Wellingborough Amateur Swimming Club
What you do "on the day" depends on you. Good preparation will give you good results; sloppy preparation, sloppy results.
The following checklist will help you to get it right. Remember, success takes a lot of preparation. Every training session matters to your winning plan.
1. Train Well
You only benefit from the training sessions you do! Tackle the difficult bits cheerfully. Take a pride in good quality starts, strokes, turns and finishes.
Remember, you cannot learn at race pace. Good technique gives you the best chance to swim a faster time. The better the technique, the more efficient your stroke, turns, starts and finishes. Do not sprint or race unless your coach asks you to. Train at the speed asked for by the coach. The various aspects of your training demand different speeds. It is not important to be at the front of the lane; it is important to be able to swim comfortably in the lane at the right pace.
2. Sleep Well
Athletes, especially those who are growing, need more sleep than "couch potatoes". Make sure you get enough sleep.
3. Eat Well
Carbohydrates are the basic food of athletes. A plate of cereal, or a hunk of bread and jam after training is a good way to refuel. And don't forget you need plenty to drink. When you train you will lose a certain amount of fluid from your body in perspiration even though you may not be aware of it. This fluid needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Weak squash is one of the more effective drinks for replacing fluid fast. Fizzy drinks are not efficient at replacing body fluids.
4. On the Day
Avoid panics: get everything ready early. Pack your bag early. Have a restful day. Don't spend the day walking round the shops. Eat about two to three hours before you will swim.
5. Take with You
Poolside clothes are essential to keep you warm. Muscles need to be kept warm if they are to work well for you.
Cold muscles can lead to injury. Shoes and socks keep feet and leg muscles from getting cold. Trousers or shorts help to keep legs warm. One or even two polo tops keep the top half of you warm - shoulders, chest and back. These clothes should be put on as soon as possible after the warm up - BUT do dry off with a towel first, and if possible change into a dry costume / trunks - making your clothes wet is not going to keep you warm through the gala. Remember - cold muscles = poor swim, or worse, injury.
You will need more than one towel to ensure that you can dry off after warm up and between events. Unless your bag has "wet" and "dry" sections, keep towels, costumes/trunks and clothes in plastic bags to protect the dry ones from the wet.
Take as many costumes / trunks as you can to a gala. Change into a dry costume / trunks after every swim. Put the wet ones in the wet section of your bag so they do not make anything else wet.
If you wear a hat make sure you have two or three spares. A rip in your only hat at the last moment before you race can undo all the preparation.
Goggles are well known for breaking. Make sure you have more than one pair with you always. Have a "best" pair for racing and older pairs for training and spares.
Always have a large plastic bottle of weak squash with you and sip it frequently. Do not rely on finding a drink at the pool. Fizzy drinks are not good before exercise - they actually encourage dehydration. If it is to be a long gala, have plenty of carbohydrate snacks with you to eat between events. Do not eat immediately before an event.
6. At the Pool
Be observant. Check everything. Which is the deep end and how deep is it? What depth is the shallow water? Are there blocks to dive from or hold onto for backstroke? At which end of the pool will races start? Are the flags what you expect? Do the black lines in the pool go down the middle of the lane? Where do the black lines stop? How many lanes are there? What length is the pool? Where and when will you report for your swim? Who is on the poolside to help you?
Start your warm up with a relaxed steady frontcrawl swim. Slowly build up your speed. Practice your turns as you swim and keep moving. After your frontcrawl, change to your race stroke/s. Some drills will help you focus on your stroke. If you are doing backstroke check the number of strokes from the flags to the end of the pool for the turn and the finish. Try to get at least 15 minutes of warm up time and use all of it.
7. During the Gala
Keep your body ready to race. Muscles need to be used to stay in a ready state. Every few minutes move about, swing and stretch. Do not sit in a cramped position - keep stretching and moving. Keep awake and be aware of what is going on in the water. Cheer your team mates; this helps them and keeps you in the mood for competition.
8. Mental Preparation
Rehearse your race in your mind. See yourself starting well, going into a good stroke. See yourself hitting the wall on the turns and pushing off hard and fast. Watch yourself holding the pace and finishing fast. Be confident you can swim a good race.
Decide what sort of race you are going to swim. Are you going to go out fast, or are you going to pace yourself? Are you going to make a final sprint to the finish? If so, when are you going to start the sprint - before the last turn or as you come out of it? If it is frontcrawl or butterfly, what sort of breathing pattern are you going to use?
Think about your streamlining. On the dive and turns valuable hundredths of a second can be saved. Streamlining may give you the winning hundredth!
9. Going to the Start
Be alert. Do not let anything get to you. Be ruthless. Do not talk to the people around you. Concentrate on the water and what you are going to do.
Do not join the "I'm dreading this swim" - "I'll finish last" people. This sort of negative thinking will influence your swim. Think positive thoughts, "I'm going to try for a PB this time." - "On every turn, I'll swim in hard, push off hard, and streamline off the wall."
10. In the Race
Swim the race according to your plan. Be aware of where the other swimmers in your race are but do not look around. Put in 100% effort and make it a performance that YOU are pleased with.
11. After the Race
Collect up your clothes and speak to your coach about your swim. Don't always expect the coach to tell you what went right or wrong; discuss your own feelings about the race. How you feel matters. Analyse the good and the bad and you will know what needs to be worked on for next time.
Dry yourself and put your poolside clothes on as soon as possible.
If you have another swim, put the last swim behind you and start to focus on the next event - go back to 7!
Remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Good luck!