Posted by Chris Olsen on December 8, 2014
The holidays can be a crazy time for everyone. Schedules get busy, between music recitals, school plays, and religious events. Family comes to town, or you ship out to other cities or states. The weather gets dismal (which in the south bay means it rains for three days). Finances get tighter, with gifts, parties, vacation activities and trips. All these things may be causing you to think about taking a break from you child's regularly scheduled activities - among those, gymnastics and other sports.
Most coaches and instructors, regardless of the sport or activity, will encourage your student to continue through this hectic time. Believe it or not, they are not trying to squeeze another dollar out of your enrollment! Taking time off, especially for athletes, can slow and even halt progression of skills and physical conditioning.
Keeping the brain active
"Working memory" is the ability of the brain to store information as it is being taken in. Gymnasts use this almost every second they are performing a skill: they are learning to straighten their rear leg and point that toe while doing an arabesque on the balance beam, and at the same time storing that knowledge to use the next time they attempt the skill. Similarly, young gymnasts learn the sequence of activities in a gymnastics circuit as they do them, storing that memory to use on their next turn. Working memory relies almost entirely on repetition to function - it's a "use it or lose it" sort of utility. While kids aren't in school, what behaviors are keeping their minds active? Watching Frozen for the eighteenth time on their iPad certainly won't cut it. It's activities such as gymnastics, piano lessons, and indoor soccer that are keeping the brain active during school vacations.
Keeping the body active
As adults, we know all too well what the holidays usually mean for our bodies. Bouts of inactivity and unhealthy eating usually cause us "grown-ups" to gain weight around this time of year. While kids are typically blessed with higher metabolisms and can avoid weight gain, their bodies are just as affected by these periods of low activity. Most affected are muscles, bones, and joints. While it is common knowledge that repetition and consistent work are needed to build and maintain healthy muscle, many don't know how crucial activity is to bone and joint health. Long periods of inactivity can cause joint stiffness and arthritic symptoms, even in children. Weight-bearing exercise can slow the development of osteoporosis, while activities such as gymnastics, yoga, and tai chi - all which focus on strength and balance - can decrease the risk and frequency of falling.
Even as a gymnastics instructor, kickboxing instructor, and avid horseback rider, I really enjoy hitting the couch with a mug of tea and a movie for the first few days of vacation; staying warm and yes, sedentary. But by the third or fourth day, I get that itch - the need to move around, jump around, do anything! Now imagine how kids must feel, with their boundless energy and tireless thirst for activity. Get out and have fun in an active way! Play catch in the yard, build snowmen (if the location allows), and make an epic pillow fort or living-room obstacle course. Take them to a drop-in yoga class, sports day camp, or even laser tag. It may be tougher to get up and out to find active fun around the holidays, but completely worth it.
Torrance Fit Kids Gymnastics Center Gym Director