5 Ways to Prepare for a Swim Meet

Obviously the primary objective of a swim meet is to see who can swim fastest – to bring together swimmers and have them compete against each other.  But the competition is only part of the swim meet experience.  One of best things about swim meets is the team bonding.  When it’s a teammate’s turn to race, the team gathers along the end/side of the pool to cheer, woot, and wave like crazy.  And when it’s your turn to race, your team and coach are there, on the sidelines cheering for you and pushing you to dig deeper, pull harder, and kick faster.  In between races, you get to hunker down in warm clothes and play cards and eat goldfish.  Basically it’s a chance to hang out with your teammates for the afternoon, with the occasional race to break up the day – which is probably not exactly how the coach wants you to look at it.

In honor of Physique Swimming’s Swim in Spring swim meet tomorrow, here are 5 ways to prepare for a swim meet:

1) Carbo-load the night before: Carbo-loading is a strategy used by many swimmers the day before a meet as carbs are stored by muscles to store glycogen (or energy).  Good foods to eat while carbo-loading are fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and grains.  It’s also important to include protein when carbo-loading as muscles will use amino acids during aerobic exercise.  My carbo-load meal of choice is a big bowl of whole wheat pasta with a tomato meat sauce.

2) Pack the night before: The day of the meet you don’t want to worry about packing.  You want to wake up, eat a healthy breakfast, and head to the meet.  Your mind should be on the meet, not frantically trying to remember where you left your goggles.  When packing your bag for the meet here are a few things to remember:

  • Swim Cap
  • Goggles (maybe an extra pair, just in case)
  • Swim Suit
  • Towels (2-4, depending upon how many events you have)
  • Flip flops (or some sort of deck shoes to help keep you warm)
  • Sweatshirts and sweatpants (during swim meets, it’s important for swimmers to stay warm – shivering uses up energy that should be used instead during your races)
  • Snacks (goldfish, crackers, veggies, etc.  Try to avoid heavy foods or foods high in sugar that will cause your energy levels to spike and then drop)
  • Cards (or some form of activity to help keep you entertained between events)
  • Sunscreen (if the pool is outdoors)

3) Visualize your race and get some sleep: The night before the swim meet, get a good night’s rest.  As you’re lying in bed, relaxing before sleep comes, visualize your race.  Visualize every minute detail: stepping up to the block, tensing your muscles before the dive, the feel of the water as you hit the pool and immediately start kicking, the strength of your pulls, a fast flip turn, your underwater streamline off your turn, the push your final strokes, driving into the wall, and then the joy of realizing you won the race.

4) Listen to pump up music: Listening to the right music can pump you up for your race.  Think about it – how often do you see runners with iPods on?  It’s rare to see something running without headphones on.  As swimmers, we don’t have the luxury of iPods (something about electronics and water just doesn’t mix well) so it may not seem normal to grab electronics before heading to the pool, however I never go to a meet without one.  For me, good pump up music is something with a heavy, fast beat that makes you feel the beat in your body (the push, the drive, the thrum of energy racing from your fingers to your toes) and inspirational lyrics.

5) Warm Up:

It’s important to warm up your muscles before racing.  If you have been sitting for 30 minutes (or sometimes 2 hours) before your race, your muscles will spend the first strokes of your race warming up.  When you push off the block, your muscles should be primed and ready.  Any time spent warming up while racing, is lost time.  Prior to your event, hop into a warm up pool if available.  If there’s no warm up pool, jump up and down and shake out your arms and legs.

For tips on the actual swim meet race, check out Michael Phelps’ top tips on racing:

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