By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, May 7, 2018
Every Monday, I answer questions emailed to me from swimmers around the country. If you have a question you’d like answered, please email me with your question at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll try my best to answer them.
How big of an impact can morning practices have, and how many do you recommend to go to per week?
Hey Questioning Mornings,
Every coach and every team is different. This question is probably best for your coach to answer, since your coach knows you and your team best.
However, I would like to share my own experience with you, as I may have had a more unorthodox relationship with morning practices:
I was a night owl. Always was. For me, I just couldn’t do morning practices. Though I trained well in the afternoon and at night, I had terrible morning practices. I was always, always tired. I could never get enough sleep. I was grumpy. My morning practices were slow. Over the course of the season, I really disliked morning practices so much that I wanted to quit altogether.
One day, I finally sat down with my coach and said, “These morning practices just aren’t working for me. I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m always tired. I can’t swim well in the afternoon.” I basically had nothing to lose, because I hadn’t dropped time in a few years, was on a plateau, and was generally unhappy in the sport itself. He agreed that what we were doing just wasn’t working for me, and we came up with a plan: Every fifth practice, I would skip that practice and instead nap. That was my practice: to go home and nap.
Now, before every single swimmer reading this article prints it out and shows it to a swim coach (and before every swim coach in America sends me an angry email) I just want to explain a little more:
The deal was, I had to sleep. I couldn’t skip practice and hang out with friends. I couldn’t go home and do homework or take a walk. I had to sleep. That was my “practice.” And, the rest of the swim practices I attended had to be spectacular. I was fully expected to have great, great practices every single time.
So what happened?
That season was the best season of my life, and that year, I finally dropped loads and loads of time.
I was sleeping.
I was happy.
And because I was happy, I was able to enjoy swimming, swim hard, and swim passionately.
Every swimmer is different, Questioning Mornings. Some teams have to train mornings because they can’t find pool time. Some teams really believe in mornings. More power to them. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that morning practices are not the end-all, be-all of this sport. I had the best year of my life when I stopped swimming in the mornings six days a week. I still swam mornings — a few a week — but I was able to sleep more. And when I was finally able to sleep and recover, I was mentally and physically able to commit all my heart and soul to the afternoon practices, I dropped a lot of time, and most importantly, finally enjoyed the process.I hope this helps.