With another school year here – seriously, where did this year go? – comes another bout of the juggling that happens between a swimmer’s training & competition schedule and their schoolwork.
For those attending college this fall, the expectation is that for every hour of classwork that is done you will be studying an additional two hours outside of the classroom on your own. With a full time class schedule of 15 hours, plus the expected 30 hours of studying, this comes in at a hefty 45 hours.
(Expectation doesn’t necessarily correlate with what is happening however. Research has shown studying output has dropped dramatically in recent decades to an average of 15 hours of studying per week. Thanks, Google!)
And then there is the training. Whether it is 6, 7, or 11 sessions per week (plus meets!), the 1-2 punch of school and swimming can be overwhelming for anyone who hasn’t taken a little bit of time to manage their time properly.
Here are 6 tips for maintaining a balance and achieving big in your bathing suit and in your nerding:
1. Plan your time. Student-athletes get overwhelmed when their schedule gets away from them. Instead of planning out their time so that they can make the most effective use of it, they are in a constant reactive state, forced to react to things as they happen. Plan your week and days so that you can make the most of your time. Plot out sections of distraction-free time specifically for studying and stick to them.
2. Identify the time leaks. If you find that your days are still too short for the swimming and schooling combination do a time inventory of your day. For a few days write out a detailed log of your day. Write down everything. The 15 minutes on the bus, 40 minutes hitting the snooze button, the hour watching TV, the 39 minutes spent on Facebook, and the 45 minute shower in the morning. You might think that there is no time to be carved out, but you will never truly know until you sit down and write out exactly what you are doing over the course of the day.
3. Learn to say no. For those athletes who are leaving home for the first time, and are in the midst of a new social situation, the pull of new friends and new social interactions can be excruciating to say no to. But it is something you will have to learn how to do. There will be nights where the rest of the team is going on a social outing, but you still have an 8-page paper due the following morning.
4. Go distraction free. Want to finish your studying twice as fast? Put your cell phone away. Promise yourself that you can check it after a set amount of time, or after the task is completed. Similarly, test out what works best for you in terms of a studying environment. Having roommates or lots going around you hampers your focus on the task at hand.
5. Make time for sleepy time. Rest is usually the first thing that gets thrown out the window when we feel that our time is starting to get away from us. Between all night study sessions and early morning workouts, sleep can start to feel like it is getting in the way. But besides the whole helping-your-body-recover-from-training aspect, a lack of sleep is also linked to heightened blood pressure, decreased creativity (gonna need that for paper writing!), and impaired memory (that sounds important). Also, in purely unscientific studies it’s been shown that a lack of sleep can make people into jerks. And nobody likes a jerk.
6. Ask for help when you need it. Often our pride doesn’t allow us to raise our hand until it is almost too late. Instead of waiting for the fire to be out of control, spot the trouble patches early and reach out to your coach, or teachers and let them know that you need some help. Many collegiate teams have dedicated academic assistance, so take advantage of it when the need arises.
ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY
He’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.
It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.
Ready to take your mindset to the next level?