5 Things I’m Learning as a Pro Athlete in Quarantine
June 3, 2020
With all this free time, I’ve spent a solid amount of time trying to learn about anything that could potentially give me an edge in the realm of performance and competition. At the world level every individual is elite and it’s the small details that can give you the biggest advantage. Sleep performance has never been my strong suit and has been one aspect of my preparation that has needed improvement over the last several years. Why? Sleep performance is vital when it comes to mental and physical recovery, which can be the difference between a win or a loss, increasing a 5-7 point lead to an 8-10 point lead, 10 points being a tech fall, match over. I’ve read research articles on how sleep impacts performance, listened to podcast, and even purchased a product that will help me track my sleep throughout the night and records what I’ve done during the day that could affect my sleep.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
There are 4 stages of sleep our bodies go through during the night. Wake, light sleep, REM sleep, and Deep sleep. Being an athlete REM sleep and DEEP sleep are the most important to me because they are the 2 stages of sleep where physical and mental recovery happen. The more I can increase the amount REM sleep and DEEP sleep I have during the night the more recovered I’ll be the following day, which means more I can get out of my training. One day may not be a big difference, but if I can get 2% better than I would’ve with less sleep over the course of the year, it starts to mean something.
DEEP sleep is the “physically restorative” stage of sleep which is huge for athletes. This is the stage of sleep where your brain waves are the slowest which is why it also referred to as (SWS) slow-wave sleep. Now I didn’t know any of this before quarantine but what was really interesting was finding out that this stage of sleep is when 95% of human growth hormone is produced. Lifted, ran, or put your body through hell? This stage of sleep is what builds up your broken down muscles and in order to get the most potential gains from what you’ve done during the day, getting a good amount of deep sleep is mad important.
REM Sleep is known as rapid eye movement sleep which is actually the stage of sleep that follows deep sleep. It’s the “mentally restorative” stage of sleep and its when the brain is most active. REM sleep is also where dreams occur and where your brain turns short term memories into long term memories. Now, why is this important for athletes? Let’s say you’ve watched film, gone over new technique, or listened to a podcast on sports performance, this stage of sleep is where your brain stores and retains that information. On top of that, the more recovered your brain is the better reaction time you have, the faster you can process what you see in competition and direct your body to make the right movement, step, or reaction to stay a step ahead rather than lagging behind.
How to increase sleep with this thing called “Sleep Consistency.” I learned that going to bed and waking up at similar times each day helps your body anticipate sleep. When your body anticipates sleep it can start to prepare for bed rather than trying to have to guess your sleep schedule when it’s inconsistent. The more consistent you are with your sleep schedule the more you can increase the amount of time your body spends in REM sleep and DEEP sleep which means more recovery than your competitors who don’t have a consistent sleep schedule. Which means improved performance.
Back Hygiene may have nothing to do with sleep but for wrestlers its extremely important. Stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, and having strong core stability can make a massive difference. This I already knew but what I learned is that hydration can play a huge role in back hygiene as well. Our discs that sit in between our vertebrae are made up of over 80% water, the rest is made up of different collagen type proteins. That being said when you’re cutting weight and trying to sweat a few pounds off, your body pulls from the more water-dense areas of the body. When you are less hydrated your disc shrink in size and although that may not seem like a big difference, the small bit of vertebral stability and support can matter a lot over the long haul. So stay hydrated.
I’ve gathered a lot this quarantine and these 5 bullet points have been the most helpful when it comes to training and recovery. I hope this helps and that you were able to get something out of it, if you already knew it, dope, even better. Hope everyone’s staying safe, God bless and talk soon.
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