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What to Pack for Gymnastics

Before your first gymnastics class, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper attire, hair, and supplies before you arrive at the gym. If you’re preparing for your first competition, you’ll want to leave some items — like nail polish and jewelry — behind. From leotards to hand grips, this guide details gymnastics necessities.

Attire

Proper gymnastics attire allows you to move freely and comfortably. Follow these tips to find the right outfit:

Girls

You can’t go wrong with a leotard. Also referred to as a “bodysuit,” leotards come in just about every color, pattern, and material imaginable. While competitive gymnasts typically wear long-sleeved leotards at meets, sleeveless leotards are fine for practice.

Your gym may mandate particular attire. Otherwise, t-shirts, Spandex shorts, leggings, and tank tops are all good choices if you’re not the “leotard type.”

Boys

Hot Tip: Hands Off

Avoid adjusting your leotard mid-routine during a competition. Save it for when your routine’s over, or else you’ll lose one-tenth of a point.

In competition, athletes wear a singlet, coupled with shorts (for vault and floor) or pants (high bar, parallel bars, still rings, and pommel horse). In practice, you can keep it simple with a T-shirt or tank top and shorts.

Hair

Before you begin warming up, make sure your hair is in its proper place: Away from your face.

Girls

Bring your hair ties and bobby pins. Most gyms require that your hair be kept off of your face, and a ponytail is the simplest way to accomplish that look. Braid it, bun it, or tie it up however you want — but keep those stylish new bangs out of your eyes, at least for class.

If you’re a competitive gymnast, your coaches may require a specific hairstyle for the team. If not, one universal rule still applies: Keep your hair pulled back, and make sure it’s tidy. Hairspray, gel, and mousse help you achieve this goal.

Boys

Short hair doesn’t need adjustments. If you’re going for a rock star look, however, put that hair in a ponytail before you step into the gym.

Accessories

While the following accessories are not required for a successful gymnastics experience, you may find them helpful:

Girls

Swinging on the uneven bars can burn your hands, so some gymnasts wear palm guards for comfort. Palm guards have two finger holes, a strip of leather that runs across the palm, and a buckling strap on the wrist. However, even with the added protection, your hands can still rip.

Hot Tip: Tape Up

Along with your grips, don’t forget wrist bands. If your hands are prone to ripping, you’ll want to throw in a roll of athletic tape — no matter your gender.

Many advanced gymnasts wear dowel grips. These grips are similar in structure to palm guards, but extend from the base of the hand and up the fingers. They also include a small dowel that helps the gymnast grip onto the bar.

Consult your coach before purchasing a pair of grips, so you can learn the proper size and style to suit your needs.

Boys

If you’re a competitive gymnast starting to learn serious techniques, use dowel grips for the rings and high bar. Each apparatus requires a different kind of grip, though: Ring grips have two finger holes, while high bar grips have three. Again, talk to your coach before you whip out your wallet.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Leave the following items in your gym bag or at home:

  • Use of nail polish: At practice, you can wear all the nail polish you’d like. At a competition, however, you’d best bring nail polish remover, or else you’ll receive a deduction.
  • Hoop earrings and other jewelry: Jewelry isn’t a safe choice for practice, and it’s not allowed at competitions. If you want to show a touch of flair, competitive rules allow a single post earring in each ear. If you have a nose ring or other facial piercing, plug the hole with a clear piece of jewelry.
  • Leave the phone alone: Cell phones are great when calling for a ride home or keeping in touch with other gymnasts, but put it in your gym bag and leave it there. Not only is chatting and texting on your phone a distraction during practice, it’s also likely against gym rules.

Ready for Action

After reading this guide, you should have suitable clothing, appropriate hair-do, and proper grip know-how. Now it’s time to get in the gym and put it all to use!

The car horn honks and it's time to head to gymnastics. But before you run out the door, make sure you've packed these gym bag essentials.
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