Mind and Body
To be at the top of your game, getting to the point of over-tiredness is not an option, Olympic Rower Kim Brennan (née Crow) tells us.
‘Heart rate monitors help track what’s happening, showing if performance drops due to under-recovery through suppressed heart rate or inability to produce lactic acid. But I’ll know myself because I’ll begin to feel irritable and grumpy’.
A main coping strategy is to de-stress and deal with issues as soon as they come up so they’re not turning over in the mind, disrupting sleep. Sportspeople like Crow increasingly use mindfulness techniques for this. ‘Our team psychologist suggested using apps which I downloaded from the internet – now I can tune into the here and now by just focusing on my breath’.
Living in Canberra, Australia, Crow is used to flying across the world to compete, and has become adept at sleeping on planes and crossing time zones. It’s important for all of us to support our lower backs when sitting for long periods, but especially for a rower as the sport inevitably puts pressure there – which is why Crow always travels with a pillow.
As for jet lag, sleep and meal times are worked out with military precision to adjust to the new time zone as soon as possible. ‘The trick is to get out into daylight without sunglasses as it helps shift the body clock.’
Everything in Crow’s regime supports good sleep, and her overarching piece of advice is to never underestimate its importance. ‘It’s the first thing to go when things get busy, but when we are feeling low or bad, there’s nothing better than a good night. Next day, you are always in a better space to address things.’