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How athletes train: Simone Manuel

The training regimen:

“I train for 20 hours each week. I do doubles on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, with one swim practice in the morning and another in the afternoon. I spend a total of three hours in the pool each of those days. On Wednesdays, I do a light swimming routine. Thursdays and Saturdays, I’m in the water for up to two hours each. 

I also lift for one hour each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Every session starts with ankle and quad stretches. Then I’ll do a second warm-up that focuses more on activation, which might include dead squats, hangs on the pull-up bar, or shoulder stability work. For that, I’ll lie on my side and do lateral raises with a weight to prep those muscles. 

Once that’s done, I’ll get into my major lifts. I try to hit the shoulders, core, and legs in every strength workout because they’re all really important for swimming. I’m a sprinter, so I mostly do powerlifting to make me more explosive. I really like heavy barbell squats and cleans. To avoid putting on too much muscle, I keep the reps low, completing five or six sets of two reps each. I usually superset those with plyometric work like high jumps or medicine ball throws and slams. 

Because I spend so much time in the weight room, I always bring my Nike Romaleos when I travel. They’re light and have a bit of a heel to keep my ankles stable, especially during squats.

My upper-body routine often includes landmine presses (3 sets of 6 reps per arm), bottoms-up kettlebell presses (three sets of five reps), and cable pulls that simulate swimming strokes (three sets of ten reps). 

I rest on Sundays. You need a day off after all that.”

The nutrition regimen:

“My typical breakfast is avocado toast with over-medium eggs and a dash of Tabasco. You gotta have that kick. 

For lunch and dinner I like to make salads with Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, bell peppers, pepperoncinis, and Italian dressing. I really love feta cheese. I also eat chicken and rice or salmon with potatoes. Pesto pasta is definitely a favorite.

I try to have steak once a week because my weight coach, Cory Schlesinger, says the healthy fats, protein, and iron are good for my performance. I’ve been feeling the benefits since I started eating it more regularly. When I’m traveling for competitions, I eat pretty much the same as I do at home. I like to find a nice Italian restaurant wherever I am. 

Smoothies are another regular part of my diet. I’ll use whatever’s in my freezer and fridge, usually mango, raspberries, strawberries, Greek yogurt, and orange juice. My favorite pre-swim snacks are Bear Naked granola and Nature Valley bars. I also love Greek yogurt and guacamole or avocado.”

The recovery regimen:

"I’m off on Sundays, so I usually get a massage. It loosens my muscles so I’m prepared for the next week of workouts. I have my own NormaTec machine, which I use about three times a week. My worst habit is checking social media right before I go to bed. I still need to work on my sleep hygiene."

What’s next:

“My goal at the World Championships is to win a few medals both individually and in the relay. By the time I get to the Olympic Trials in June 2020 and hopefully to the Olympics in Tokyo, I want my races to be as perfect as possible.”