How to Get Rid of Soreness Before Championships

louisville -cardinal-team stretch-
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Ashley Illenye, Swimming World College Intern.

Championship season is around the corner for all ages, whether it be high school or college. End of the season meets mean taper—and taper means fine-tuning every bit of your training to assure you’re ready for whatever life throws your way by the end of the year.

Because of its very nature, taper tends to be a time where you want everything to be perfect. You eat cleaner, you sleep more, you pay attention to every stroke in every yard. It’s possible that you worry that even with lightening your intensity, you still feel sore after practice.

With this thought in mind, you might think of other ways to feel more relaxed. You may even do an extra bit of stretching to loosen yourself up a little at the end of practice.

Stretching is something that you should do before and after every practice. While it helps prevent and relieve muscle tension and soreness, there are more effective ways to eliminate muscle pains. This can involve Kinesio tape, cupping and foam rolling. Athletic trainers, physical therapists, and even coaches can have the tools you need to get rid of muscle pain.

Kinesio Tape to Prevent Soreness


Photo Courtesy: University of Indianapolis

There is some debate as to whether KT tape is actually effective or not. That debate doesn’t stop athletic trainers from using it—it certainly doesn’t cause any harm. Kinesio tape, also known as KT or KY tape, is used to alleviate pain and muscle tension.

One of the benefits of kinesio tape is that it is water repellant. Unlike band-aids, which fall off after you dive in the water, kinesio tape is water adhesive. Once a trainer or other professional applies to your shoulders, knees, or other infected areas, it will stick throughout long practices for several days.

Kinesio tape does several things, including:

  • Giving muscles support
  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • Optimizing performance
  • Preventing injury
  • Promoting circulation and healing

How does placing tape on your skin do all these positive things? Kinesio tape ultimately relies on muscle memory. The way the tape is placed on your skin frames your muscles in a way that releases tensions. Your body remembers the way blood is regulated, even after you take the tape off.

Swelling reduction is another area of benefit that is received from using kinesio tape. By the tape lifting your skin, it creates a vacuum effect that encourages muscle drainage. Lactic acid is usually what gets drained—it often builds up in the muscles which causes fatigue or soreness.

This is the main way that kinesio tape can be used to improve performance. In a sport like swimming where lactic acid builds up in practice and between races is an issue, kinesio tape is especially necessary. Warming down after races is another fix to this problem, but some athletes have a harder time working off lactic acid than others.

Kinesio tape can be used to treat chronic or reoccurring muscle pain. It can also be used in a preventative way by treating the muscle fatigue or inflammation before it becomes a serious issue to an athlete. It has been shown to have positive effects on ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Cupping to Prevent Soreness


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The cupping fad came to a peak during the 2016 Olympics. An image of Michael Phelps with dark red circles up and down his back come to mind. Two years later, swimmers and coaches alike still swear by it.

Cupping stems from China, along with traditional acupuncture. It’s known as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Cupping works by using small, glass and cup-shaped jars pressed against the skin. The cups remove air from the inside which pulls up the muscle and suctions the skill. Blood rises to the surface of the skin, which causes those infamous circular red marks.

Cupping can be used in two different ways. The first way is pulling on the skin as much as possible and leaving the cup still. The second possible way is calling “gliding cupping,” where you leave room to move across the skin in a massaging way.

There are several benefits to cupping, including:

  • Relieving muscle pain
  • Easing stiff muscles
  • Curing injuries to soft tissue
  • Alleviating symptoms from frozen shoulder

There are also different benefits that aren’t related to muscle pain that could actually prove beneficial outside the pool. These include treating skin illnesses, mental illness such as depression, digestive disorders, headaches, and weight loss.

Foam Rolling to Prevent Soreness


Photo Courtesy: Rebel Sport

This method is the easiest out of the three, particularly if you don’t have access to an athletic trainer. If you don’t have a foam roller, which is generally affordable, you can also use a tennis or lacrosse ball for more direct pressure.

There are several ways that foam rolling benefits athletes when used regularly, such as:

  • Preventing Injury
  • Breaking up scar tissue
  • Improving flexibility
  • Gets rid of lactic acid

The act of using the foam roller which actively massages your body is called Self Myofascial Release, or SMR. Myofascial release refers to fascia, which is the underlying start to scar tissue. Foam rolling not only breaks up scar tissue once it surfaces but prevents it from happening in the first place.

The improvement of flexibility is directly correlated to increased academic performance. A greater range of motion for muscles increases their capacity to perform. Studies show that to optimize these results, athletes should stretch before and after workouts.

It’s important to a swimmer during taper time to make sure that they’re as ready as possible going into their end of the season meet. One way to reach that goal, under the watch of a supervisor, coach or athletic trainer, is to use one of the three methods above to get rid of soreness.

As an athlete, it’s your duty to ensure that every aspect of your health is in top shape. This includes being as loose as possible going into your races. Swimmers should do everything in their power to guarantee their success. Alleviating muscle pain and soreness, though it’s only the beginning, is a good start.

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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


  1. avatar
    Sean Sullivan

    Nice to see swimming world doesn’t have any editorial standards. The “sources” the author uses to cite the effectiveness of these different measures throughout the article are all places that promote and sell the product. How about using peer reviewed research? The author also uses outdated tropes about lactic acid (try reading any exercise physiology research from the last 15 years). My favorite claims were that cupping can fix depression and cause weight loss and that “improvement of flexibility is directly correlated to increased academic performance.” I guess that means every gymnast must be a perfect student.

  2. avatar

    Seems like a mix of personal opinion and quick google scan (not in the right places) sorry. I think S.W.M is a step above this

  3. Mickey McNeil

    Interesting yet some research to support these ideas. Also, stress that professionals with training and knowledge when using cupping and taping. I have seen these techniques used poorly and ineffectively by athletes or parents.