A GYROTONIC® Master Trainer’s Perspective on Training with Olympic Runners

Blog Content Featured Testimonial Tips for Trainers // December 21, 2021

Gyrotonic Master Trainer, Erika Parisi, has first-hand experience with and insights into working with athletes. She comes from a dance background and began working with Olympic runner Steven Solomon nearly two years before the 2021 games in Tokyo. She shares her approach to working at this level with a professional runner and how other athletes and trainers might consider their approaches as well.
ERIKA’S PERSPECTIVE (read Steven’s perspective, here).

Erika Parisi

It’s important to say that I am incredibly passionate about sports and the Olympics. I have been watching since I was a young girl, and I always admired athletes who worked really hard to get to the highest level. I’ve been around professional athletes and dancers all my life, and then I had the privilege to work with them since the beginning of my career with the Gyrotonic Method 12 years ago, in Rome.

When I met Steven, I was so curious and happy to have again an opportunity to work closely with an athlete and show how the Gyrotonic Method can contribute to his improvement and recovery. Athletes aim for perfection, like dancers. That perfection can be a 10th of second running faster; a higher elevation for a jump; a better balance when they hit a ball. All of them aim to get at their best during each training session, whether it is: gym, a run, a match, a dance class, or a Gyrotonic session.
The first question I had in mind for Steven was: “How can I help him for the 10th of second that he is asking for?” The Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis work is so versatile. I’ve been practicing  for 16 years, and I’m still learning so much from the 2 methods.
I have so many tools that it’s hard to use all of them in an hour. So, how can I help an Olympic runner?
Steven is an athlete with a full training schedule: he does gym to strengthen the muscles; he has his running coach optimizing his technique; he has his physiotherapist for a treatment if he gets injured; and more. I quickly understood that I needed to provide something different to complete the picture.
His body and joints are compressed from all the gym and running which makes his spine stiffer every session. Of course, this is what he needs to do to compete at Olympic level. That’s why my role is to help him to recover and reverse this process without letting him loose the strength and speed he gains during his training.
Therefore, I start his sessions with an unwinding, resetting, approach. Once his body and mind are in relaxed mode, he is ready to receive the Gyrotonic movement directions. This means, he will be able to absorb and incorporate all my explanations and use it during his next gym or running session, adding something new which could be the key to his 10 percent of a second.
How? Breathing, actively relaxing, small movement patterns and spinal motion. Every movement was super small at the beginning. He was coming from a few injuries and I needed to understand how his body was reacting to his training sessions and how I could give him a gentle approach. Creating space in his body was one of the keys.
The most beautiful thing to watch was his body loving the new inputs and trying to recreate them naturally. Steven is special, he is a really clever guy, not just an athlete projected to his goal, but he looks at things in a spherical way. He follows my directions step by step, he is always 100% listening and working towards my instructions, we never waste time in our sessions. Maybe it sounds normal, but it’s not. This was happening years ago with the tennis players I worked with, they are 100% focused, and their improvements were fast and incredible to watch. This makes my teaching so enjoyable and fulfilling.
Steven and I tried a few different approaches and we noticed that we could not have a session with Gyrotonic work as a warm-up (this is really different for dancers), he needed to have a session on his day off or after his gym day. His lower back especially needed some time to incorporate the new information, and then sleep on it to use the day after.
Small changes can be a problem too, so it’s always good to try them away from big events. It’s beautiful to see how Steven’s body loves all the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis movements, anything that looked really hard for him at the beginning started to become natural, session after session. Runners have really stiff spines. The more we were mobilizing his spine, the more the rest of the body was following gently and happily towards a new organic way of moving. Then, he was able to run more freely and achieve his best during his running sessions.
I think this is a universal law for a teacher: if your student trusts you, you can make them push their limits, into what we call in the Gyrotonic Method, “the beyond”. I’ve learned so much from my experience with Steven, and it has been incredible personal growth. The more he lets me try new things, the more I am learning. I’m looking forward to this mutual learning process towards Paris 2024.
My advice to athletes and dancers: try this method, find a teacher to connect well with, open your mind and let your teacher guide you. Set out to achieve your goals in many different ways, allowing your training sessions to be an exploration into new possibilities, step by step.
For Teachers: ask your students about their body history before their first session. Ask if they have past injuries and let them write you an email with details. Make your own research and be prepared when you meet them. During your session together, observe your client attentively, check what is easy and what needs more time. Listen to their feedback and try new ways each time to stimulate the body.
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Erika is Owner and Director of Spiral Motion Studio in Sydney, Australia. You can read Steven Solomon’s perspective on finding the Gyrotonic Method, here.
Be sure to check these other articles about the Gyrotonic Method for high level athletes:

How the GYROTONIC® Method Can Improve Training For High Level Athletes

World-Class Badminton Player Chou Tien Chen on the GYROTONIC® Method

The GYROTONIC® Interview Series: With Professional Diver, Melanie Rinaldi

The GYROTONIC® Interview Series – Up Your Game