A Look at Some Common Pre-Race Rituals; Share Your Go-To Habits

Jul 14, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Larissa Martins of Brazil spits out a mouthful of water before the women's 100m freestyle swimming final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

A Look at Some Common Pre-Race Rituals; Share Your Go-To Habits

By Kelsey Lynch

Let’s say one time, a few years ago, you jumped up and down four times before you produced your best race ever, and now before every race you must jump up and down exactly four times—no more, no less. Maybe you press your goggles into your face once, clap twice, and then stretch on the blocks.

If you don’t have a pre-race ritual, maybe it’s time to implement one into your meet itinerary. Having a pre-race ritual can help calm you down, pump you up or fuel your superstitions so you can perform well. Your ritual may be a combination of any of the ideas below, but whatever you pick, the power of habit should give you security and confidence before you dive in.

Check out what other swimmers do before their races, and in the comments, share a ritual that has become part of your pre-race routine.

Listen to a Certain Song

Tuning into a special song that gets you into your “zone” can help your heart rate hit the right pace before you race. Be careful of fast-pace songs that spike your heart rate for extended periods of time before your event. Contrary to popular belief, it’s better to plug in to slower, rhythmically consistent songs in order to conserve your energy. Just one upbeat track after a few slower ones will suffice in pumping you up without wasting energy (especially for races longer than 100 yards).

Jump Up and Down

Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Soni

Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Soni

Jumping up and down behind your block is great, especially for sprinters. It can also be useful for the intimidation factor. Intimidating other swimmers around you before you race is a technique that many swimmers draw upon. Violently jumping up and down five times to get the attention of the two swimmers next to you may help psych him or her out. Or at least you think that, which in turn, bolsters your confidence.

Stretch/Shake Out


Stretching before you race can help release any lactic acid buildup in your muscles as well as prevent cramping while you race. However, be careful of the type of stretching you conduct before you dive in. If you stretch a part of your body right before you race for longer than 10 seconds, this can actually waste your energy. Instead, you should do dynamic stretching that doesn’t push your body past its static-passive stretching ability. Dynamic stretching, such as the swinging Michael Phelps did with his arms helps to increase blood and oxygen flow is ideal for pre-race rituals.


Race-visualizing should be done throughout your season, but just before your race is beneficial, too. Try closing your eyes before you head up to stand behind your block, picture your fast reaction time and your rapid kicks underwater with a powerful breakout. Go through each step of your race how you’ve practiced it for weeks. Adopt a special visualization spot and pose that is comfortable for you.

Consume Certain Foods/Drinks


Did you qualify for Nationals after eating exactly three yellow Sour Patch Kids and a pink Starburst an hour before your race? Many swimmers eat specific meals or snacks on race day that they once ate before an exceptional race. Whatever you eat, it should make you feel energetic and confident.

Conduct a Random Series of Actions

KNOXVILLE, TN - December 5, 2013 - Nathan Adrian prepares to swim in the 50 Yard Freestyle during the USA Swimming AT&T Winter National Championships at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee

Photo Courtesy: Tia Patron/Tennessee Athletics

Sometimes at meets, you’ll notice a swimmer who does the same peculiar ritual behind the blocks for each of their races. Chances are that swimmer races like an animal because they’ve established a habit years ago that works for him or her. That swimmer has figured out a ritual that puts them into their zone. The swimmer knows their ritual is specific, practiced, and will never change. It offers a feeling of consistency and discipline.

Your pre-race ritual won’t magically help you perform better just minutes before your race, but rather an expected ritual can promote focus and support performance minutes before you swim.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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