OPTIMIZE YOUR EFFORT
By Katie Hoff and Todd Anderson
As an Olympic athlete, I get asked a lot of questions. The biggest one is usually, “Wow, that must have required so much sacrifice. How did you do it?” The answer is simple- “By consistently being DIALED into every detail.” The best athletes aren’t just dialed into efforts in the pool. They are focused on optimizing everything in their life that will contribute to their success. Because, let’s face it, when you swim a best time, break a record or win a big time race, all that effort doesn’t feel like sacrifice…. it just feels worth it.
This couldn’t be more true. The hours, the meters, the time and the grit it takes to be the best at your sport is hard to wrap your head around. In this article, I want to discuss how to make the most of these efforts. Why would you waste a drop of sweat? The things we can do to optimize training in AND out of the pool.. We’ve all heard the saying, “work smarter not harder” and I am going to share how to train the smartest and hardest simultaneously for the best possible outcome.
Sleep- I cannot overstate this…you cannot overcome being sleep deprived. No matter how good you think you feel, no matter what times you swim, both could be better with optimal sleep. The research could not be more clear. Being under-slept makes your body work systemically harder. When you are under slept, your blood pressure is higher, resting heart rate is increased, perceived exertion increases..all the things we want to avoid and coincidentally all things that we want the exact opposite of.
Sleep affects every single system in the body and it needs to be an absolute priority. 7 hours of sleep is the bare minimum for an adult to perform at an optimal level from both a physical and cognitive standpoint. Most young athletes need more than those 7 hours especially with added activity. The rise and grind days are over…take care of your body, take care of your brain and set your crosshairs on an airtight sleep schedule. Along with sleep duration, your sleep schedule can have a significant impact on your performance. Rule of thumb is to try to keep your wake time and bed time within 1 hour of each other everyday.
Obviously not everything is in our control but this allows us the perfect alignment between our circadian rhythm and sleep drive cycles. These cycles need to be like Bonnie and Clyde…always aligned and having each other’s back. We do this by being consistent with our wake and sleep times in addition to our exposure to light. Direct sunlight first thing in the morning and limited light exposure in the evening can be a weapon to combat sleep issues.
Often the worst thing you can do is nothing even though that is going to be the tempting instinct here especially after a long week of training. Recovery can also be proactive. Not only are you recovering from a prior workload but preparing yourself for the next challenge. Some things that are helpful I recommend incorporating (we will save protocols and planning for another day) cold exposure, sauna, massage, compression, soft tissue work and strategic fueling.
Strength Training & Dryland
Basically just do a bunch of curls so you look good on race day. Kidding….strength training is vital to help support and accelerate your performance. The key word being “support.” Do not get it twisted, swimming is the #1 priority. Strength training should be designed in a way to increase performance over time without decreasing performance from your practices day to day. Our (Synergy Dryland) strength training programs consist of the following: soft tissue maintenance, dynamic warmup, activation, neural prep, power and strength. Each serves a purpose, we don’t do things just to do them. Efficiency is a big key since most athletes are juggling extra curriculars, practice, dryland, school and time with family and friends.
We all understand nutrition plays an enormous role both in and out of the pool. In general we follow some simple/basic rules:
– No skipping meals, this is essential for energy levels and recovery
– Whole foods are generally better than supplements. Supplement where needed after consulting with a dietitian or doctor as everyone has different needs/deficiencies
– Variety is key, eat a wide spectrum of colors due to the different nutrients they possess
– Have a plan around your busy schedule…be consistent around your workouts. Never try a new strategy on meet day. Use the same protocols throughout training to prime your body.
Understand when your body needs to be shut down. We feel like we should tough through it but that isn’t always the right answer. In general if you are experiencing redness and inflammation in a certain area that is a sign something significant could be going on. The type of pain you are experiencing can also be a sign. General aches and soreness is normal when pushing yourself. Sharp pains can point to a problem or a snowballing pain that gets worse over time could be a sign to get checked out by a doctor and communicate with your coach. Error on the side of caution…2 days off just to make sure everything is good to go can easily be overcome…keep pushing to the point of an injury and you might as well kiss that season goodbye or upcoming big meet. Trust your gut.
These buckets all seem pretty straightforward and simple. But life happens, curveballs are thrown and the athletes who are able to stay consistent daily are the ones who optimize the effort they are putting in. You are already spending the same amount of time at the pool no matter what so why not maximize that time?? The confidence you feel standing behind the blocks, KNOWING you squeezed every last drop out of your sacrifice and efforts is unparalleled to anything else. However, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Make small adjustments and commit to one aspect in each bucket that feels sustainable. If you’re overwhelmed, it won’t happen long term.
Give it a shot and good luck!
Dae Yun Seo, SungRyul Lee, Nari Kim, Kyung Soo Ko, Byoung Doo Rhee, Byung Joo Park, JinHan, Morning and evening exercise, Integrative Medicine Research, Volume 2, Issue 4, 2013, Pages 139-144, ISSN 2213-4220,
Abstract: A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise may contribute to preventing pathological changes, treating multiple chronic diseases, and reducing mortality and morbidity ratios. Scientific evidence moreover shows that exercise plays a key role in improving health- related physical fitness components and hormone function. Regular exercise training is one of the few strategies that has been strictly adapted in healthy individuals and in athletes. However, time-dependent exercise has different outcomes, based on the exercise type, duration, and hormone adaptation. In the present review, we therefore briefly describe the type, duration, and adaptation of exercise performed in the morning and evening. In addition, we discuss the clinical considerations and indications for exercise training. Keywords: circadian rhythm; evening exercise; hormone; morning exe