Katie Ledecky: Mastering the Hardest Swimming Events

Mental or Physical?

It is very rare to see Katie Ledecky get emotional like this on camera. In fact, I’ve only seen her get emotional in two races. One was her first Olympic gold medal in 2012, and the second was after the 1500 at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. I was very surprised when she told the reason why she got emotional. But after understanding the context, it made sense.

Physical Traits and Comparisons

In a sport where physical traits are very important, Ledecky is not the tallest swimmer like Dana Volmer or Missy Franklin, nor does she have a disproportionate wingspan like Phelps, nor does she have the biggest feet and hands like Ian Thorpe. She went to the US Olympic center, and they did an elite athlete health profile where they do a lot of tests and measurements. The third sentence of the 60-page report said, “Overall, the findings are Remarkably Unremarkable.

Ledecky, popovichi

The Technique Myth

If she doesn’t have any extraordinary physical talents, then her technique must be the best in the world, right?
How else could someone win more individual world titles than Michael Phelps?

Well, it doesn’t look like her freestyle stroke is perfect either. She has a gallop freestyle where she always breathes to one side, and her torso goes up and down slightly. Although it is a popular style of freestyle among male swimmers, it is not necessarily considered the best, especially after Pan broke Popovic’s record. Some people argue that her two-beat kick is not ideal for maximum speed, even in distance events. I like it especially for some beginners or triathletes, but I don’t think it is necessarily the best technique for everyone.

The Power of Mental Toughness

So if she doesn’t have the best physical abilities or the undisputed best swimming technique, how has she broken world records 14 times in individual events? The only other explanation is that she is the most mentally tough swimmer. She says that there are no secrets, just do the hard work. And she is not referring to the race.

Although swimming at the speed that she swims, the race is very hard work and probably incredibly painful. The real hard work is every day during training. It is very hard to imagine the physical and mental pain she endures during training, all seemingly with a great attitude.

How She Trains? 

In fact, I found some of Ledecky’s workouts from before she was an Olympic champion. If you are a swimmer, I dare you to try to complete even one of these. I tried, and although I am not in my best swimming shape, I couldn’t even finish the warm-up of this past 14-year-old Katie Ledecky’s workout.

Workout #1

1 x 400 stretch @ 6:00

20 x 50 – 10 free @ :45, 10 choice – drill / swim @ :50

1 x 500 – free super 500 kick! @ 10:00

5 x 100 – free pull desc 1-3, hold 4 & 5 @ 1:20

3 Rounds of:

4 x 50 – 2 back, 1 free build, 1 free fast! @ :50

1 x 1100 – free fast!! – neg. split and desc. 1-3 @ 13:00

1 x 200 – back

6 Rounds of: 1 x 50 – free @ 1:30/1 x 100 – free fast! @ 1:30

16 x 25 – fly w/fins – odds: underwater kick, evens: fast!

1 x 300 – alternate 25 dbl arm back / 25 free @ 12 strokes

Total: 8,100 yards

Note: Katie’s 1100s were – 11:22, 11:08, 10:40

The Tokyo Olympics Challenge

Before 2021, nobody had ever beaten Ledecky in an individual race at the Olympics. But her formidable opponent, Ariarne Titmus, managed to do so in the 400 freestyle at the beginning of the Tokyo Olympic Games. For the first time in five years, Katie Ledecky felt the pressure of the world again, and her infallible strategy of getting the lead and keeping the lead didn’t work.

She had been undefeated at the Olympics since she was 15 years old. And finally, she had lost a race for the first time, her winning strategy didn’t work, and her main competitive advantage, her mental toughness, had been put to the test and ultimately defeated. So when she won gold in the 1500, she got emotional, and she gave an interview afterwards where she explained why she got emotional.

The Joy of Winning

The ability to put a smile on someone else’s face with a gold medal is what matters to her the most, and she wanted that power again. We have talked about many great swimmers. Interestingly, in my opinion, the best role model swimmers have both studied psychology as their major. They both have what seems to be a perfect balance between a competitive spirit and sportsmanship.

The Legacy of Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky is only 27 years old. She has the 17 best times in the history of the 1500 and the 16 best times in 800 freestyle. The only other event where this happens is Sarah Sjostrom’s 50 butterfly, where she owns the 22 best times. But this isn’t an Olympic event, sadly. If Ledecky wins four more medals like she is expected to, she will become the female swimmer with the most Olympic medals in history, ahead of Jenny Thomson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin, giving her the undisputed title of Greatest Female Swimmer of All Time. And I doubt she will retire before her home Olympic Games in LA 2028.

The Science Behind Her Recovery

If you want to know why Ledecky’s favorite recovery drink is chocolate milk, it is because it has a 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. I learned that recently because we bought the rights to a swimming nutrition masterclass, but it is only in Spanish. Do you think we should translate it to English? 

The Importance of Hard Work and Smart Work

If you want to learn to swim faster, you need to do the hard work. But if you don’t have one of the best coaches or any coach, doing the smart work is also equally important. That’s why we share this! 

By the way, don’t forget to share this knowledge to others..

Thank you!

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