by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.
You’ve put in the time at practice. Now it is time to put that work to use and swim out of your mind and faster than you ever have. Here is a quick field guide for mastering the environment and your performances at your next big meet.
Familiarize yourself with the facility and set-up.
If you aren’t competing on the first day of the meet warm up and prep as if you were so that the next day everything is familiar. Figure out in advance where the ready rooms and marshaling areas are. In the event of a long course meet, find out what end the 50’s will be starting from.
These are all little things you don’t need to be stressing about in the minutes before your race, so do the necessary recon in advance.
Have a warm up plan in place.
Hopefully you have had enough experience at competition to know what it takes for you to prepare for optimal performance. As many swimmers and coaches know a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works for a team or group warm-up when athletes are performing a variety of events from 50 to the mile.
Have your warm-up plan in place before the meet so that you know what to do when you hop into the pool. It would be wise to have an out of the pool warm-up that you can fall back on as well in the event that the pool is bubbling with swimmers and you find doing the necessary yardage difficult to impossible.
Warm-up 20 minutes before the big race.
A common question swimmers have surrounds how much time they should aim to leave between warming up and their race. When a group of international level swimmers were split into two groups, one swimming an all-out effort 20 minutes after warming up, and the other waiting 45 minutes, the 20 minute group performed faster.
Scope out the heat sheets and make a guesstimation at what time you will be competing at, and either have a full warm-up plus a re-warm up (if your event is late in the session), or simply time yourself to complete your warm-up 20ish minutes before your race.
Don’t mess around with your technique.
You have put in the hard work, honed in your technique, worked your starts, turns and breakouts to near perfection. The day you step on deck at a meet is the last time to decide that you are going to make some changes. It can be easy to fall for the need to make change—you see a fast swimmer doing a really neat-o start and breakout during warm-up that inspires you to wanna replicate him or her.
There is a time for experimentation, to make big changes in your swimming, and it is called “practice.” Swallow the urge to tweak with what has gotten you to where you are until after the competition is over.
Prepare for the environment.
If you are competing at an outdoor meet, have a plan in place to stay in the shade and out of the energy-sapping sun. If you know the stands and pool decks are going to be overflowing with swimmers, get there early and stake out a corner of the pool deck for you and your teammates.
Be aware of the challenges that the pool will provide and do your best to prepare for them.
SEE ALSO: How to Prepare for a Swim Meet
Warm down like a boss.
After your race, regardless of whether you swam according to expectations or not, make it a point to perform a comprehensive warm-down. Doing so will help flush your body of lactate and help get you prepared for your next race.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, sprinters require more of a warm-down than distance swimmers. Sprinters tend to have more muscle mass and a greater amount of fast twitch fibers, which create more lactate.
How much is enough? Over the course of three years of international competition British swimming found that blood samples signaled sprinters needed an average of 1,400 metres to return their blood lactate levels to normal.
Boost your warm-down by replenishing your glycogen stores with a carbohydrate solution and give yourself the best chance possible at swimming like a boss the next time you step up on the blocks.
Cazorla G. et al. (1983). The influence of active recovery on blood lactate disappearance after supramaximal swimming. Swimming Science IV. Human Kinetics, USA
Peyrebrune, M.(2006) Warm down and active recovery. English Institute of Sport.
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