How to Stay Warm at Swim Meets

All too often, swimmers find themselves shivering about on deck at meets and then swim poorly. While it’s not wholly to blame for bad meets, not staying warm at swim meets can lead to bad times and races.

The best way to counter this is to, obviously, find a way to stay warm. 

But it’s not always easy. Certain body types retain heat easier than others. And for those that get cold fast and stay cold, it’s a challenge even with layers.

There’s no one secret remedy to staying warm at swim meets. However, there are options to try that can help you stave off the cold and have you feeling comfortable.

And hopefully, lead to a better swim meet!

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staying warm at swim meets

Change out of Your Suit When Possible

One of the best and easiest ways to stay warm at a swim meet is to change out of your wet swimsuit whenever possible. It may seem like a hassle, but the benefit of staying warm and swimming faster outweighs the few extra minutes.

Planning on wearing a tech suit at the meet? If you’re not the first event, change into another practice suit. Or even better, get dressed again. 

If you are the first event, then put on your race suit if you don’t have a long wait.

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For those meets that you don’t plan on wearing a tech suit, you can still change suits. Instead of a tech suit, you can change into another practice suit right after warm up.

Yes, it sounds simple, but it’s highly effective. With the damp suit away from your skin, you’ll find that you stay warmer easier. And when you feel warm, your body stays relaxed and comfortable. 

Invest in a Good Parka

For those swimmers who have difficulties staying warm at swim meets, a good parka makes all the difference. I know this from experience as I always freeze at meets and my parka has helped me so much.

While they are puffy, cumbersome, and a bit expensive, they do their job well. In that, they keep you toasty warm. 

Personally, I use Arena’s Team Line Parka. It’s been the best at keeping me toasty warm and I take it to every swim meet. I took it to the 2019 Summer US Masters Nationals and was so grateful to have it for morning and afternoon races.

Arena Team Line Parka

The Team Line parka from Arena has a soft, fleece interior lining and splash-proof outer lining. It provides maximum warmth for those who struggle with staying warm at swim meets.

A good parka should have a fleece lining, to include the pockets. It should also have a hood and a waterproof outside lining. 

Most parkas will go down to at least your knees to help keep your legs warm. And when sizing your parka, look for a size that will cover your hands, if possible. All of this will help give you a bit more warmth.

If you’re not sure if a parka is a good investment for you, ask to borrow one from a teammate. Or, look online for a used one that’s cheaper. 

Related post: Swimming on a Budget

Bring Extra Clothes and/or Towels

Wet towels or damp clothes do little in helping you stay warm. If you find yourself always shivering at meets because of damp clothes, bring extras.

Yes, it’s a pain to pack them all in your bag or carry them around. But when you’re warm, you might find that it’s worth the bulging bag. 

Microfiber Sport Towel

With their small size that absorbs water better than towels and their quick-drying nature, shammy and microfiber towels are perfect for swimmers.

Using a microfiber or shammy towel helps keep your towels and clothes dry a bit longer. As an added bonus, they both run thin, making for easy packing.

Related post: 5 Reasons to Own a Shammy

As a reminder, if you change out of your damp suit, your clothes and towels will last longer 🙂

Wear Shoes and/or Socks

Try to keep your feet dry and warm at swim meets. This will help aid in staying warm, even though it seems so small.

Wearing warm (and dry) socks will keep your feet warm while you wait between events. For more warmth, put on shoes or fleece lined boots if shoes aren’t enough.

You typically lose body heat through your feet. As swimmers, you keep your feet exposed to cold concrete and tile more than you think!

Keep them warm and you might find yourself surprised at how much they help. 

image: keep your feet warm and dry at swim meets

Put on Gloves

Hands, much like feet, need to stay warm, too. And much like your feet, you lose heat through your hands, too. For most people, their toes and fingers turn cold first before the rest of their body.

If you find yourself dealing with cold fingers, try wearing gloves. They might look out of place on the deck, but when it comes to staying warm, they do the trick. 

For those that don’t like gloves, pockets offer an alternative. However, they might not keep them as warm as gloves would.

Go Outside (if possible)

While this won’t work too well when it’s freezing outside, it can work in the warmer months. 

You’ll find the best results when the sun is out and you can sit in a patch of sun. This allows your body to warm gradually. And you’ll get some vitamin D at the same time! 

Going outside also gives your lungs a break from all the chlorinated air. Instead, you can take a moment to breathe in some fresh air and hopefully enjoy quieter surroundings.

Lastly, sitting outside for a bit can help you dry some of those damp clothes or towels. 

Just make sure you don’t stay outside for too long. You then run the risk of either missing your event or feeling drained from the sun.

Go inside (if possible)

For those at an outdoor meet in the cooler months, you might have to do the opposite. 

Seek shelter in the locker room if possible. You’ll find that this simple action will help aid you in staying warm at swim meets. 

Find a corner where you can stay out of the way of other swimmers and bundle up. Whether that’s in your parka, warm clothes, or a towel. Even if you look silly doing so, you’ll find that staying warm trumps what other swimmers might think.

Take a warm shower

As a last ditch effort to staying warm at swim meets, try jumping into a hot shower. 

It’s not exactly ideal, but a hot shower can guarantee to warm up your core. It’ll keep you warm down to your bones for a while. At least until your next race.

Just remember that warm water does drain the body of energy. So try to only use this option as a last resort.

And only do this if you can ensure that the water is warm. A cool or luke-warm shower won’t do anything for you. It just makes your cold suit stick to you more. You would be better off drying off as best as you can and layering with clothes and towels instead.

In Closing

Staying warm at a swim meet isn’t impossible. It simply takes a bit more work on your end. 

Everyone’s body is different and what works for one swimmer might not work for you. If something doesn’t work at first, stay patient! Keep trying out new suggestions and tweak them to work best for you.

And if you find that you’re always cold, know that you’re not alone. Many swimmers struggle with this, so don’t let yourself get discouraged! 

Find what works best for you and make it your own. 🙂

As always, to happy (and warm) swimming.

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Bonus Content:

How to Read a Heat Sheet: Knowing how to read a heat sheet is one of the more important but confusing parts of a swim meet. But what is a heat sheet and how do you read one?

What to Bring to a Swim Meet — coming soon!


Want to Improve at the Pool?

Join swimmers and swim parents to receive my free newsletter and receive a free Swimming Glossary e-book as a thanks!

Every month you’ll receive tips and coaching to help you find success at the pool.

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