Competitive Coach’s Corner – December 2011

Dressing For Success

As our beautiful Arizona weather begins to cool off and winter begins to set in, it becomes a challenge for all swimmers to try and stay warm especially during swim meets so they can be ready to swim fast.  Having raised two kids who started swimming/competing at very young ages 4 and 5 and coached numerous other swimmers being warm at a meet is very high if not at the top of the list in preparing to swim a meet outdoors.  You do have to dress for success because a cold swimmer is usually a slow swimmer in comparison to a swimmer that is toasty warm and ready to go!

Since we don’t always know exactly what the weather will be it’s always better to be over prepared, ready for anything, then under prepared. I’ve watched swimmers bring tarps for the ground, dome tents (Rachel & Erik had one and we carted it to every meet until the kids were older) and sleeping bags just to name a few things.  What you pack or wear to the meet can make a big difference in your overall performance. Here is a pretty complete list of things that need to be packed for an outdoor swim meet in the winter:

Team Parka

Team Sweat Suit – jacket/sweat shirt & pants

T-Shirt – long sleeves if possible and maybe bring two

Wool Socks – Absorb moisture and will keep the feet warmer.  Cotton socks can work but only if you have one pair for each event you swim because when cotton socks get wet they stay wet and get cold – not what you want to have on your feet.

Warm Boots – Uggs are great but expensive especially if your feet are still growing. Purchase boots one to two sizes larger to allow for growth and ease of getting them on and off getting on to the blocks or out of the water.  Look for snow boots with a warm lining.

Hand & Foot Warmers – I would buy a huge package at the beginning of each season for my kids and we use them as needed.  They can be found at just about any store that sells outdoor equipment – REI or Target.  They are not expensive and well worth it.

Mittens or Gloves – Always a must, mittens are better then gloves since your fingers stay together in the mitten and are not individually separated like in gloves.

Hat – A nice and warm one.  Since a good percentage of your body heat leaves through your head, keep it covered up.

Towels – Big ones that can wrap around you.  One per event because when they get wet they stay wet and get cold.

Bathing Suits (2) – one for warm-up and one to race in, always have an extra you never know when a suit can disappear or rip

Bathing Caps (2) – always have an extra you never know when one will rip

Goggles (2) – always have an extra pair to be prepared

Gym Shorts – to be used if the weather warms up

Flip Flops – only to be used if the weather warms up or to go to the pool for warm-up

Large Garbage Bags – A must to keep in your swim bag not only for meets but for practice just in case you get rained on.

Thermos of Hot Chocolate or Hot Cider or Hot Tea – depends on what you like to drink to stay warm.

Water – still a must to stay hydrated but it can be room temperature instead of cold

Non Messy Snacks – Should be something light non-filling to help keep your energy level up but not fill you up.  Snacks should be eaten throughout the course of the meet.

Now that you have your swim bag packed you are ready to go to the meet.  For warm-up get undressed to your suit and get to the water fast bringing a towel if there’s some place to put it (on a fence or on timer chairs) and your flip flops.  Don’t let your feet be on the cold ground (deck or grass).  After warm-up immediately get dressed as warm as you can by putting everything on.  Remember as the day goes on it may not be necessary to wear everything you brought.  It’s very important to understand it’s always better to be a little warmer but never good to be chilly or cold.

When it’s time to go to the blocks to race remove everything you are wearing except your suit, parka, boots and socks and take a dry towel, your goggles and cap.  When you are the next heat to swim keep your parka, boots and socks on until the slowest swimmer in the heat is doing their last turn.  Remove your socks one foot at a time and put the socks in your boots then put your feet back in the boots or stand on your boots so your feet are not on the pool deck.  As the last swimmer is finishing remove your parka and put it with your towel.  When you are whistled onto the blocks or into the water, step out of your boots or off your boots onto the block or into the water so your feet stay off the cold deck.  It’s important to understand that if your feet get cold and you can’t feel your toes and feet you won’t be able to affectively kick in the water.  You MUST keep your feet warm at all times. Once you finish your race, dry off quickly put your feet back in your boots, wrap your towel around you and put your parka on.  Go warm down, get dressed putting everything back on and see your coach to discuss your race.  Go back to the team area and drink and enjoy a light snack.

Stay warm and always be prepared for any kind of weather.  You’ll be happier, warmer and swim a lot faster if you’re Dressing for Success.

– Melissa


  • dtait
  • Posted at 3:00pm on Jan 31, 2011

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