Louis Smith is Team GB member and an Olympic gymnast hopeful, he shares his fitness tips with you.
He is working with the SUBWAY® brand on the Train Hard. Eat Fresh™ campaign to encourage an active lifestyle. He joins other sporting greats as a SUBWAY® Famous Fan. Whether in training or taking a rest day, there's a Sub on the menu to fuel everyone's day
- Flexibility and maintaining a supple body is vital to being a successful gymnast. Poor flexibility is often to blame for common sports injuries, especially as you get older and your body naturally starts to become more rigid. I really recommend that in addition to cardio and strength training, you incorporate stretches that encourage flexibility into your fitness regime to prevent this from happening. There are lots of great general stretches online that you can download as a guide. Spending just 10 minutes and holding each stretch for 30 seconds will have massive benefits and will also help to achieve a leaner figure; muscles to really focus on are the calves, thighs (quadriceps), hamstrings and back.
- Warm up and warm down: It sounds obvious but as a gymnast we are constantly stretching and challenging our muscles. Muscles can be easily torn or ripped and once done, can be a real challenge to get them back to how they were. Spend at least 10 minutes stretching your body, this will not only encourage blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, but will also prepare them for the workout ahead. Start from your neck, move to your shoulders, to your hips, knees and so on down to your toes. In addition spend 10 minutes after exercise gently stretching your key muscle groups.
- Pay attention to what you put into your body. Nutrition pays a really important role in a healthy fitness regime. I really notice the difference in my energy levels and mood when I eat healthy foods as opposed to when I base my meal on high fat or high sugar foods. We all like to have treats now and then, but what is important is that you eat them in moderation. Most people will find it hard to completely ban things like chocolate – I never could! But if you enjoy it as an occasional treat, it will keep your body satisfied and prevent the continuous craving and over eating. It is also really important to eat the correct food after a workout to replenish energy stores and providing protein to help rebuild and repair any damaged muscle tissue. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate, your body will rely on fat and protein for energy when you’re exercising, you can become fatigued and this may lead to an injury.
- Set a goal and imagine yourself doing it. How do you feel after? Before I start my training each day, I always take a few moments to think about what it is I want to achieve today and how proud and exhilarated I will feel once I achieve it. This kind of thought process really helps to maintain my self-belief, that I can do this tricky move if I focus my mind on it. Self-belief plays such an important part in gymnastics, and any sport for that matter. The mind is very powerful, when you doubt yourself; it can mentally block you from achieving your goal. Mental strength and preparation goes a very long way. Believe you can and you will!
- Train with a friend: When we compete, we take to the apparatus alone, however I always enjoy training with other members of team. It can really help to motivate you and you can push each other to go that little bit further which can be hard to do on your own. If you take it in turn to do particular exercises your partner can also keep a watch to check you are doing the technique correctly to prevent injury and having a chat while you stretch out can always help to keep your mind of the pain! You can even get a group o friends together and head to your local park – you never know you may find that you really enjoy yourself!
- Press-ups: Upper body strength is imperative for a gymnast. Press ups are a really great all-round exercise, they not only work the shoulders but also the abs and core. Many people do not know how to do a press up properly and as a result, do not get the best out of them. Here’s how to do them correctly: Position our hands just wider than shoulder width apart with your body straight from head to heels. Ensure that your shoulders are in-line with your hands. If you find it too hard to do a full press up, you can do a half press up by bending your knees. Next bend your elbows to lower your torso to the floor, keeping your elbows in to your sides. Try and get as far down to the ground as possible, challenge yourself to get so far down that your nose touches the ground – but be careful not to squash it! Try to do 10-15 press ups each session and increase by 2-5 each week to keep your body challenged!
- Burpees: these are great exercises to strengthen and tone your body and get your heart racing! Start on your feet, standing up straight. Drop down then jump your feet back so you are in the start of a press up position. Spring your feet forwards then jump up, lifting your arms into the air so that your body is straight and your feet leave the floor. Add a star jump at the end if you want to challenge yourself further! Repeat 10-15 times and try to do 2 reps.
- Pike Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and together with pointed toes. Keep your back straight; slowly lean your torso forward with your arms straight out and reach towards your toes. The aim is to touch your toes and keep your face as close to your knees as possible. You will probably find this quite hard to do at first but don’t give up! Hold the stretch as close to your toes as possible and keep yourself in the position for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times (total of 30 seconds.) Be patient with this move. Many people expect to see results over night but flexibility takes time – keep at it!
- Tuck jumps are a really simple and effective exercise for getting your heart racing and working your legs: Stand up straight with your legs a shoulder width apart. Next jump into the air as high as you can, bringing your knees up to your chest in mid-air, and then land light with your knees slightly bent to ensure that the force is dispersed, preventing injury.
- Arch rock is a great core exercise and also helps to improve stability. Start on your back with your arms stretched out above your head and your feel out straight ahead, toes pointed. Lift your heels a couple of inches off the floor. Maintain straight legs and slightly lift your arms off the floor as well. Squeeze your stomach in at the same time. Your body should now be in an arched position – like a banana! Hold this move for 10 seconds, then slowly ease back down. Repeat three times.