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Yes, Warm Up

To warm up or not to warm up? Not really a question!

Lisa Wolf | March 1, 2013

No two swim workouts are exactly the same, but any workout should include a warm-up period at the start of practice. As a younger swimmer, you could jump in, race a buddy down the pool, and be ready to go in a few short minutes. As we age, it takes longer and longer for our bodies to acclimate to the pool, ease kinks and aches, and mentally prepare for a workout.

Warm-up periods will vary based upon the fitness of each individual swimmer. A less-fit swimmer tends to warm up at a different pace as the blood flow to muscles increases, and the muscles contract and relax faster than in a more conditioned swimmer. Additionally, heart rate tends to elevate more rapidly in the less conditioned athlete. Conditioned swimmers take longer to warm up as it is a less taxing effort overall.

What exactly constitutes a good warm-up? Each person is unique and it varies from day to day. Play with it and don’t be afraid to change things in your warm-ups and find something that best prepares you for a good workout. Some people love variety in their warm-ups, others prefer to do the same thing each time.

A general rule of thumb is to begin with low-intensity swimming, keeping heart rate in Zone 1 (60-80% maximum heart rate level)  and then gradually increase intensity as the warm-up develops. This can be done with a set similar (longer or shorter) to this:

  • 300 easy swim, mixing up strokes as desired
  • 4 x 50 kick, 15 seconds rest
  • 4 x 50 swim, 15 seconds rest
  • 4 x 25 build by 25 to 90% effort

When I’m coaching my swimmers, I usually have them start out with a long swim of approximately 10 minutes, to allow for late arrivals, water avoiders, and chatters to get in the water and then start everyone off on a second warm-up set as listed above. This allows everyone to get the basic warm up in and still begin the workout as a group.

By providing yourself with a proper warm-up period, you'll be mentally and physically prepared for the rest of the workout, which will help to achieve maximum results.

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About the Author—Lisa Wolf

Lisa Wolf is a Masters coach with the Montgomery Ancient Mariners and the District of Columbia of Aquatics Club in the Washington, DC area. She’s also a USA-S age group coach with the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club and works with several other local swim programs. She’s  a certified USA Triathlon coach to better serve the growing triathlon community within USMS. Coach Wolf is a regular contributor to USMS publications, USAT Multisport Zone newsletter and local club newsletters. As current Potomac Valley Fitness Chair, she’s an avid recruiter to USMS, with the belief that “everyone is a swimmer, some of us just haven’t started yet.”

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