How to Have a Better Swim Meet

Every swimmer wants to have a better swim meet. One where you can drop time in events and feel as though you conquered your event. 

While there’s no magic formula or secret to success, certain habits that swimmers develop can help increase their chances at a better swim meet. If you watch successful swimmers, you’ll find that most, if not all, do the following listed below.

Related article: Best Swim Meet Advice

Try making some of these a habit at your next meets and see if they help you any!

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Image of a pool with a red triangle in the upper right hand corner. White text reads: how to have a better swim meet

Warm up

Want to have a better swim meet? Warm up before the start of each of your races. Though small, getting in a decent warm up prior to your race can help you have a better swim meet. 

That’s right, we said each of your races.

Yes, you had a warm up swim prior to the meet starting. But by the time you’re heat is up, an hour or more could pass since your first warm up. Your body temperature will have cooled and you’ll feel sluggish in the water.

It’s tempting to want to skip this at a swim meet. We all know it’s just easier to go up to the block and race! But more swimmers find success at meets when they get in a decent warm up prior to their races.

And a decent warm up doesn’t mean just splashing around in the water and standing on the wall.

You need to swim! Get in at least a 200-300 swim and work your stroke(s). Do some sprint work to get your heart rate up. All of this will help warm up your body for your race.

Warming up prior to your race though benefits you in at least 3 ways:

  1. Warms up your muscles after sitting for so long (which has the added benefit of helping prevent injuries)
  2. Gets your heart rate up so your body is ready to race
  3. Helps your mind get into a race mentality

Feeling anxious before your race? 

While warming up won’t cure race anxiety, it can help with the nerves you feel. Warming up gives you a chance to focus on strokes and turns, instead of sitting and fretting over an upcoming event.

Cool down

For better swim meet results, you should cool down after each of your races, too.

Much like warming up before a race has benefits for you, so too does cooling down. Cooling down helps workout the acid build up in your muscles and cools them down, and helps get your heart rate back to normal. It also gives your muscles a chance to recover between events.

The last thing you want to do is lock up on your next race because you didn’t flush out the lactic acid in your muscles.

Swimmers can find themselves struggling through a long meet or a prelim/final session if they don’t cool down enough. Without a proper cool down, the muscles fatigue much quicker and you’re more prone to feeling sluggish.

It’s one of the reasons you should cool down well after your last swim in prelims. Otherwise, you probably won’t have a decent swim at night during finals.

While every swimmer is different in what they need for recovery, you’ll find that it’s better to cool down in minutes instead of distance. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes to cool down at a minimum instead of counting laps. Doing this will makes you focus on your cool down instead of sprinting through the laps and calling it good.

Put in some light kicking on your back and work in some stroke work during your cool down. You’ll find that your body will thank you! 🙂

Eat

No one has to tell a swimmer twice to eat!

Eating throughout a meet (especially long ones) is one way to increase your chances for a better swim meet. It keeps your body fueled and ready to go for your races. Swimming on an empty stomach is the best way to have a terrible swim meet.

Related article: What to Bring to a Swim Meet

Of course, you have to ensure that you don’t eat too much or snack on the wrong foods!

Pack foods that you know you can stomach and also offer nutritional value. Some good examples are:

  • Pasta
  • Bananas
  • Certain fruits
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein bars 

Check the nutritional value and ingredients of any food you’re not familiar with. If you find sugar – or any type of corn syrup – within the first three ingredients, it’s probably not the best snack to have at a meet. 😉

However, it’s easy for nerves to get the best of you at a swim meet. You can’t eat when you feel as though you already ate a swarm of butterflies!

Basket filled with with fruits, a spoon of peanut butter, and a hard boiled egg
Eating healthy, balanced meals can help you have a better swim meet

If you find yourself too nervous to eat anything, try nibbling on something small and easy to eat. In a case like this, bananas are a good food to try. They’re easy to digest, won’t sit heavy in your stomach, and still provide some source of fuel to your body.

And that’s okay! Having meet jitters before a race or throughout a meet happens to most swimmers.

You can also try other pieces of fruit or even some cooked pasta. We like to put peanut butter on a tortilla and nibble on it throughout a meet.

Try other foods and see what you can tolerate. And once you find something you can stomach, make sure to always pack it for all your meets.

Lastly, don’t forget to eat after your meet, too! This will help you recover and fuel up for your next session.

Hydrate

It’s easy to go an entire meet without drinking much. But despite what you may think, you sweat while you compete and while you’re warming up. You need to stay hydrated during a swim meet if you want to have a better meet.

As a recommendation, we suggest that you bring a reusable water bottle.

They’re less likely to be forgotten and used by someone else compared to plastic water bottles. But whichever type of bottle you plan to use, be sure to actually drink from it! Don’t forget any drink powder if you typically mix that into your drink as well.

And much like bring snacks, be sure you’re not drinking anything overloaded with sugar. 

Stay comfortable

Every swimmer knows just how tight and uncomfortable a tech suit is. The tighter the better. Until it starts to dig into your shoulders and restricts the blood flow in your legs. 

Related article: 15 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Tech Suit

If you plan to swim in a tech suit, do your best not to change into your suit until absolutely needed. This will help keep any pressure of your legs and/or shoulders until just before you need to race.

If you can, roll the straps down to take some of the pressure off your shoulders for as long as you can.

You can’t swim fast if you’re not comfortable in your body because of your suit. 

Stay warm

When you’re cold, you don’t swim fast. It’s as simple as that. All the energy that you need to race turns into energy to keep your body warm instead.

Too often, swimmers stand on deck shivering before a meet. Especially younger swimmers. While staying warm isn’t a promise to better swim meets, it does greatly improve the odds of a better swim.

Related article: How to Stay Warm at Swim Meets

While you can’t change the temperature of the water, you can take steps to keep yourself warm on deck. Doing this helps your body to save energy for your races and in turn, gives you a better swim meet.

Some things, such as investing in a parka, bringing extra towels or packing warm clothes can go a long way. And they’re small changes that you can make to help you stay warm at a swim meet.

Positive Attitude

Seemingly the simplest in nature, but we all know that it’s actually the hardest on this list. Having a positive attitude can make or break a swim meet. Or even just a race.

Going into anything with a negative attitude is a sure way to add time. Which then leads to you justifying why you shouldn’t have swam that race. And downhill you go from there.

Maybe a little dramatic, but how often do you allow a bad attitude to get the best of you at a meet? Or practice?

Instead, try to keep positive about your swim meet. Even if it’s going badly or you have to swim an event you don’t like. 

If you can’t find a way to stay positive about a race or meet, then find a way to make it more tolerable. Remind yourself that the race is only so long and then you’ll be done. Or that after the meet, you can treat yourself to ice cream.

It doesn’t have to be something large or complex. Instead, it’s just that little carrot to dangle in front of you to help you get through the race or meet. 

Yes, negativity and bad attitudes find a way to creep in. And that’s okay! So long as you don’t allow yourself to linger on them. Vent when you’re frustrated about a swim. Talk to someone if you feel anxious before a race.

And then move on.

That’s the secret to keeping a positive attitude. Both at meets and practice. And in life. 

In Closing

Having a good swim meet doesn’t come easy. 

There’s no magical solution or cheat codes that allow you to drop time. Instead, it’s about putting in hard work at practice and trying your best during your race

If you’re not dropping time at meets like you want, take a moment to look at what you do at meets. Though simple in nature, these habits take time and effort to develop. Stay patient and keep working on them.

They’re well worth the pay off when you see those improvements. 🙂

As always, to happy swimming!

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Bonus Content: coming soon

Why Are Swim Meets Important?: Swim meets can be stressful but they can also be fun. Despite their frustrations, swim meets are important to a swimmer’s development.

The Rudest Things Swimmers Can do at a Swim Meet:


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