The shifting of time caused by the beginning or end of Daylight Savings Time, while only an hour, can cause a significant change in when and how an athlete will train from day to day. This year it will be on November 7th, at 2:00 am, that the clocks will go back an hour to 1:00 am. The direct effect of this is a shift in daylight hours, which for an athlete can mean a shift in the hours in which they can reasonably practice and train outside. In the case of a high school athlete, finding the right training routine to fit around a busy life is no small task, and many will stop putting forth the effort when their original routine is disrupted.
Other difficulties that can occur for athletes because of or in addition to the time change are disruptions to their sleep patterns and colder weather during this time of year. Below are a handful of ways to thrive in the face of these changes and make sure you don’t lose a step in your performance during this time.
New Hours, New Routine
There are few things more devastating to athletic skill than falling out of good training habits; it’s best to have a plan now for how your routine will shift after the time change. Evening runs and training sessions may need to be cut short and done away with entirely due to lack of light. While running or cycling can be done in the dark (using the precautions mentioned below), football, soccer, and lacrosse are much more difficult to do in the absence of reasonable light. These sports don’t transition well into indoor environments either, such as playing basketball at an indoor rec center instead of outside.
To make up for this loss of time, you may want to consider changing up your routine. For example, instead of meeting up with teammates in the evenings to run routes or practice set-ups, you will need to start doing extended practices on the weekends to compensate. If you study for classes in the morning hours, it may be better to study in the evening now and use those early sunlight hours to work on your sport. Whatever works for you; the main idea is to make time for things that are important.
Tips if you want to exercise while it’s dark outside:
- Know your route. Run trails or routes that you have run before and know that
there are not any obstacles, potholes to roll your ankle in, or broken
sidewalks to trip over.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Wearing earbuds to blare music while you run
can be tempting and quite motivating, but if you are running on the road
or have to cross over streets on your route, especially at night, listen
to either low-volume music so you can hear what’s going on around you or
no music at all.
- Dress to be seen. People that drive by you have a lot of thoughts going on in
their minds. Maybe they’re racing to get home from a long day at the
office, or they have a screaming child in the back seat, or one of a
million other distractions going on. Chances are that they are not
scanning the dark streets for joggers or cyclists, so you need to wear
clothing that makes you stick out in the dark. Bright whites, greens, and
yellows work well, although a lot of running gear can be found with
reflective tape on highly visible sections of the clothing.
Staying on Track with Sleep
Whenever the clocks shift, whether forward or backward, your sleep schedule is going to feel off. As an athlete, disrupted sleep can mean being tired or sluggish during games and practices, as well as losing the motivation to train as hard or as often as you used to. Both of which will affect how well you play the game.
To combat this obstacle, high-level athletes make their pre-sleep routine a nighttime priority. A pre-sleep routine is a set of habits you do the same, usually in the same order, every single night so that your body knows that it’s time to sleep. This leaves you better able to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly.
Here’s an example of a pre-sleep routine:
- 1-hour before bed: turn off the television and avoid using your phone or computer
(screens make your brain more alert and stimulated, making it hard to wind
down and get to sleep soundly).
in a non-strenuous, relaxing activity such as reading a book, taking a
bath, walking the dog, or something else you enjoy that doesn’t involve
time to stretch the muscles you worked that day, especially if there was
not enough time after practice or training to stretch well.
your nighttime hygiene routine and go to bed.
Here Comes the Colder Weather
The end of Daylight Savings Time brings with it the early chills of winter. This chill is especially felt as the days get shorter and nighttime comes early. The cold weather brings with it a problem that young athletes face when workout out or training outside:
What clothing do you wear to make the cold bearable, but that will not get too hot once you’re warmed up?
Wear loose, light layers. The warmth of layers will help you warm up and stretch out muscles in a safe, effective way. If your muscles are too cold from the onset, they will be stiff and brittle, making them easily injured. Once the extra layers allow for a safe warm-up, you are able to remove a layer or two of clothing to exercise comfortably without overheating.
Plan for Change
When it comes to being a dedicated athlete, no change is a small change. It’s important to look to the future at things that can affect your training and practice regimen so that you can plan a strategy to deal with those changes as they come. Whether it is a change in the weather, a change in the amount of time you have to accomplish things, or a change in responsibilities, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Working hard isn’t always about embracing the grind or toughing it out, it is about developing the right habits that you will stick with to help you achieve your goals and become the athlete you want to be. Setting your path with intention is the best way to get where you want to go.