A warm up and cool down are the two cardinal principles of any sport. The same is true of swimming. If you think that swimming is a slow and low impact exercise and doesn't require warm up, then you are dead wrong. When you start swimming, without a warm up, your blood circulation, heart rate and your body as a whole are in a state of rest. If you start swimming suddenly your body has to change from a passive to an active state in a very short time. This can cause injuries and loss in efficiency. For a safe and healthy swim you need a good warm up and cool down. Even muscle stiffness would reduce considerably because of this.
Warm up for 100%
To get 100% from your swimming your body has to invest a few minutes in warming up. This investment will certainly pay you back in the pool. A warm up makes your body ready for swimming and you actually swim faster and better because of it. It enables your body for a full range of motion in all the strokes. Your muscle fibers get elongated and connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bones get ready for more vigorous activity. Although there is no hard and fast rule for warm up but generally the equation says that, more the muscle mass or age more the time you need for warm up and obviously, cool down. You not only swim better with warm up but you also reduce the chances of injuries and illness considerably.
Like warm up you also need a proper cool down. Remember your body changes its phase from active to passive and again this should not be sudden. No doubt your swim may leave you feeling exhausted but don't just stop dead. Remember a cool down with moderate activity is better than one with very little activity. Give your body some breathing space and bring it back to normal with a gradual decrease in activity.
Stretch a little
Simple stretching: While remaining at the edge of the pool put your legs on the wall and than one by one bend both knees while stretching and straightening the other knee. Hold this position for about half a minute and than repeat it with other leg.
Stretch your hamstring: is a very important part of the warm up. To do this, put one foot on the wall and the other at the bottom and straighten both knees. Hold the position again for about 30 seconds before you change the position of legs.
Quadriceps stretching: Hold the ankle of your foot with the same hand and pull it up to your butt. Remember to do it gently and hold the position for about 30 seconds before you do the same with the other ankle.
Back stretch: Your upper body is also an important area, which needs some specific stretching. Do some simple back stretching along with shoulder and arms stretching.
Remember that warm up and cool down is essential and should be done to ensure that you max your swim and fitness levels.