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Being one of the most decorated Olympians of all time, Michael Phelps has won a total of 22 medals so far in 3 Olympiads. He also holds the all-time record for the most Olympic gold medals won by a single individual, all of these medals coming from a variety of different swimming events with widely varying disciplines and styles.

Phelps is known to possess a phenomenal physique as well. With a wingspan that is longer than his own height, hypermobility in joints such as the ankles, and a lower milk production rate along with faster recovery, Phelps appears to be genetically engineered for Olympic victory. However, if you were to ask his coaches what was the most important reason that made Phelps so overwhelmingly successful, they’d tell you that the answer isn’t anywhere in his physique, but rather what’s going on in his head (and his techniques). Here are some tried and tested tips used by the legend himself:

Use the correct tools/equipment for the sport.

Phelps often likes to incorporate the right training tools into his training regimen. Things like music (as evidenced by his penchant for wearing headphones right before he starts a race) during a long training session, speedometer training equipment, training paddles, etc. Keeping his motivation and pace going through a long training session with music and the right equipment goes a long way in keeping his regimen efficient!

Forge a love for exercises or training.

It is hard, but essential. Quoting Phelps himself: “For me, some of the most effective exercises focus on vertical kicks and underwater kicks… It’s painful, but very effective. Another important exercise for me is rowing. It really helps me keep my sensitivity to water.” While some of us can easily see how long swims build stamina for your races or events, small workouts like these are also very important. They can be intense and exhausting, but no effort goes unrewarded. Do those exercises for the sake of your perfect form!

Give yourself time to rest and recover.

The best and most effective athletes always revere their rest periods and consider them almost sacrosanct. Phelps is no different. “Sleep is also a big part of my recovery, it’s really important to get my body enough rest to be ready for my next race or training session.” There’s no two ways about it: sleep and cool-down days are essential to keep your body in top shape, and even machines burn out if you work them too hard.

Maintain stubborn discipline and a positive attitude towards training and racing.

Arguably the biggest factor behind Phelps’ numerous victories, staying focused on his goals in each and every practice session leading up to the big race goes a long way towards a real podium finish. Remembering his exercises during training also helps, like the time Phelps’ glasses filled with water during the Beijing Olympics: By remembering how many strokes it took to get in and out of the pool, he could overcome the vision handicap and still be able to win the 200m butterfly final. Align yourself with a win mentality, and victory certainly follows, especially in this case for Phelps.

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