How To Prepare For Finals After a Disappointing Prelims

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

By J.P. Mortenson, Swimming World College Intern.

Having a bad prelims swim is disappointing at every level of the sport. Whether that means you gained time, did not place into the heat you wanted or you didn’t even make it back, it always leaves you dwelling on the “what if” hypothetical situations.

It can also be daunting to face having to swim again the same day after experiencing such disappointment. You are already tired, and the finals session requires more focus, energy, attention to detail, and – most importantly – being prepared mentally and physically. But if you get another chance to swim your race in finals, even if it is in a relay or time trial, it is an opportunity that you cannot afford to squander.

1. Recover Physically.

Jun 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Morning warm-ups in the main racing pool during Day One of the Arena Pro Series at Santa Clara, at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Calif. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Robert Stanton/USA Today Sports Images

How you recover physically after your prelims swim has a huge impact on your physical preparedness for finals. Therefore, after prelims, you must take active steps to aid your recovery.

First and foremost, you must cool down immediately after your event. Cooling down allows you to reset yourself mentally and calm down after your previous race. It also returns your body to resting levels by flushing waste products out of your muscles and allowing the neuromuscular system to recover. If you don’t warm down, you will find yourself feeling significantly more sore and tired at finals.

You should try to eat a substantial and healthy lunch after prelims. It is best to eat a meal with lots of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores (the energy that is stored in your muscles and used during your race) and some protein to help keep your energy levels high. You also should maintain hydration and replenish your electrolytes. Being hydrated will also help clear the lactate from your muscles by facilitating blood circulation.

You also should try to rest between prelims and finals. Fall asleep if you can, because napping will help your muscles recover and your mind to reset for finals. Just make sure you wake up early enough so you are not groggy when you arrive at the pool for finals. Even if you are not able to fall asleep, staying off your feet and relaxing will still make a significant difference. 

2. Move On.

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Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

To have a good finals swim, you must be prepared mentally as well as physically. However, this can be especially difficult after having a disappointing prelims swim. To be mentally prepared for finals, you can not dwell on any of the disappointment or other negative emotions stemming from your prelims performance. You have to change your focus from being angry, frustrated, or even afraid of your finals swim to instead focus on how you’re going to make the most out of your second swim.

This is obviously much easier said than done; however, at the end of the day, you must realize that you still have another opportunity to swim fast. Accept that complaining, getting upset, or just being negative in general will not change the result of your prelims swim.

3. Diagnose What Went Wrong.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

You cannot improve on your prelims swim unless you figure out what went wrong. You should talk to your coaches to figure out what can be improved and to decide on what changes you are going to make to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes at finals.

Sometimes, it can be hard to hear criticism, but understanding what mistakes you made is the only way you can make sure you do not repeat them. Whether that means you are changing your race strategy, preparation, or even making a technical correction, make sure that when you arrive on the pool deck for finals you are ready to make whatever changes you discussed with your coaches.

4. Prepare With Intention.

olivia-smoliga-2018-santa-clara-pss

Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

You also must make sure that you prepare for finals with intention and purpose. Be sure to practice the changes that you and your coach decided to make in meet warm up so that you will be comfortable with them in your race. Make sure you are focused on every element of your race preparation and pay attention to details.

If you make these changes in your preparation, you will feel more confident behind the blocks before your race.

5. Execute.

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Photo Courtesy: Maddie Kyler

Finally, you have to go out and execute. If you have properly reset both mentally and physically after prelims and are prepared to make the changes you and your coaches discussed, the execution will be very straightforward.

However, the outcome of your race is never guaranteed. Things happen, and sometimes – for whatever reason – you will not swim well. That is just swimming’s unforgiving nature. At the end of the day, all you can do is execute the aspects of your preparation and race that are in your control. And if you do them with intention and focus, you will put yourself in a position to succeed. That is all you can ever hope for.

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

7 comments

  1. Amar Hossam

    Rola Hosny rbna maygeb disappointing

    • Joe Stott

      My heats are never disappointing… 🤔

    • Joe Stott

      Shaheen Alghofari tips don’t apply as I didn’t make final

  2. Charlene Tallen

    Hey, if you got into FINALS, good for you!!!