We are all human. This is something that I can guarantee. Beyond that, I cannot make any promises. We have different preferences, activity patterns, and habits. Today we’re going to talk about sleep. While some schools of thought do not believe in chronotypes, we’re going to assume that holds true. Some people are morning larks, rising before the sun, while others are night owls, not resting until the sun comes up. Morning larks do their best work when they rise and night owls find themselves most productive in the late hours. Whichever one you are, you can apply healthy habits to help you approach the day’s challenges with a clear mind and a rested body.
The better we understand our bodies, the more informed our decision making will be. The data and decision points are infinite – from our optimal time for focus to our best time for efficiency and productivity to the overall chronology of our bodies, and more. In order to wrap our heads around that information and apply it to alter our current daily habits, we must first perform a self-examination. It's not easy, but we must be honest. We all have those evenings, "Oh, I'll just stay up a few more hours to finish this up, I will still get enough sleep," or "I'll set my alarm extra early tomorrow to finish the project or get an early workout in." Instead of thinking of sleep as a time that we are “wasting”, let's put sleep on our to-do list. We need to understand that rest is the foundation of our health, and the shorter we sleep, the less we live.
Now let's talk about sleep and professional athletes. While sleep is essential for every person, those of forgotten zzz’s are even more important for professional athletes. The facts: Negative consequences of sleep-deprived professional athletes:
increased injury risk
lactic acid buildup
decreased motor skills
poor decision making
loss of memory and creativity
slow mental recovery
We chatted with Ieva Adomaviciute of the Lithuanian National Rowing Team. As a career athlete, she knows a thing or two about sleep. She didn’t become a 2-time world junior champion, 2-time world champion in U23, world champion in 2018, and Division 1 athlete at Washington State University without a few strong sleep and lifestyle habits. We asked her to let us in on a few of her secrets that helped take her to the top. Are you a morning lark or night owl, and why?
I'm a morning lark. Waking up early is not an issue for me. Usually, I wake up around 7:00 AM without an alarm and start my morning. I have no idea how people can sleep till noon (laugh). Ieva, what is your routine on a regular day? What about on race days?
On practice days, I wake up, have breakfast consisting of oatmeal or eggs and, of course, COFFEE! Practice starts at 9:00 AM, so I try to be there 20-30 min before so I can warm up.
For race days, it always depends on what time the first race starts. Usually, if the start is later than 11:00 AM, I get in a small workout (biking or rowing) which is usually around 20-30 minutes. After, I have breakfast and get ready for the start, all while listening to music or a podcast. What healthy habits have you created to maximize your day during the regular season? What about during championship weeks?
During races I pay close attention to my eating habits. I try to eat more nourishing foods that digest easily, so I wouldn't feel heavy. I also try to read more, spend less screen time, and take long walks, that’s assuming I still have energy left after workouts. During the regular season I let myself go off the strict diet. The importance is balance. What is your evening routine like? How do you prepare for sleep?
During the season training I try to go to sleep around 10:00 PM. Maybe that's why I wake up early. Sleep has a huge impact on my training. If I don't get enough sleep, I instantly feel off in the morning practices; my mood and energy levels are definitely not where they should be. On days when I have two training sessions, I try to take a nap before my second practice, to rest and get my strengths back so I can perform. Before bed I like to read or watch videos. What have you learned from past experiences in the championships? Any funny or weird stories?
I don't have any funny or weird stories, but I definitely learned one lesson last year. At the beginning of the season we were going to the International championship and as usual we needed to assemble the boat before races. That morning we mixed up some parts of the boat and as you can imagine we did not have the best start in the first race. The time difference wasn't that much off, but we felt that something wasn't right. And then after a couple of days we realized what was wrong. So, a good lesson learned - always double check and make sure everything is right. What habits would you suggest for our readers to apply in their lives? What have you used in your years as an athlete? How have these habits changed your life and career?
To create strong, lasting habits is very challenging, and to start bad habits it's very easy. I think one of the good strategies is to create a goal and work towards it. When you have a clear goal, you need to fight to reach it and don’t stop until you do. If you stop halfway once, that can become a habit as well. What are some fun facts about your routine?
Before races I like to clean, sew (yes, I sew!), do my eyebrows, fold my clothes, and any other distracting activity to take my mind off racing. Do you log any training data? If so, what in particular?
Yes, for a long time now I have been keeping training journals. Sometimes when the season ends I forget to keep up with it, but during the season I make it a habit to write it. I record all my practices, sometimes food when I need to lose some weight, but to document every meal and its weight becomes a little too much. In developing your training habits, were you influenced by anyone in particular?
Habits develop themselves. When I keep doing something that I like for a long time, it becomes a habit and I don't even think about it. The hardest is to create new habits that are difficult, for example to stop snacking late in the evening. (laugh). I'm very curious about sports psychology, nutrition, and other subjects that can help me to become a better athlete and reach better results. I also listen to different podcasts featuring professional athletes, coaches and researchers. The knowledge piles up over the years. I think I’ve learned a lot, but there is always room to grow. Do you train any differently during the off season?
Yes, during off season time I let myself relax, go to sleep a little bit later, and hang out with my friends more. Because the off time is only 2 to 3 weeks, I let myself take advantage of it. Then later we come back to practices, training camps, working out a couple times a day and I get back to my usual habits. That's when I feel the best!