Pre-competition warm ups for serious competitive athletes are among very important and fascinating parts of the sporting world. There are rituals, superstitious beliefs, long and involved processes. Fencers are no exception – and you’ll see them doing such rigorous warm ups at any high level competition, both domestic and international.
Pros know that the warm up is a necessary part of the competition and take it seriously, every second of it. While pros know what to do, a lot of young and inexperienced fencers have very little clue. However everyone started somewhere.
This post will give you some ideas about what your child’s pre-competition warm up routine should be.
The Whys of Fencing Warm-ups
First off, let’s start with the whys of fencing warmups. There are many reasons why proper pre-competition warm up is important – here are three big ones.
1. Injury Prevention
A proper warm up is one of the most important factors in preventing injuries in competition.
2. Increased Performance
Warmups condition the body to the movement so that when it comes, the body responds quickly and as it should.
3. Mental Acuity
Getting the mind in the right place is critical to a good performance. The warm-up acts as a bridge between the world of not fencing and the world of fencing.
The How’s of Fencing Warm-ups
The preparation for the competition starts a day before. This process is a lot more than just doing a few stretches in the arena – warming up is about the wider way that fencers prepare to do their best on the strip.
Eating is a big part of that equation, and you’ll find more about that in our previous article, which offers so much more detail that we have time for here. But the main thrust is that eating smart is an important part doing well.
A sharp body and a sharp mind require the right amount of sleep, and that means 8-10 hours. Try not to oversleep more than that, even if you’re jetlagged. If jetlag is a real concern, then plan to arrive a day early to get adjusted and to explore the area. More than 10 hours sleep and the body will be overtired and sluggish.
Plan to arrive to the venue at least 60 minutes before the close of registration to allow yourself a proper warm up. The worst thing for a competitive fencer is to feel overly rushed when arriving at the competition venue. This one really can’t be overstated – BE EARLY!!. More time is just better. There could be any number of holdups, from registration troubles to car troubles to hair troubles (it could happen). It’s better to allow extra time than to feel crazy because you’re running late.
Now for the actual warm-up itself. You’ll see that this takes quite a bit of time, and again you definitely don’t want to be rushed!
- 10-20 minutes – running, jumping, stretching.
These exercises are important in order to condition the body to the intensive activity, making sure that all of muscles are nice and warm and ready. Think cardio for the running and jumping to get the heart pumping, blood flowing to the brain and the muscles ready for action.
- 5 minutes – footwork.
Footwork is the foundation of fencing and more than anything it affects the outcome of the game. If you are in a venue which you are not familiar with, or if the strip is different from your usual venue, try to do your footwork on the competition strips (another reason to get there early!). Feel the grip, feel how your foot and legs work on the strip surface.
- 5 minutes – targets or partner drills if there are no targets (or can do both).
A final touch is made with the weapon. You should feel the fingers, make them work the way they should be working. Precise movements are what you want to have in competition and this series of exercises should help you to get there.
- 20-30 minutes – warm up bouting
Make sure that you fence at least 2 bouts and no more than 4-5 bouts. This is important in how you will feel, how you will fence, how you will get into your zone. This fencing is very important – do not skip it under any circumstance! Often young fencers who they find themselves alone at a competition without their teammates become shy about going to ask their competitors to join their bouts. Do not be shy! If you’re a parent and your young fencer is alone and hesitant to go ask others to fence, help them out. Introduce them to other fencers and ask to join to their pre-competition bouting. More often than not fencers will gladly accept a newcomer. Moreover, it is a good idea to fence with people you have not fenced with before in order to push yourself.
Assuming you arrived at least 1 hour before the competition, this should bring you to the close of registration. Typically from the time the registration is closed to the time pools start is around 10-15 minutes. This time should be used for rest! Do not fence during this time, but instead give yourself a proper rest. You already warmed up and anything else is going to either get you too jittery or wear you out. Relax, let go and rely on your training.
After the pools finish there might well be a long time until start of your DE. A lot of young fencers continue to sit, chat or play games. And then a lot of them go to their first DE when their body, mind and muscles are totally cold.
So you should warm up again before the first DE? You can use a similar scheme to warm up again. It may not require the whole hour to do that, so maybe you can do it in just 20 minutes, but do not neglect it!
For more experienced fencers – how many times have you witnessed a situation in which a fencer goes to their first DE and within a short time he/she is very much behind the opponent in the first half of the bout, then they start to catch up their game after the break? Often this is because the opponent is totally ready for the bout at the start, but it takes the fencer the first half of the bout just to warm up. Thus importance of the pre-DE warm up is very high! You want to get started off in a solid and wonderful way, not catching up.
Fencing bouts can be stressful, especially in competition. Once it’s all over, it’s a great idea to take some time to de-escalate the body and mind. When dressing out, do some stretching or relaxation to allow everything to wind back down. Five minutes is plenty to reset and reflect.
Keep in mind that these warm up tips don’t include some of the more fun aspects of effective warm-ups, like superstitiously taking three bites of a protein bar for good luck or walking in a counterclockwise circle around the strip to make it easier to score points. However keep in mind that it’s not luck or chance that wins fencing bouts – it’s smart fencing that begins with a solid warm-up!