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Training and Safety Tip: To your health

Cortisol and candy bars

Lack of proper sleep, diet, and money is often the reality for busy student pilots who juggle everyday life with flight training, which demands time and the ability to make sound decisions.

AOPA graphic.

Preparing for ground and flight lessons, if not managed properly, can cause a lot of stress—a subtle buildup of cortisol that impairs concentration, memory, and decision-making skills—and amplify negative emotions that affect attention, judgment, and memory. This can make you susceptible to simple errors, slow your response time, and deteriorate your overall state of readiness.

These five tips will help you perform your best.

Know your limits. Find your optimal life/flight training balance and stick with it. Discuss your training with your instructor and create a schedule together that will help reinforce what you’ve learned. Knowing what to expect will also help you progress toward becoming a pilot.

Sharpen your knowledge continually. Enhance your training with ground lessons or online educational material. Often, students cram ground training into the days or moments leading up to their next flight lesson, causing stress. Keeping your knowledge sharp with a steadily paced, consistent intake of material between lessons can avert such stress.

Stick to a healthy diet. Mealtime is often sacrificed while squeezing flight training between other responsibilities, so instead of snacking on candy bars, cheese crackers, and sodas (which can impair your brain’s peak performance), try low-carb, no- or low-sugar snacks like nuts, seeds, low-glycemic fruit, and water to help curb your appetite while preventing rapid insulin spikes that result in a sense of tiredness and lethargy.

Get proper rest at night. Stick to a regular sleep schedule for a good night’s sleep that revitalizes your metabolism, memory, and body. This is easier said than done, especially when flying before, between, or after school or work.

Exercise. Lack of exercise contributes to mental fatigue, which is further exacerbated by constant vigilance during flight lessons. Mental fatigue drains your body of the physical energy required to exercise. Pause before ground or flight lessons to breathe in fresh air and stretch your muscles to quickly rejuvenate your mind and body.

Earning a pilot certificate is a rewarding experience, but if you’re not maintaining or improving your health, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll succumb to burnout. When you’re in good health, your mind is more alert, your learning is more effective, and your journey is more rewarding.

AOPA Air Safety Institute staff

AOPA Air Safety Institute Staff members share a deep passion for aviation safety. As compassionate pilots, we bring together safety research, analysis, and knowledge in creative ways to share aviation safety education with you—with the ultimate goal of one day having zero fatal accidents in GA.
Topics: Student, Air Safety Institute
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