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Warming-Down for Faster Swimming (Coaches’ Corner, May 20, 2019)

By Coach Alex, INT1.

With the first meet of the season fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the importance of warming-down after a race. By now you have all heard the coaches talking about the importance of warming-up and activating before a practice or a race, but what about after?

Why should we warm-down after a race?

  1. During a race, your body builds up blood lactate. In order to flush out the lactate and allow your neuromuscular system to recover, you need to warm down directly after your race. Flushing out lactate helps to prevent muscles from becoming sore, stiff, and tired, which could affect your performance on your next race.
  2. It gives you a chance to reset. Physically and psychologically, racing takes a toll on your body. Not every race is a good race, and even when it is, we need to reset, reflect, and get ready for the next race. Warming-down helps the body to relax, which in turn, also improves your mood and ability to perform at your best.

How much of a warm-down do I really need to do?

The truest answer to this question is that it varies from athlete to athlete, depending on your fitness level, upcoming race, type of race, and any time constraints for warm-down.

Swimmers who have more muscle mass and more fast-twitch muscles (usually seen in sprinters) usually need to perform more mileage during their warm-down, as more lactate is likely to build up, and affect the neuromuscular recovery. However, since the Vikings swimmers are still young with lower muscle mass, they can still get away with doing a decently small amount of mileage during a warm-down.

The average amount of mileage a swimmer should be aiming for is around 1000m/1km for every warm-down. As a swimmer gets older, warming-down becomes more important, and once you start to play around with your warm-down procedure, you can really figure out what works best for your own body.

What if there is no warm down pool?

Unfortunately, many of the pools we swim in over the Summer do not have a warm-down pool, and although swimming would be the best option, we need to have alternatives. This could include:

  • Standing under a hot shower and stretching.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Stretching and completing some arm and leg swings, and jumping jacks to help increase blood flow.
  • Get a massage – using a foam roller can help increase blood flow and reduce muscle soreness.

Other important factors to recovery and warming-down:

  1. Diet is an essential part to making sure our bodies recover properly after a race or swim meet. Food should contain a decent balance of protein (repairs muscle) and carbohydrates (restore glycogen). Protein bars, energy gels, bananas, and electrolyte sports drinks are great snacks to have at a meet, to instantly fuel your body after a race, and before another one. Other food options, when there is more time between races, could include yoghurt, pasta, protein sandwich, fruit, and wraps.
  2. Sleep is of utmost importance to helping the body recover after a full day of racing. A good night’s sleep can allow the body to heal and recover, and put you in a better position to perform at your peak the following day.

As we head into our first meet, I ask that you not only remember to activate before a race, but also think about what you are doing after a race, to maximize your recovery.

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