Fit to Swim: National Meet Success

Fit to swimAs I type, USMS LCM Nationals is only 37 days away, and counting.  Any National event is a great chance to see lots of fast swims from swimmers of all ages, make new friends and reconnect with people you haven’t seen lately, as well as an opportunity to learn from your fellow swimmers.  Whether this is your first National meet, or one of many you’ve attended, below is a list of reminders about swim meets that everyone can take something away from.

Gear—Pack your bag ahead of time and be sure you have everything you will need for the meet, especially if you are not traveling to and from home each day.  Caps and goggles are easy to come by, and there will be vendors with swim-wares available on site for purchase, but don’t forget your racing suit(s)!  Extra towels, warm clothing in case you get cold on deck, and a deck chair or blanket can always stay in the car if you don’t find you need them.  Pack sunscreen, sunglasses and a large brimmed hat to keep you out of the sun.  There isn’t much shade outside at the Mt Hood Aquatic Center.  Retreat indoors to get a break from the heat as needed.

Food—Make sure you eat well and have snacks on hand in case you get hungry in-between your events, volunteer activities and days of the meet.  If you normally eat breakfast, eat breakfast the morning of the meet.  Don’t change the habits that make you feel good the day of competition.  Eating normally will help ensure you have enough energy to last the entire day.  There will also be concessions available for purchase at the meet, but only you know the food(s) that make you feel best, and those items might not be available; pack accordingly.  There are also grocery stores very close to the aquatic center in case you forget something important.  Ask any volunteer for directions.

Hydration—Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after the meet.  Assume that it will be hotter than usual this year so bring a cooler to keep your drinks cold.  Take advantage of the water coolers placed around the pool deck and refill your water bottle regularly.

Warm-up—A good warm-up can help your swims in many ways.  You’ll get to feel the temperature of the pool, see where the flags are positioned for turns, note if the walls are sticky or tacky, count your strokes, and overall get you body accustomed to swimming in a new environment.  Not to mention getting your heart rate up with a few sprints, or working on hitting your race pace with a few 50s or 100s.  All of the training you’ve been doing will take you far but it’s important to get your body ready to race the day of the meet as well.  Take advantage of being able to use the indoor pool for quick warm-ups and cool-downs but definitely spend some time in the competition pool whenever you have the chance over the course of the meet to keep the feeling of a LCM pool fresh, especially if you do not train in one regularly.

Rules—If you have a question about a rule or regulation, ASK!  There will be many on-deck coaches in brightly colored shirts, officials and familiar-faced OMS board members at the meet to help answer your questions.  You can always refer to the volunteers at the check-in table for whom to ask about your specific question or concern.  Here are a few rules to remember:

Only feet-first entry during warm-up.

No diving until a sprint lane is opened.

Clear the pool immediately at the conclusion of warm ups and breaks so the meet can stay as close to proposed time line as possible.

No paddles, buoys, fins, kick boards or any other type of training equipment allowed in the pool during warm-up or cool-down.

When it comes to starts, there is a set of short whistles to call the next heat of swimmers to the blocks.  Then there is one long whistle telling the swimmers to step up on the block and place at least one foot at the front of the block, or to slide into the water in the case of backstroke events, or a swimmer who is not using the block and wishes to start from in the water.  The starter will state, “take your mark”, and all swimmers assume their starting positions.  Do not get up on the block or enter the water before you are supposed to do so.

Cool-down—Even if you only have time to stretch out for a quick 100 before your next event or relay, you will feel better by the end of the meet if you take the time to loosen up after each of your swims.  Cooling down helps get your heart rate and breathing back to normal and helps your muscles recover in preparation for your next race.  If there are no more races, swim a little longer, you’ll feel less tight the next day.

There is not much that beats a National meet at home.  Good luck and swim well while representing the Pacific Northwest!!

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