Sleep is not just about spending time in bed under the covers. Sleep restores the body, and the mind too. Without enough sleep, athletes can’t function at their best. It’s as critical as eating well or exercising for a healthy body, yet sleep doesn’t often get the importance that it deserves in our understanding of performance.
It’s often thought that we can cut sleep short. If there’s a big school assignment, a late night practice, or even just a restless evening, sleep is the first thing to go for many of us. We can do without that extra hour right? Especially in the age of electronics, sleep can get cut short in favor of a myriad of things.
For athletes, this is a big factor. Top performers know how much sleep they need, and they make sure to balance it. Whether you are aiming for the Olympics or simply want to be your best fencing in the club, sleep is a key ingredient.
Another illness is on the horizon for the winter months – influenza. Though we are living in a brave new world of disease prevention awareness, we are still facing down the same yearly flu season that we have in the past. Flu is something that we should be thinking about too.
It’s so simple to spread illnesses without realizing it, because as we know now you can be a carrier without showing symptoms yourself. That goes for both the flu and of course for COVID. You can take preventative steps to keep the flu from spreading, because we don’t want to strain our healthcare system any more than it is. This is a real concern for all of us in the next few months.
Sport and illness
We know that exercise builds the immune system, and that’s a wonderful thing. There is a compelling case to be made for how exercise gives our bodies a defense against potential illness. There are a huge variety of ways that physical activity boosts the immune system. We are better able to ward off all kinds of germs when we’re participating in healthy exercises. One of the things you can do to support yourself this winter, through flu season, is to stay active!
Fencing, especially when we are training intensely, is cardio exercise. When it’s done regularly, it’s part of a long term strategy to stay healthy. Lack of exercise is directly tied to the onset of chronic illnesses, and chronic illnesses are directly tied to vulnerability to things like the flu. We aren’t experts of course, but the science is clear on this. Regular exercise can be part of our defense against illness. A fun part!
It’s not that simple though. Participating regularly in fencing is wonderful for your body, but it’s not a cure all. Staying active will help, but that doesn’t mean that you are safe and can cut corners in other areas. Find your groove with your precautions and stick with them.
Let me preface this next information with this – the average fencer training at a local club is not an elite athlete. It is interesting to note that we know that there is a window of increased vulnerability following strenuous exercise. This is something that is still being studied, but there are scientific studies on marathon runners in particular. In the long run, these athletes have a higher resistance to illness, but in the short term they have a small period where they need to be extra vigilant. For the average fencer, this is not a factor. Moderate exercise a few times a week doesn’t have negative immune effects. Still, it’s interesting information that might be important for those fencers who do go on to become elite!
We usually think of the accomplishments in fencing as something that is for fencers, but referees are chasing their own achievement as well. The most accomplished referees are those who are striving to always be better than they are, who are working hard to make the sport better. One of the referee shining stars right now is Natalia Zhuravleva, the best fencing referee in the world.
It’s not lightly that we call her the best fencing referee in the world – Natalia was awarded this honor by the International Fencing Federation. She is a remarkable individual who deserves this highest accolade, and the reason why she was chosen is clear to anyone who speaks to her at any length. I was lucky enough to interview this truly amazing referee about what is important for fencers, the development of referees, and the direction of our sport. We all have a lot to learn from this powerful woman who is not just calling the shots, but who is teaching us all how to call them for ourselves.
Though there are introverts in every sport, in fencing we see lots of them. Enough that we believe it’s a topic we felt was worth exploring – we want to support everyone in this sport!
When people think of introverts, they often think of the kid in the corner at a school function who isn’t interacting with their peers or the child at the fencing club who is sitting far away from their peers. Introverts are easily cast as shy and reserved, quiet and rigid, reliable and passive. That’s not entirely accurate, and even though it may be the case for some introverts.
On the whole, extroverts are boosted by time with people, introverts are drained by time with people. Ambiverts are a mix of the two.
This is a spectrum, just like most things, and we are certainly not experts on the subject. Some introverted people are buoyed by one-on-one interactions but need breaks from large groups. Some introverted people need to take solitary solace after interacting even in a one-on-one setting. It’s all about who you are, and everyone is unique. What’s fantastic is that introverts and fencing go together like peanut butter and jelly.
All fencers grow over the course of their career, but Italian epee powerhouse Mara Navarria has taken that growth to championship heights. She is a fencer with what might be called a simmering longevity in the sport, one who puts the time and hard work into her craft in order to build something that looks to be impossible to ignore in Tokyo next summer.
Though the Italian school of fencing is known for its tradition and
rigidity, Mara has consistently broken with tradition in her training. This
happened first with her formative coach Oleg Pouzanov, who incorporated Russian
sensibilities into her fencing. After his tragic death in 2015, Mara refocused
and rebuilt with French trained coach Roberto Cirillo. She currently trains
away from the bustle of Rome in Rapallo, Italy, where she lived for 4 years.
After the lockdown she moved to Carlino, her hometown in Friuli Venezia Giulia with her son Samuele and her physical trainer
and husband Andrea Lo Coco.
What we learned from Mara Navarria through this interview is that innovation and creativity can meet with tradition and diligent work to create a new kind of champion. Her insight and her story is truly remarkable.