The perfect swim start

Having done all the hard graft to get to the Start Line of your swim, it’s important to nail your warm-up before the race gets underway. Fail to warm up properly and you could waste all the performance gains you’ve made in training.

Many swimmers start the day with a warm (not too hot) shower for two to three minutes to get the circulation going and give your body a wake-up call.

As with any mass participation sporting event, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to prepare and avoid any unnecessary stress ahead of the race. Make sure you arrive at Swim Serpentine at least one hour before your wave is due to start. You’ll be able to use this time to get your blood pumping and get your muscles warmed up for a powerful performance in the water.

Warm-up drills
Before you enter the water, follow this dry land warm-up routine 10 to 15 minutes before the race is due to start. If you’re wearing a wetsuit, it’s a good idea to unzip it to your waist to aid movement.

1. Arm swings
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, spin your arms gently in a forward motion at a slow pace from the shoulder to help stimulate blood flow, increase circulation and get your muscles warmed up.

  • Swing both arms together in a forward motion 10 times.
  • Swing both arms together in a backwards motion 10 times.
  • Swing your right arm in a forward motion 10 times.
  • Swing your left arm in a forward motion 10 times.
  • Swing your right arm in a backwards motion 10 times.
  • Swing your left arm in a backwards motion 10 times.

2. Cross over arm swing
If you were watching the open water swimming at the Rio Olympics, you might have noticed that another favourite warm-up method is the horizontal cross over arm swing – an exercise often used by Michael Phelps. Bend forwards at the waist so you’re staring at the floor, place your arms out either side of you like wings and simultaneously swing both arms inwards so they cross and you end up hugging yourself.

Done properly, you should end up slapping the palms of your hands on your back, with your right hand touching your left shoulder blade and your left hand touching your right shoulder blade. Then immediately repel your arms back outwards to undo your crossed arms until they extend all the way behind your back, so that the backs of your hands almost meet behind you. This should be a fluid motion. Repeat this action in both directions 10 times.

3. Torso swing
Stand with your feet planted firmly shoulder width apart. Place your arms out either side of you and swing your arms loosely at a slow pace back and forth, so that your torso follows the movement, as if you were throwing an imaginary discus. Build up the motion so that you eventually rotate around 270 degrees from where you originally faced for your starting point. This will help warm up your core and stretch out your abdomen. Repeat this action 10 times to both your left and right sides.

4. Standing lateral stretch
With your feet shoulder width apart, keep your right arm by your side and raise your left arm above your head, (you can rest your left palm on the back of your head if you wish). With your feet planted, slowly lean with your left arm and reach over to the opposite side so that your body follows this sideways movement, (at this point your right ear will be facing the floor). Hold the stretch for five seconds, before returning to an upright position. This will help open up your abdomen and your ribcage. Alternate between your left and right arm and repeat five times for both arms.

5. Hunched shoulder rotation
To continue to get your blood flowing, standing upright, place your arms at your sides, hunch your shoulders and rotate both shoulders clockwise and then anticlockwise. Repeat 10 times in both directions.

6. Stroke action
The warm-up offers a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with the motion of the stroke you’re planning to use during the swim. Use this time to hone your form and repeat the motion 10 times, or until you are happy with your form.

7. Jumping on the spot
A pre-swim run or jog can hinder your warm-up, making your upper body tight and rigid, so instead simply jump up and down on the spot for roughly 60 seconds. This will help elevate your pulse, as you want your heart rate to be above resting when you begin your race.

8. Standing quad stretch
Stretch out your quads by standing and folding your left leg back by grasping the top of your ankle and pulling your foot toward your bottom. Hold for 10 seconds before returning your foot to the ground. Then replicate but with your right leg, holding for 10 seconds.

9. Acclimatising to the water
At Swim Serpentine you can acclimatise to the water before the start of your wave by using the ‘dunk zone’ near the start ramp.

When you enter the water, you may feel your chest tightening due to the water temperature, so take care to lower yourself into the water gently so that your breathing can stabilise. Splashing some water on your face can also help you to acclimatise to the open water.


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