As the most decorated Olympian of all time, it's no secret that Michael Phelps works hard. In fact, when training for the Olympics, he once did 75 workouts in 24 days.
Phelps boasts 23 gold, three silver and two bronze Olympic medals from the 2000 through 2016 games. And though Phelps makes swimming look easy, it takes a grueling amount of work, he says on an episode of The Tony Robbins Podcast.
From 1997 to somewhere around 2005 or 2006 Phelps says he was averaging around 10 workouts a week, seven days a week. But one training period sticks out in his memory, he tells Robbins.
He was in Colorado Springs at the United States Olympic Training Center, training there for several weeks. All they did, he says, was eat, sleep, swim and lift. Pool workouts were scheduled for 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a weight session.
"Over 24 days, we were probably working out, with weights, 75 times…" Phelps tells Robbins. "So at that point, it was kind of like I saw myself improving so much because we weren't taking a day off."
"And in the sport of swimming, if you miss one day it takes you two days to get back to where you were," adds Phelps, explaining swimmers lose the feeling for water if they stay out of the pool and their muscles get a bit out of rhythm.
Working out and training that much takes some intense drive, Robbins acknowledges. So where did Phelps find the determination?
At his first Olympic Games in Sydney, Phelps finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly.
"I was upset with my performance," he explains. "At 15, yeah it's great, but let's be honest, I don't want to come back with a participation ribbon. I want to come back with real hardware, like I don't want this ribbon. So, I was pissed about it."
While everyone else took a month or two off, Phelps recalls, he got back in the water the next day. "I decided to not take a break afterwards and kind of get right back into it…" Phelps says.
His coach told him they were going to break a world record in six months, and Phelps was up for the challenge.
Phelps smashed that world record within those six months, he recalls, and continued to break records. By the time he was competing in his next Olympics in Athens in 2004, Phelps had won five world titles. At the Athens games, he claimed six gold medals as well as two bronze medals.
"I remember sitting with my agent when I was 15 or 16 years old, and I just said, 'I want to do something that nobody else has ever done in the sport,'" Phelps says. "I want do something different. I don't want to be the second Mark Spitz. I want to be the first Michael Phelps."
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