I knew something had happened when I came into swim practice one day and all of my teammates were talking about Michael Phelps returning to swimming. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. After the 2012 Olympics, Phelps had seemed to retire from the world of competitive swimming. But rumors are true that Phelps is back in the pool and has a goal set in mind: to earn a spot on the USA Swim Team for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The secret to his success? Michael Phelps has been swimming competitively for over 20 years. During his teenage years, he never missed a practice. Phelps trained every single day of the year, including his birthday and holidays.
After competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps created the Michael Phelps Foundation which supports promoting a healthier lifestyle and growing the sport of swimming. After making the 2012 USA Swimming Team for the Olympics, Phelps announced he would be retiring.
But the end doesn’t seem in sight for him quite yet. The US Drug-Testing program has approved Phelps to be drug-free. He is now eligible to compete in meets, which leads to my main point: is it time to really retire?
In my opinion, yes. Phelps is 28 years old and has put his body through excessive work for almost all of his life. He trains 3 days a week lifting weights and swims 4-5 days per week. When you’re almost 30 years old, that type of physical activity can put a strain on your body. After 8-9 years of swimming intensely, athletes’ bodies (especially swimmers) can wear out. If Phelps pushes himself too hard, he can tear a muscle or damage an internal organ permanently.
Phelps’s lifelong coach, Bob Bowman, in a phone interview with USA Today, says that when he returned to practice this past fall, “He (Michael) wasn’t fit, and had to do training with the group…He has been picking up the pace in training, and has increased his pool sessions from 2-3 sessions per week to 4-5 sessions”.
But he still has some work to do. Some of the younger swimmers that also accompanied Phelps in the 2012 Olympics, such as Ryan Lochte, Connor Dwyer, and Nathan Adrian have been to training trips for the past few months. Training trips are usually two-three week programs in which swimmers attend intensive training (3-4 practices per day) to improve their technique and times. Lochte and Dwyer were just at a training trip in Florida.
If he wants to make it to the USA National Meet this year, Phelps will have to swim and win almost every event that he competes in at meets in the upcoming months. His coach says that if Phelps even has a shot at competing in a meet, he would need to increase his practices to 10 times per week. That’s an enormous amount of pressure on Phelps.
Swimming 8 miles per day when you are at the age of 28 is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Phelps will be 30 years old in 2016. With younger and stronger swimmers eager to take your place, Phelps, maybe its time to put away your swim cap and call it a day.