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Guide Blog

Top tips for a successful swim race

By Benjamin McIvor , 20 April, 2016

Since the early years of SwimTrek we’ve been taking swimmers from across the globe to participate in the iconic Hellespont and Dardanelles. For 2016 we’ve expanded our swim race offer with additions to our calendar including the ever popular Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim, poetic Coppa Byron Swim, Ireland’s most popular sporting event the Liffey Swim and Caribbean swim races in Haiti and St Kitts.

Preparation is key to making the most out of your race experience whether swimming to win or simply following in the wake of Greek Mythology and famous poets. And so here at SwimTrek HQ we wanted to share a selection of pointers and tips to help you on your way.

Getting Started

You may only have a couple of hours a week to train – This will mean you will need to get organised when it comes to planning your training. A good starting point is setting yourself goals, which will allow you to measure how your progress is going. It’s important to not to worry about things you cannot control and to try and set realistic, attainable goals. For instance a set amount of meters per session or per week or increasing the distance you swim per swim set. All of these will help combat your end goal! All of us at SwimTrek believe in the first instance you need think about the challenges that lie in front of you and come up with action plans on how to achieve your goal. For instance you need to be asking yourself how long is the race, how many hours a week can you realistically fit in for training? And the big one…What costume should you wear?


A common question we get asked is ‘how many times a week should you should be training and am I training too hard?’ As mentioned above this is a very open ended question as it depends very much on how many times you can train at your local swimming facility. As a guide we have created a free training plan which details distances per week you should be aiming for when going on a swimming holiday. There are also a few sample sets on there for you to have a go at if you don’t belong to a club. With regards to ‘over training’ you shouldn’t be training close or near to your maximum every time you go training – Although this is beneficially a couple of sessions a week you want to be planning recovery sets and skill sessions too to improve your techniques. (As a general rule of thumb, you want to be able to swim the required distance in a single session and ideally be able to do this distance two – three times a week).

Knowledge of the swim you are about to do is crucial too. What will the water temperature be and whether a wetsuit is permitted or even required! Everyone has different tolerances to temperature, so we always recommend you take a look at what past competitors are wearing / using and if possible try and replicate the conditions with a swim if there is a local and safe place to swim either in the river, sea or lido.

Some great tips for getting ready for colder swims are things like cold showers in the morning and evening, jumping into the sea or unheated lido in the early and late months of the year and gradually acclimatising to the cold. If you normally swim in a pool or lido and considering a swim race in the sea being aware of the differences of pool swimming and sea swimming is certainly beneficial. These two types of swimming are very different disciplines due to the elements you are exposed to! If safe to do so acclimatising in the sea is a big must as you will need to be comfortable in swell and currents, any type of weather conditions and getting used to the salt water and chaffing!

It’s easy to fall into focusing on training what we are good at or enjoy, but acknowledging and working on our weaknesses, though hard can bring the most benefits to helping you achieve your goal. These of course will range from swimmer to swimmer as some of you may be worried about the distances needed to swim, the speed required or even sighting. Our ‘Training guide’ again is a great tool for you to use for issues like this.

Race Day Tips

‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’ - A nice simple one to start off with here, but there is nothing worse than arriving late or in a rush to get to a race! Many a time I have had heard stories of people forgetting goggles and even costumes because of being in a rush and not being prepared in advance (Remember those pre-race nerves will be present!). It also leads to an increase in anxiety using up unnecessary energy before the race!

The Warm up

The warm-up is a critical part of the preparation leading into the race. Build into your pre-swim a routine of dynamic stretching before entering the water. There are a numbers or ways and reasons to warm the body up prior to racing and many there are so different routines out there! We suggest find a routine that makes you feel prepared for the race both mentally and physically. Remember the idea of the warm up is to prepare the mind and body so think about increasing your heart rate to allow a bigger blood flow to your muscles, thus getting them ready to work at their optimum. Once you have completed your warm-up, be sure to change into your dry racing smugglers and put some warm clothes on to ensure you maintain your body heat prior to the start.

The Race

Enjoy it – All the hard work is done so enjoy the experience and remember to smile!


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