The Ups and Downs of Morning Practices


The Ups and Downs of Morning Practices

If you’re a swimmer at the high school or college level, you’ve had to attend a morning practice at some point in your career. But do morning practices actually help to enhance your swimming? There are certainly cases to be made in either direction. 

The Upsides of Morning Practice

Many swimmers, even if they hate waking up in the early hours of the morning, feel a sense of accomplishment after completing their morning workout. In order to succeed in life, you have to be willing to push yourself and do things that you sometimes don’t want to do. Waking up at 4:30-5 in the morning to attend swim practice can be one of them.

Swimmers who attend morning practices wake up while the rest of the world is still snuggled up tight in bed. Being in the pool, in the place where you feel comfortable and confident, can feel amazing in those early few hours.

Missing morning practice is often symbolic of a swimmer’s attitude toward swimming itself. If an athlete misses the occasional practice, it’s understandable. Even the most dedicated swimmers sometimes have to miss a practice or two. But a committed athlete will not pass up a valuable training opportunity to hone their skills simply because they don’t want to wake up. Instead, they’ll pull themselves out of bed and make their way to the pool for practice.

Waking up early for morning practice helps a student-athlete develop better time management skills. For instance, an athlete who has to wake up at 5 in the morning to attend practice should not stay up until midnight watching videos on their phone or chatting with a friend. Instead, they should prepare everything they need for practice and go to bed at a reasonable time.

Learning to manage time wisely can be a useful life skill both in and out of the pool.

The Downsides of Morning Practice

“We are doing our swimmers a grave disservice by having too many morning practices, and by having those practices start too early. The impact of our enforced sleep deprivation may be extending into their school performance and their general health,” Coach Rick Madge wrote in his online article Teens, Sleep Deprivation and Morning Swim Practices – Revisited.

Madge also goes on to point out that adolescent teens still need between 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Among other things, not getting enough sleep due to morning swim practices can become the cause of students performing poorly in school. Morning practices can be hard on students who are trying to balance out their study time with their practice schedule. Sometimes, it is easier for swimmers to just lay down and take a nap after morning practice when they should be working on homework.

Performance in the water can also increase when swimmers get more rest. A well-rested athlete is likely to swim faster times than one who still feels exhausted from waking up at 5 in the morning.

“Those early morning workouts can end up leaving an athlete in a perpetual state of exhaustion, where they are never able to give those complete efforts at practice and take longer than necessary to recover from hard work,” Olivier Poirier-Leroy wrote online in The Case For and Against Morning Practices.

It can be difficult for student athletes to attend multiple practices a day and still have enough energy to continue swimming the rest of the week. A difficult morning workout does not always set the swimmer up for a good evening swim. In fact, it can even be detrimental when that swimmer does not have time to recover their energy.

What is the Right Answer?

Well, there is no ‘right answer’ to whether a coach should implement morning workouts into their athletes’ schedules or not. Some athletes are able to work well with the early mornings, while others struggle quite a bit. When considering adding a morning practice, coaches should be considerate of their student-athletes’ busy schedules while also ensuring that those same athletes are getting a good workout.

If you happen to be a swimmer that wakes up before the sun, look for the positives things you can get out of practicing that early and try to counter some of the negatives.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Barbara Leuly

    The up is when your swimmer can drive themselves!!!

    • Tanya Penrod

      Barbara Leuly, 1 1/2 more years! Not that I’m counting or anything. ?

  2. Dick Beaver

    Swimmers lives are special. They learn to budget their time to successfully maintain their school grades AND also achieve their personal swimming goals. The sacrifices needed to train for a couple of hours before school builds a special team kinship bond.

  3. Kathryn Meinhardt

    The up is when it’s over and u can go home and eat a ton and go back to bed until u get up to eat before evening practice.

  4. David Eldridge

    Spent a long of foggy mornings at this pool Dennis Baker, Tyler Jourdonnais, Becki Peduchi Major, Mona E Nyheim-Canales, Karen Anne …….

    • Karen Anne

      I have flash backs to one morning min particular – winter, we were in the synchro pool – finals week – cold wet and really foggy – I wanted to skip it cause I needed to study and was not feelin well– I was too scared to miss it …..I think we are all forever bonded because of our experience — in the trenches together!! 🙂 I can honestly say if any of my swimmer comrades every needed me – I’d be there– even the ones with whom i did not always get alone- we survived!! 🙂

    • Mona E Nyheim-Canales

      Karen Anne I remember clearly! Agree 100% we all have an eternal bond from our experiences!

    • Becki Peduchi Major

      David Eldridge yes! Many, many back and forths for many many years prior to and after you all left, I’ve seen this EXACT fog in this EXACT pool. I will never forget hopping out at the East end in the fog and into the old diving well in the middle of a set, just to be greeted by Dick standing over us, caught in the act. I think that was the longest practice I’ve ever had…to this day! Bonded yes indeed!

  5. Doug Schack

    Nothing more to love than cold morning air and steam on the water ?

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