How the Wizards are preparing for their trip to Japan
“That’s when I’m most productive,” Porzingis said this week, mimicking typing on a cellphone. “I go through my notes, I delete that, I do everything. I organize my life.
Porzingis will have plenty of time to get organized when the Wizards fly to Japan this week for a pair of preseason games against the Golden State Warriors on Friday and Sunday. The team’s charter flight takes off from Dulles International Airport at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday and is scheduled to land just after 5:00 p.m. in Japan on Wednesday, which means Porzingis, his teammates and the rest of the organization’s travel group of about 100 people will spend more than 14 hours of flight.
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Spending so much time indoors and breathing recycled air is painful for everyone. For Wizards players, how they weather the dehydration, disrupted sleep and jet lag that come with air travel could make a difference on the field – both in Japan and, more importantly, when they get to home and play two more pre-season games before the start of the season. . The quality of their trips is a matter of competitive advantage.
That’s why Sue Saunders Bouvier, who is a nutritionist for the Wizards, Mystics and Nationals, and Mark Simpson, vice president of player performance for Monumental Sports, worked for months to plan Washington’s trip to a T.
“We gave specific guidance on when to put on their masks during the flight,” Simpson said.
The overriding message that Saunders Bouvier and Simpson told the players is not to adapt. Wizards are only on the ground in Japan for four full days, so any attempt to get on Japan’s time will do more damage than good on the other side of the trip.
To help Washington players trick their bodies into thinking they’re still on DC time, Simpson provided everyone with an infographic that details when, exactly, during a 14-hour flight they should get up to stretch, eat their meals, open the shade on a window seat and try to rest. The team consulted with sleep specialist Chris Winter to determine the amount of sleep needed. Prior to what Simpson and Winter have determined to be the players’ ideal bedtime, the team will serve foods that promote sleep and lower the temperature in the airplane cabin.
“There’s a certain set of variables — we call them zeitgebers — that our brain uses to determine where we are in time,” Winter said. “Light, meal times, social interaction, exercise…it’s really about thinking about those kind of sensory inputs and manipulating them so that the brain doesn’t really feel like it’s ever been to Tokyo.”
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Meal planning from Saunders Bouvier can help.
A successful journey, from a nutritional point of view, begins as soon as the players board. Players will now be surrounded by food to ensure their bodies are adequately fueled both on the long flight and on the long bus rides the team will have once they land in Tokyo. Saitama Super Arena, where the matches are held, is about 25 miles away in traffic from Tokyo.
“The theme of this trip is ‘snacks on a plane’,” said Saunders Bouvier, whose planning began five months ago with the simple question ‘Is there Gatorade in Japan?’ (No, but there are alternatives.)
Saunders Bouvier tries to keep everything except sports drinks.
“It’s very routine. It’s not just the time you eat the meal, it’s the composition of your meal — it’s a bit Pavlovian,” she said. “Having breakfast at dinner time can actually work in Japan because it’s dinner time in Washington, DC, and having a little tastier breakfast that coincides with when we usually eat dinner, these are things that reduce the disruption of being on a completely reverse clock for seven days.
Think steak and eggs for breakfast instead of just scrambled eggs and pancakes instead of rice as the starch for dinner. But speaking of carbs, pay attention to those. Too many people at dinner during the flight will energize the body and may disturb sleep. Saunders Bouvier encourages players to eat a protein-rich meal before resting and offers enough options – lobster, shrimp, steak, chicken and vegan choices – that anyone wants to skip the rolls altogether.
But even with the meticulous planning of all the support staff, not everything is under their control. Players and coaches will pass the time on the plane however they choose, whether it’s Porzingis emptying his inbox or veteran forward Taj Gibson’s favorite way to pass the time.
Gibson, 37, doesn’t sleep as well on airplanes anymore. But he has a plan for it.
“You can open some wine, get comfortable, and start telling stories,” Gibson said with a smile. “It’s the whole process of being on the plane. Make yourself comfortable, because we’re going to see each other a lot.