Coach Mackenzie M., Splashers.
At one point during your daily life, I am sure you encounter some kind of preparation that needs to be done in order for you to accomplish a task of some kind. This can be anything from making a meal for yourself to studying for an exam at school. If you think about it, both of those kinds of preparation consist of a variety of different steps that will help you get to the end phase of your preparation that will in turn help you accomplish a goal.
In swimming, there are many different forms of preparation, such as preparing for practice or a swim meet. But one of the most important swimming-related preparations in my opinion is the pre-race preparation. What are you doing while waiting for your next race? What are you doing when your race is getting close? What are you doing behind the blocks? All of these questions are things a swimmer should consider when planning their pre-race preparation.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect “formula” for pre-race preparation and different swimmers have different “formulas”. However, I have some suggestions based on personal experience and being around the swimming world that will hopefully give you some ideas you can try out at your next meet to see if they work for you!
There is truly nothing better than getting a good night’s rest before a big race day. Having a solid 8-11 hour long sleep before race day allows you to check out, get rested and not focus on the races you are swimming the next day. If you find you’re having trouble getting to sleep because you’re worried about your races the next day, there are some great resources available to help you wind down and get to sleep peacefully. I personally loved listening to a guided meditation on Youtube the night before a big swim meet or reading a book. Try to find a routine that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep until you need to wake up to head to the pool! (For more about the importance of sleep, see Coach Hadley’s Coaches’ Corner here.)
It is always important to do your full activation routine, do your full in-water warm-up given to you by your coach, and get off the blocks a couple of times before the meet starts. This allows you to wake up your body, loosen your muscles and simply get yourself into the race day mindset. It also allows you to get to know the pool if you have never swam there before. Get your flag counts, get a feel for the walls and get off the blocks! No pool is the same as another. You will feel a wave of confidence going into a race after you get a feel for the pool! Bottom line, do not skip your warm up!
- The Waiting Game
At swim meets there are usually long periods of time where you are waiting for your first or next race to start. So what are you doing with your time? Are you listening to music? Talking with your teammates? Everyone has things they like to do in their downtime and you just have to decide what those things are for you! One of my biggest tips is to stay off your feet and do something that keeps you feeling good and relaxed, whether that be listening to your favourite playlist, reading a book or playing cards with your teammates. I personally loved to listen to music during my downtime at a swim meet, it really kept me calm but also got me pumped up and excited to race! Test some stuff out and see what works for you.
- Pre-Race Talk
Always go talk to your coach before you race (this is a given and expected of you at every meet you attend!). They will never fail to give you a pre-race prep talk that will get you pumped up to swim. They are there to support you and it’s important to let them know how you are feeling about your race, so that they can try to help you get into a mindset that is optimal for you going into the race. It is also important to let them know your goals and strategies for your race so that they can give you some advice and feedback that will have you feeling confident about what you’re going to do to execute an excellent swim.
- Behind The Blocks
You’ve been off your feet during the waiting phase of your preparation and now it’s your time to get moving. I always found it helpful to have a little pre-race activation that would allow for my muscles to get loosened up and ready to swim again. I would be constantly moving until I had to get on the blocks. Talk to your coach about what they think your pre-race activation should consist of. Finally, get in the zone! Do whatever you need to do to get yourself psyched, ready to get in the water and accomplish your goals in your race. Like I mentioned above, I loved listening to music while waiting to go behind the blocks, but I also loved continuing to do so behind the blocks. It really helped kick my energy up a couple levels and get me in the zone to race hard in the pool.
These are just some ideas of what your pre-race preparation could consist of. I encourage you to experiment and see if anything works especially well for you. Like I said there is no perfect “formula” for this kind of thing and each individual’s pre-race preparations will vary. But, I think it’s always a good idea to do something meaningful prior to a race that will help you race to your fullest potential!