Swim Meet Tips
Packing List for Swim Meets
Don’t wait until the last minute to pack your swim bag. Do this a night or two before the event, and you’ll sleep easier knowing its ready.
- USMS Card – it is always a good idea to carry a copy of your USMS registration card. If you’ve registered online, you probably won’t need it. If you register the day of the meet, you will definitely need to bring it with you.
- Swimsuits – bring extra! It is important to stay warm during a swim meet, so the muscles have the chance to stay loose. If you can, bring a suit for each event so that you have a dry suit each time. If you can’t, at least have one warm up suit, and one competition suit and change out of your suit between events when that is possible.
- Goggles – bring an extra pair of your favorite goggles in case you break or misplace the first pair. Remember, your competition goggles should fit tighter, so for that reason it is good to have a separate warm up pair that is a little looser. Clear goggles are better for the indoor meets, dark for outdoor meets.
- Swim caps – as with goggles, bring a spare! If you need a team swim cap, let your coach know early so they can have caps available.
- Towel – here’s a cool tip – get a swim chamois to do the initial drying off and then you can afford to bring just one towel. Takes up a lot less space and you aren’t left with wet towels to haul around.
- Warm Clothes & Shoe Wear – sweats, swim parka, and keeping your feet dry and warm are key, so pack well here. Also, it is a great idea to bring water sandals or flip flops to walk on the pool deck when your event comes up and good for the showers as well!
- Chair – a comfy chair will help you relax throughout the day and gives you more options on where you can sit. Trust me, you need the back support!
- Nutritious Food – while some swim meets provide some yummy food, many provide nothing, so it is worth it to bring light snacks that you can eat between events. Don’t skip your morning breakfast either. It is important to get food in your system to energize your body. Select foods that you find easy to digest. Watch out for foods high in grease, oil or sugar as those ingredients have a way of irritating your tummy on competition day! Many swimmers like fruit, trail mix, bagels, yogurt, sliced turkey or chicken lunch meet, etc. Do bring something to eat and also bring a water bottle. Be sure and hydrate throughout the day. The hotter it is, the more water you need to drink.
- Sun Protection – for those outdoor meets, bring sunscreen and use often. If Your team may have a canopy, but you should still bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat!
- Shampoo/Toiletries – after a day of chlorine and sunshine, you’ll feel better after showering off the chlorine at the end of the day, so bring a small supply of soap, shampoo, conditioners, etc.
- Swim Bag – rolling bags are great at swim meets. You can really save some wear and tear on your shoulder, neck and back, especially if you have a tendency to carry a lot in your swim backpack.
- Other – at outdoor meets when the temperatures are cooler, you might consider bringing a sleeping bag to huddle in between your events. Many of us just pile on layers, including beanie caps or stocking caps and fleece lined boots. Also, if you’ve got a lock for a standard locker, bring it. Many of the facilities have day use lockers and you can put your toiletries, etc. there. One more thing, if family members or friends are coming and you have a video camera, bring it with extra batteries and film cards. This is often one of the best ways to critique your event.
The Day of The Meet
It is a great idea to arrive early at the pool to get the lay of the land, locate your teammates, park your belongings, check in, do your warm up, and then get warm and dry.
When you arrive, find the check in. Most masters meets require you to check in for the events you’ll be swimming. (If you haven’t pre-registered but are deck entering, find the place to do that – usually next to check-in.)
Next, go find your teammates and park your belongings. Locate the restrooms (trust me, you’ll use them often) and scope out the lay of the land.
If you’ve arrived early enough, do your warm up in the competition pool. It is a good idea to establish a standard warm up. The routine of the warm up will help ease your mind and also help you know how you are feeling that day. Ask your coach if they have a recommended meet warm up. Find what works for you. Some swear by avoiding sprints during meet warm ups, others can’t do without them. Also, some warm up lanes may be 65+ only, some may be one-way sprints off the blocks, so pay attention to any signs at the ends of the lanes or announcements that come over the loud speaker. If you get a chance to do some dives, it can help. Just don’t overdo! 2-6 dives is probably sufficient. Do practice your turns and pay attention to the walls, the backstroke flags, and the starting blocks.
After warming up, rinse off and put on warm, dry clothes or your next suit. Keep your feet warm with shoes and socks! Find where they post the “heat sheets” so you know what heat and lane you’ll be in for your event(s). If you are with a team and a coach, let your coach know so they can write this information down and your team can cheer you on!
During the meet, before the start of each race, if possible, it is advisable to get wet in the warm-up area with the goal of getting loose and focused for your race. As the start of your race gets close, position yourself behind your block, take some slow deep breaths and do your best to stay loose and relaxed.
If this is your first meet (or even your 50th) you just might be a nervous wreck! Even veteran swimmers get nervous. The key is to channel your nervousness into adrenaline. How? Take some deep breaths in the heats leading up to yours. Don’t overdo it on the deep breathing, but see if you can get your pulse rate down. Tell yourself you are going to do just fine and if you have to say that 25 times, then say it 25 times. More than anything else, remember, this is about having fun. It is great to have goals and want to meet and exceed them, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Just go and do it! Swim, have fun, and then critique what worked and what didn’t.
After the race, be sure and do a warm down. Again, check with your coach on suggested warm downs. The number of laps or amount of yardage isn’t really important, it is the ability to bring the heart rate down and push out the lactic acid that built up in your race. Don’t skip the warm downs – it really will help you recover faster and you’ll feel better the next day.
Competition can be fantastic! Competing at a meet or an open water swim gives you something to work toward – a goal. Then, afterward, it gives you focus points to work on – another goal or goals. But don’t forget to enjoy the ride! It just can’t be solely about swimming your best times ever, you’ve got to have fun while doing this.
It is about the journey all along, the camaraderie of your teammates, the social aspect of practices, cheering your friends and fellow teammates at the meet, and the incredible warm and friendly nature of masters swimmers. So yes, I work hard and do my best, but I’ve stopped beating myself up over failing to meet my goal time or swimming a perfect race. Embrace the fact that you are not a couch potato and that you are doing something that only a small percentage of the population is doing. You are an athlete and you are challenging yourself to stay fit and healthy in a very cool way. So laugh and have fun!
Coach Cokie Lepinski
Marin Pirates Masters