“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do” (Phelps). These words by Michael Phelps are certainly great motivation for those who want to turn their life around but still don’t know how. Big life changes imply sacrifice and persistence and the direct consequence is success. At least, that is how life works for the 28 medals winner.
Keeping such record makes of Phelps the most decorated Olympian in history. Can you guess what sport he competes in? Let’s find out a little bit about Michael Phelps.
Who is Michael Phelps?
Born on June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, Michael is the youngest of three children. Son of a middle school principal (Deborah Sue) and a retired Maryland State Trooper (Michael Fred Phelps), he grew up in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood. Inspired by his mother and sisters, Michael started swimming when he was just seven.
Although he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he beat the record in the 100-meter butterfly.
This win took him to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Some years later, at the age of 15, he qualified to go to his first Olympics. Even though he did not win a medal, he achieved the fifth position in the 200-meter butterfly.
While he was training again for the next Olympics, he beat a new record in the 200-meter butterfly becoming the youngest male to set a world record.
Three years later, in the Summer Olympics (2004), Michael won his first gold and became a star with eight medals at the end of the games (six gold).
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael won his 14th gold medal beating the record for having most gold in history. Moreover, he won eight gold medals in that single Olympics.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he won four gold medals and two silver, having a total of 22 medals in his sport history. This record surpassed gymnast Larisa Latynina’s with 18 medals.
After his incredible performance in London, Michael announced a brief retirement leaving all his fans full of uncertainty in respect of his participation in the 2016 Olympics. Fortunately, he came back full of energy and won his 19th Olympic medal in Rio. He also confessed that competing and winning being 31 was twice harder than it was before. However, at the end of the games, he had won one silver and five gold beating a new record; the oldest medalist in the Olympics history.
Once his participation in Rio 2016 was finished, he confirmed his definitive retirement after 24 years swimming.
Michael Phelps' Workout Routine
In order to establish an effective workout routine and keep in shape for all competitions, Michael Phelps follows his own principles:
- Swimming at least 80.000 meters per week
- Training between 5 and 6 six hours a day
- Listening to music during his training
- Keeping your goals as close as possible
- Learning from every single mistake
- Establishing a proper rhythm for working out
- Becoming best friends with the Weight room
- Being your own critic
- The following routine is based on what Michael used to do when he was an active swimmer.
To meet his goal of swimming 80.000 meters per week, Michael used to swim an average of 13 km each day. But, that is not all; he ensured his low body fat percentage by doing funcional training ( weightlifting). Michael’s routine had three main parts:
This first part combines swimming and functional exercises:
The idea is to start with 6 sets of (50 free, 50 side kick, 50 fly drill, 50 pull buoy, 50 im, 50 im) followed by 6 sets of (25 fly-50 free- 25 fly).
Next, 500 strokes (50 kicks – 50 drill), 2000 timed kick stroke, 4 X 100 IM drill continuously.).
Continuing with 10 sets of 200 on 3:00 odd = free /moderate, 10 sets of 200 on 3:00 even = fly/ fast and 4 speed sets of 24 X 25 fly on 30 minute (1-ez drill, 1-no breath, 1-sprint).
To finish the first part, 500 abdominal exercises and static stretching.
The second part aims to activate full body and breathing techniques:
It starts with 800 mixer on 10.30 and 4 X 150 kick on 2:30 (50 stroke – 50 free- 50 stroke). Followed by 400 pull with buoy on 5:00 (breathe 3-5-7-9 by 100) and another series of strokes (200 stroke on 3:00).
Then, 10 X 50 on 45 minutes (2-25kick/25drill 2-25free/25stroke 1-stroke)
- 4×50 on 1:30
- 1×50 1:20
- 1×50 1:10
- 1×50 1:00
- 1×50: 50 minutes
- 1×50 40 minutes
- 1×50 30 minutes
Finishing with: Long swim down–> 100-200-300 pull (lung-busters by quarters), 400 choice kick and 300-200-100 IM drills.
The third part consists of a speed and endurance training in which the idea is to practice different skills such as:
- Vertical kicking
- Underwater kicking
- Training gear in water
- Training paddles
- Kick boards
- Sled push
- Sled reverse fly
His weightlifting workout routine is the following:
- 3 sets of Standing Dumbbell Press of 10-16 reps
- 3 sets of Dumbbell Front Raise of 10-16 reps
- 3 sets of Dumbbell Lateral Shoulder Raise of 10-16 reps
At the end, he does a series of compound exercises for flexibility training in order to get a better swimming.
Once Michael retired after 2016, keeping a workout was all a challege, specially after the pandemic in 2020. He confessed that during this time he had to be creative and structure trainings using different stuff at home. Currently, he is doing HIIT training combined with weighlifting and cardio.
In a week, he would go three times lifting and the rest he would do some cardio at the elliptical or in the pool. He does most of his current workout routine with his wife. The only difference is that she practices yoga and pilates instead of swimming.
Michael Phelps' Diet Plan
When talking about an athlete’s diet, it is important to clarify that there is a strict difference between the diet he follows months before a competition such as the Olympics and the daily common diet. In the first case, when Michael was training for the 2008 Olympics, he used to eat around 10.000-12.000 calories per day. These calories were distributed as follows:
- Three fried egg sandwiches (they have cheese, tomato, fried onions, lettuce and mayonnaise).
- Three chocolate-chip pancakes.
- A five-egg omelette.
- Three sugar-coated slices of French toast.
- A bowl of grits.
- Two cups of coffee.
- Half-kilogram of pasta.
- Two large sandwiches (ham, cheese and mayonnaise).
- More and more energy drinks
- A pound of pasta with carbonara sauce.
- A large pizza.
- Energy drinks.
Now that he has retired from swimming he does not eat 10.000 calories everyday anymore. He has been trying to find a balance because he realized that after all, food is highly important.
Most of the food he consumes nowadays is based on vegetables and nutrients. Although he said that cleaning up his diet was a process full of ups and downs, he finally seems to have found the right direction; folllowing his mother’s advice and going for a diet full of veggies, just as when he was a little child.
According to a recent interview, Michael will normally eat as follows:
- A smoothie made of spinach, almond milk, cacao nibs, figs.
- Silk Ultra.
- A cup of coffee.
- Eggs (optional; it depends on his children mood).
- Michael Phelps usually has a second breakfast after going to the gym.
For lunch and dinner:
- Vegetables are the key.
- A salad eaten at a decent hour (before 7 pm usually).
The ex-swimmer did not mention any special dish for lunch as he confesses that he had struggled with lunch due to his second breakfast.
A Curious Fact About Michael Phelps
He was really brave at confessing he suffered from both depression and anxiety. Life is full of obstacles and he feels relieved of having gone through them with his family help. One interesting thing he does in order to work on his mental health daily is to write a journal. He states that whenever he has a bad day, he goes to the journal and writes.
The next day, he will be able to read what he wrote and find what triggered him. Maybe all people should have a journal to express and understand themselves.
After knowing a little bit of Michael Phelps, it is clear that life changes in all senses according to our decisions. Thus, it is not the same to train and eat as a swimmer who is getting ready for the next Olympics than as a father who does not compite anymore.
Each situation has a different focus and in that sense, it is essential to recognize and identify your own focus before making decisions about the perfect diet plan or workout routine you should follow. Remember that after all, each decision implies an effort that not everyone is willing to assume, and there is where success starts.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.