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How to Prepare for a Swim Meet

Four Parts:Preparing the Day BeforePreparing on the DayDealing with Anxiety and NauseaSwimming at the Meet

Swim meets test swimmers' strength, technique, and concentration in a highly competitive environment. To do your best at a swim meet, it's important to ensure that you're well-rested, yet alert and full of energy when your meet starts. Doing this requires planning and effort on your part, but it's worth it - being in tip-top shape at your meet can make the difference between a good performance and a great one!

Part 1
Preparing the Day Before

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    Pack a bag of things you need for the meet. This helps because you won't be scrambling the next morning gathering your things and you can get as much rest as possible. Pack things such as towels, two pairs of goggles, two swim caps, fruit, nuts, water, and an energy beverage that contains electrolytes to resupply your/the swimmer's lost minerals.
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    Make sure that you know your game plan for the meet the next day. For example; ask your coach what time warm ups are, what events your swimming, and whether or not the meet has positive check in. (Positive check-in is when you have to write your initials next to your name on a sign in sheet. This lets the officials know that you are there and so they write out the heats so that there are no empty lanes.)
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    Eat a good dinner the night before you swim. Eat plenty of carbohydrates and proteins but don't eat something to heavy or completely out of the norm. Stay away from acidic foods (including tomato and tomato sauce) for they will upset your stomach and cause cramps. The best plan is to eat something simple, easy to digest. Although pizza, chicken wings, and plates of pasta may seem like "Power food," the reality is that they will sink you like a rock.
    • Carb loading is a technique that is outdated and since been proved inefficient and unhelpful unless in special circumstances only usually encountered at an elite level.
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    Do your best to ensure you are not sore or stiff the next day during your swim meet. If it is a multi day swim meet, warm down after every event. If a warm down pool is unavailable, conditioning exercises such as jogging, jumping jacks, and wall push ups then follow with static or dynamic stretches.
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    Go to bed as early as possible beginning days before your swim meet, especially if you are getting up early. If you go to bed at midnight every night for a week and get 5 hours of sleep every night for a week, getting 10 hours of sleep the night before is not going to help you. You will still be exhausted the day of the swim meet.

Part 2
Preparing on the Day

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    Eat a light breakfast such as a bowl of cereal and a banana, or an energy bar if you're swimming a morning event. If you're swimming in the afternoon, eat a big breakfast and a light lunch. Eat one or two hours before the event. Bananas, crackers, and plain toast with no butter in modest amounts are good food. The best foods are pasta, cereals, bagels, breads, fruits, and vegetables. These are out of the stomach in two hours, therefore should not be eaten more than three hours before swimming or they could override the energy in time for the race. Bananas are great because they have potassium which makes you more resistant to fatigue. Remember, no sugar.
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    Rest. If you have school, do not rush between classes. Take your time walking up and down the stairs. Do not over-exert yourself, save your energy for the race.
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    Put on your bathing suit right before you leave and gather your stuff for the meet. Don't put Fastskins on until after warm up and you are dry. Be sure you have water and healthy snacks. If you are swimming both trials and finals, you are going to need up to five towels; however, you can hang up your towels to dry to save space in your bag.
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    Put on sunscreen if outside. Remember, it takes 30 minutes to soak in. You don't want goggle tans, that's for certain.
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    Listen to some good pump up music. Plug in your iPod or phone and listen to your favorite mix of tunes. Dance if you want but don't wear yourself out.
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    Drink plenty of liquids. Electrolyte drinks and water are the best liquids. Many people think that Gatorade is good but it is high in sugar (but can still help). Only drink this five minutes before an event. Drink plenty throughout the day and during the meet. Lack of liquids do affect your performance as well, even before you feel thirsty. But make sure to go pee before you swim!

Part 3
Dealing with Anxiety and Nausea

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    Know the events you are swimming. Your coaches should have a sheet with your events, or check your team website. The Trumbull Pisces website has a tab where you can look up your events, so see if your team does that too. When you figured out what you are swimming, relax. The next part will boost your confidence and calm your nerves.
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    Think through answers to possible mishaps and false starts. Having already thought about how to react quickly will help to calm you and reassure you that you're ready.
    • What will happen if my goggles fall of when I dive? - Relax for that. Just tighten the straps of your goggles. When you dive, tuck your chin to your neck. Therefore, the water will not apply direct pressure to the goggles, and they will stay on you.
    • What if I come in last place? - It happens. What you should know is that your coach entered you in the meet because he has faith and confidence that you can handle it. If swimming a 200 free, don't panic. If your coach believes you can do it, you should believe you can do it!
    • What if my time becomes worse? - to avoid that, give your races every thing you've got. Every single ounce of energy left in you should show in that race. If you do come last, know that you tried hard and give yourself credit for that. Plan out your race. For anything 25-100 yards/meters, sprint! You don't need to pace yourself because it is a short distance. For 200 yards/meters and above, pace yourself. If swimming 200, your first 50 should have a strong pace. the second 50 should have a harder pull, and the third 50 should have a faster kick. The final 50 should be all out.
    • Think about your times. Set a goal. If swimming a 50 free, imagine your time on the board being 35.99! If you believe it'll happen, it will happen. For a 200 free, pace yourself. First 50- 43 seconds. Second 50- 45 seconds. Third 50- 45 seconds. Fourth 50 - 43 seconds.

Part 4
Swimming at the Meet

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    Focus on the things that you can control versus the things you can not control. You can control your start and your turn, you cannot control the size or speed of your opponent. You can control what you eat before your race, you cannot control the traffic on the way to the meet.
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    Visualize your race. Sit down somewhere quiet, and visualize the race from the moment you're up on the block to the moment you hit the wall. Visualize the exact time that you want to see on the time board. This helps keep a positive attitude.
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    Get in the zone. Depending on what kind of person you are, you may want to get pumped. Do a high intense set of 60 jumping jacks, stretch, or anythings that suits you to get you going, 5 minutes before your race.
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    Get in the pool and swim. Don't tire yourself out, or go too fast. Get in and stretch out and get a feel for the water. Drills are great for this.
    • If you do feel the need to go fast, do a short hard set but don't go over 80 percent of your maximum speed. Make sure your intervals give you a good amount of rest. This will get the blood flowing, you will get a feel for your stroke, and you will remain rested for your big meet. The point is you need to conserve your energy while keeping your body conditioned at the same time.


  • Remember to always keep your goggles and cap near at all times, and watch the board so you can be prepared for your event.
  • You should always stretch before your meet; stretch for about 20 minutes at home, doing arm swings, and stretching those quads, especially for breaststrokers.
  • Never think you are going to lose. It will slow you down a bit.
  • Just relax, don't stress out over anything, and enjoy yourself, meets are a good opportunity to bond with friends and make new ones.
  • Don't get too nervous. It may affect your performance.
  • Don't stress yourself in practice if it is the day before.
  • It's a good idea to elevate your feet for about an hour while you're resting. Lay on your back and put your feet up on a chair. Breathe slowly and deeply. Now is a good time to do visualization of your race strategies or relaxation exercises.
  • Write down your races so you don't miss any.
  • Get to the meet early to avoid stress.
  • Talk to your coach before your races to see what things you need to work on.
  • If you have a kid swimming (your child) write all of their event/heat/lane numbers on there arm so they don't forget. Most likely, older kids will notice this and help them get to their race on time.
  • Parents, you may be reluctant to allow your young child to hang out with an other children during the swim meet instead of you. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's selfish. Your taking up room in the 'team area when you could be volunteering. Unless your child can not function without your help, get out of the way and let the coaches/other swimmers take care of your kid. They were all once young swimmers too and they know the drill.
  • Keep yourself warm when not swimming. Wear your favorite sweatpants and comfiest sweatshirt. Over 80% of your blood is in your abdomen area (stomach, chest) so make sure that that part is always cover, wet towels do not count.
  • Especially during the summer, you need a ton of water. Four to six water bottles should get you through the meet. Stick to one bottle of Gatorade, about a sip before/after races. Too much Gatorade will get you sugar high, which will just let you down right when you need the energy. 'Dehydration takes two weeks to fully recover from, don't risk it!!
  • Its hard to race if you have to pee. Take care of that before hand.
  • While you are preparing to swim, a couple minutes before your race, increase your blood flow by jumping, shaking you arms, etc.
  • Always ask your coach for advice before you swim. They know best and can always give you some tips.
  • Although sugar is supposed to make you hyper, it won't. If you have the need for something sweet, a small helping will do the trick.
  • Eat a little bit each time after you race. This will prevent the urge to overeat after your meet. Over eating after your meet will damage your performance the following day.
  • Get yourself in the zone. This should come naturally to most experienced athletes and the 'triggers' differ for everyone. Music and visualization tend to help. When in the zone, you should be utterly confident in the fact that you will win.
  • Although it may be hard to sit still being so nervous before your race, it is necessary to not fall into the trap of warming up too much. 30 minutes before your event, you should a 4x1 IM warmup followed by a 8x1 sprint set of your stroke or a variation of the above. After this, cool down for 2 or so laps focusing on your stroke technique. Upon completing your warmup, immediately exit the pool and do not linger in it. Return to your resting area and ask one of your coaches/specialists/teammates for a massage. Relax your body before your race.
  • Purchasing a foldable bed is something many athletes do so as to relax. It also gives them somewhere to lie on for the massage.
  • When you are in the zone take deep breathes. This will help you relax and concentrate on your race. Make sure to practice beforehand because "practice makes perfect". Be sure to make the best of your abilities.
  • If you are stressed before swim meet it would help if you listened to music or if you are still at your house scream in your pillow!


  • Don't eat too much. You might be sleep deprived but don't be tempted to load up on carbs to make up for the lost energy. Stick to a 3000 calorie diet on race days, and stock up on food after you are done swimming, especially foods high in protein. Too much food before a meet will weigh you down, guaranteed.
  • While at the meet be in your "zen" mode. Don't worry about what going on around you, just close your eyes and relax.
  • Warming up is always better than taking a shower. A shower only provides artificial heat.
  • Never drink any kinds of energy (monster, 5 hour energy), coffee, or soft drinks on race day, it will only clear out your electrolytes and stress your muscles.
  • Don't eat a lot of sugar; artificial energy doesn't make you faster in the water.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles
  • Swim cap
  • Practice and race suit
  • Towel (usually one for each event and for warm up)
  • Proper attire (likely sweats and a sweatshirt); don't sit in just your suit without clothes between events
  • Water bottle

Article Info

Categories: Swimming and Diving