Ah, swim meet warm-up…the only time swimming could be considered a full-contact sport. While it’s true the warm-up pool at a swim meet can be a little chaotic sometimes, braving those busy waters is a must if you want to perform well on race day.

Swim meets often span a full day (and often multiple days), which can present a challenge when it comes to warming up. How do you warm up effectively for your races, when you may have 3 or more hours between them?

Check out these 5 steps to a solid meet warm-up, plus 2 sample warm-up ideas to try at your next swim meet.

Why Warm Up? 

It’s never a good idea to go into a race completely fresh and dry. Doing so increases your chance for injury and just doesn’t feel good. Arriving at the meet early and getting in a proper warm-up will prime your muscles for performance!

5 Steps to a Great Swim Meet Warm-Up

Follow these 5 steps to ensure your body is ready to race, starting when you arrive at the pool in the morning.

1. Dynamic Stretching 

Before you jump into the water (feet first entry only!), loosen up with a short dynamic stretch session on deck. Incorporate arm swings, dynamic hamstring stretches and even some light core work to warm up your joints and begin elevating your heart rate. If you choose to hold stretches during this time, only hold them for 5-10 seconds to avoid hindering your performance.

2. Morning Easy Swim

If you don’t have any events for a few hours, start the day with an easy swim. Stretch out and develop a good feel for the water, and for the pool you’ll be racing in. Hopping in the water in the morning can help you calm your nerves and get in the right headspace for the day.

Related: Swim Meet Terminology & FAQs

Oftentimes you won’t be able to practice starts right before your events, so try to fit a few in during this time.

Many swimmers will swim their initial meet warm up in a regular practice suit, waiting to put on any technical racing suits until later in the day, closer to their events.

3. Event Warm-Up 

After finishing your general warm-up, you may have a few hours before your first event. Spend that time hanging out, fueling up and mentalling preparing! 30-45 minutes before your race, it’s time to hop back in the pool for an event-specific warm up. 

This warm up is meant to elevate your heart rate and prepare your body for the specific race. Depending on the event you’re swimming, you’ll incorporate race pace work, different strokes and varying distances until you feel ready. Make sure you don’t swim all out during warm up — you want to build up your speed without tiring yourself out!

If your first event is early on in the day, it may make more sense to do your morning easy swim and event-specific warm up at the same time. Make sure to take a look at your heat sheet for the day and plan accordingly!

4. Nutrition & Hydration 

Make sure to eat a hearty breakfast the morning of your meet. It should consist of a healthy balance of carbs and protein to keep you fueled. Pack a small cooler with you to the meet, filled with healthy snacks that prioritize carbs and protein. Fruit, sandwiches and juice are good options. It’s best to pack your own snacks rather than relying on the swim meet snack bar — they don’t always have the healthiest options!

Related: What Swimmers Should Eat Before, During & After Swimming

After your warm-up, grab some water or a sports drink to keep hydrated. Sitting at a meet all day can be pretty draining, so make sure you stay on top of your water intake!

5. Mental Prep

Last but not least, make sure you’re mentally ready to race! Get focused, and mentally rehearse your race, from start to finish. What will your underwaters be like? How many strokes will you take in each length? What will your time be? Think it through and remind yourself that you can do this! Ideally, you’ll work on visualization throughout your training, not just on race day.

It can also help to grab a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite songs to get pumped up!

Try These Swim Meet Warm-Up Ideas

Check out these warm-up options for the 50 freestyle and 400 Individual Medley. Each warm-up has a general warm-up for early in the day, and an event-specific warm-up for right before the event. Remember, if your event is close to the beginning of the meet, you may need to combine these two warm-ups into one.

Depending on your skill level and typical training volume, you may need to adjust these warm-ups to better fit your needs.

50 Freestyle Meet Warm-Up

General Warm-Up: 500 Meters

200 Freestyle Easy

4×50 Backstroke/Freestyle by 25

4×25 Kick

2×50 Drill/Swim by 25

Related: What is the Fastest 50 Free Time Possible?

Event-Specific Warm-Up: 350 Meters

100 Freestyle Easy

4×25 Freestyle, Odds Build, Evens Fast Breakout

2×25 Freestyle, Focus on Power & Breath Control

2×25 Freestyle Fast Breakout

1×50 Freestyle Easy, Perfect Technique

400 IM Meet Warm-Up

General Warm-Up: 1,500 Meters

400 Freestyle Easy

4×100 Backstroke/Freestyle by 50

4×50 Kick

4×50 IM, Drill/Swim by 25

4×50 IM/Freestyle by 25 (Fly/Free, Back/Free, Breast/Free, Free/Free)

1×100 Freestyle Easy

Related: How to Swim the 400 IM Like Michael Phelps & Katinka Hosszú

Event-Specific Warm-Up: 850 Meters

200 Freestyle Easy

4×50 IM, Drill/Swim by 25

4×25 IM, Focus on Power

1×50 at 400 IM Pace, your choice of stroke

4×50 Free or IM/Freestyle, Descend

1×100 Freestyle Easy

How do you warm up for swim meets? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! 

For swim workouts and training plans to help you improve your speed and endurance, download the MySwimPro app! Start a free trial of ELITE COACH to unlock all of our training plans, technique videos and daily workouts.

2 thoughts on “How to Warm Up for a Swim Meet

  1. That was very interesting video…I am really behind on this or reluctant to do. So to be able to swim 50m we need to warm up both general and event specific, right. That is somewhat ok distance for 50m but huge cumulative for 400IM.
    How do you get that time to warm up as warm up pools are awfully full? How advance we can start?
    When we start in advance, we may need to change swimsuit as it gets cold on body.

    You were asking which other categories to have warm up. If possible, could you please share for 800m free and 2 or 5 or 10k open water. Thanks appreciated alot.

    1. Hi Fulya,

      These warm-ups may not be right for everyone. As Fares mentions in the video, you can scale your warm-up distance up or down depending on the amount of time you have, and your skill level. Many elite swimmers are used to swimming lots of yardage, so a longer warm-up is ok for them. For other swimmers, it may make sense to reduce the distance.

      In terms of warm up time, if you know you need a lot of time to warm up the best thing to do is to arrive at the pool early and hop in right when warm-up starts. Then, if you have a lot of time between races, you can change out of your suit to avoid getting cold. If it works better for you to arrive later and do your warm-ups in one larger chunk, that works as well! Ultimately it comes down to finding what works best for you on race day so you feel your best!

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