What does it mean to be a gymnast, one of those people who push their bodies to the outer limits to be able to demonstrate feats of flexibility, strength, coordination and grace that at times seem almost superhuman?
Well, first of all, a gymnast, or any athlete for that matter, is someone who understands the principles of training and commitment and proceeds systematically. Hannah Mohammed, a 16-year-old gymnast who goes to JESS (Jumeirah English Speak School), began training nine years ago and is a level eight gymnast at Aspire Gymnastics Dubai. But it’s not only the hard work that makes a good athlete; it’s finding the right balance too, as Hannah explains: “Due to my IGCSEs, right now I train for seven hours a week. However, I usually put in 10 hours a week, and my training days are pretty regimented.
“Every Saturday, I get up at around 8.00 am and start to prepare for my training sessions at 11.00 am. I tend to wake up early so that I can do some schoolwork before setting off.” Of course, food is a vital energy source for any athlete, and Hannah is no exception, enjoying a healthy, filling breakfast that will provide fuel for her four-hour training session. “This always includes carbohydrates, fats and protein, such as eggs with toast and a smoothie,” she says.
It’s all about that ‘balance’, not only on the beam but in life
“During my training, I do all four Artistic gymnastics events, as well as conditioning work. After training, I have a light snack in the car, such as fruit for a quick source of energy, and my lunch consists of a substantial source of protein.”
Hannah also has a physiotherapy session every few works, usually on the evenings following Saturday training, to look after her neck and back. While gymnastics is a non-contact, very graceful sport, it has one of the highest injury rates, with almost 100,000 female gymnasts alone injured each year. It is, therefore, vital to take care of the body while training and performing.
“During my training, I do all four Artistic gymnastics events, as well as conditioning work”
“If I do not have physiotherapy,” Hannah continues, “I usually finish off schoolwork or do some revision on a Saturday evening, and get myself organised for the week ahead. I aim to have a minimum of eight hours of sleep, as it is essential for recovery after training and is needed for the school day ahead.”
It’s all about that ‘balance’, not only on the beam but in life. And this requires passion and dedication, doing whatever it takes to be the best you can be. Hannah underlines this by concluding: “I also take part in Athletics at Ultimate Athletics to improve my lower body strength and my speed, which are fitness components essential for gymnastics. My athletics sessions last an hour every Sunday after school.”