Fun & Fitness Gymnastics

15 Reasons Competitive Sports Are Great For Kids

from Gymnastics News Network via Anne Josephson – Jag Gym Blog

Why should kids compete? Is competition good for them? Is it necessary to get them prepared for their grown-up lives?

I don’t think that competition is either good or bad. It just is. Rather it is how we think about it and cope with it makes it good or bad. How much we stress the importance of it that gives it a larger space in our lives than it deserves. And, when we place it as the most important objective of youth sports, then competition is toxic.

I also don’t ascribe to the belief that competition sets kids up to experience the “real world.” It’s been my experience that competition is not as prevalent in the “real” world as people deem it to be. Success is not a zero-sum game. There is plenty of room for more than one person, product or company to be considered successful and the truth is the “best” is often more subjective than objective. Finally, the most useful kind of competition that I’ve experienced in my life is the competition I have within myself to be the best version of myself that I can be.

All of that said, I think that there is a place of competition in the lives of kids, one that can teach them tremendous life lessons.

So here are my 15 reasons why experiencing competition is good for kids:

Preteen child gymnastic girls 01

  1. Competition drives us to learn at a faster rate and perform at a higher level. When the meet is on the horizon, we work harder and faster. We push a little harder.
  2. Competition teaches us to bring our best effort. Keeping score gives us extra motivation to do our best.
  3. Competition teaches us to manage the butterflies in our stomachs. When something is out of our comfort zone or pushes us to perform, it’s normal to feel fluttery in our tummy. Competition brings those butterflies out, and we can work on managing them.
  4. Competition does not have to be feared. Often kids fear competition, making it into something scarier or more important than it needs to be. When they compete, they realize that it wasn’t so scary after all.
  5. Competition teaches us to take risks and deal with failure. Once kids realize that competition is not a terrifying thing, they can take risks. No one is perfect. Everyone can and will make mistakes in performances. Competitions provides a platform for children to experience failures and learn from them. They learn that failure is a natural part of life and necessary to making progress in any endeavor.
  6. Competition teaches us to cope when things do not go our way. Sometimes you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as you wanted to. Kids learn resilience and grit in these moments. Resilience and grit are two traits that most certainly are essential in adulthood.
  7. Competition helps us with goal setting. Setting goals and making a plan to reach them can be done outside of competition. But competition helps provide deadlines and progress checks on our goals
  8. Competition teaches us to play by rules. Learning to operate within rules and developing strategies to use those rules to our advantage are great things competition teaches.
  9. Competition helps us to learn to win and lose with grace. Nobody likes a boastful person, and nobody likes are pouter. Competition gives kids the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment and to learn to process them in healthy ways.
  10. Competition can be fun. Most people enjoy games. They have fun playing them. Being a part of team makes us feel like we belong.  Taken correctly competition is fun for kids.
  11. Competition can build self-esteem. Self-esteem cannot be handed to kids; they have to earn it. Competition is one-way kids earn self-esteem. When you develop a talent and work hard for a result, it feels great. When you fail and can bounce back, you feel better knowing that you have resilience.
  12. Competition teaches commitment. There is a saying that says “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. That is why they are successful.” Building the habit of commitment is a wonderful by-product of being involved in competitive sports.level_8_boys_from_usa_gymnastics_world
  13. Competition gives kids another community.When you are part of a team, you are in a network of peers and adults who have interests and values similar to yours. It is always great to have another village in your life or that of your child’s.
  14. Competition presents opportunities to travel.Maybe it’s just within your state, or maybe it’s national or even international. But being part of a competitive team often gives kids an opportunity to visit places and interact with people that might not otherwise meet.
  15. Competition causes kids to perform better in school.Data shows that high school students who play sport are less likely to drop out. Furthermore, participation in sports also has been associated with completing more years of education and consistently higher grades in school. Not surprising that the discipline and goal setting that is learned in competitive sports helps in school.

Of course, many of these 15 benefits can also be achieved through other means, including non-competitive sports, the arts or faith-based activities.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that when done purposeful and developmentally appropriate manner that places the needs of the children well ahead of winning, competitive sports can and should be a great experience for kids


Healthy Snacks


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Losing and maintaining weight can be challenging enough, especially if you are short on free time to prepare meals or hit the gym.   Stocking these 10 healthy foods in the house is a great way to insure healthy meals and snacks.  They can even increase your metabolic rate.   Always remember to eat mindfully!

  1. Apples

Apples are quick and easy to grab even if you’re rushing out the door to get to work. They are high in fiber and good carbohydrates, which means that you won’t have to deal with sugar crashes as a result of excessive insulin spiking.

  1. Almonds

Nuts are an excellent example of how nature does fast food. When eaten in moderation, almonds can provide a host of health benefits such as promoting satiety and reducing the risk of heart disease.

  1. Broccoli

It’s tasty when eaten steamed, blanched or even raw, and is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K. This helps detoxify the body of toxins and free radicals that could cause tissue damage. Since it contains dietary fiber, it helps boost the metabolism by keeping you full longer which prevents excessive snacking.

  1. Low-Fat Plain Yogurt

Low-fat plain yogurt is a great snack option because it’s versatile and tasty not to mention loaded with probiotics. Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria or ‘live cultures’ that are essential to a healthy digestive tract. Low-fat plain yogurt is also high in protein, which boosts the metabolism.


  1. Blueberries

Blueberries have long been considered a superfood and anti-cancer in one. They are high in antioxidants which help rid the body of unwanted toxins and free radicals, and they have weight loss benefits as well since they promote satiety and gut health.

  1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a weight loss staple because it is considered a negative calorie food item, meaning you burn more calories chewing and digesting them than the nutritional value of the item itself. This is great for boosting the metabolism while still being able to absorb its antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

  1. Egg Whites

Egg whites are packed with protein and contain zero fat, making it one of the best protein sources around. Separating the egg whites from the yolks cuts down on the cholesterol content of eggs, as well as the fat.


  1. Spinach

Popeye was right about spinach—it’s so good for you and offers a host of health and weight loss benefits. It can protect you against arthritis, colon cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. It also contains very little calories so you can eat boatloads of it without causing a dent in your caloric intake. Consume spinach as a way to add volume to your meals and to get your fill or iron, potassium and dietary fiber.

  1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is yet another weight loss staple because it contains dietary fiber and is considered a heart-healthy food.   Oatmeal promotes satiety and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

  1. Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is another weight loss staple because it’s quick and easy to prepare. It’s loaded with protein, vitamin B3 and vitamin B12. Try to find albacore tuna—which is a white tuna—because it has a better nutrition profile than other fish.

Increase Your Emotional Health

body, mind and spirit in vintage wooden letterpress types, stained by ink in different colors, isolated on white

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

How exploring and nurturing emotional health can increase your happiness, joy, and fulfillment with the following 9 practices:

  1. Spend Time in Nature

Spending time in nature can help you disconnect from your usual routine and receive a boost of energy, clarity, and gratitude. Nature is a happiness prescription and could provide you with a much-needed perspective shift.

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Taking the time each day to reflect on the things that you are grateful for can help you maintain a positive outlook on life. When you choose to focus on positive things, such as family, health, having a roof over your head, and a beautiful day, you can come closer to a state of pure joy.

  1. Meditate

Time spent in stillness and silence can unplug you from the hustle and bustle of your busy life and invite you inward for a mind-body reset. Spend at least 15 minutes in centered-deep thought every day and notice how it can help you to gain a new perspective, shift your mood, and even provide you with more energy.

  1. Surround Yourself with Positive People

The people you surround yourself with can have an effect on you, either positive or negative. Surrounding yourself with positive people can greatly enhance your ability to maintain cheerfulness.

  1. Try a New Hobby

What activities make you come alive? Having a passionate activity can unplug you from responsibilities and connect you to inner happiness. Maybe you enjoy writing, knitting, horseback riding, golfing, gardening, or creating art. Find something that you enjoy doing so much that lose yourself when engaged in it.

  1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the fastest and most effective ways to positively shift your emotional state! Low energy can contribute to depression. The endorphins that are released during exercise increase your energy levels, boost your mood, and reduce symptoms of stress. Find some form of physical activity that you enjoy doing regularly to maintain your emotional health.

  1. Review Your Day Each Night

Recapitulation is a process of reviewing your day just prior to going to sleep each night. The purpose of this exercise is to become keenly aware of how you’re living your life and to observe your own behavior patterns.

  1. De-clutter Your Environment

Having a clutter-free, organized environment can lead to clarity of mind and relaxation. Take time each day to put things back in their place when you’re done using them, file paperwork in a desk, tidy up living spaces, and put away clothes.

  1. Practice Forgiveness

One of the biggest sources of emotional toxicity is holding onto grievances toward self and others. No one is perfect. Forgiveness is not about approving a particular behavior; instead, it is about cultivating peace.


Your potential is limitless with a strong emotional foundation.

Best in health and fitness,

Jenny Gaal

Resolutions For The New Year? Here Are A Few!


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Yes, it is that time of the year: the time when we all reconsider the reality of the past year and how we may not have been quite as good to ourselves as we had wished.  Many of us make resolutions for better health, fitness or losing weight.  How did you do in about that promise in 2015?

Only 46% of us maintain our resolutions past 6months.  Therefore, creating a specific strategy to get and keep us going is always a good place to start.  Before we start we should consider what has been holding us back in the past. The most common excuse tends to be lack of time. There are things you could do including getting up earlier (admittedly not for everyone) or choose to drive less and walk more. Setting an appointment with yourself can make a great difference.

Another idea is to replace a habit: for example, watch less TV or surf a little less online or do it while you’re on a treadmill. Alternately, you could use every commercial break for a few sit-ups, squats or jumping jacks.  It all adds up.  “Exercise is boring,” is another often heard complaint. Start by choosing an activity you enjoy; get some friends to join in; or explore new options like a fitness class. Other popular complaints include “I’ve always failed in the past,” and “I can’t afford gym fees.” Fun & Fitness Gymnastics has many effective and affordable fitness options.

How can you set yourself up for success? It’s not as complicated as you think. Here are some simple steps you can take, tips actually, to make a difference in your life. The first, and most important, is to commit yourself to consistency. That is, commit to sticking with your plan. If you find you are not able to meet your goals, change them to make them more possible. Don’t try for the Olympics right off the bat – take baby steps and you’re less likely to be intimidated out of your plan. Over time you will find yourself pushing a little harder and doing a little more without even noticing.

As for what your activity will be, pick something that’s fun for you. Like walking, trying a new fitness class or even shooting hoops- start with fun stuff, and then add in some friends.   Consider making it competitive including a fitness challenge with your friends.  Closed Facebook groups are a perfect way to communicate, share and inspire each other.  Joining a team is another great option. Finally, reward yourself (not with food, please). Doing something consistently is an accomplishment, even if your actual task seems small and insignificant. If you have been exercising regularly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back.

Starting a fitness program is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, and help you lose weight – even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. Give it a try – you CAN do it.

But, I Don’t Have Time To Exercise…….!

Make time to Exercise

by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Finding a full 30-45 minutes free every day to devote to exercise can be a challenge for anyone- Especially during the holidays!  Time is one of the biggest barriers for everyone in finding fitness.  We tend to view being active as an “all or nothing” condition.   There is no right or wrong way to move more-anything that gets your heart beating faster and you breathing heavier counts as physical activity. Everything from a brisk walk to gardening, housework and body weight exercises, like squats, push-ups, or planks anytime, anywhere. The best choice of activity is whatever works for you!

It All Adds Up…  

Fortunately for all of us busy folks, your 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to happen all at once. It is works equally as well to fit it in throughout the day in 5 or 10 minute increments until you hit the 30-minute (or more) mark.  It’s best to be active throughout the day and since walking right after a meal helps with digestion, you can use your meals as reminders to take an activity break.

Myth: You need to sweat for 45 minutes to get a health benefit.

Fact: Even if you’ve got just half an hour to spare a day—or a mere 10 minutes—you have enough time to bolster your cardiovascular health. More and more studies are pointing to the power of short workouts—consistently improving lower blood pressure readings on average when they split their daily walk into three 10-minute segments rather than tackling one 30-minute stroll. However, to drop some pounds you’ll still need to get more active most days of the week. Aim for at least 250 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week for the ultimate slim-down success.

But I work…

In many workplace settings, finding ways to stay active throughout the day can be challenging without utilizing specific fitness tips. Even if you spend most of your time behind a desk, there are ways you can break away and incorporate some mild physical activity into your daily office routine. The fitness tips listed below are all things that can realistically be squeezed into your workday; no need to worry about changing into different clothes or looking goofy doing office exercises.

  1. Don’t Sit during Your Entire Lunch Break

Make a point not to stay seated during the 30 to 60 minutes you’re allotted for lunch. Instead, take half of the time to eat and use the other half to squeeze in a mini, but mild, workout. Go outside and take a short walk. You can also walk up and down the stairs in your building. Walking at a moderate or slow pace is still more beneficial to your mind and body than sitting around for an hour. The change of scenery and the little bit of activity is a good way to break up the day.

  1. Pack a Bag and Work out right after work

Face it, when we make it home the last thing we want to do is get up off the couch and go work out.  Make it part of your routine after work, even just for a quick 30 minute workout, to stop by the gym or park to fit in some exercise before heading home.  At the end of the week that is 2.5 hours of exercise!

  1. Say “No” to the Elevator

Speaking of elevators, make it a habit to start taking the stairs instead. Begin your work day by walking up the stairs to your office and then ending the day by walking down the stairs to the exit. Start to think of the elevator as a non-option.

Remember with fitness than every bit counts. Just because you don’t do pushups or sprints during lunch doesn’t mean your body still isn’t benefiting from the movement.

Best in Fitness,

Coach Jenny

Managing STRESS during the Holidays!


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Many will admit that the holidays are a very stressful time. So it is no surprise that most Americans will gain between 1 and 3 pounds during the holidays—and most will not lose this extra weight. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is imperative! Here are 10 effective tips:

  1. Focus on the Positive.
  2. Let Go of the Past- Stay in the Present
  3. Maintain Your Routine, especially Exercise
  4. Hold Realistic Expectations 
  5. Breathe
  6. Start making Healthy Family Holiday Traditions
  7. Drink Warm Water-To maintain an active digestive system, drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. You can boost your metabolism by drinking warm water so your body has to work to bring it to your core body temperature.
  8. Eat Mindfully
  9. Replace Emotional Eating with an Activity

Quickest reminder, keep the definition of holiday in mind…. a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

Have a really wonderful and restful Holiday Season!!




by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Metabolism is a process that involves biochemical and hormone reactions by which your body converts everything you eat and drink into energy. Age, Gender, Heredity and Body Size and Composition are all factors that affect metabolism. Metabolism directly impacts one’s fitness levels.

  • Age: For many, metabolism decreases 5 percent each decade after the age of 40. This is due to a loss in muscle mass. Muscle takes more energy to properly function, so it burns calories faster than fat or any other tissue.
  • Gender: Men usually have more muscle mass than women, and therefore metabolism is generally higher for men. Since women generally have less muscle mass, fat deposits tend to stay in the body longer, especially after the childbearing years.
  • Heredity: The way your metabolism works may be in your genes. Every function in your body is determined by your genes, including basal metabolism. The expression of those genes, like the rate in which your body burns fat, may be inherited; which means that it may run in your family.
  • Body size and composition: People with a larger body mass burn calories faster.

In addition to metabolism, Digestion and Physical Exercise determines the way your body metabolizes food and burns calories. The body needs essential nutrients—chemicals the body itself cannot synthesize—to maintain a steady metabolism. Major food groups like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins supply these essential nutrients. Minerals and vitamins do not contribute directly to the body’s metabolism, but they play an important role in metabolic pathways.

A healthy eating plan that includes a good balance of fresh foods from all food groups is key to having an adequate metabolism. Did you know that there are some foods that may increase your metabolism? This is because they contain important elements that are vital to maintain a steady metabolism, they take more calories to break down in the digestive system, or they contain protein.

Consider incorporating these nine foods into your metabolism-increasing diet:

  1. Green tea
  2. Coffee:
  3. Milk
  4. Egg whites
  5. Lean meats
  6. Water
  7. Chili peppers
  8. Whole grains
  9. Lentils

Others habits that may increase metabolism are:

  • Increasing daily physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Eating regularly


Gobble Till You Wobble… Happy Thanksgiving!


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Thanksgiving is definitely a time we all look forward to spending time with friends and family, it also is a time we start to consider the undeniable temptations of this holiday. Thanksgiving does not have to spell diet disaster. By following some simple diet tips, you can effectively enjoy Thanksgiving without having to slip back into larger pants in the days immediately following…. Because we all know that is never a good feeling!

Start the Day with Breakfast

Yes, I said breakfast. Conserving morning calories to later only be ravenously hungry will only set you up to over indulge. While it may seem logical to save all of your calories for this one, belt-busting meal, by eating a healthy breakfast prior to sitting down at the Thanksgiving table, you ensure that you are not overly hungry and reduce the likelihood of overeating on the often-calorie-loaded Thanksgiving treats.

Peruse the Buffet Before Tackling It

POA!! Create a dietary plan of attack. To keep your calorie intake down on Thanksgiving, eat only the foods that really appeal to you and keep proper portion sizes in mind. Before you begin to pack your plate with food, look over all of your options and decide which ones you really can’t live without. Skip over any not as desirable food options as you don’t need the added calories.

Downsize Your Plate

The size of your plate matters. Face it; if there is space… you’re going to fill it. Choosing a smaller plate ensures that you don’t allow your eyes to get the better of your stomach and pile on a mountain of food.

Stick With Water

Dehydration is often confused as hunger.   If possible, avoid sodas and alcohol when selecting a beverage to wash down your Thanksgiving meal. These high-calorie beverages maybe appealing, but they also pack an added calorie punch that you do not need on a day when you are already planning a large calorie intake.

Burn Calories wherever you can….Pre-Thanksgiving thru Black Friday

Successful weight maintenance is all about burning more calories than you take in. Period!


Best in Fitness & Happy Thanksgiving,

From our Fun & Fitness Family to yours


Why Building Strong Core Muscles Is So Important


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Improving muscular strength by developing the postural muscles will reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall fitness performance. Core muscles include the postural muscles, which includes the muscles of the back, stomach, and hips. These muscles help us stand upright, transfer energy, and distribute the stress of bearing weight on two legs. Coming up with a core workout routine is fairly simple and you can even do it outside after your regular exercise/cardio.

Here are a few of my favorite basic core exercises to get you started.   No special equipment required!  These exercises can be performed daily, but begin with every other day to give your muscles recovery time. Begin with just a few repetitions and increase the number gradually. Planks and the Superman Pose can be held for 20 to 30 seconds initially and then gradually extend the time.

  1. The Basic Plank– Hold for 30 seconds, relax and repeat. Gradually increase the number of repetitions and the length of time you hold the pose.
  2. The Side Plank– Hold for 30 seconds, relax and repeat. Gradually increase repetitions and time.
  3. The Superman Pose– Lie face down. Raise one arm off the ground and hold for 20-30 seconds. Release and raise the other arm. Then move to your legs; hold one leg at a time off the ground. Then, try holding an alternate leg and arm off the ground at the same time. Then, try both arms up at one time and then both legs at one time. The most advanced version is holding both arms and legs off the ground at one time; hence the name Superman Pose. Hold each of these poses for 20 to 30 seconds, relax, and repeat.
  4. Abdominal Crunches– Lie on your back, knees bent and bring your chest towards your knees. Keep your shoulders back and chin up. Repeat.
  5. Abdominal Crunches with a Twist and/or Bicycle Legs– Do the abdominal crunches as stated above but include a Twist to work the oblique muscles. Keep knees bent, feet on the ground. Bring shoulder to opposite knee for a twisting motion. Another version is the bicycle, which is knees bent, feet off the ground and bring opposite should to knee at the same time, alternating legs to elbows.

So what are you waiting for? Get to it!!

16 Ways Gymnastics Can Make You a Successful Adult

gymnastics life lessons

Someday they will perform their final cartwheel, back tuck or giant swing.

There will be no more achievement ribbons to earn, compulsories or optional routines.

No coaches wrangling kids into classes, and no judges in blue handing out scores.

And the leotards will be tucked into storage or passed on to former team members.

Someday, for all kids who do the sport, gymnastics will come to an end. For some it may be after a few months, others after years and still others will only put down the grips when college is over or even beyond.

But this I guarantee: at some point everyone who does gymnastics retires.

So, while I am committed to making sure all the kids in my programs get awesome instruction and have a wonderful gymnastics experience, I am even more committed to ensuring that they take with them life lessons that will serve them far beyond the years that they spent in the gym.

After all, if all goes, as it should, a person should spend significantly more time in the post-gymnastics phase of life.

Gymnastics carries young people forward with a number of skills that aid in making them a successful adult. Here are some of them:

  1. Resiliency. You learn the art of resiliency, falling down and getting up over and over again, literally and figuratively. Being passed over for a promotion is disappointing, but so was seeing your best friend get moved up a level ahead of you. You survived that and you will survive this. It won’t cause you to quit, it will cause you to double down and work that much harder.
  2. Hard work. Speaking of hard work, you understand that hard work is the necessary ingredient to getting what you want. Sure talent is a nice thing to have and so is a little good luck, but you know that in order to reach your full potential hard work is the key ingredient.
  3. Determination. You have a resolute determination to be your best. You’ve developed your grit by staying the course with your long term goals even when frustrated. And, you’ve cultivated your willpower muscle by developing habits that keep temptation at bay.
  4. High Pain Threshold. Not just physically but also mentally. You can endure short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
  5. Patient (but not apathetic). You understand that success does not happen overnight and that there are no short cuts. You also are edgy about the time things take, always trying to work a little harder to speed up the process. In short, you are patiently impatient.
  6. Brave. Being brave does not mean that you have no fears. Rather it means you know how to overcome your fears.
  7. Goal Setting. You understand the importance of setting goals and know how to set them. You aren’t afraid to set big, lofty goals and you know how to break them into smaller manageable bites to ensure that you are making progress. You re-evaluate your progress from time to time, never taking your eyes off the final destination, but rather tweaking the steps to get there.
  8. Action-oriented. You know the difference between wishing and doing. You goals are set and then action is taken.
  9. Thick-skinned. After having coaches telling you what you did wrong repeatedly in practice and having judges attach a score to your efforts, you can take criticism. You can separate someone giving you critical feedback from someone attacking you as a person. As a result you don’t get flustered with someone doesn’t simply gush about your work. You listen and incorporate the feedback just as you have been doing since you first step foot in the gym.
  10. Reflective. All of those years of having your coaches ask, “What do you need to fix on your next turn?” has turned you into a self-reflective person. You can self-coach.
  11. Internally motivated. You learn to work not for rewards or awards, but for the satisfaction of doing the work. You know that the value of your work isn’t in a trophy or medal or even the positive acknowledgement of another; but, rather comes from within.
  12. Self-efficacy. After spending years learning new and difficult things, you believe in your ability to learn things.
  13. Growth mindset. And even when you are unsure as to how to learn something, you know that you can learn how to learn the things that you don’t yet know how to do.
  14. Confident. Standing in front of judges and an audience on a four inch wide beam while wearing a leotard has taught you much about confidence.   Even when you are nervous you know how to hold your chin up and continue.
  15. Physically fit. Gymnastics is the basis for fitness. By doing gymnastics you have a foundation for exercise that will serve you will throughout your entire life.
  16. Balanced. Literally, but also metaphorically. You learned from a young age how to balance your “gym-school” life so that now you effortlessly do the same with your “work-life” balance.