Although I may have retired from competitive swimming, it doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to race! One of the questions that I’m asked most frequently is ‘what does a typical race day look like for me?’
Let me start by saying, nerves are good. Everyone gets nervous – it doesn’t matter if you have been swimming for years and years, or if this is your first race. You will always get nerves to some degree. I genuinely believe we feel this way before a race because we care about the outcome or result. As swimmers we spend hours upon hours going up and down that black line, for what can sometimes be a sub 30 second race. So, butterflies in your stomach shouldn’t be a concern. However, there is a fine line between nerves and fear, so don’t be scared… be confident!
Physical & Mental Preparation
For me there are two types of preparation for a race, physical and mental. The physical aspect occurs long before race day, which is all those days of training adding up, all the gym sessions and healthy eating. However, the mental side of preparation can be the biggest factor on race day. Your coaches can only get you so far, what goes on in your head leading up to a race is down to you. So, make sure you’ve left no stone unturned and have every confidence in your training and ability. This will leave you with positive affirmations about your swimming!
For some people preparation on race day can be a meticulous routine, from packing your bag the night before, to having a detailed timetable of how your race day should look. There is no right or wrong way to do this, it is very much a personal preference. For me, I had a rough idea of when to wake up and have breakfast, and what time arrive for warm up. I liked to keep the timing relatively loose so that I had a buffer in case anything held me up. I didn’t want an unnecessary reason to start stressing out! Typically, my race day bag would consist of these items:
- Training cap/race cap
- Caffeine drink/water
- Race suits
- Cereal bar/banana
Some athletes have good luck trunks/suits or hats/goggles. Personally, I felt I was just giving myself more things to worry about - what if I forgot my lucky cap or suit? Does this mean I’d swim badly? Instead of leaving things up to superstition or luck, I felt that as an athlete you created your own luck. As long as you put in the hard work and determination with a positive mental attitude, realistically nothing will stand in your way of success.
Recovery & Reward
After a morning swim, it was compulsory for me to go back, refuel and have a cheeky nap! If I’m honest, afternoon naps were better than sleep. I am not sure why, but they just were. After my final swim, and on the basis that I was happy with my performance, I would usually go out with my friends or family to have a nice big cheat meal to celebrate!
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