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!
October is here, and with it is coming the start of regional fencing competitions for the first time since the pandemic swept across the country more than a half a year ago.
You can only compete in your specific region right now, not as before when fencers could travel to different regions to earn points or ratings in different ways. Each region is its own situation, with a status that is different. It’s also true that each of us has an obligation to the people around us. Who is in your circle, who you are bubbling with. This makes a big difference for what you are comfortable with and what you are willing to do.
People ask us what we would suggest. It’s a difficult decision for many, many people. What is my perspective on it? I think that the time is not right for traveling to competitions.
I can only vouch for my very personal perspective. You must apply your own judgement to competition. What follows are what I feel comfortable with for my family and what I suggest to the fencers in our club, but know that your personal decisions on this issue are respected.
There has always been a careful balance between school and sports, but now the facets of this challenge have changed completely. Not only is school and sport totally different than it has been before, there is also the added struggle of navigating a crisis. Everyone is stressed in ways that they have never been stressed before.
We must all keep moving forward, so how does that work for fencers who also have academic obligations during the time of COVID? School and sport have not stopped, then have just changed. Everyone must find a workable balance between their interests and their education. This is not something that we can teach all in one fell swoop, but there is also a pressing immediacy to this issue right now. We have to give all of the tools we can to our kids.
Parents, we know that you are stretched right now too. Juggling working and distance learning for kids, well it is exhausting. I know this firsthand with trying to balance every aspect of my own family life. Hopefully this post will help some of you to feel less alone while providing practical solutions.
Here are seven ways to help kids balance fencing and academics during the time of coronavirus.
Everyone has big feelings about school starting in the fall. Kids. Parents. Teachers.
Should it start online? In person? A hybrid?
What about the spring? What about sports? What about after school activities? What about learning? What about socialization? What about parents? What about work? The “what about”s get flung all over the place, and almost to a person we are all feeling like the rug of life has been pulled out from under us. These are tough things, and we have to face and talk about tough things.
We can all agree on this though – kids have been out of everything for too long.
Every single one of us knows that this is the case.. There is a lot of anger and fear, but honest engagement about it is not easy to come by. The rational dialogue has gotten lost in the swirl of emotions. That’s something we understand – we are emotional too. Exploring and working it out, this is the way to stay grounded.
What is truly controversial is the question of who is responsible for getting our kids back on track now that they have been out of everything for too long. That’s a tough question with a very simple answer.