4 Hacks for Faster Prelims Racing

We all know that the finals session is when you want to hit your peak performance. In finals, no swimmer needs to be told twice to swim lights out. You’re warmed up from that day’s morning session and only need a short loosen to get ready to race—the adrenaline will take care of the rest. But what about the critical step before this, where you swim a solid prelims race to secure your finals spot? Many swimmers find it harder to race fast in the morning for a number of reasons. Let’s discuss the 4 things you can do right now to gear up for a clutch morning performance, and ultimately, a dynamite finals session.

  1. Try a Wake-Up Swim

If you’re not awake heading into your prelims session, try a wake-up swim. Many elite swimmers will jump in the pool a couple hours prior to the prelims warm up session to get in a few yards and wake their bodies up. The shock of the cold water is enough to kick start your day, and swimmers usually do a 500 or less at this time to get themselves going. You can then return to your hotel and eat breakfast before going back to the meet for prelims. This extra step cuts down on a little sleep, but it can give you a head start on your day if you usually take awhile to become alert in the morning.

  1. Set an Earlier Bedtime

Morning grogginess can simply be a factor of going to sleep too late. No matter your regular sleeping habits, at meets, everyone needs to be an early bird. If you are excessively groggy in the morning (sleep inertia lasting longer than an hour or so), this means you need to set an earlier bedtime for yourself than you are used to. If the finals session the night before runs late, get your dinner and get to sleep as soon as possible.

  1. Use a Dynamic Warm-Up

Once you’re at the pool, complete a dynamic warm-up prior to jumping into the water. Nick’s Video Series showcases a great example of a dynamic warm-up for swimmers. These warm-ups stimulate your motor coordination while increasing your muscle temperature so you feel mentally sharp and physically loose before you even begin swimming.

  1. Use Music to Up the Adrenaline

By 9, 10, or 11 a.m., you’re going to have to swim at or near peak performance to make it into that A Final. With all those workouts in the bag and your pre-meet warm-up complete, you are physically ready. It’s up to you to get yourself in the zone. Many swimmers find music exceptionally useful for ramping up their energy levels prior to a prelims race when the energy of the pool deck just isn’t as heightened as it can be during finals. Whether you use it to calm your nerves or up your excitement, tune into your favorite songs for a final boost before you race. After that, it’s go time.

If you liked this post, you can find more tips for peak performance on our competition and travel pages brought to you by BridgeAthletic.

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BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications.


Nick Folker, BridgeAthleticNick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology. The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.



Swim Training courtesy of BridgeAthletic, a SwimSwam partner.


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7 years ago

re: set an earlier bedtime.

Actually, best to do that a couple days in a row prior to competition.

7 years ago

Only iffy issue I see with this list is the pre-warmup swim. Many meets have warmup starting first thing in the morning, so it’s not possible to jump in at, say, 4:00am in order to get breakfast before heading back to the pool for prelims warmup! 🙂

Reply to  Tim
7 years ago

Hotel Pools are great for this… or even an early shower.

Reply to  Jason
7 years ago

At championship meets, if warmup starts at 7:00, I’ll be up at 5:45 to take a long shower, get breakfast, then head to the pool. The last championship meet I went to was USMS spring nationals, and the hotel pool was maybe 12 yards long, so it didn’t really help out with warming up before hand! 😀