With championship season just around the corner swimmers from coast to coast are priming up for their big meets of the year. After months of investing all of those early mornings and seemingly impossible main sets, the opportunity to reap the benefits of all of your hard work is upon you.

Here are 7 tips for making sure that you maximize all of your invested efforts going into meet time–

1. Pack like a boss. An extra suit, goggles and cap are obvious ones. Then there is all the non-essential, yet essential stuff. For some it is music – make sure your iPod is charged before you head to the pool. Having had a few meets under your belt this year you should already have a good idea of what ya need, and what ya don’t, as well as what you will need for your pre-race routine.

2. Manage that extra energy. In the couple weeks leading up to the meet, training volume will go down, and with it, you will experience a level of superhuman energy that you forgot you were capable of. Managing that sudden influx of energy will be challenging, but be mindful of burning it off in ways that don’t interfere with your taper.

3. Keep your diet surprise-free. Although we like to think that we love variety in our diet, most of us have a surprisingly consistent set of meals. Will these be available to you at the meet? The last thing you want is your stomach doing a back-flip while you are standing behind the blocks moments before your big race. There are times to try new things with your diet; in the days and hours leading up to your competition is not one of them.

4. Have your pre-race routine planned out. Your pre-race routine acts as a trigger, a cue telling your body that it’s time to rock and roll. Have a plan for your warm-up, how long you are going to stretch, what you’re going to listen to, and so on. Having a pre-race routine helps to keep things familiar and comfortable for you, even if you are at a pool halfway across the globe. Don’t know how to build one? Think back to the last time that you swam completely out of your mind, and emulate those same circumstances.

5. Have goals for the meet. Duh, right? But you would be amazed how many swimmers don’t bother to plan this out. No expectations, no chance of being disappointed, am I right? Wrong. Revisit your dream goals and see where the upcoming meet fits in the long term plan. Go into the meet with a clear outline of what you hope to accomplish, whether it is time, stroke rate, splits, and so on.

6. Perfect practice. Repetition and volume are important, but fairly useless unless you are executing with proper form. With lowered yardage heading into the big meet there will be a greater emphasis on developing speed and power; sharpening the blade, so to speak. If you have been focused on maintaining excellent technique in practice until now, this isn’t the moment to let that slip.

7. Envision yourself swimming successfully (especially in the face of adversity). Phelps was a monster at this; he visualized his races up-and-down, imagining all sorts of scenarios, so that inevitably when something did go wrong (his goggles filled up in the 200m butterfly at the Beijing Games), he was able to remain calm and collected.

In the months, weeks, and days leading up to the meet make a daily effort to visualize the perfect race, while also including variations where things don’t go exactly as planned. Here are some sample scenarios to give you some ideas:

  • The warm-up pool is overflowing.

  • You are late to the meet.

  • You don’t have time for your usual stretch and warm up.

  • And of course, your bathing suit either rips (a la Berkeley Dreamboat, aka Nathan Adrian), or worse.

When going through the negative scenarios your reaction should be calm and focused. If you catch your imagined self getting all freaked out, take a breath and reset.

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