Monthly Archives: September 2013

Teens, Sleep Deprivation and Morning Swim Practices

I know that a lot of coaches will disagree with my message in this blog. And if they don’t, they should. I’ll explain why at the end.
Almost every serious swim team holds many morning practices a week for their older swimmers. Usually at least 4, sometimes 5 or even 6. And they start as early as 5:30 am. This means that swimmers are getting up between 4:30 and 5:00 am in order to get there.  It’s all part of swimming, right? Getting used to early mornings, sleep deprivation, falling asleep in classes?
The problem is that study after study shows that teens need more sleep than adults (see here, and here). In fact the studies show that they need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/4 hours a night. If we work backwards from this, they would have to go to bed the night before at roughly 8 pm.  And yet they will only get home from afternoon practice at 6 pm at the earliest, and they still have to eat and do homework. Forget about leisure time. Now imagine that this happens almost every weekday night for the whole school year.
Here’s the next problem. Studies also show that adolescents are more alert at 10 pm than they are during the day. It’s just the way their developing brains work (see here). So it’s almost impossible for an adolescent to even be able to go to sleep at 8 pm, assuming they were done all of their homework.
So what? So they’re a little tired during the day. We all are. They’ll get used to it, right?
No. Other studies on sleep and school marks have shown a consistent pattern. Moving school start times ahead one hour results in lower marks in everything from math to English. Moving them back one hour results in higher marks. (See here and here).
Sleep deprivation also affects swim performance as sleep helps to aid muscle tissue repairs, improving recovery before the next practice.  A pattern of too little sleep means that the body just can’t repair itself fully for the next practice. Chronic sleep deficit can and does result in overtraining (see here).
What a nice combination this turns out to be. Too many early morning practices, leading to sleep deprivation, causing lower school marks and the possibility of over training. And this is absolutely the norm in almost every serious swim team out there. While I’m sure not every swimmer is affected exactly like this, the information would indicate that many are.
What is our team doing about this?
More or less we’re shooting for moderation, with some uncommon twists thrown in there.
We have 2 morning practices a week for our Seniors. Wednesdays and Fridays. They start at 6 am, not 5:30 am. This gives us 90 minutes, which is more than enough to get in some good training.
Now I realize that two mornings may not be as much training as swimmers need to reach their potential. So we also have 2 morning dryland sessions a week, to be done by the swimmer at their house. The dryland is designed to take 30-45 minutes, which means they only have to get up 30-45 minutes earlier than normal. It is heavily geared towards core, but also includes some cord work to develop arm strength.
We also have a third dryland session to be done by the swimmer some time on the weekend, preferably Sunday.
So why should most coaches disagree with me?
Because they put their swimmers through many early morning practices, and apparently don’t believe that it causes sleep deprivation, lower school marks, or a chance of overtraining. They wouldn’t put their swimmers through this if they thought I was right.
I’d love to start a discussion with the coaches out there about this.

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We have a new home in the web!

As many of you may know, we had problems with our previous hosting company, GoDaddy. After some upgrades to their infrastructure our site was completely broken, and after a week of calling and tracking incident tickets, the problem was not fixed. For that reason we decided to move and we have a new hosting provider and a different web site building tool that is more modern and easy to use, which gives us more flexibility to communicate with our growing audience. We want this web site to be a useful tool for everybody that is involved with the team and we are committed to do our best to achieve our goal.

At the same time, remember that we are not professional web page designers so please indulge us some growing pains as we learn and make mistakes. We would like to know your opinion and suggestions, so we will open comments to be able to get your feedback, and to determine if we can keep the comment functionality enabled.

Third Week Report – How are we doing?

We’re into our third week of the new season, and everything looks great. The numbers are fantastic. We’re already at the numbers we finished with last year, and we’ve only just started the season. We also have quite a few new swimmers and some new early level coaches. Lots of smiling faces on the pool deck.

We’ve also had some hiccups. GoDaddy had some problems with their hosting service, and so our mightytritons.org web site has been down for almost a week now. This has definitely not helped us during the registration season. Thank you to everyone for being so patient.

Early season is a time for technique
I know that everybody wants to get in the water and swim FAST. I know that. But NOW is the time to work on your technique. We need to develop and groove good strokes at the start of the season, so that our muscles remember good technique all the way through the year. This should be your primary goal at this point in the season.

You may be wondering why some early level swimmers can swim fast with poor technique. Those young swimmers are really just taking advantage of some natural physical skills, and they would be even faster with better technique. But as swimmers get older and the competition gets faster, good technique becomes more and more important. At the highest levels, everybody has very good technique. So you might as well develop it now and get an advantage on everybody else.

Time for conditioning
Wait! I just said this is the time for technique. How can it be the time for conditioning also?

This is easy. As anybody in my group knows, an 800 IM Drills repeat with an intense focus on technique is incredibly tiring. Both mentally and physically. The same is …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog