Warming up before a swim

ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member
edited March 2012 in General Discussion
On all my OW long swims to date, I've felt like sh*t for the first hour or so. Usually shoulder pain in both shoulders, like I haven't warmed up enough. Then, at around the hour mark, within the space of 5 mins, it's like everything suddenly loosens out and I can settle down and concentrate on swimming, rather than pain management. This is regardless of how much (or how little) dry land stretching etc I do beforehand. For OW, it's usually not really practical to do a swim warmup, so I usually have to hit the water dry and try to hit the pace early on. It's pretty much the same in the pool, but here you can stop a few times during the warmup and stretch it out, so it doesnt normally take as long to "get going".
At the moment, my workload is pretty high (for me) at 35-45Km / week on average, mostly at a good pace, so I'm not rested as such prior to a big swim.
So, am I alone here? Does anyone else have the same problem? Any thoughts?


  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    Yes, I have encountered the same problem, although not consistently. I find I struggle with that when I take it out too hard (usually from wanting to warm up sooner). Instead, I try to kick vigorously at the start to warm up that way and let my arms relax until I'm warm, and then pick up the pace. I've tried bringing stretch bands/cords down to the beach to warm up my arms first, but I have not found that as useful for me, but may be worth a try for yourself to see. One thing that almost always works though - doing a pool workout before an ocean swim with as little time between the two as possible.
  • Interesting, I thought it was just me... whether endurance running or swimming I find I am breathless in first 30mins, then settle - but I also slow down by 5 or 10secs per 100m. Warm up makes no difference to me, neither does a day off between swims.
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    One of the techniques that was shown to me in training was alternate nose breathing...until the muscles are well saturated with O2 before starting...all of my longer swims start out slow (takes me an hour to get the motor warmed up) with a deliberate stretch and reach. The technique is to cover one nostril with the thumb and breath in on the opposite nostril and out through mouth 8 or 10 times and then switch to the other one....a bit like hyperventilating before a free dive....seems to help along with stretching the pecks on a vertical board while consciously breathing into and out of the muscle....maybe kind of a yoga technique???

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    @ColmBreathnach Why do you have to "try to hit the pace early on" - because of the cold? If I hit the water not-warmed-up, I always try to stay very smooth & relaxed for the first few minutes and build into a pace. I think if I tried to hit a pace right away, I'd probably experience symptoms just like you describe.

    If I don't have access to a pool and can't afford to "build into a pace" - e.g., a short-distance OW race - I opt for some light jogging, light bands (stretch cords), and dynamic stretching. Recent physiology research recommends against static stretching in a non-warmed-up state, but personally I like to include some light rotator cuff stretches too.
  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member
    Thanks for the replies.
    @jenschumacher, good idea, i'll try it next time.
    @sharko, i had to read your post a few times to try and figure out how I was going to do this in the water, until it clicked, do you do this on land?
    @evmo, hitting the pace early on goes back (way way back) to when I was fast and competitive. I guess there's still a desire to compete that's hard to fight. If I could build up a pace within a few minutes, I'd be delighted, but all the short distance swims, < 1 hour, I just waste most of it waiting for the pain to go away before I can crack on. I reckon 3 hrs is my ideal swim time. 1hour to warm up, 1 hour to catch up, 1 hour to "make them hurt".

    I find doggie paddle pretty good actually, but I suspect most swim organisers would get a bit anxious if swimmers started off a race doing that ;-)

  • mmeadmmead Charter Member
    I struggle with this too. Ideally I need 2-3km of warm up before I really start working hard, but that is not realistic in a race situation. I've been trying out a new set once a week for the last couple weeks to help prep my body to take a race out fast, catch my breath, and bring it back fast.

    1x500 Easy Warm Up
    5x100 (About 1:00-1:15 Rest) @ 100% Effort
    4x500 Odds Swim, Evens Pull and Descend @ Best Possible Interval+10 Base
    10x50 (About :15-:20 Rest) 25 Easy/25 FAST

    It doesn't feel good but then again, maybe it will make the race feel better. Eventually I'm going to start doing this set with no warmup, maybe just some bands and jogging for a more realistic situation. And yes, whenever possible, warm up at the pool before a race.
Sign In or Register to comment.