How to Stay Warm at Swim Meets

Written By: Chevron

One of the biggest challenges for some swimmers is staying warm at swim meets, myself included. I’m notoriously cold blooded and it gets worse with cold water. It’s taken several years for me to solve the mystery of how to stay warm at swim meets but I’ve finally found what works. Here’s the 9 ways I stay warm during swim meets.

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staying warm at swim meets

1. Change out of Your Suit When Possible

When trying to get warm at a swim meet, the first and best step is to change out of your wet swimsuit following your warm up and put on some warm clothes. You can’t get your body warm when you’re wearing something wet/damp, even if you’ve dried off. If I have time between warm ups and my first event, I change completely back into warm clothes, such as my team warm ups. If I don’t have time, then I put on a new, dry swimsuit. Whether that’s a tech suit or another practice suit.  

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It may sound like a hassle and overly simple, but this step, combined with a few others make a world of difference. And in reality, it only takes about 5 minutes to change out of a suit and another 5 to change back into another one (excluding a tech suit, of course ;))

2. Wrap Up in a Good Parka

A good parka makes all the difference. Once you’ve changed, bundle up in a parka to help retain the heat and give your body a better chance at warming up. I never go to swim meet without my parka because it’s so efficient at keeping me warm. Especially in that moment between warming up for my race and the race itself. Swim parkas are easy to slip on or drape/wrap around your body, making them ideal for a quick way to warm up.

Related article: 8 Best Swim Parkas for Swimmers

I use Arena’s Team Line Parka and have taken it everywhere from USA Swimming Sectionals/Futures, to the 2019 Summer US Masters Nationals and recently to the 2023 Masters World Aquatics in Fukuoka, Japan. Other good parka options that I’ve also tried and would recommend are swim parkas from Adortex and Sporti.

Related article: A Swimmer’s Review of Arena’s Team Line Parka

Staying warm with my Arena Team Line Parka at the 2023 Masters World Aquatics in Fukuoka, Japan

3. Wear Shoes and/or Socks

After you’re bundled up in dry clothes/suit, and you’re getting warm in your parka, the next step is to get your feet warm. Dry them off and put on socks and shoes. Typically, if your feet (and hands!) are cold, you tend to feel cold, too. If you’re not fond of shoes, you can opt for fleece lined boots instead. I bring several pairs of socks with me now to meets because I even put my socks and shoes back on after warming up for my race. Having extra dry socks means my feet will stay warm throughout the meet.

4. Put on Gloves

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. I’m not overly fond of gloves at meets, except for in the winter. But my parka does have fleece lined pockets which works just as well!

5. Wear a Hat/Use Your Parka Hood

This could be optional for some, but keeping your head (and ears) warm can also help you stay warm at swim meets. In the winter, I bring my ski hat with me because it’s fun to wear and also keeps my head and ears warm. For meets in the spring/fall or for indoor meets, I bring a thin beanie. I’ve also used the hood on my parka in a pinch or used it to double up on warmth!

6. Bring Extra Clothes and/or Towels

You should always pack some extra towels to bring with you to help you stay warm at swim meets. Once a towel gets too damp, switch it out for a new dry one. One thing that I’ve found helps keep my towels drier for longer is to use to use a shammy and a microfiber towel. A shammy alone will do the work of two towels, and you can keep using it throughout the meet. Finish drying off with a microfiber towel before switching to a towel.

Related post: 5 Reasons to Own a Shammy

7. Go Outside (if possible)

While this tip only works in the warmer months, it’s an easy way to warm yourself up at indoor swim meets. Some swim facilities run cold, especially if the water is cold, and wrapping up just doesn’t cut it. That’s when I go outside and find a patch of sun to warm up in. I also take any damp towels that I have so they can dry and warm up some. Going outside has the added benefit of giving you some fresh air and some quiet. Just don’t stay out too long that you miss your race!

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8. Go inside (if possible)

Reverse, you may need to go inside if you’re at an outdoor meet and you’re having a hard time staying warm. In cases like this, I seek shelter in the locker rooms, as they tend to be warmer for the athletes. If you can, stand or sit under a hand dryer to get warm or even dry your towels. Staying out of the wind and cold will go a long way to help you stay warm at swim meets.

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9. Take a warm shower

I’ve only done this twice and it was a last ditch effort to get warm (before I got my parka!). But jumping into a warm to hot shower can help warm up your body and get the heat down to your bones. It’s not ideal because hot water can make your body sluggish and the shock of going from hot water back into cold water may not sit well with your body. Mine wasn’t overly fond of it the times I tried it, especially because I was still in a wet swimsuit. Lastly, remember that the water should be warm, at least. If you can’t get the water warm, don’t bother as it won’t do you any good.

As always, to happy (and warm) swimming.

– Chevron

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: Not sure what to bring to a swim meet meet? Here’s a list of essential items to pack in your swim bag for your next swim meet.

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Image of a swimmer diving into the water

Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience at the local, national and international level. A current USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming athlete, she’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.

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