The meet warm-up: Preparing to swim fast

Tomorrow morning I will fly from Columbus to Atlanta, and from the airport will head directly to the pool and warm up for my first event, the mile.

The pre-meet warm-up is vitally important to how well you swim on a given day. Aside from getting a good breakfast, there’s probably nothing as important. Some people approach their meet warm-up mindlessly, without a plan – and that is foolish. I’ve even known people to skip warm-up entirely – and that’s just crazy.

The purpose of a meet warm-up is to prepare your body for optimal performance. That means bringing your heart-rate up, but not too far and not for too long. By the end of the warm-up you should feel loose but not tired.

How far should you swim? However long it takes to feel warm and loose (and if you’re a sprinter: explosive). First thing in the morning, this might take longer than in the afternoon. A good rule of thumb is: however far you swim near the end of your taper. For me, that means about 2000 yards, plus-or-minus 300.

Dave Salo apparently had his swimmers do literally the same meet warm-up every time (with slight modifications for each swimmer’s events that day), with the idea that over time your body will come to recognize that “Hey, this means I’m supposed to swim fast today.” I think this is solid advice.

Here’s my typical meet warm-up:

  • 400 – alternate 100 free / 100 back
  • 400 –
    • 2x {50 kick, 50 drill, 50 swim} – include strokes
    • 2×25 SDK (streamline dolphin kick)
    • 50 easy swim
  • 400 – straight free, build to 75%
  • 4×100 descend to 80% – possibly include strokes or IM
  • 4×50 IM order @ 85%
  • 8×25 – sprint to halfway, then easy – include strokes

That’s 2000 yards/meters. At this point, I’ll assess how I feel. If I’m still not ready I might add some additional 100s or 50s at a strong pace. If I’m doing any sprint events that day, I’ll do some starts. Then, I’ll warm down with at least a 300.

With a proper meet warm-up, you should be ready to swim fast at any time over the next 2 hours or so, with only some moderate swimming just before your race. If the wait before your first race is more than a couple of hours, you might add some pace 50s or sprint 25’s to the pre-race warm-up.

2 thoughts on “The meet warm-up: Preparing to swim fast”

  1. i completely agree with Dave Salo’s advice about warm ups – in fact, we have our high schoolers do the same warm up all season at meets & every day during taper so that they are mentally prepared & physically ready to step up after that warm up…it seems to work pretty well!

  2. You know how I used to warm up for water polo games? By drinking a mug of coffee, suiting up, and going underwater to box imaginary water-people.

    Probably not the best idea.

    Good luck in the ATL, brutha.

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