By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, March 27, 2017
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me on Twitter @MicGustafson.Dear Mike,
Recently at a Divisionals meet, I did really well and made PRs for every prelims/morning event, getting me a seat in the finals for those events. The meet was really close to home, so I drove back that morning. I just relaxed at home, since I was pretty tired. That night at finals, I didn't do as well as I did in the prelims. How can I maintain the energy and stamina that I need all day so that I can improve in the finals?
A Tired Swimmer
Hey Tired, Swimmer,
I’m so glad you asked this question. Maintaining stamina from prelims to finals is one of the most overlooked,least-talked about aspects in swimming. At prelims, most swimmers are ready to go, nervous energy is everywhere, and so are best times. But come finals, some swimmers are just exhausted. It’s a lot: A lot of yardage, a lot of nerves, a lot of hours at the pool. Unless you’ve experienced many prelims/finals meets throughout a career, it can be hard to adjust. Some coaches do a great job preparing their swimmers for this kind of physical fatigue, but others overlook this.
Like anything else in this sport, it’s about preparation.
Here are a few things you can do to help your body be ready for finals:
1. Hydration and Nutrition.
Make sure, especially in the morning, that you’re hydrating before, during, and after prelims. Sometimes in the morning, we swimmers don’t guzzle buckets of water. But waking up is when we’re most dehydrated. Make sure to have a good breakfast and especially a good lunch. Eat something after you warm down, then again when you get home.
2. No TV.
Limit TV between sessions. Most fatigue when you’re at rest comes through the eyes. Over stimulation of the brain is a real thing. Some swimmers will tend to watch movies between sessions. If you’re so nervous that you feel like you might puke, distraction can be a good thing. But if you don’t have a huge problem with nerves, limit screens.
3. In the weeks before your meet, practice the timelines.
The human body very much enjoys schedules. Rhythms. Patterns. Habits. If you’ve got a championship meet looming, practice that meet’s timeline. A few weeks before the meet, wake up when you’d have to wake up for the meet. Warm-up like you’d warm up in the meet. Race when you’d race. And relax between sessions like you would at the meet (if schedule permits). Repeat this process again in the evening. Prep your body for what it will encounter at the swim meet. Get it on some kind of schedule, so the championship meet timeline isn’t such a shock to the body.
4. Make sure to warm-down after prelims.
Many swimmers just don’t do a long enough warm-down after prelims. You’ve got to get all that lactic acid out of the body, warm-down, and stretch after prelims.
5. Don’t over-taper.
Some teams over-taper, by which I mean some teams just don’t put in the necessary pre-championship meet yardage to prepare the body for all the yardage encountered at the championship meet. Prelims, warm-downs, warm-ups, and finals wreak havoc on the body almost like holiday training does. You can’t swim 2,000 yards a day leading up to the swim meet, then swim 8,000 yards throughout the day at a championship meet, and expect to be good to go by Day Four.
6. My secret: The pre-finals nap.
I was one of those swimmers who rarely slept before prelims. I’d be so nervous, thinking about my race, stomach churning, tossing and turning throughout the night. So, I depended on the pre-finals nap in order to reset my body. If you can, try the between-sessions nap out. Even if you can’t nap or shut down your mind, at least you can relax, breathe, and find some calm.
I hope this helps!
Follow Mike on Twitter @MicGustafson.