These swimming tips from Katie Ledecky, Dara Torres, Michael Phelps, and Adam Peaty help you train your mind and body for success.
You know fitness should be one of your main priorities if you want to live a healthy life. Eating clean is a start, as it promotes weight loss, clear skin, and gives you more energy. Equally important are exercises such as HIIT, which boosts energy, improves cardiovascular health, and lowers cholesterol. HIIT, however, is hard on the joints, making low-impact workouts an important alternative. One low-impact exercise you ought to try is swimming, which gives many of the same benefits as HIIT, without stressing the joints.
In case you choose swimming as your preferred exercise, here are some tips from swimming luminaries past and present to help you maximize its benefits:
Focus on Technique — Katie Ledecky
We’ll start with the great Katie Ledecky. She has won five Olympic gold medals and 15 world championships, is still in her prime and is the world record holder in six events. One of Ledecky’s secrets to success is being a stickler for technique.
In a Forbes.com profile of Ledecky, the 24-year-old swimmer emphasizes the importance of technique, noting that it’s key to maintaining correct form. “If something is off on a given day, it’s usually based on your technique,” says Ledecky.
This attention to detail has propelled Ledecky to the top of the sport, and she has her sights set on this year’s Olympics (if it pushes through). Adopting this same approach won’t transform you into a super swimmer, but it can certainly help you get the most out of swimming.
Test Your Limits — Dara Torres
Next is a lesson from swimming legend Dana Torres. The 53-year-old Californian won 4 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze Olympic medals and was twice the oldest member of the US Olympic swimming team (first in the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 33 and then again in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 41). Torres won medals (5 in Sydney, 3 in Beijing) both times, proving twice the adage, “Age is just a number.”
In doing so, Torres imparted this advice: Test your limits! Competitive swimmers over 30 are often considered old, but Torres wasn’t cowed. Instead, she kept pushing her boundaries. Adopting Torres’s mindset will help you power past your limitations and discover your strengths in swimming as well as other aspects of life.
Train Your Brain — Michael Phelps
This next piece of advice is from swimming’s most outstanding athletes: Michael Phelps. He’s the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze Olympic medals highlighted by a record eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And one of Phelps’s secrets to swimming success is training his brain.
“Stay focused on your goals and confident in your ability,” Phelps explains. “In Beijing, when my goggles filled with water, I didn’t panic. [Instead] I went back to all of my training . . .”
This brain training has served Phelps well post-retirement, particularly in his other passion: poker. A Poker.org feature on athletes who are also poker stars discusses how Phelps is a regular at high-stakes tables around the country, including the prestigious World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Phelps isn’t a Phil Hellmuth (arguably poker’s greatest) on the felt, but his mental focus sharpened by years of brain training has made him a swimming legend and a poker star.
“Kill” It in Training — Adam Peaty
This last piece of advice is from rising star Adam Peaty. It’s not often a swimmer breaks a record, but Peaty did it twice — on the same day! In the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, Peaty broke his own world record in the 50m breaststroke in the semi-finals, then did it again in the final by becoming the first man to finish in sub-26 seconds. And the eight-time world champion’s secret is “killing” it in training.
Killing it in training, in Peaty’s terms, is training some 6 hours a day. It is finding that extra energy when fatigue starts setting in, as it is the difference between “coming fourth and breaking world records.” Given this commitment to training, it’s no wonder Peaty is projected to win another Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Here’s the bottom line: these swimming tips may not make you an Olympian, but it will get your mind and body into the habit of exercising, which will make you a healthier, happier version of yourself. To me, that’s just as good as winning the gold.
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