Overcoming Time Zone Challenges for Competitions Far Away

The IBJJF Worlds coming up and one of the challenges for us is the significant time zone difference between Zurich and Long Beach, California. If not taken into consideration, the jet lag can have a big impact on performance.

Historically, the straightforward solution was to travel early to the competition time zone and conduct part of our training camp there. Although effective, this approach has its share of drawbacks, especially since we don’t have full-time athletes. Balancing jobs, limited vacation days, and the additional costs of early arrival — think hotels, eating out, and transportation — complicates things further.

Additionally, training in an unfamiliar gym means losing control over your usual environment. Adjusting to different training schedules, styles, and lacking your trusted training partners can disrupt preparation. Bringing along a reliable training partner or going to a gym that you are already familiar with can help with these issues.

However, not everyone can afford the luxury of arriving early. For those who can’t, adjusting to the time zone from home is a viable strategy. Here in Zurich, we’re 9 hours ahead of Long Beach, California. Instead of a generic adjustment to Pacific Standard Time, we focus specifically on the time when the competition matches are expected to happen, which are estimated to be between 09:30 and 18:00 PST in our case. This translates to 18:30 to 03:00 Central European Time for us.

This approach only works if you don’t have to get up early. In the days leading up to the competition, you have to either have a few days off work or you need a flexible work schedule that allows you to start late.

Getting quality sleep

Sleep is very important and not something we want to compromise. You want to make sure that you still get quality sleep,.

Black out the room that you sleep in as well as possible. To get it completely dark, you need two black out layers. This can be a combination of blinds, black our curtains and/or a sleeping mask. If you don’t mind your neighbors thinking that you went crazy, you can tape aluminum foil to the windows which is very good at blocking lights.

Because we will have to sleep in and life goes on as usual for our neighbors, it’s a good idea to block out sound too. You can try noise canceling headphones made for sleeping, ear plugs or use a speaker for background noise (rain sounds work well for me).

Adjusting the training window

We are trying to shift our training window to between 18:30 and 03:00 CET. If we train twice per day, we can do a regular evening class and then another session between 01:00 and 03:00 to cover both extremes of that range.

If we normally train around lunch and in the evening until 21:00, we have to shift our training by 6 hours.

To adjust to a new time zone the body usually takes a day for each hour of time zone change. So in our case, we need at least 6 days to adjust. If you have more time, you can also try intervals of 30 minutes to ease into it a bit more.

In our case we start with a training session from 12:30-14:30 and another one 19:00-21:00. Then every day, we shift this forward by 30-60 minutes until we are adjusted to the new training times and ready to fly to Long Beach for the competition.

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