Energy Conservation and Management for High Performance


By Dr. Jim Bauman, special contributor


In previous articles, we talked about the services and role of a sport psychologist in swimming, and three of the seven High Performance Strategies. This article will briefly describe the fourth strategy – ENERGY CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT

Swimming is an endurance sport. Endurance athletes need a lot of fuel (calories) to train and compete. Therefore, it is important to know the best fuel and how much fuel you need to meet the demands of your events. These are great questions for your nutritionist and they are helpful resources for how to “fuel for sport.” However, another important consideration is HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FUEL and ARE YOU SPENDING IT WISELY? Who helps you with this?

Your “hardware” (body) makes up about 98% of your total body weight, and it consumes about 80% of your daily calories. Your coaches help you use that energy wisely by teaching you the best stroke biomechanics and race plan strategies. If you maintain your stroke biomechanics and race your plan, you will burn your energy efficiently. 

Your “software” (brain) is about 2% of your body weight, but it consumes about 20% of your calories each day! What!!!! My brain burns up that much energy? Yes…it does!


So, how do you spend that precious energy (glucose) more efficiently? When you swim, faster stroke rates burn up more energy. Have you ever “gone out too fast” and maybe found an energy shortage at the end of the race? The same thing can happen in the brain. The more you task your brain (stroke rate) with decision-making, multi-tasking, worrying, and processing other emotions, the faster you burn up your energy levels. It takes more energy to shift your attention from task to task or emotion to emotion than it does to just focus on the task at hand. Think about all the demands you place on your brain every day – swimming, maybe school, career changes, relationships, money, health, schedule changes, social media, and that crazy device that we seem to have become so responsive to every ring, buzz, or vibration: our smart phones. 

The more we tax our brain, the more we burn up that precious energy supply. Conserve energy by organizing your day, your mind, keeping things simple, and, just for the heck of it, take a break from that increasingly demanding electronic drain game. When you do this, you will get more done and feel less mentally exhausted. For those of you preparing for the Olympic Trials and the Games, by simplifying and organizing your sport and personal life, more effectively managing your electronic life, and learning to say “no”…just for a little while… you will be rewarded by enjoying a “software package” (brain) that will be fresh, clear, energized, and ready to compete. 
For more information about plyability, as well as techniques to teach this strategy: Contact Dr. Jim Bauman at 434.987.2918 and/or drjimbauman@gmail.com.