Flying Maple MartialGym Society

Training Tips

The last 5

by on Nov.06, 2010, under Inspirations, Training Tips

Almost everyone understand physical strength but few truly appreciate the importance of developing mental strength and work ethics at a young age.

Just take the Slovenia’s cross country skier Majdic as an example, she has the perfect excuse to just give up with 4 broken ribs and a damaged lung from a fall, but she didn’t. She pushed on and won a bronze medal. (Link: The drive and passion to push to be your best did not come by accident and did not just happen during the Olympics, that mental strength and determination come from years of training.

I always tell the kids, it is not the first 5 push ups that give them the most benefit, it is always the last 5 when the body is ready to quit but they push on to finish – those last 5 trains both body and mind!

Great physical strength allow you to be healthy and do a lot of different things. Great mental strength will play a huge role in your studies, career and life.

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Skipping and strong bones

by on Jul.13, 2010, under Training Tips

Skipping, with or without a rope, is an awesome exercise. You can vary rhythm, duration, intensity and complexity easily to a level suitable for you. Best of all, you can measure improvements by simple counts or time.

When kids are young and all the way into their young teenager years, there is a special window of opportunity to develop strong bones. For girls, when they are at around 17, they pretty much reach 95 percent of their skeletal maturity. Strong muscles and bones are similar to money-in-the-bank – if you can accumulate a lot when you are young, it will last a lot longer. Natural intake of calcium (from products like milk or calcified soya products) is important but having the proper exercise stimulates/facilitates the actual building of strong bones.

So keep on skipping. Be involved and take up the challenge!

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Kids have to earn it themselves

by on Jan.06, 2010, under Training Tips

Parents can give their kids like money, iPhone, camcorder, new shoes, etc.. However, parents cannot give their kids endurance, strength, confidence and the joy that comes when the kids finally reached a new milestone themselves.

Parents know what is needed to be successful in life and therefore tell their kids to think positive, to work hard, to concentrate more, etc. However, all these words-of-wisdom are a little too conceptual and elusive and very quickly becomes a nag and more often than not, kids block it off completely.

Some parents have a hard time justifying spending time and money in gymnastics (or any other sport), thinking that their kids are not talented enough to be pros in the future and therefore why bother.

Aside from the gymnastics specific skills, these are all the not-so-obvious benefits:

– Most kids in rhythmic gymnastics kick-butt when they have their school have their yearly ‘Jump Rope for Heart’. They outlast and outplay all their classmates and they feel good about it. Did you see that smile on their face when they completed their first double-through the rope skip or their first front flip?

– rope skipping is one little exercise that they can count and measure progress. When they work hard to break their own record, you can actually see the pride and joy through their eyes. And as the count goes up, so does their endurance and timing. As a coach, I don’t even have to tell them to exercise more or to improve on their endurance / strength, they think of it as a game and they are passionate about their achievements every practice. They feel the burn from stretching or muscles fatigue when they push through their physical / mental barriers. However, they still keep pushing out of their own drive. Over time, these work ethics, focus level will become habits and they will strive for excellence in more than gymnastics. Isn’t that exactly what every parent want for their kids?

– kids actually can see the difference it makes when they concentrate versus when they are not. When they concentrate, they can complete a series of skips without errors or tumbling without an extra step. This practice of ‘switching-it-on’ with instant feedback is repeated numerous times every gym class. Again, this is learnt and repeated without parents nagging.

– gymnastics is a visual sport. Gymnasts’ spatial awareness and visual memorization ability improves over time. Hmm, how important is memorization is school? what is that neat trick about instant super memory? So you can start to see why gymnastics can help school!

– gymnasts learn at a young age how to manage nervous gitters during or before a performance, they learn also how to smile and impress the audience. All these public performance experiences give them such a huge advantage over their peers during high-school and later at work – haven’t you already noticed that almost everybody who is important is required to do public speaking (eg. from manager to CEOs to presidents)?

– parents can take a much more positive supportive role instead of being viewed as the ‘nagger’.Participate in their activities and give them high-5s when they are proud of their accomplishments.

Most parents have the hardest time finding classes that their child is passionate about. Now that you have found it, lets make the best out of the journey together!

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Visualization is the secret

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Training Tips

Everybody emphasize on good physics, proper technique, training hard and breaking skills down to logical progressions. However, we often overlooked on the need to train the brain. Ironically, the brain happens to the command center for all movements.

Visualization is a way to exercise the brain – you focus and imagine yourself performing a specific skill. Visualization helps in these areas:

  • prepare the muscles for a complex move so get they will respond at the right time, sequence and speed, etc..
  • add repetitions and quality training time without being restricted by physical constraints, for example, training space / frequency, muscle soreness, injuries, etc..  Visualization is even more important during injury-recovery and will defintely make comeback easier,
  • help overcome fear by thinking positive and thinking logically through all the necessary details so that you are confident that you are ready
  • provides a way to add repetitions without the risk of injuries – especially when the success rate is only at around 50%.

So, conditioning is not just about doing push-ups and sit-ups, your brain can use some exercise too! Shhhhh, it is our secret!

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Training – number of hours

by on Oct.17, 2009, under Training Tips

What is optimal is highly individualized. It depends on personal goals, age, fitness level of the athlete, where the training fit within training cycle/plan, effectiveness of a specific training method affects. The advancement of sport sciences give us insights on what works (as well as what doesn’t). Even with that knowledge, coaches have to recognize that every athlete is different and fine tune training plans accordingly.

Goals – some athlete are involved because they enjoy the social interaction, the traveling and the joy of discovery and learning. Some come to training for fitness and others really want to win. Obviously, someone who needs to qualify for the Olympics within the next 12 months trains different than others. Knowing your own body, understanding  your personal goals and while maintaining realistic short-term steps are all key to realizing your goals.

Age – exposing kids to different sports at a young age opens them to an enriched movement vocabulary. This will ultimately give a child an advantage in life. Every sport have their own little strengths as well as shortcomings. Diversity at an early age minimizes such issues. Gymnastics is regarded as one of the foundations of all sports – gymnastics enables and prepares a child for other movement patterns and sports including snowboarding, skating, dancing, wushu, Mixed Martial Arts, etc.

Physical Fitness level –  it takes time to build your body to an elite level of performance – a ‘light’ training day for a marathoner is still too much running for most. Strength, flexibility, good neural muscular control all serve to enable new skills and offers better protection of an athlete. After injuries, one common mistake is to assume the body condition is still at the point right before the injury – it is NOT and you must ease yourself back into your regular training or you will risk re-injury. Athletes that condition on a regular basis will find that their body can train harder as well as recover faster! So, do get into a habit of doing daily conditioning exercises.

Training cycle – both coach and athletes need mental / physical breaks at scheduled time to avoid burn outs. These ‘rest periods’ are planned into any successful sports program. Our training season starts in the fall and we start by building up our strength fitness level and master new skills and then slowly perfect the skills as the season goes until it is ready for competition/performance. During the summer months, our planned time-off provides an opportunity for rest and recovery. Complementary activities like swimming / cycling and other fun stuff can help build the athlete in aspects not adequately covered by a specific sport. Less intensive but active fun classes are also planned into every  training month. High level athletes train more than 3 hours everyday (20+ hours per week). Some even have ‘power naps’ in the day to help increase productivity.

Resources – not every family can afford 5 days of training (i.e. time and money). However, given each of the unique situations, there are always ways to improve on certain aspects of training so that we can achieve more within the given resources. A simple example is to encourage every gymnast to do their own baseline conditioning at home, then they can have more time for skills and other fun stuff during class.

Time is indeed one of the quantitative measurements of training. Research shows that it takes close to a 10000 hours of quality training to achieve an international level of performance. Therefore, increasing training from once a week to twice a week is a 100% increase in training time and therefore will make a difference. In North America, we cannot structure our programs based on unlimited hours of commitment like China, Japan and other eastern European countries, hence, improving our programs efficiency and effectiveness is really high in priority.

Anyways, happy training!

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