I may not swim competitively anymore, but after years of swimming on a team in high school, I know all of the work and dedication that goes into every meet and how much pressure those swimmers are under standing on the starting block, toes poised, waiting for the horn to sound so they can dive into the pool and give it everything they’ve got. I can’t watch swim competitions without imagining myself in the swimmers’ place.
When I watch professional swimmers like Michael Phelps, I always feel a little nervous for them, but I never doubt their abilities because I know all of the preparation that goes into their performances every single time. With any sport, but especially swimming, it all comes down to preparation. There’s no luck, no trickery, in swimming- it’s just you and the pool, and your movements are the only thing getting you from one side to the other as fast as you can go. It sounds simple, but the smallest details matter in swimming and one little slip-up can spell doom, so make sure you’re prepared by following these tips.
What you put into your body has a huge impact on how your body performs. You can imagine how disastrous it would be if you shoveled down a burger and fries right before stepping up to the block and were suddenly seized with stomach cramps preventing you from doing your best. You’ll need to eat a balanced, healthy diet in the week leading up to a meet to ensure that your muscles are in top shape. Some great superfoods to try incorporating into your diet include: garlic (which enhances performance), rhodiola (an herb that helps you adapt to stress), blueberries (which provide brain power), spirulina (an algae protein that will give you a power boost), leafy greens (which contain antioxidants to regulate inflammation), and beets (which boosts exercise performance by increasing the flow of oxygen to muscles).
Get enough sleep
Your parents probably drill this one in you already, but you need ample sleep for your body to function properly! The average teenager should get eight to nine hours of sleep. Sleep is vital for your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. Lack of sleep can severely impede performance, delaying reaction time and leading to more mistakes. In swim meets, you need to be completely alert and have a large amount of energy to expend, which simply won’t happen if you’re not well rested.
Set goals beyond just the obvious goal of wanting to win. In swimming, winning is obviously at the back of every swimmer’s mind, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish going into every meet, be it improving your time, your stroke rate, or splits. It also helps if you visualize your race before the big day; follow Michael Phelps’ example and prepare for the unexpected so that no matter what happens, you’ll be prepared. If you can, familiarize yourself with the pool you’ll be swimming in before the meet begins.
Have a routine
Have you ever noticed the way Michael Phelps swings his arms over his head as he steps up to the block? This is his routine, which he says he’s practiced since he was a kid. Having a routine will not only help you warm-up before the race, but it will help you stay calm and focused.
Have all your swim gear ready to go before the big day. Don’t wait until the morning of the meet to get everything together. Make a checklist if it helps: you’ll need your swimsuit, goggles, cap, towels, snacks, water, and sunscreen if the meet is outdoors. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to realize you’re missing something you need on the day of the meet.
This one goes without saying. You should be in the pool practicing and perfecting your technique every day leading in the week leading up to the meet if you can; just don’t overdo it. As I mentioned before, it’s also crucial that you get enough sleep.
Lastly, you swim because it’s something you enjoy, so don’t forget to have fun! Don’t let your nerves and your desire to win get in the way of having a great time and bonding with your teammates, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.