By Coach Kiersten, SR2.
It is well known that 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is beneficial to maintaining a positive mood as well as reducing stress. However, what if this exercise, ie competitive summer swimming, is the source of your stress?! It is usually around this point in the season where the pressure starts to build as Regionals and Provincials near and the time frame to meet one’s goals diminishes. Here are some ways to help overcome this stress:
- Trust the process: Improvements in swimming do not happen linearly and are different for each swimmer. For some they can improve during times of hard training, whereas others (myself included) become stuck and unable to drop time until they are fully rested. Neither one is better or worse, but for those of you who are starting to worry about not seeing enough improvements, remember that the only “rested” meets of the season are Regionals and Provincials. Right now what matters most is putting the effort into training.
- Eat well and get enough sleep: Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are good for both physical performance as well as mental health. The food we eat is what fuels the body and mind; by eating fruits and vegetables, low glycemic index carbs, healthy fats, and limiting the amount of caffeine consumed you are providing your body the means to function optimally. Additionally, sleep has a vicious relationship with stress. Too much stress and it interferes with your sleep, not enough sleep and you can become more easily stressed. The best way to overcome this cycle is to cut it off at its source by getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night, following a routine (getting to sleep and waking at the same time every day), and taking other measures to reduce stress such as relaxing before bed, and turning off your phone/computer at least one hour before bed.
- Do relaxation exercises: Lastly, relaxation exercises can be beneficial to quiet an anxious mind. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood; through meditation or purposeful thinking you are able to focus on the present rather than the past or future worries. Box breathing is another helpful technique to instantly relax, inhale for 3-5 seconds then hold your breath for 2-4 seconds then exhale for 3-5 seconds and hold for another 2-4 seconds. Repeat this cycle until you feel yourself calming down. This is also a great exercise for behind the blocks!
These techniques should help to manage stress, but also remember you can talk to your coach! They have all been through it themselves and are the ones who created the season plan. Therefore, they are the best ones to discuss your worries with and see whether you are on track to meet your goals!