Play Hard….Finish Strong

Well today is the final day of 2010. How are you spending your last day? I was up at 5:00am so I could have a full seven hours sleep and was done at the L.A. Fitness training for 2 hours before going off to train with coach. My body felt great this morning and after all that rest I knew I was going to get some solid results. I did my kickovers at LA Fitness, folllowed by Quad and Penta Slinkies meaning it will not be long before I am back to Octo and Deca Slinkies. I did my Front Limber Kickovers 5/5 and then Back Walkovers and did 5/5. I was also able to work on Handstands and did my longest ever beam handstand. This is going to be so much easier now I have Coachs little beam he gave me to take down to LA Fitness.

I arrived at Elite Gymnastics with coach and it was cold. I mean see your breath cold. We started off doing vaults and did a great job. Coach was very impressed and I did some really good ones off the 7 setting which is as high as it goes. Body shape is straight and now working on the shoulders staying open throughout the vault.

We then went to bars and got to do some casting. Casting is a critical skill on bars where you push up from front position eventually into a handstand for Level 7. It is a lot of work and positioning and not a natural move at all although it looks effortless at the Olympics. In previous episodes of GOLD I have been working on it and gradually getting better and better. We need it now so we can get the momentum on the strap bars to go for Giants.

Giants are when you see the gymnast swinging all around the high bar. They take a lot of work and timing to make them work but are fundamental for high levels of gymanstics. They are part of Level 7. I went to the strap bars and am making great progress in making the shapes and form and getting closer and closer to vertical as I swing through. In the next seven classes with coach there is a strong chance I will make my first giant.

We then went to beam where we did solid work drilling the basics. Overall it was a great solid training session with no spectacular breakthroughs but moving all the skills further along. I love it watching the incremental progress.

I was given the draft for my new Magazine cover on Gymnastics Insider. Still a couple of small changes but looks great.

2011 and is going to be an amazing year and for me it is sooo nice to finish the year on a strong footing. No injuries. Healthy and ready to tackle the new year. Are you finishing strong for 2010 ready to go full speed ahead into 2011? Most people seem to ned ramp up time to hit the stride. I will be in LA Fitness tomorrow at 8am (That is when they open!!) and train for four hours with lots of breakthroughs coming. I am soo excited. Go Heroes!!!

Mastery: Clocking Hours

There has been a lot of research that shows that to reach mastery at anything you have to clock over 10,000 hours using the deliberate practice or in the terms of Frontier ‘Training’ meaning you are under the watchful eye of another either a coach or peer or a video recorder that can give you feedback. I look at the amount of hours I am clocking at the moment and what I am going to need to reach Gold and it is just not enough. I am training hours at the gym in the morning and then working with coach directly after it and I look at all the work I have to do and compare that to the girls who are already competition ready. Shawn Johnson has redeclared and as a GOLD medallist needs to get back in competition form, Nastia is powering her way back towards gold medal form and then you have all the younger girls who are looking for their space on the team.

I am sharing this because today was one of those days that I clocked five hours but did not make a lot of progress. I got my tumbling back on the floor rather than on the Tumbl Track which is great and my work on the strap bars is pushing things along. I did some good work on beam with my passe turns but today just felt Blah. More like I was going through the motions that actually pushing the envelope. Having studied world leaders I understand that for a master not every piece is going to break new ground or be a masterpiece. Sometimes it is just doing the work and realizing as you get through those days then you will back to the days where everything is clicking.

I know for me I NEED five hours solid uninteruppted sleep to be able to have the strength to kickover effectively. If I have less even though my spirit may be high my body does not have the energy to kickover, let alone heavy tumbling, jumping, leaps etc.

I am excited about the progress I am making and if I look back at what I am doing even through all the setbacks, blah days and challenges I am accomplishing way more than everyone thought I would. I am committed to going for gold, but I equally know that so much of it is in the journey. I have learned so much about myself, who I am under pressure and what happens when it is all on the line. I love every single day. I love the great days, the average days and even the sad days because my life is one full of blessings.

I have just got out of the Jacuzzi, washed my hair and going to sit down to a big healthy salad. Life is Great and tomorrow is a brand new day. Go Heroes!!

All Systems Go…..

Now that Christmas is over I have come back from London and was so ready to get back to training. Days away from training are painful for me. I was at the gym from 4:58am and trained for two and a half hours and made great progress on Right Hand Kickovers and got down to the one panel mat and made all five of them which was great. It will not be long before I will be able to do kickovers off my bed leg off the floor. Once that happens I can alternate them in slinkies and that will assist in balancing up the symmetry of my body.

After that I started work on Upslinkies. An upslinky is tough because it is going against gravity. A normal slinky your hands and feet are at the same level. An upslinky you have to overcome extra resistence by kicking up hill. I can now do slinkies up onto one panel mat easily and today for the first time did 5/5 slinkies up onto the two panel mat with my strong leg. I went to do a slinky up a three panel mat bt was nowhere near it. This is my next challenge to be able to do it up three mats. Why is it important? When I can kick up two and three panel mats my kick strength will have greatly increased so by the time I get to kick on the floor for other techniques it is effortless and conditioning my back even further.

I beleive my back is going to be able to open up even more. I am already hitting a lot of the spine limitations as bone is up against bone but on the upper back there is still space to go. I need to especially with the plan to do Back Walkovers and then Back Handsprings on the beam.

I was talking with coach and he was talking about doing front handspring – front tuck on the beam as part of level 9. It is going to happen. It will be a while but I cannot wait until I can do tumbling on the beam. It seems so scary but like anything with the right drills it is a skill acquired over time.

We had a great session on vault with the table now at its highest on setting 7. I started vaulting on setting 1. What a difference. My form is so much better and I know I will be able to do well off the 5 setting of the springboard rather than the mini tramp which we have been using. We are currently working on the Level 6 Vault and coach is excited about it. I think this will be the first of the Level 6 that I attain. The closest is beam and I need to get higher splits, better jumps, better handstands and the back walkover.

Gotta get sleep as I need five hours before I train tomorrow at 4:00 at LA Fitness. So much to do. Go Heroes!!

How Do You Know You’re a Gymnast?

I think I am addicted to gymnastics and working out. I am over here in London and I cannot wait to get back and train with coach on the 29th. Kenny and I are heading back tomorrow and I am itching to get into the gym and work out. I have been stretching and been doing slinkies in the tv room. I just feel so tight having not stretched for seven days.  All I can do is review footage, check on YouTube to see what Rajna (in the Czech Republic) and Leadina (Russia) and now Lauren Mitchell (Australia) are doing at their latest meets.

I have been watching some videos on YouTube and one of my favorite was “How do you know your a gymnast?” Here are some of the way you can know if you ARE a gymnast!

1- You own more leotards than normal clothes. (YES)

2-  Your forgot what you look like with your hair down. (YES)

3-  You use more chalk than soap. (YES)

4- You sleep in your leotard. (OFTEN)

5- Your coach reads you like a book (YES)

6- Your best friends are all gymnasts (YES)

7- You remember every routine you have ever done (YES)

8- You dream gymnastics (YES)

9- Your hands are tougher than your feet (YES)

10- Managing pain is a way of life (YES)

11- Everything you see is a beam or bars (YES)

12- Any long corridor cries out for a tumbling pass (YES)

I can answer Yes to nearly all of these and I have difficulty thinking of life without gymnastics. I can’t believe I stopped it for five years from 14 to 19. While I took the Encino Eagles Cheer Squad to local champions and the Heroes to National Championships there is something different about the discipline about gymnasts. We need the running speed of a sprinter, the strength of a weightlifter, the grace of a ballerina and the flexibility of a contortionist. There is always something to work on and there is always someone  better than you at something. Each day we do our best competing against ourselves and how great we can be. We celebrate the achievements of anyone else because we know how hard they worked to get there. We also know that luck can make the difference between Gold and nothing. Our life is about aiming for perfection knowing it is unlikely. We our assessed on every single technique we do and we have to be the perfect example of sportsmanship and maturity. Talk about tough for a young girl. So much pressure. Most of us who are competing at higher levels have been competing from the age of 5. That is 9-12 years of competition to get to the top level and by the time you are 21 you are considered old and by 25 ancient. Is it any wonder we get this good after training for 6-8 hours a day for so many years.

You ask any competitive gymnast what sacrifices they have made and the list will be long; holidays, boyfriends, spending time with friends but I will eill tell you this even for the girls that were hurt on this journey; none of them would change it for anything. And I agree!!! For me Life Is Gymnastics and Gymnastics is Life!!!

Year of Reflection

What an amazing year it has been. Kenny and I just finished skiing at Beaver Creek and are now at Denver Airport flying to New York then to London for Christmas to be whisked away by his family for Christmas.

What an incredible year it has been. I have made incredible progress on my goal towards London in 2012. I won some important meets along the way but they tended to be smaller and less competitive compared to the ones I need to compete in next year.

My vault is getting stronger and the knee challenges earlier in the year definitely slowed me down. Bars are moving quickly and are coming back to me the quickest of the four apparatus. Now Giants are starting to come back online it will not be long before I will flying between the bars like Mustafina at Worlds. I look forward getting to that point again like when I was younger. Tough with all the rips that keep happening every bar session.

Beam is moving along nicely and now the back is close to Elite standard (lots more to go) I am going to be able to work on all the heavy tumbling on the beam both back and forwards. The fear is largey disappearing as well which is important because you cannot doubt yourself when throwing yourself backwards or forwards over a 4 inch wide beam and expect to stick it.

Floor is the biggest challenge at the moment. The sidesplits are taking sooo long to return to competitive standard. They are something that unless you do it regularly you can lose it which is what happened. Also I am heavier now than when I was competing as a Junior Elite. That extra height (4 inches) and weight (too much) means launching myself into the top tumbling routines is tougher. I will get there but it is working on it all the time.

I have to thank the love of my life Kenny, my incredible coach Olin, my chiro Doc (Dr Michelle), Massage Master (Hector) and my and Kenny’s parents for their undying support, the Heroes Squad for their commitment to excellence and allowing me to train and finally all of SDU for their words of encouragement wherever I go.

2011 is going to be an amazing year and I cannot wait to train on a strong knee, healthy back and intense focus. Have a great Christmas and see you in the New Year.

Here are some of the inspirations for the coming year.

Strategic Decision

I went off to train this morning and had a solid workout. My back was nice and open and I was doing back bends, slinkies and a host of other back bending techniques. I then went off to train with coach. When I arrived he surprised me my giving me a mini-beam as a present so I can take it and travel with me to work on my cross handstands which is a block right now. I love my coach. He is so amazing and is so supportive of everything I do. we then got down to work.

We started off on vault and it was not long before we raised the vaulting table to Level 5 which is the highest I have had it and again it was not long before I was coming over it beautifully. We will take the minitramp away shortly and put the springboard back but at least I know I am looking for. As 5’7″ tall I am normally the tallest gymnast so I need to vault off the highest setting to be able to get my rotations for twists and saltos. It will not be long before I can get a beautiful vault off Setting 5.

We then rotated to bars. I was kipping nicely but my hands were just like sandpaper on the bars and were getting shredded. I already had four rips and even though I was making great progress and getting tighter on form coach and I decided it would be better to stop as I had just ripped all four rips again. OK Bobbie Rotate to Tumbling.

At tumbling we started off on the tumble track. I was doing a variety of techniques leading to Round Off- Back Handspring-Back Tuck. I love tumbling and it is nice to be strong again.  we then went out onto the floor and doing work there which was great. At this point I felt an intuitive insight to leave immediately. I expressed this to coach and he was happy with the decision and for listening to my body. We made some final arrangements for the end of the year and then I left for Doctor Aiello’s Office.

I arrived at Dr Aiello who was going to give me PRP surgery on my knee again. Prior to May 2010 I had my knee twist 8 times underneath me and it delayed progress enormously. Since i had it done in May 2010 my knee has not once caused a problem. I decided to do it again. I went in and this time I was allowed to feel so my TV Show on BSTV actually has examples of the procedure on it for those interested.

The operation was a HUGE success and I am now in recovery to make left knee the strongest it can be.So glad I made this decision happen and I am sure it will make a huge impact in the years to follow. Go Heroes!!

Conditioning and Reconditioning

I am in an amazing place right now. After having completed 5.5 hours of training with the huge breakthroughs and having an hour of chiropractic with the one and only Doc (Dr Michelle Binkowski) and twp hours of massage with Hector who specializes in working with gymnasts I was so excited to train today. I had another good night sleep and then went down to LA Fitness. It took a little while to warm up but I am very conscious now of Docs coaching regarding my hand position when bridging. It is improving results dramatically.

Part of Mastery is conditioning ourselves where we can go to Unconscious Competence without allowing ourselves to go on autopilot. That is the great challenge how do you be totally natural AND totally aware at the same time. In the book ‘Talent is Overrated’ Geoff Colvin talks about the hours it takes to get to mastery and like Clinton teaches there are no shortcuts. Geoff calls it ‘Deliberate Practice’, Frontier calls it training but it is constantly working on techniques, looking for distinctions and then redrilling the skill.

There is a saying that Practice makes Perfect. Well practice makes permanent. Whatever we condition becomes our norm. If we drill a bad technique that becomes standard. Our goal then is to drill perfectly every time so that perfectin becomes automatic. Challenge is rarely is there a perfect environment, temperature changes, equipment changes, clothing changes so in reality we need to allow for variances in external factors while hitting the core of the technique in perfection.

I have been working on by bridges for a while and I conditioned a certain group of muscles to fire off as I do them. I decided to focus on rebalancing my body because I am so far out and at higher levels they make you use both sides of the body and I cannot let it get so far behind. The challenge is when I began training my off side my body started twisting and contorting because it was used to the other patterns. It changed my entire techniques including hand position, moving my shoulders out as well.

I am now back working both sides and making massive progress on both. It took a step backwards and lots of work with coach to correct it but now I am doing miracles down at the gym. I normally work 2 hours on my back flexibility alone. but considering what I need to do with my back regarding back handsprings on the beam I need to keep working on it.

Coach could not train today so I am taking it lightly with only 2.5 hours of training. My foot is playing up a little as Hector did massge and grabbed it a couple of times and I forgot to tell him to stay away from it so it is a little sorer today. Overall though I feel in great shape. Looking forward to tomorrow with coach (last training for this block) and then getting the procedure on my knee to strengthen it even more. I am going to ask Dr Aiello if I can film it so you can see the needles going into the knee.

Life is amazing and I am so blown away by what I have created in two years. Two more years to go to London and I have my work cut out for me but I am committed. Off to ice and jacuzzi. Go Heroes!!

Mega-Ultra-Super Day!!!

This morning was one of those mornings when you just know you are on fire. I had almost eight hours sleep and woke up and went to LA Fitness to train for 100 minutes before going to train with coach so my body would be nice and warmed up. From the moment I went down there everything started clicking. My back was open and flexible and the toe was healed enough not to reduce the kickovers very much. I nailed them all, Slinkies, Upslinkies, Back Walkovers, Front Limber kickovers. Everything I asked my back to do it responded in excellence. By the time I went to train with coach I was ready for a huge day.

When we arrived I asked coach if I could do my Level 4 Floor Routine. I was going to be doing it last week but my foot stopped me. I worked on back flexibility and felt great and was doing the techiques. I then warmed  up Forward splits, Round Off-Back Handspring and the other dance moves for the routine and then returned to get the back as open as possible. I said to coach give me five attempts to do it. First and second failed and then he gave me some additional coaching and I made it. I MADE IT. It was ugly but I made it.

Now I have to tell you I have been working on this technique for almost two full years. It has been incredible hard work. Bridges, Bridges, Bridges. I have had to resculpt my entire back muscle structure. Open up my entire spine to be able to do these back bending techniques. Two years ago if I had stood there with my arms up and lent backwards onto my hands, I would have fallen on my backside and been red in the face. I now do this the equivalent of 45-60 times a morning as part of my back conditioning. Slinkies were a dream a year ago. Now they are a given. Standups were a dream a year ago. Now they are a given. Back Walkoves are close to becoming automatic.

Next is Back Walkovers on the beam and then nailing the confidence for Standing Back Handsprings so I can begin to plan for Back Handsprings on the beam which is my next beam beam feat. That is where you stand on the beam and throw yourself backwards and land on the beam with your hands and then push yourself into standing position. Do you think I’m scared? I am but I know coach will get me there safely and I cannot wait to start that journey. To me the back techniques on the beam is where the real beam work begins!!

I also got to work on Giants with coach today. Did not get all the way over but am on the way. We will be doing more tomorrow and Friday to get the feel of it in my body. I will be over before we finish this week. I love it. Giants again are the next big step in bars and are part of Level 7 which is optionals. So excited.

So may things are working right now. I went to see Doc who worked on my back more and dug deep into my shoulder to reduce the crunching I feel every morning. She got in deep with her elbow. I love it because I know the more she breaks up the knots the better I do the next day. I also got to see Dr Aiello who is the Doctor who did the procedure on my knee and I am scheduled to go in on Friday after training with coach to have the procedure done again.  My knee has been in excellent form for the last seven months which makes such a difference allowing me to do so much more. I cannot wait to see the results from this procedure.

Because I achieved Level 4 Floor, it also means I now qualify for Level 4 All Around because I can do Level 4 on all Apparatus. The picture above shows me with my new trophies to add to my collection. Next is Level 5 Floor which only has three techniques stopping me; Front Handsprings, Back Extension Roll and Back Walkovers. Back Walkover is almost automatic now, we are close on Front Handsprings and I just need to work out my my arm bends to nail Back Extension Roll. Once I get this I get Level 5 Floor and Level 5 All-Around and then I am on Level 6 on everything. This is such an amazing journey.

I am off to do knee strengthening at LA Fitness before I get to have two hours with my massage therapist to do Thai stretch massage and get deep into the all the tissues. I work hard but I love it. Go Heroes!!

Wheel of Progress

The wheel of progress moves slowly but it keeps moving forward. It has been frustrating watching my limitations emerge because of the buised foot. Couldn’t vault, tumble do my leaps.  I did not get to sleep well last night so my back flexibility was not good either this morning and feeling a little sorry for myself. When I arrived at 6:30 at Elite Gymnastics coach and I began on bars. We made a lot of progress on the Level 6 Bar Routine. My kips are looking nice and strong and the focus is getting tighter on the Cast-Push-Glide-Kip. The body is under enormous pressure moving around the bat and the body has to be able to handle it. As coach keeps saying ‘Tighter is Lighter’ meaning the tighter you are the easier and smoother you move.

I ripped my hands four times this morning on bars and then we rotated to beam. Did work on handstands, cartwheels (they sucked on beam today) and focused more work on the Level 5 Beam Routine. I will be working back walkovers on beam tomorrow with coach spotting as my back will be ready and the gym will not be so cold.

I am also looking at doing my Level 4 Floor routine finally tomorrow as the foot will be better and back warmed up. Big news is that coach has insisted we start work on Giants. We need Baby Giants for Level 6 and Greg who owns the gym and is an ex-gymnast himself said to Coach that if I am going to work Baby Giants I should actually work Giants (Level 7) and then come back to Baby Giants. So Exciting. I will be doing it on strap bars before the week is out.

It is only when you look back at how many times that wheel has gone around do you realize you have  come a long way. I break new ground almost every day and when I stay the same or slide back a week it is devastating but three weeks ago the current poor performance would have been a dream. Ah the joy of rapid skill acquisition.

So much more to do in my quest for Gold in London but I am committed, every day in being the best I can be. While I am training most the Heroes are going in to the studio to record our new song called ‘Rivalry – Bring It Home’.  I am so looking forward to hearing it and choreographing our next routine to it.

Life is so amazing and I feel so blessed. Kenny brought home a big bunch of flowers for me last night. The card said ‘To My World Champion. I Love You Forever!’. He is so sweet. We are heading over to England to be with my soon to in-laws for Christmas but in the meantime three more days with coach. Go Heroes!!!

One Step Back, Three Leaps Forward

After hurting my foot and beginning to work on my off side of my body I found my body kept rotating and progress was grinding to a halt not only that it felt dangerous. After Doc came and watched me train I learned a lot about where the challenges I was facing. As a result I had to return to the basics of hand position and focus on shoulder position, rotation etc. It felt VERY uncomfortable after conditioning so many on the other way.

Well it appears now that I have made excellent progress. I had five Breakthroughs Before Breakfast this morning including some really important ones and now I am ready to get back on my complete schedule for back flexibility ie beam slinkies. I began work on other skills like Upslinkies and my off leg which I will do but I can cut back on these now and get back to Back Walkovers in preparation for the beam.

Coachng can sometimes seem frustrating or even painful to take but oh what a couple of days make. Back on a rapid skill acquistion phase and watching myself just get better and better. I love doing a backbend and watching as my hands are getting closer and closer towards my feet. I am sure it will not be long before I can see my feet and then maybe a year before I can reach back and touch them, like my angel Marina.

I made a little more progress on the Sidesplits and a lot of it is just going to be ongoing conditioning. I held my legs for the first time and allowed myself to rest on my head. This avoids the hands propping up the body. I still have a long way to go to have the sidesplits automatically but at least continual execution will get there over time.

2010-12-13 Side splits

I am looking forward to training more with coach tomorrow and even though the toe is not perfect it is nice to have the back on track again and when the toe is healed watch out. Big things afoot. Go Heroes!!