- Local swimmers reflect on the challenges of early morning practices
- Morning practices are especially difficult during the school year
- Swimmers know that the extra hard work will ultimately pay off
The before: the Arroyo Grande High School pool at 5:45 am at the start of morning practice.
It chills your bones. It forces your muscles to turn to concrete. It makes you feel like you are about to collapse for the rest of the day.
“It” is early morning practice, and in the world of swimming, it’s what separates the pretenders from the contenders.
Two to four times per week, swimmers across the nation get up to the sound of their alarm clocks and force themselves out of bed well before dawn. They travel to a nearby pool, often in the face of chilling winds, and do something that seems a little bit crazy to the average person.
They undress, and wearing nothing more than a swimsuit, jump into a pool of freezing cold water. Then they swim a full workout before heading off to school.
Swimmers in the San Luis Obispo area are no exception to this seemingly insane ritual. Members of the Puma Aquatics swim team and San Luis Obispo Swim Club testified to the challenges of getting up and going for a swim well before the sun comes up.
“Morning practice is very difficult because I have to get up early, and it’s mentally tough,” Puma Aquatics swimmer Zachary Stevens said. “Then I feel like I have to fall asleep afterwards.”
“It takes a lot of will to get out of bed, and then jump into a pool,” San Luis Obispo Swim Club swimmer Eric Erbstoesser said.
Getting up so early is especially difficult during the school year. Homework assignments, projects, and two and half hour afternoon practices usually combine to make for many late nights. Many swimmers don’t get to bed until around 11:00 pm, and have to wake up about six hours later, which is well below the recommended amount of sleep, especially for teenagers.
“Its’ a lot more difficult during school, because I’m up late at night, and there’s just a lot more stuff going on,” Erbstoesser said.
It’s not just getting up early that makes morning practice so difficult. The elements also play a role.
“It gets really cold,” Stevens said.
But morning practice isn’t all bad.
A level of satisfaction can be gleaned from getting up early and getting in some good hard work. Doing double practices helps build a larger aerobic and anaerobic base, which will almost always lead to faster times at the end of the season. Early practices also help swimmers get used to swimming fast in the mornings, which is when most swim meets are held.
The after: once morning practice is over, it's time for the day to begin.
“I enjoy it because I know the hard work will contribute to my success in swimming,” Stevens said.
Morning swimming workouts also help build comradery amongst teammates. After experiencing something so challenging together, swimmers forge bonds and become better teammates, and friends.
But despite these perks, early morning workouts are not something that very many swimmers look forward to. The mere idea of getting out of a warm bed after only a few hours of sleep and jumping into a pool sounds crazy enough. Actually doing it is simply bordering on psychotic.
But in the pursuit of excellence, sacrifices always have to be made.
“Basically, your performance at your taper meet is directly related to the number of rings under your eyes,” Puma Aquatics swimmer Peter Malouf said.