on the task at hand. One needs to keep close watch on the words used when talking about the gymnastic activity. Any negative wording needs to be recognized and removed from the normal conversation. As a psychological slight-of-hand, one must keep watch on one’s thoughts so that rather than focusing on what might go wrong, they are instead focused on what can go right. To someone who has not participated in the grueling demands of gymnastics this advice may sound a bit like psycho-babble. However, since the greatest fear a gymnast must overcome is the fear of injury or poor performance, the building of confidence by any effective method is a valuable tool in the arsenal against having the mind lock up the muscles in a refusal to carry on with the sport.


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