When most people think of swimmers, there is undoubtedly one name that springs to mind… Michael Phelps. Over two decades, he has dominated the sport. He has garnered 28 Olympic medals (23 of those gold) in total, making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
How does an athlete achieve this level? There is a lot that goes into it, including talent and dedication, which all professional sports require.
But for Michael Phelps, there was so much more. Let’s take a look at the career trajectory that carried Michael Phelps on the podium as one of the best swimmers ever.
The all-star swimmer was born in Baltimore and is the youngest of three children. Not only was he the youngest, but he was also the only boy in the family.
This fact meant that he spent a lot of time hanging out with his sisters.
Eventually, this time with his older siblings would introduce him to the sport he would grow to dominate. The sport would also help him through tough times, including his parents’ divorce.
But other than his exposure to the sport, what else drew him to the pool?
Why He Started Swimming
Well, as we said, the exposure of being dragged to the pool for his sisters’ practices. Both Hilary and Whitney were into swimming, and so he wanted to try it out.
Plus, his mom was looking for a way to help with the excess energy Michael had, and swimming fit the bill.
Coaching His Potential
After starting at the age of 7, it wasn’t until three years later that he would join the North Baltimore Aquatics club and meet a man that would change his life.
Bob Bowman was the coach at the Aquatics club, and he immediately saw the talent and passion in young Michael.
Bowman took Michael under his wing and over the next five years had helped drive the swimmer to several awards and eventually to the ultimate prize of turning pro.
Michael did this at the very young age of 15. For the next two decades, Michael would wisely stick with the coach no matter where he moved.
Coach Bowman Was Always There!
The coach has been by Michael’s side the whole way. This includes the first Olympic games that Michael attended in Sydney.
It was here that he earned his first of many accolades breaking the record in the 200m butterfly. But this would definitely not be the last accolade the young swimmer would achieve.
Stick With What Brought You
Sticking with the coach hasn’t been easy; it meant a little moving around for Michael.
But Michael has been quoted many times as saying opting to relocate with the coach and maintaining their training is one of the smartest things he has ever done in his life.
So when the coach was hired to be the head coach in Michigan, Michael followed him. Then Michael uprooted again in 2014 to follow Bowman to Arizona, where he became the head coach there as well.
Thus far, this has been the final destination, but if the pattern maintains, should Bowman move again, Michael will too.
It Seems To Work!
Though it may seem odd to some, the combination of Phelps and Bowman seems to be a winning one.
Bowman has stayed dedicated and been there for all five Olympics that Michael has participated in. This dedication has helped Michael break several records and garnered him those 28 medals.
It Is All In The Training
In order to achieve the level of perfection that Michael Phelps has in the pool, it cannot be shocking that he has a strict and rigid training schedule.
In order to stay on top for as long as he has, you have to continually keep in shape. This means that Phelps swims almost 50 miles a week. This is done by swimming two times a day.
Along with this, there is a laundry list of drills, underwater kicking, sculling and vertical kicking. The key to Michael’s skills is his focus on keeping even the most basic of skills in shape.
Don’t Forget The Dryland Gym!
Even though Bowman’s training is rigorous, Michael still adds some gym time into his routines. He does this at the Dryland gym.
This part of his training includes weight lifting three times a week. He also includes a sleep schedule into his routine so that he stays fully recharged at all times.
And The Diet…
Training is important, but if you don’t have the fuel to drive you, then nothing you do will help you become an Olympic champion like Michael Phelps.
For Michael, this means eating enough calories every day to maintain a 30-hour training schedule every week. Of course, when looking at calories, he looks for foods that give him the most nutrients and vitamins, so he fuels his body with top-grade fuel.
This means that Michael tries to take in at least 8,000 calories a day and sometimes eats up to 10,000 to make sure he has enough energy to complete his rigorous schedule.
Michael has even stated that sometimes he feels like keeping up his diet is his full-time job.
What Does He Eat In A Day?
That is a lot of calories, so how does the swimmer achieve this. For breakfast, he usually starts off with oatmeal, fruit, and coffee, along with a big ham and cheese omelet.
When lunch rolls around, he likes a meatball sub. Dinner is where he piles it on. Here he will eat a large portion of lean meats, whole grains, and extra servings of vegetables.
In order to keep all this training and strict diet regimens going, there has to be a bit of mental strength and dedication as well.
This translates into a strong work ethic and determination to achieve the goals he sets for himself. This is why he achieves his goals with little chance of failure.
Michael uses goal-setting techniques to keep so focused on his goals and keeps them in his mind at all times. His coach has seen this for decades and has gone on record calling Phelps a rigidly focused young man.
Though even with all that focus and determination, Michaels still seems to be able to separate himself and spend time loving life.
Michael is so dedicated that he makes sure that he gets his training in no matter the day of the year.
This has resulted in him getting his swimming in on everything from his birthday to Christmas Day. He takes all his setbacks and any negative talk and trains harder no matter the date on the calendar.
Along with Michael’s talent and work ethic, his dedication is key in his climb to the podium. He knew that swimming was his future, and so when it came time to go to college, he chose to take a limited course load.
This includes a few classes at the University of Michigan. No matter how many classes he had, though, swimming and training were always his first focus.
This laser focus mentality may not have gotten him a college degree, but he had, by the time he turned 20, already participated in two Olympic games. This wouldn’t have been possible if he had been a full-time student.
Looks Like It Paid Off…
Many might shake their heads when they hear this, but the hard work he opted to do seems to have paid off.
It all started in the 2008 Olympics, where Michael earned 8 gold medals, which no other athlete had done in a single Olympics. Then four years later, in London, he earned four more gold and two silver.
Coming Back To The Scene
After four Olympics, Michael felt it was time to step away. He had won four gold and two silver in the 2012 Olympics and thought that was a good place to end his Olympic career.
So after the fanfare was over, Michael stepped away from the limelight. Removing the structure and rigorous schedule left Michael searching aimlessly for something.
This sent him into a depression, and eventually, he decided he needed swimming back in his life. Two years after stepping away, he was back training for the 2016 Olympics.
Bowman would take the challenge and reinvent his training routine, which helped Phelps shine in Rio de Janeiro.
This turned out to be a smart choice for the young swimmer and one of the Games’ most anticipated comebacks. Having a new outlook and training routine, Michael sailed to victory once again.
He took home five more gold and a silver medal to add to his already impressive career.
You Have To Have A Good Support System
Of course, all that would be enough to make you a great athlete but without a support system. And Michael has a great one.
You have to start with his mom, who would make sure she was there even when she was hard at work.
On top of that, both of his two sisters were right alongside their mom in supporting his passion. He also found a supportive woman and married her in 2016.
All of these strong women were there for him, making sure he had all the support he needed even in his darkest times.
That Includes His Coach!
Of course, all the ladies in his life were a big help, but there was also a strong male presence that offered him both a strict coach and an ear to bend when he had troubles.
This presence is, of course, his longtime coach, Bob Bowman.
With discipline and determination Michael Phelps has achieved every goal he set out to and so much more. His work ethic and passion are an inspiration to anyone, even if you are not a professional athlete.
By taking an unconventional path, he carved his own course to his destiny. It started like many other stories with someone spotting his potential. However, we have a feeling that even if Bob Bowman hadn’t spotted that talent, Michael Phelps would still be a household name.