Why Won’t They do Conditioning at Home?

After nearly a year of being out of the gym, many young gymnasts are really struggling with the motivation to keep up their conditioning at home. I initially wrote this post during the first lockdown, but it’s just as relevant now- perhaps even more so. With our ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown in place, it should only be a few more weeks until my boys and their friends are back in the gym, but until then, I’m trying to encourage them to keep up the conditioning at home, even just a little bit, to help prepare them for their return. I know they’re so excited to get back to the place they love, and I’m excited for them!

Why Won’t They do Conditioning at Home? – August 2020

My sons love gymnastics- I know I’ve mentioned this before, but they really do love it. They love learning new skills, they love showing off what they can do, and when they’re in the gym, they even love conditioning. But trying to get them to keep up their conditioning at home? That sometimes seems like I’m asking the impossible!

Still Rings

If you ask Mr F and Mr S, they know why conditioning is a key part of being a gymnast. They understand that their sporting idols train every day, even when they’re not actually in the gym. They aspire to be just like them, so surely that should inspire them to keep up their conditioning at home, right? Well, sadly, not in my house, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Although they love cartwheeling, flipping and jumping around the place, if I point out that they really should be doing the strength and flexibility exercises set by their coaches, I’m suddenly very unpopular!

This is not a new struggle, and it’s certainly not one that only applies to me. I remember, back in the late nineties, my mum having exactly the same ‘discussions’ with my gymnast sister. She was fabulously flexible, so loved doing her stretches regularly, but the v-sits and press ups were another matter altogether!

I imagine it’s a conversation that’s been going on between gymnasts and their parents for many, many years, and will continue for many more. As a parent, I want them to enjoy their sport, so I never want to push them too hard and crush that passion. But I also want them to put in the effort at home so that they don’t fall behind others, and lose their passion that way, either.

Of course, I understand that it’s hard for them to motivate themselves to do something that isn’t particularly fun. It’s hard for me as an adult to force myself to do the boring but essential stuff (ironing, anyone?!). But I know that it must be done, and I can appreciate the future benefits of doing it. At 10 and 7, my boys don’t really have that understanding yet- though it’s beginning to develop for 10 year old Mr F. So I try my best to make conditioning at home fun for them, in the hope that it stops some of the arguments in our house!

Conditioning at home

Here’s what I do:

1. Make it a competition! Since there are two of them, I challenge them to be the first to get fully down in box splits, or see who is doing the smartest-looking leg lifts on our pull-up bar (we use this one from Amazon, although we’ve taken the grips off to give a more realistic feel of the horizontal bar at gym). Sometimes their dad joins in too, which motivates them even further- they’d both love to beat him in a handstand competition!

2. I join in myself. This is entirely different to when my husband joins in, as I am comically rubbish at anything vaguely sporty. It makes the boys laugh, but it also actually benefits me, as I push my self to try a press-up or two! Mr S in particular will keep going for much longer if he thinks he’s ‘showing Mummy how it’s done.’

3. Sometimes, I offer small rewards, such as a trip to the corner shop for an ice lolly, if they work hard at their conditioning sets. Of course, not everyone is comfortable with using bribery to persuade their children, and that’s absolutely fine, but I’ve found that it does work for us.

How do you encourage your children to keep up with their conditioning tasks at home? Have you found something that works for you and your family? Let me know!

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