Thursday, April 5, 2018

Catching the Zzzz’s: How to Get Great Sleep

Sleep is essential to everyone and especially important to athletes, but sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep. To fully recover from your long hours of training it’s necessary to get a good night’s rest. If you are having troubles falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night, here are a few tips to help you get the rest you need.

Falling Asleep

Tick Back the Clock

If you know you already don’t get much sleep try this method. Purposely make your bedtime 5 hours and thirty minutes before you have to wake up. Try it for a few days and when you feel sleepy during the day, set your new bedtime to allow for another 15 minutes. Repeat adding 15 minutes back onto your sleep schedule until you don’t fall asleep during the day or midafternoon. This will help you realize how much sleep your body needs as well as resetting your sleep clock.

What You Eat

What you eat close to bedtime or for dinner can have effects on how well you sleep. If you frequently find you are having troubles falling asleep try looking to your diet. Tomato sauce contains an amino acid that triggers your brain to be active. Similarly, chocolate contains caffeine which means even though you put the coffee down in the morning, you might still have a caffeine intake. Foods that will help you get to sleep are milk, pumpkin seeds, and egg whites.

Try Yoga

Yoga, while exercising your body, is also a great way to regulate your breathing. Since most of the stretches in yoga also depend on your breathing technique, it’s a great way to slow your body down. Yoga also helps release stress which may be preventing you from a good night’s sleep.

The Room

What’s in your bedroom can affect how well you sleep. Anything bright in your room will prevent you from falling asleep. Avoid bright alarm clocks or night lights and stick to a darker room. If the temperature of the room is too hot, that might also prevent you from falling asleep. Keep the room cool and let the bed covers warm your body up. If you’ve tried making a sleep friendly habitat in your room but still have troubles, try keeping the room lavender scented, or another calming scent.


Stress is a never-ending cycle when sleep is involved. Too much stress and it’s hard for your body to stay asleep, too little sleep and your body is in a state of stress. If you are having a hard time falling asleep due to stress try meditation or yoga before bed. Both will regulate your breathing which helps you destress. If you wake up in the middle of the night due to stress trying counting down from 300 but in increments of three. It gives your brain a dull activity to focus on instead of whatever is stressing you.

Bed Equals Sleep

Get into bed only when you are ready to fall asleep. Avoid using your phone in bed or staying up in bed reading. This goes for when you can’t sleep too. If you’ve been in bed for twenty minutes and still can’t drift off to slumber land, get up and try a boring activity away from your bed. Train yourself to only be in bed when you are ready to fall asleep so that your body starts to sleep faster.


Routines are a good way to trick your brain into falling asleep. Make a routine to get yourself prepared to fall asleep an hour before you actual intend on sleeping. Try doing a relaxing activity like reading for the first twenty minutes, then start getting ready for bed for the next twenty minutes, and the last twenty minutes focus on meditating. Setting a routine before bed can help your brain fall asleep faster. Routines are also good for sleep schedules. If you set your body on a routine for sleep, like falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day, it makes it easier for you to get the right amount of sleep you need.

Hopefully these tips tricked your brain into falling asleep when you hit the pillow and staying asleep throughout the night. If you find you’ve tried every method, but still can’t sleep, then it might be time to look into a new mattress.

Sweet Dreams!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Shoulder Strengthening for Swimmers

Shoulders are the most used muscles in swimming, which is why it is important to strengthen and stretch them. Strengthening your shoulders will not only help prevent injuries, but will also help your performance on your swims. Here are the best exercises and stretches to help keep your shoulders at their best.

External Overhead Rotations

For this exercise, you will need a light dumbbell. Grab the dumbbell in your left arm. Stretch your left arm out and bend your elbow, so that your left hand is pointing to the floor. Slowly raise your hand from pointing downwards to pointing in front of you, almost like you were going to throw a punch, and then raise it until your left hand is facing the ceiling. Repeat this exercise for at least 10 reps before switching arms.


This exercise requires a press bench, or table. In a pinch two chairs that you can lie on your stomach and stick both arms through will work. You will also need some light dumbbells. Start by lying on your stomach with a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang in the resting position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift both of the dumbbells up to your chest. Your elbows should be pointing towards the ceiling. Be careful not to rush through this exercise.

Scapular Punches

Grab a yoga mat or a towel and your light weight dumbbells. Lie on the ground with the weight in your left hand. Your left forearm and hand should be punching towards the ceiling. Punch your arm straight out towards the ceiling until your shoulder blades are off of the floor. Slowly lower your shoulder blades back down to the floor, but keep your arm straight in the air. Do 20 reps and then switch arms. This helps with shoulder stability, which prevents injury.

Lateral Raise

Start with your trusty dumbbells in each hand and your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your torso until it is parallel with the ground. Your arms should be hanging towards the ground, but make sure to maintain a straight back. Raise the dumbbells out towards the ceiling, until your arms are stretched out to your sides making a “T” shape. Another way to think of this exercise is to pretend you are a bird and need to flap your wings. Slowly lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.

Shoulder Raise

Hold your dumbbells straight out in front of you with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower the dumbbells so they are just in front of your thighs. Then raise the dumbbells almost to the starting position. Lower the dumbbells just below your belly button and then raise them just above your belly button. Return to the starting position. Repeat this sequence of raising and lowering 5 times.

Waiter Tips

For this exercise, you will need a resistance band and a mirror. Wrap your hands in the band, so that they are about shoulder width apart. Stand in front of the mirror and pull your hands apart, while keeping your upper arms close to your body, until they are parallel to the side of your body. Check the mirror to make sure your shoulders are not shrugging. Return to the start position and repeat 15 times. This exercise helps strengthen your rotator cuffs.

Stretching Time

Upward Plank Pose

To do this stretch, find a surface that you will not slip on. Start by sitting down on the floor, with your feet stretched in front of you. Place your hands beneath your shoulder, and when you are ready inhale and press down on your hands and feet to lift your body in the air. Let your head drop and hold the pose. Your body should be straight and look like a diagonal line.

Becoming a Table

From the Upward Plank Pose, rock up towards your head. Shift your legs until your feet are perpendicular to the ground. You should look like a makeshift table. Take a few deep breaths and then return back to the ground.


Start this stretch by raising both your arms over your head. Place your right hand over your left hand. Keep your hands together and push up towards the sky. You should feel it in your shoulders and in your back. Hold this position for a few moments then lean to the left and hold. Return back to the main stretch, and lean to the right and hold. This stretch will help alleviate any tight muscles that might be sore in the next few days.

Keeping your shoulders strong and stretched will help you perform at your best. Strengthening your shoulders will also help prevent injuries from occurring. Remember to stretch out after your workouts to keep your shoulder muscles from tightening up.

Happy Swimming!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Back in Mind

Back exercises and running surprisingly go hand in hand. If your running form needs improvement, it’s likely that your posture does too. Having a strong back will help propel you forward at a more efficient rate.

Lower Back


For this exercise, lay a yoga mat or towel on the ground. Start by lying down on your stomach. Raise your arms to your head, so your hands are placed at the back of your head. Your elbows should be bent and out to the sides. Lift your head off of the ground shortly followed by lifting your shoulders and chest. Your lower abdominals and legs should be the only body parts touching the mat. Hold the position for 5 seconds before resting and going into another rep.


Stay in the same starting position as the Superman’s. Place your arms straight out above your head. Then raise your right arm and your left leg and hold, then place them back down. Switch and raise your left arm and your right leg and hold, then place them back down. When you are comfortable pick up the speed in-between switches, until it’s one fluid motion. It’s almost as if you were pretending to swim on the land.

Bird Dogs

To start this exercise, get on your hands and knees. Start by reaching out with your left arm straight above your head and at the same time, extending your right leg straight back. This should be done at a slower speed. Once both are fully stretched out, hold the position. Slowly, bring your left arm and right leg back towards the starting position. You want to touch your left elbow to your right knee before returning both to the ground. After you completed your reps for this side switch sides, so that now your right arm raises forward and your left leg extends back. Hold, and then let your right elbow touch your left knee before setting them back on the ground.

                                                                                 image courtesy of

Child’s Pose

This is a nice stretch to release the tension in your lower back, and it’s a good way to end a lower back workout. Start on the ground on your hands and knees. Keeping your hands planted firmly on the ground, gently rock backwards until you are resting on your legs. Keep your head down and breathe deeply. Stay in this position until you feel properly stretched out.  

Upper Body

Renegade Row

These are extreme push-ups, so if your push-up game is not as strong yet hold off on this exercise. For this exercise, you will need two light dumbbells, choose a weight that is not effortless, but not tiring after a few reps. With your dumbbells close, get into a push up position. Move your dumbbells so they are directly underneath where you would place your hands. When you are comfortable, grab a dumbbell in each hand and do a push-up. When you are back in the starting push-up position, raise your right dumbbell by letting your right elbow bend backwards, then place it back down. Then do another push-up. Once you are back in starting position raise your left dumbbell until your hand is even with your chest. Two push-ups with both of the tricep curls is one complete rep. Try doing 10 and modify it if you need to.

Shoulder Squeeze

Start in a push-up position. Instead of going into a push-up, let your shoulders drop, so that they move closer together. Squeeze, hold, and then relax. It should feel like you are trying to arch your back in push-up position. Do 10 reps of these to strengthen your upper back.

Standing Rows

Choose a dumbbell weight that will work your arms and one that you can easily do reps with. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and slightly bend your knees. Keeping your back straight, bend your torso forward. Pull the weights up, so that your elbows stick up past your back, but your arms remain close to your body. Then lower your arms back down again. Make sure when you do this exercise not to round your back, this will undo the work of the exercise and creates the possibility for injury.

Hopefully with these exercises, your back will get and maintain the strength it needs to help you become a better runner and cyclist. Maintaining a strong back will help improve your posture and prevent injuries from occurring.

Happy Strengthening!