Sleep. We know that isn’t the answer you were expecting, but it’s honestly one of the most important yet incredibly overlooked aspects of athletic success. Practice, training, and nutrition usually top the list. But sleep? Sleep tends to end up on the backburner.
Why We Aren’t Sleeping
Most fencers are participating in the sport for fun, as a hobby. Most of the adult fencers we know have full-time day jobs unrelated to the sport. Our younger students have school obligations. We’re all juggling a lot and when things get hectic, we feel as though we have to make sacrifices in order to find the time to get everything done.
Unfortunately, the first thing to go is usually sleep. It’s easy to stay up later or get up earlier to pack more activity into the day. While this could be a viable short-term solution (very short-term), it’s not really sustainable.
What Happens When Fencers Don’t Sleep
The longer you go without the proper amount of sleep, the more worn down your body becomes. Over time, the lack of rest begins to impact you physically, emotionally, and mentally. You will eventually find you:
- Can’t concentrate or focus on your training or drills
- Have trouble maintaining proper form
- Can’t make quick decisions
- Aren’t capable of moving as quickly as necessary; your muscles don’t respond
- Begin to struggle with more frequent illness as your immune system struggles
- Are more prone to injuries, aches and pains
Needless to say, a lack of sleep can have a huge impact on the life of someone far less active than a fencer. The consequence it can have on your training and performance simply can’t be ignored.
How Much Sleep Does a Fencer Need?
Believe it or not, the average recommended number of hours of sleep a person should get per night varies by age. Children up to age 13 sleep an average of 9-11 hours; up to age 14 sleep around 8-10 hours; and young adults anywhere from 7-9 hours — sometimes more. Athletes, especially those in competitive sports, generally need to sleep more than the average person. So for example, a 13-year-old athlete may need to sleep up to 11 or 12 hours, and so on.
The body needs rest for recovery and optimal performance. This means blocking out time in your schedule for sleep, not overdoing it with your social agenda during tournament season, and making sure the quality of your sleep is on point. Avoid screens before bed, cut out caffeine (including the sodas your kids love) in the afternoons, and make sleep as important a part of your schedule as anything else.
Your body will thank you for paying attention to your own sleeping habits. You’ll be happier, healthier, and a more successful athlete!