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United States Masters Swimming

  Preparing for the BEST

Printed with permission from:

Pool's Edge Column - Swimming World Magazine - April 2007

By: Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen Aquatic Edge, Inc.

Grab your racing suit…it's time to swim fast! An end-of-the-season local, regional, state or USMS National Championship meet is a GREAT way to chart your progress, wrap up the old season and begin a fresh new one. Hey, it's also fun to hang out with all your swim buddies for a weekend and head out on a road trip.

Whatever goal meet you have in mind, one thing I know for certain is that many of you will train well and do everything right for months, and then blow it big time in the last few weeks or days leading up to the event.

Are YOU preparing yourself for the best? Or, are you setting yourself up to sabotage your taper?

Drawing from personal experience, along with some invaluable wisdom imparted to me by coaches I have known over the years (my coach age-group coach 1960 Olympic Gold medalist Mike Troy to name just one), here are some suggestions that may help you swim your best at the next big meet.

Prior to the meet

Get there early: If you are traveling a great distance or changing time zones, arrive at least two days before the meet to get acclimated. This may mean additional time off of work and a few extra dollars, but you are already making the effort to travel to the meet, do your best to set yourself up to swim fast.

Take your racing gear on the plane: This should be a no-brainer for most of you, but needs mentioning anyway. If your luggage is lost, there is nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute in an unfamiliar city to replace your favorite racing suit and goggles.

At the meet

Stay off your feet, stay off your feet, stay off your feet! You may not be aware of this but standing around really drains the energy out of your legs. If you are having a conversation…SIT IT DOWN. Just take a nearby seat and chat away! A little walking is ok, but plan your trip to the mall or a visit to the museum or Zoo after the meet. Don't blow your meet by having tired legs.

Get to the meet on time: Have a daily plan; know what you are swimming and when (including relays). Arrive early to get a good warm up. Don't add more stress to the event by rushing around, getting lost or fighting the crowd for a last minute warm up.

Pack well: Bring extra suits, caps, towels and 2 pairs of goggles (in case your favorite pair breaks). You may also need WARM clothes; a hat, shoes and socks if the pool deck is chilly…even in the summer.

Don't rely on the venue for your food/drink: Bring a small ice chest and fill it with easy to digest snacks, water and your favorite post exercise nutrition (a must at a long meet). You do not want to become dehydrated or get too hungry. I pack Accelerade, soy drinks, low fat chocolate milk, Cliff Bars and PB & J's.

Schedule time AWAY from the pool: Try not to get "sucked in" to the meet. Keep yourself fresh and ready to swim fast by finding a quiet spot to "chill out." Plan mini-breaks away from the competition venue when you are not racing.

In the pool

Easy does it on sprints and starts: Many athletes want to prove that they are still FAST by doing a lot of sprints right before the meet. Or, they decide it's time to perfect their start and go off the blocks for an hour. Both of these activities will really tire you out. Do a few of each; then call it quits.

Warm up & cool down: Don't short yourself on a good warm up. If too much time has elapsed since you warmed up, get in again. Cool down immediately after each event and add a bit more distance at the end of the day to relax sore muscles. A good cool down is also "insurance" that your next race has a chance to be a good one, too!

I heard a story about the amazing Amy Van Dyken. She had just won a gold in the 100m Butterfly at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. After the medal ceremony her coach said to her, "Great race, now go swim down 3,000." I love that!

Last but not least:

Have fun! After all, this is not the Olympics...it's really just another meet. If you are having fun, you will be relaxed and will perform better. Laugh and enjoy the moment, cheer for your friends and teammates, share your energy and other will share theirs with you.

Attitude of gratitude: Be grateful for: good health, US Masters Swimming, our swimming friends and family, and most of all, for the opportunity to swim and race for as long as we choose!

Swim fast and have fun! I hope your meet turns out well for all of you. If not, there is always NEXT year, and the year after that, and the year…

BIO: Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen: Since March 2007, Karlyn has set 25 Masters World records bringing her career total to 172 WR to date. Karlyn is also a 2007 International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame honoree & the 2004 World Masters Swimmer of the Year. For more information visit www.aquaticedge.org