How to use the warm-down to improve your swim skills

While many triathletes use the swim warm-up to work on key skills, very few take advantage of an equally important opportunity – the warm-down. Andrew Sheaff explains…

View from above of woman swimming by track in the pool

Including skill work during the warm-up is an effective strategy for improving your skills over the time, as well as setting yourself up for a great workout.


Carefully selected and intentionally-executed technical exercises performed in the warm-up can enhance the outcome of every workout. It’s a simple and easy way to positively improve performance.

While most triathletes take advantage of this opportunity, very few triathletes take advantage of an equally important opportunity – the warm-down (or cool-down).

Why you need to finish each session strong

After you work hard during a workout, your skills aren’t going to be quite as clean or quite as crisp as when you started, no matter how focused and intentional you are. That’s important because, for better or worse, your brain and body tend to best remember the last motor skills you performed.

As a result, if you finish each workout with relatively sloppy skills, those are the skills you will retain, not the superb skills you’re hoping to develop.

If you’re constantly ending your workouts with substandard swimming, you’re not going to learn as quickly as you’d otherwise could, and you’re going to be starting each workout a little rusty.

How to improve your skills in the warm-down

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it – warm-down with the intention to improve your skills. By practising pristine skills after the hard work, you can re-establish those skills that will improve your swimming.

This will ensure that your skills are in a great place when you start you next session.

Whenever you’re performing recovery swimming, whether in between sets or at the end of a hard workout, really focus on trying to improve your skills. At a minimum, focus on swimming freestyle with precision, working on the important aspects of your stroke.

Better still, perform technical exercises targeted at the skills you’re working on improving. If you’re focused on improving your body position, for example, include some time spent working on Active Jellyfish.

If you’re working on your arm pulls, practice your Power Pulls.

If you’re working on your timing, including some Underwater Recovery repetitions.

Finally, if there are certain skills you know tend to get worse with fatigue, spend some time in those areas.

The great news is that it doesn’t take much work at all. Just 3-5 minutes or 100-300meters is all it takes. This is time and work that you should already be doing to ensure physical recovery.

All that’s required to magnify the impact of your warm-downs is a little more focus and a little more planning. It’s more than worth the effort to end each session feeling great and starting your subsequent session ready to rock!


Top image credit: Getty Images