On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we talked with U.S. Paralympic medalist Lizzi Smith about how she’s adjusting her training for the 2021 Paralympics, how she maintains a positive mindset, and her passions outside of the swimming world. 

Lizzi competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she earned a silver medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay and a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay. She also has 6 world championship medals.

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The Importance of a Positive Mindset

While the postponement of the 2020 Paralympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic derails many of Lizzi’s plans for the near future, she’s staying positive. She views this unplanned downtime as a blessing, providing an opportunity for people around the world to focus on taking care of themselves and their loved ones.

She also noted that a forced break from the pool has made her appreciate early morning practices and tough training sessions.

Refocusing Her Training

Lizzi explained that Paralympic athletes are very adaptable — they’re used to adapting to what their bodies can do, and now they have to adapt to a new timeline for the Paralympics. 

Taking a break from training doesn’t worry her. After the 2016 Paralympics, Lizzi took a year and a half off. Within 2 months of starting her training after that break, she was going best times. Whether she’s out of the pool for 6 weeks, 6 months or longer, Lizzi said she is confident that she will bounce back quickly and perform well.

Staying Active Without the Pool

To maintain her fitness, Lizzi partakes in numerous activities.

  • Running: Like many swimmers, running is a challenge for Lizzi, but she’s sticking with it and increasing her distance over time. She finds that she gets the same feeling after a run that she does after a swim.
  • Belly dancing: She follows YouTube tutorials in her living room each morning. Lizzi is convinced that the skills she learns while practicing belly dancing will help with her hip position in butterfly.
  • Core work: She works in core routines and has a set of free weights at home to work on strength training each day.

Lizzi recommends that swimmers who aren’t able to swim find a new and exciting activity that they are excited to do every day. It is easy to get depressed during this time, but having something you look forward to is important, she said. You may find that you incorporate this new activity into your routine when the pools reopen!

Staying Curious

Lizzi is always focused on finding new ways to think about things to keep herself engaged in what she’s doing. She explained that now is a great time to take a step back and find a new way to approach your training or reset your technique. If you change the way you think about your stroke, you’ll get back in the water ready to perfect it. 

A Strong Support System

The best athletes don’t get where they are without support. Lizzi shared a few of the people who keep her motivated and positive throughout her training:

  • Her family. Lizzi is one of 8 children, and is grateful to stay connected with them during this time of isolation. Their encouragement and support has been essential to her success as a swimmer. 
  • Her teammates at the Western Hills Athletic Club are always teaching her new things and pushing her to be her best self. 
  • Her coach. Lizzi shared how she met her coach, Olympic butterflier Ian Crocker. She says that Crocker has helped her find a love for the water, improving her butterfly so her stroke has a rhythmic, dance-like feel to it.

Outside the Water

Lizzi’s passions outside the pool are graphic design and interior design. She is currently studying web design, and has helped her teammates design their logos and websites. She loves looking over 

After her swimming career, Lizzi said that her passion for design will take center stage. She said she will always maintain a connection to the sport through coaching.

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