Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth champion Adam Peaty is the fastest man in history over the 50m and 100m breaststroke, and the only swimmer to have gone below 26 seconds and 58 seconds at those distances. Now the Brit has the 200m event in his sights as he looks to smash past human limits, taking himself and his sport into uncharted waters. He’s known for crushing the opposition, but he says his focus is on attacking his own achievements to become a pioneer…
RISING What drives you to keep winning after what you have already achieved?
ADAM PEATY ‘At the moment I still want to be the best I can be, I still want to strive to push the human limits of the body so until I’ve done that my motivation will keep burning. I remember my coach Mel Marshall saying to me before the World Championships in Budapest: “You’re competing with yourself and let’s see how far we can take the human body.” That just sort of settled it for me – I wasn’t really racing anybody else, I was racing myself and seeing how far we can take it, and it worked. I had a lightbulb moment where it’s like you don’t win on the day, you win every day up to that day. So when I went to the Olympics that race was already won years before, weeks before – every single day I turned up at the pool and became the champion I needed to be then.’
‘I hate settling for something – that is just not me’
RISING You have talked about attacking rather than defending your titles – do you always take yourself so far out of your comfort zone?
AP ‘I hate settling for something, I hate it. That is just not me, that wasn’t the way I was brought up and I was always taught if you work hard and you work harder than anyone else then it will pay off. Hopefully next year I will have it all: the four-year grand slam of Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European titles, and that is only a product of wanting more. I could have settled after the Olympics and had an off year but I worked even harder even though I had less time. Going into this season now I am very relaxed but I am going to be working extremely hard.’
RISING What does it feel like to have taken your events into uncharted waters?
AP ‘Going somewhere no-one else has been is an amazing thing. I love front-running it I guess. But to go 56 seconds now for the 100m, I am going to have to pioneer myself – I have got to find new areas where I can improve. What is it no-one else is doing and what haven’t I done before that is going to make those few percentages up? It is about getting back to the grind but it’s also, how do we be smart about it?’
‘You look fear in the eye and say “Not today – I control you, you don’t control me”’
RISING You lead from the front but you also have a target on your back – do you have any fear?
AP ‘You can’t let fear overtake you, you can’t let fear control you. The best thing you can do in a fearful situation is look it straight in the eye and overcome it, and that is what I have been doing for a long time now – I’m not scared of anything really. You look it in the eye and say “Not today: I control you, you don’t control me.”’
RISING Did you achieve what you wanted at the World Championships in Budapest in July?
AP ‘Absolutely. The 100m was a little bit off but I wanted to get near it and I did exactly that, and I wanted to get under my World Record on the 50m and I did that. The 4x1 mixed medley could have been a bit better but that’s the way it is and hopefully we are going to pick up the pace on that. I am extremely happy with where the team’s at and where I am at so it’s all about pushing on for next year.’
RISING Why have you added the 200m breaststroke to your programme?
AP ‘We are going to have a bit of fun with it – why not I guess? We are going to see where we are at and mentally for me this is another challenge. If you want anything in life that is good you have got to risk it – having said that I don’t really see it as a risk, it’s going to be what I enjoy and I like challenging myself. I need to keep challenging myself until the time comes when I end my career so until then it’s what else can we do, what else can we add to the programme?’
‘I bench press 135kg and my weighted pull-ups are 50-55kg’
RISING You say the race is won in the days before the competition so what does your training look like?
AP ‘At peak training I do 10 sessions a week in the pool of which six are key sets, hard sets: heartrate sets, VO2 max sets, aerobic and threshold sets. Six of those 10 sessions will be very hard and four will be recovery. For me it is more about speed and power and sometimes about the endurance. I bench press 135kg, I do a lot of squats and my squat is the same as my bench because I like to be equal – I like to keep the balance between my legs and arms. Pull-ups are 50-55kg and I do a lot of heavy leg presses depending on what range we are doing. I could probably do 15-20 plyometric push ups.’
RISING That’s a surprising volume of work in the gym – it must feel punishing at times?
AP ‘It’s heavy work but I’m keeping the balance where I need to, you don’t want to kill yourself before a pool session. It is all about the planning and getting most out of the swimming. It’s low rep, high strength because I have put on muscle so quickly. You wouldn’t believe how much hard work we go through, a session in the gym even more so because it’s so taxing on your body. The next day you wake up and you can’t even get out of bed because you’re so sore.’
RISING Say I want to improve my performance in the pool – how should I go about it?
AP ‘You build your strength and when it comes to swimming you apply that strength. So put your paddles on, put your fins on, use that and develop it into technique. Once you have got the strength from the gym, use the equipment to help you develop that into technique. So when you take that away you have still got that technique and still got that strength.’
WHAT NEXT? Swimming breaststroke is an ideal way to convert your bench press gym strength into swimming speed, but you need to learn how to stay streamlined to keep your momentum going. So watch Adam Peaty give a 25-second breaststroke masterclass…
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.