CIA NEWSLETTER 2018 FEB "The Pre-Race Routine"

The Pre-Race Routine

Humans in general are creatures of habit. We wake up every morning and put on our clothes, brush our teeth, do our hair, and get ready to leave the house in almost the same way every day. We feel most comfortable and prepared for what might come our way that day by doing the same wake up routine. Sports are no different. Every great athlete has their favorite way to prepare for that big game or race. Perhaps you haven’t considered a pre-race routine before, but as we gear up for our end of season meets, now is the perfect time! Your pre-race routine is something that can be used before every race to help get you into your very own peak performance mode.

A pre-race routine can help a swimmer remain calm and comfortable or pump them up to get their heart rate going and muscles ready to fire. It all depends on what the swimmer enjoys the most to help get them “in the zone.” We all recognize Michael Phelps’ famous shoulder stretch and arm swings. His shoulders didn’t need extra stretching at that moment before every race. It was just part of his buildup to every great race he prepared for!

Some of us might be thinking: Where do I start? What do I do? What if people look at me funny! For any swimmer wanting to try it out the best advice is to keep it simple. Choose three things you like to do while waiting for your next race at a meet and do them in a particular order. A couple of ideas are specific stretches, listening to a certain song, jumping up and down, praying, or visualizing your race. Give yourself plenty of time before each race to try out what makes you most comfortable and ready to race!


I always had the same routine before every race that I started doing in high school and continued on until I finished my career. With plenty of time to do the following, here is what helped me:

  1. Do the same exact warm up before each race (in addition to the team warm up).

  2. Bundle up in warm clothes. Shirt, sweatpants, socks, shoes, and jacket (sometimes two jackets!).

  3. Find a quiet spot and stretch, listen to the same music playlist, and visualize my next race.


For the more advanced swimmer who already has an established routine that works for them and is looking to find that extra edge, the next step is engaging the feeling of being unstoppable. The idea is to create a feeling of “no fear” within so that no matter what or who you are racing no one will be able to stop you from accomplishing your goal. Here are some tips for engaging that “no fear” attitude:

  1. As you visualize your race think about what each part will feel like physically. Nailing down that perfect turn and exploding off the wall, feeling stronger every stroke you take, the power in your legs as you kick are a few things that help build that good energy within.

  2. Think about the passion and celebration you will have after that perfect finish at the end of your race. The joy of seeing your teammates and family cheering for you after you accomplish everything you said you could.

  3. Feel the sense of gratitude after your race of all the things you’ve worked on in practice to get to that point and overcome your personal challenges.


There is no right or wrong way to create a routine. Find what works best for you. When you find that routine that works for you, you will never forget it. It’s what gives you the edge to maximize your potential and makes each race more fun. Think of it as your very own superpower!

We Are CIA!!

Eric Zeller
Lead Assistant Coach