Following Routine: Should I Do a Wake-Up Swim?


By Katie Arnold//High Performance Consultant

With the summer championship meets just around the corner, a lot of athletes and coaches are working to finalize the details of their race-day plans. Nutrition, recovery and race strategy are all key elements in these plans. Another important race-day consideration is when and how to warm-up for competition. In a sport so focused on repetition and routine, I think a lot of athletes get caught up in going through the motions because it is what they have always done, or it’s what they are supposed to do. While there is something to be said about the calm and confidence that can be gained through following a routine, the ability to be flexible and adapt to situations is something that gives elite athletes an edge.

One of the best illustrations of this is the traditional wake-up swim. The idea behind a wake-up swim is to get blood flowing and increase core body temperature, but all too often I see swimmers get stuck on the idea that they have to do this in the pool. This is usually easy to do at domestic competitions because teams stay near the competition pool and meet hosts open facilities early to accommodate this routine. However, having travelled to a number of international competitions, I have come to realize that long commutes and limited facility hours often make wake-up swims impossible.

This is where the flexibility comes into play. If an athlete believes that they have to “wake-up” in the pool, this obstacle can throw a real wrench in their routine, which can have a significant effect on their mental state leading into a competition. If the goal of a wake-up swim is to increase core body temperature by getting blood flowing, why not look at alternative ways to accomplish this goal? Things like jumping rope, riding a stationary bike, and doing jumping jacks can all accomplish similar results, and can be done in any hotel.