As we near the end of the academic year, swimming is just beginning to pick up steam. Preparing for final exams and projects can be difficult when swimmers need to travel for competitions and focus on racing. In order to be effective in both the classroom and the pool, let’s discuss how to better manage stress.
Ever feel exhausted on a stressful day? Stress is as much a physical reaction as it is a perceived psychological one. The same human stress reaction that occurs during life-threatening situations actually engages during your everyday stresses. The stress hormone, known as cortisol, is necessary for certain biological processes, such as helping your body wake in the morning and inducing a higher state of arousal during an important event. When cortisol is released by the adrenal glands, it can healthily diminish if a “fight or flight” response occurs. Luckily for swimmers, regular cardio exercise mimics that “flight” effect and brings this hormone level down.
When a person is chronically stressed, such as by schoolwork, cortisol levels remain high. This causes a number of negative effects on your body, including but not limited to muscle tension or pain, headaches, weight gain, problems sleeping, lower immune function, and lower bone density. Anxiety, inability to focus, and depression can also arise if cortisol levels are left unchecked.
When it comes to managing stress, a good way to handle all your tasks is to write them down on paper. Getting your list in a physical form will help you remember everything. Prioritize your work by doing the hardest task when you are the most alert (don’t save the tough homework for after practice). If you anticipate travel, get as far ahead on schoolwork beforehand, and bring work to do on the plane. However, when you are at a meet, be in the moment with your swimming and do not dwell on other tasks. Learning how to compartmentalize your thoughts will help you for the entirety of your student-athlete career!
Above all, recognize stress as a drain on your physical and mental energy and a red flag that something in your daily life may be out of balance. Once you identify what part of your life is causing trouble, change your behavior by removing the stressor or by learning how to better manage your time. Stress is a natural part of being human, but athletes can notice a more visceral effect because their performances are easily measurable. Start managing stress better today so your training and racing can benefit from it this summer!
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.
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.