Before you start your swim or any workout for that matter, you need to make sure your body is ready to go. This can be done by warming up. Additionally, as you finish your workout, you want to make sure your body has had adequate time to cool-down. This seems like common sense, but the warm up and cool down are two areas people tend to skim over to save time, or because it doesn’t seem as important as the actual workout. Truth be told, both of these things are in fact just as important as your workout.
Warming up helps ensure that your body is prepared to start the workout, that your heart rate raises safely and slowly, and most importantly it can help prevent injury. By warming-up, you are also avoiding any oxygen deficit or pre-training tiredness. Generally speaking, the warm-up period is relative to the workout in that it’s duration will depend on how much you plan to do. For instance, if I plan to swim for about an hour and my workout includes a series of drills but is mainly comprised of intervals, I would likely spend the first 15-20 minutes (or 800-1000 meters) warming up to ensure that I am ready for the level of intensity I have planned ahead of me. On the flip side, if my workout calls for an hour long straight though, endurance swim (aka cruise control) I would likely spend closer to 10 minutes (or 500-600) warming up because the intensity is lower. Whatever you choose is appropriate for you, concentrate on relaxing your joints and gradually raising your heart rate to ensure the warm-up effects can be maintained and gliding through the water, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to go.
THE COOL DOWN:
Cooling down will start the process of initiating the recovery period by returning breathing, body temperature and heart rate back to normal slowly. This allows the blood to properly redistribute itself to the heart which helps rid the muscles of lactic acid that can build up around the muscles. Like the warm up, your cool down will vary from workout to workout depending on what the workout was comprised of. For longer, more moderate paced swims, I find 5-10 minutes adequate, but if my workouts are chock full of intensity, I tend to need a good 10-15 minutes to properly wind down and relax. In addition to the cool down, stretching is also key. You may have been told to stretch before your workout but truth be told, stretching cold muscles has very little effect on flexibility so it’s better to do this post workout, when your muscles are warm and loose. Overall, stretching will help continue to clear waste products from the muscles, improve your overall flexibility and stimulate muscle relaxation. Because swimming is an all-body workout, try to stretch all of the major muscle groups after you cool-down. Listed below are some of my preferred stretches.
- Shoulder stretch
- Triceps stretch
- Lower back
- Hip flexor stretch in three planes
- Hamstring stretch
- Quadriceps stretch
- Calf stretch
For best results, hold stretches for 10 to 15 seconds and run through stretch three times.
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