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by Lisa Wolf

March 1, 2013

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

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.


  • Technique and Training


  • Warm Ups