What’s the point of a warm up in swimming and how should I do one?

Most people know they should do a warm up before starting an exercise session and usually just start off doing some slow easy mindless swimming before doing some hard work. However, if you start to understand all the reasons why a warm up is helpful then it will mean you can make the session more useful for you and set you up for a better swim practice. 

Here are some benefits of a warm up and some tips on how to make it useful.

  • It marks the transition from life to swimming. Particularly if you’ve had a stressful day at work or are an anxious swimmer. Coach Stuart Liggins always starts every single swim session standing still, face in the water, blowing bubbles out of this nose. 
  • Getting warm! For me, the first 100m is a free swim! No brain – just splash, work hard and get warm! This is about getting over the “oh my god it’s f#cking freezing” (even if it’s the height of summer).
  • Give my body and my head the opportunity to get used to the feeling of water and the feeling of cold.  
  • Switch from being on land to being in water! My brain needs time to adjust from being a land mammal to the unstable environment of water and not having my feet held down by gravity. 
  • Get my joints and muscles warmed up and loose
  • Switch on my co-ordination and proprioception especially if I’ve been sat still at a desk all day
  • Remember what my stroke feels like and what it should feel like
  • Tune up my stroke by scanning through my stroke to see what feels good and what doesn’t.
  • Swim with some focal points starting with posture and balance focal points and moving on to more complicated ones
  • Getting the whole body warm and raising the heart rate from my usual flat lining after a day at a desk and increasing circulation to that blood is pumped around the body.

How to do a warm up: My warm up from this morning’s swim was something like this

  • 100m or 2-4 lengths jfs (just f#cking swim).
  • 2 x 50m repeats swimming easy, feeling the water and scanning through my body and my stroke. Working out how I feel today and how my stroke feels.
  • 4 x 50m repeats to tune up my stroke by working through some head, posture and balance focal points
  • Two rounds of (4 x 50m) Stroke development focal points. These are the main things you’re currently working on in your stroke and for me is currently my arm recovery.
  • If I’ve got a fast paced main practice then my next 4 x 50 I’ll do with a tempo trainer increasing the speed each rep but trying to keep my focus on the focal points from above.