With almost a year until the Olympic Games in Rio, athletes are preparing to perform on the world’s greatest sporting platform. Our weeks are not measured by days but by number of training sessions. Citius, Altius, Fortius is not just the Olympic motto, it is our lifestyle and we are doing everything to become ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’.
Our training and competitions have been improving, quietly, over the past three years. Like gladiators working hard in the dungeons, we have been building our strength, shaping our bodies, and preparing our minds. As the time draws near for us to perform in front of billions, curiosity rises among the crowds, eager to know what they can expect to see.
Science in sport has increased dramatically and the older, more brutal, Spartan ways of training have been superseded by smarter methods of quality rather than quantity. Brute strength alone does not have a place in modern day competition. The athlete of today requires natural talent, an inborn competitive nature, instinctive decision-making abilities, and the strength of mind to continuously overcome difficult challenges.
In addition to the above, athletes need a passion for their sport and dedication to training. Over the last few years, I have been religiously building a strong physical foundation. My workouts have focused on full body and functional exercises to develop a base that will be strong enough to withstand the next phase of my training – perfecting my race. I don’t believe I have ever swum my perfect race and I am beginning to believe one can never swim a perfect race, but I aim to be as close to perfect as possible. This means every tiny detail must become as natural as breathing: the split-second explosive start, fast turns, efficient strokes, perfect technique and powerful kicking. There is no time to think what must be done; it should have already been done.
For this to happen every hour of the day must be accounted for. This includes:
Swim training: 50-60km per week
Gym Workouts: 4-6 hours per week
Other Workouts (Barre Class): 2 per week
Nutrition: 5 meals per day (plus snacks)
Sleep: 7-8 hours per night
Rest: 1-2 hours of sleep per day
Unbelievable goals will be set to increase our failures, destroy our confidence, and reduce us to tears. We will be hammered into shape and mentally manipulated by our coaches to push us past our breaking points. It is physically demanding. Sleep is essential. I always arrive early, day after day to face the same grueling beat down. I will be drained by the thought of how much there is still to do and drained by my coach’s rigorous requests. But, suddenly, I will get the goal we are after and the tears will stop, the pain will go away, and my confidence will skyrocket. Then, my coach will tell me to do it all over again.
Athletes can generally handle pressure extremely well but as the Olympics approach, stresses need to be managed. They have to be reduced as these can have big impacts on our focus. Creating a good entourage will help manage these pressures, increasing the possibility of success. This includes:
My friends and family helping to take the pressure off by having fun
My coaches ensuring I have the best program to follow
My teammates challenging me and keeping me focused
My sponsors ensuring I have the tools necessary to train and compete
My fans encouraging me
It is because of this support; my passion and experience, that I have managed to go from no ranking to top 20 in the world this year. I even swam my fastest time in one of my events, breaking the African record, but this is still not good enough. I have to get stronger, I have to get leaner, and I have to be fitter than I have ever been in my life and that is just to make it into the semi-finals.
Enhanced training techniques, fierce competition, and the quest for glory have created athletes who are swimming faster, jumping higher, and performing stronger which could make the Rio Olympics quite possibly the most exhilarating Games ever; and I will be a part of it.