How to Recover Between Races

Proper race recovery strategies maximize a swimmer’s ability to perform well in multiple races and on multiple days at a meet. These strategies are perfected throughout the year, so when the competition comes around they are an integrated and expected component of the athlete’s routine. This week we will address race recovery on three different timescales. Today, let’s discuss how to recover between events, with about 30 minutes on your side.

A Quick Flush and Fluids

As soon as your race is complete (and all the swimmers in your heat have finished), head over to the warm down pool with a water bottle in hand. With half an hour to go, you can talk to your coach briefly or wait until after your next race. The time period is short enough that you don’t need to eat solid food, but your body will need carbohydrates in the form of fluid to accelerate recovery and sustain your energy for the next race. Talk to your coach and a sports nutritionist to see what kind of carbohydrate blend drink you should use; it is not the time for protein shakes or heavier blends that will make you feel full. The goal is to hydrate while yoDuring your warm down, get your heart rate back down. This can be achieved through steady swimming and doing some laps with breath control. Incorporate some light kicking to help flush the lactate out of your legs; 60% of your muscle mass is below the waist, so keep the big muscles active to encourage recovery. If you have built up a lot of lactic acid (primarily during sprint and middle distance events), you will need significantly more warm down than you would after a distance event. No matter what, keep moving during warm down to flush the lactate out.

From Relay to Race

Swimmers often have to manage a relay swim shortly followed by an individual swim, or vice versa. A sprinter who races in the 200 free relay at NCAA’s must be ready to go for the 50 freestyle in 30 minutes, so how can you execute both at your peak performance? The answer is by training your body in workouts to handle that physical demand. In general, you should be physically fit enough to process lactic acid efficiently—something that comes from general conditioning, sprint sets, and lactate tolerance sets. Within your training cycle, you should periodically rehearse the timing of these races. On a quality day with high rest and high intensity, swim a sprint distance and attempt another within 30 minutes. Flush out your body the same as you intend to do in meets so the process becomes familiar. This can happen more as your training volume comes down near taper. Beyond understanding the flush and fluids, your best aid in recovering quickly will be your fitness level. If you can excel in practices that peak your lactate levels within a short time, you’ll be more physically able to flush the acid out of your system quickly.

Great performances are the result of a number of factors. A key component of racing to the best of your ability is understanding how to recover properly following each race. With a little focus, you can be on your way to better race recovery in no time at all!
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About BridgeAthletic

BridgeAthletic Logo 3BridgeAthletic 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. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.

Nick FolkerAbout Nick Folker 

Nick 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.

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6 years ago

I really liked this, thanks for the help my friend tom hawthorne told me about this site

7 years ago

Any insight on race recovery for high school meets, or even college duel meets, when there is no warm down pool available?

7 years ago

I would be definitely using these methods for my next meets for sure

wael issa
7 years ago


9 years ago

that one guy scratching his chin is such a babe!! i think he is soooo hot 🙂 i wish he would date me

9 years ago

Thank you I will try this at my next Masters meet.

9 years ago

Great advice even for coaches

9 years ago

I know these don’t get tons of comments… buy please keep them coming. Short. Sweet. To the point. Even my swimmers can understand them 🙂

Former 'Cat
Reply to  Hulk Swim
9 years ago

I second this…thank you for these!