Before the Beep: How American Star Regan Smith Prepares For Competition


by JOHN LOHN – EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

20 December 2023, 06:56am

Before the Beep: How American Star Regan Smith Prepares For Competition

The 2023 campaign of Regan Smith was spectacular, highlighted by a quartet of medals at the World Championships in Japan, and some of the best times of her career in several events. As the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris creep closer, Smith will continue her preparation under coach Bob Bowman in the Arizona desert.

In Swimming World’s latest edition of Before the Beep, Smith reveals how she prepares for a big meet or critical race.

“I have worked really hard this past year to be able to roll with the punches leading up to race time,” Smith said. “I used to be fairly superstitious and very routine oriented, and I would feel a lot of anxiety if any part of my routine had to be altered. This anxiety would ultimately hurt my performance come race time. Having a pre-race routine is still very important to me, but it changes each time I compete. Doing this helps ensure that I’ll be able to handle any changes in variables.”

THE WEEK BEFORE THE MAJOR MEET

How do you mentally prepare for what is ahead?

“I like to think about the meet and just get amped up to race. Bob (Bowman) likes to have us suit up and do race efforts in practice about once a week. After doing that, I feel very pumped up to race for real. I also like visualizing the races I’ll be competing in during practice times. For example, yesterday our main set had 10 150s back-breast-free by 50. I imagined I was racing a 200 IM on each one just to get myself in that race mindset.”

What do you discuss with Bob Bowman leading up to the meet?

“Bob and I honestly don’t discuss much. He provides amazing practices and I show up daily and do those practices to the best of my ability. Doing that is the best preparation for me and he always knows when I am ready. It’s what works for us.”

HOTEL

Once you are checked in, do you have any rituals that you follow? Movie to watch? Food to Eat?

“I’m normally lucky enough to have my parents with me at domestic competitions, and we like to go to the grocery store right away and get me anything I need. I always like having pb and js, protein bars, oatmeal, yogurts, chocolate milk, and trail mix. We like getting other food items, too, but it varies each trip!”

At the hotel, do you stay to yourself and focus, or do you interact with teammates, family, etc.?

“I swim my best when I’m having fun, so I like talking to my family and teammates as much as possible. I’d prefer to be alone as little as possible.”

WARMUP

What is your specific timeline for arriving to the pool for warmup ahead of the meet? What needs to be in place for you to feel ready?

“I show up to the pool roughly 90 minutes before I race, sometimes earlier depending on how I feel. I like to sit for a few minutes and chat with teammates before getting my suit on and stretching while having a snack or a drink. Nothing specifically needs to happen for me to be ready. I just want to enjoy myself.”

What type of warmup does Bob have you do?

“Bob likes me to feel warm and loose (and so do I), so I’ll typically do anywhere between 1500-2k. I will do slightly less if my body feels great. I hit all the bases: Swim, kick, pull, drills, IM, some aerobic swimming, and some bursts/speed. The distances of each will vary depending on what event I am swimming and how my body feels in the water.”

READY ROOM

What does your typical ready-room process look like?

“I like to go with the flow in the ready room. I’m happy to chat if I have a friend in there, but I’m also happy to keep to myself if the ready room is quiet. I basically just relax in my chair and think about my race plan. Nothing too crazy. I used to dread the ready room and I know that most people do. I now try to enjoy the ready room because it means it’s almost time to race!

Are there any superstitions or checkboxes that you go through while waiting to be called to the deck? 

“I make sure I have a backup cap and goggles in my parka pocket. I make sure my cap is on straight and my goggles are secure, and that’s about it! I’ve done the work, so now it’s time to go blank and let autopilot take over.”

BEHIND THE BLOCKS

How do you handle those final moments before hearing your name called for the race? 

“I like to visualize my race and hype myself up. It can be very easy to get swallowed by your own fear before competing, so I like to practice positive self-talk.”

Is there any specific music you listen to behind the blocks, or do you go another route? 

“I prefer to feed off the energy of the crowd instead of listening to music. I’ve come to really enjoy that. It makes me happy to hear people excited to see me and my competitors race. And a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer!”

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