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by Scott Bay

December 19, 2013

Things to think about in your quest for the Goldilocks warm-up

Coaches are often asked what athletes should do for warm-up before they race at a meet. The best warm-up should challenge and prepare your swimmers not too much, not too little, but just right. And ultimately, the best warm-up is the one that works. Sure, that’s a vague answer, but if we were all the same, someone would have come up with “the perfect warm-up” already. Instead, here are some things to consider when building a prerace warm-up routine for your swimmers.

  1. The athlete. There are lots of variables here, such as fitness level, age, health, and any preexisting conditions that affect performance.
  2. The event. Naturally, there should be different warm-ups for different events.
  3. Fatigue. Is this the first race or the last race? What other factors can influence the energy level of the athlete?
  4. Nutrition. When was the last time the athlete ate? What was it? Is the swimmer well hydrated?
  5. Physical environment. Think about the air and water temperatures at the racing venue. Water space is also a consideration. If it’s cold or overly crowded, maybe a dryland warm-up is a better idea.
  6. Psychology. Is your athlete “in the moment” and focused on the race? This can be tricky to manage.

The following suggestions can also help guide you in building a good warm-up:

  • Have the swimmer complete a long, slow swim thinking about perfect stroke.
  • Incorporate kicking into the warm-up. It is amazing what it does for swim speed when done right.
  • Add in some pace work.
  • Complete some faster-than-race-pace short effort swims.
  • Take the necessary time to focus on every aspect of the race that produces peak performance.

How much you put into each of the items above will vary from athlete to athlete. You might need to change it up a bit from time to time until you get it just right.



  • Coaches Only


  • Competition
  • Warm Ups
  • Meets