On the day of a meet there is a bunch of stuff that swimmers need to pay attention to if they're going to perform optimally. The Meet Protocol is designed to ensure everything gets done in the correct way at the correct time.
Remember: the better prepared an athlete is, the better the performance they'll deliver.
Meet Protocol Explained
Dry Land Warm-up (Blood flow stretching)
Pre-pool has evolved significantly in recent years with more aspects being added as the science has become better understood and more widely known. We operate a RAMP-style, multi-stage, pre-pool warm up with a range of movements and exercises to perform at each stage. This is equally beneficial prior to training as well as on competition day.
Raise the heart rate and body temperature.
Activate the most important muscles.
Mobilise joints to ensure good range of motion.
Potentiate (or prime) the main muscles to be used
The first step is to raise the heart rate and thus body temperature. This is achieved through big movements such as those listed below. As a minimum these should be performed prior to training as well as part of the competition warm up.
- Skipping or jumping/jogging on the spot
- Arm swings (left arm forward, right arm forwards, left arm backward, right arm backward)
- Shoulder touches
- Bent over swings (alternate arms and double arms)
- Bent over hugs (single arm and double arms)
- Leg swings (left leg and right leg)
- Cross body leg swings (left leg and right leg)
Activate and Mobilise
There's debate over which of these words comes first. Joints probably need mobilising before activating their associated muscles though. Below are a few Mobilisation exercises.
- Joint Rotation (fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck)
- Trunk and Shoulder Blades
- Hips, Knees, Ankles, Feet, and Toes
- 3 Point Rotation
- Mountain Climber Stretch
- Shoulder Rotations
For effective swimming, the key muscles need to be activated during pre-pool. This activation process "teaches" them to fire correctly before being put to use in the pool
- Lunge to Rotation
- Glute Bridge (upside down plank)
- Wall press up
This phase is intended to prime the athlete for the activity they're about to perform. High intensity short sprints or fast movements. This may be best achieved in the pool as the pool warm-up. Other exercises:
- Squat jumps to streamline
- Burpees to streamline
- Accelerations and sprints
For best effect at meets, we need to spend around 15m completing this. Before training 5-10mins will be sufficient for the first two bits.
Remember: we do blood flow stretching as a team at competitions! Everyone needs to be pool side 15mins prior to their warm up.
One big difference between performance level swimmers and average club swimmers is that the former know exactly what they need to do during the 25min pool warm up. When time is available, the entire warm up below should be completed. This may be reduced from time to time depending on the warm up duration.
- Swim Fc 400m, with easy, smooth strokes
- Swim #1 2x100m, with race quality* turns
- Swim Fc 200m, increasing Stroke Rate and Kick Speed every 50m
- Swim #1 2x100m, spike 10m at some point
- Swim #1 2x25m, race quality* with target pace
- Swim Choice 200m, recovery with perfect technique
Pay attention to the detail during warm ups. Start the day swimming with perfect skills to reinforce how you want to swim your race. If the warm up states "Race Quality", then that particular skill should be done exactly as you plan to execute it in your race.
The race quality speed work (number 5), should always have a target pace in mind. If your main event of the day is a 200m Butterfly, your target pace should be the split that you want to swim through the first 25m of your race not your 25m Butterfly PB! Do your home work before the big day and work out what that 25m split needs to be.
Then be aware that in a 50m pool you need to swim through the 25m mark as coaches time to head mid-pool, not to hand (the hand won't be at the same point of the stroke cycle every time, the head will never vary). In a 25m pool you need to finish to feet (i.e. go through the turn).
Obviously, after any kind of speed work, no matter how short, we need a brief recovery swim. Swimming at a high intensity produces lactic acid in the muscles and we need to make sure there's adequate blood flow through the muscles to remove it before we sit around on pool side for hours.
The #1 stroke refered to in the warm up is the stroke you're focusing on in the upcoming session, your main event this session.
Pre Race Warm-up
After sitting around for an hour or so waiting for your event, it's important to wake up the muscles and increase the blood flowing through your body again. Blood transports fuel to the muscles and you want that fuel supply to be in the muscles ready to be used before your race starts, not arriving half way through your race.
Whether you feel it necessary or not, make sure you're repeating the blood flow stretching from earlier while waiting in the ready-room.
If the gap between session warm-up and your first event is longer than a couple of hours, it is worth jumping in the swim down pool for 10-15mins before heading to marshalling. This helps you to refocus on swimming instead of chatting with your friends.
As stated earlier, any intense exercise leaves lactic acid in the muscles and you don't want to be sat around for any length of time allowing it to accumulate. It's also beneficial to control how the heart rate returns to normal over 15-20mins to aid the recovery process.
Swim down will be adjusted to suit individual needs, so listen to your coach and do exactly what they ask for.
Recently you've been asked to do some variant of the following, although this does depend on how much time is available between races.
- Swim 100m on-stroke (whatever stroke you've just swum)
- Swim 100m off-stroke (a different stroke)
- Kick 100m with a 15m spike (i.e. FAST)
- Repeat the above 3 times
Remember to adjust for different pool sizes!
Recovery is also improved by eating/drinking a high-carbohydrate snack as you walk back from your race or head over to swim down (within a few minutes of your race). An energy bar, banana, or recovery drink would be ideal. There's a short period of time following intense exercise where the body absorbs the energy from such a snack much more efficiently. Take advantage of that.