Swimmers are constantly on the verge of sleep deprivation. It takes focus and no small amount of discipline to get to bed at an appropriate time before every morning practice, of which there are many. Swimmers see 3 to 4 sunrises per week, often warming up in the dark before dawn. It is difficult to get up early and work your tail off in the pool at 5 a.m., but it is even harder if you aren’t getting your proper shut-eye. Your sleep habits can alter your perceived exertion, your attitude, and ultimately, your performance at the end of the season. Let’s discuss the three most important sleeping habits that you can adopt now to boost your recovery, your energy, and your racing.
Set Sleep Deadlines
We all set alarms to wake ourselves up (no one rises naturally for morning practice 3 times per week), so why not set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed? Until you can claim the discipline to get consistent and adequate sleep every night, this tool will come in handy. The tasks you perform prior to bedtime may not be executed in your most productive hour. If you have a busy night, setting an alarm to remind yourself to stop working and go to sleep can help you stay on task for a precise amount of time. With a more rigid bedtime, your work efficiency may improve. For those who simply take awhile getting ready for bed, calculate how much additional time you need prior to sleeping and factor in your new “stop doing what your doing and go to bed” time. For example, if you take 30 minutes to decompress, read, pack up for the next day, etc., and you’d like to go to sleep at 11p.m., your bedtime alarm needs to go off at 10:30pm.
Mentally Check Out
This is one of the few times in your day when you can and should mentally check out. Sleep is a restful period when the day’s learning is consolidated into memory. This includes everything from classroom learning to the training your muscles underwent in practice. Committing your technical skills to memory through sleep sounds easy, but getting your mind to turn off can be difficult. To establish a restful state of mind, slow down your activities prior to bed. Read a book instead of browsing social media, listen to softer music, or reduce your TV time. When you’re preoccupied with something coming up the next day, write it down on a piece of paper so you can let your mind relax its grip.
Play Catch Up
Inevitably, you will run into nights of low-quality or low-quantity sleep. When this occurs, you need to create as much space as you can in the following days to catch up on your sleep. Make it a goal to set aside time for a 30-minute nap the day following a rough night of sleep. You may not have time to recuperate the exact amount you lost, but naps can get you back on track for a good practice the next day. Keep a journal of how much sleep you get from night to night to help yourself in this endeavor.
Sleep is your number one tool for recovery, and it colors everything that happens during wakefulness. Discover more of BridgeAthletic’s tools for successful sleep here.
BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.
About Nick Folker
Nick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology. The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.
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