On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we caught up with 2-time Olympic medalist James Guy. James, who represented Great Britain in the 2016 Olympic Games and has won numerous World Championship medals, shared what he’s doing to stay fit and focused on his goals while he’s unable to swim.
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Seizing an Opportunity
James recalls hearing the news that Olympic Trials were canceled, and said he knew that was going to happen, based on the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the announcement came that the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were being postponed to 2021, James said he reacted positively, seeing the postponement as an opportunity to train hard for one more year. He started with a new coach, Dave McNulty, in August 2019, and the extra time gives James and McNulty a chance to get into a groove with James’ training.
Staying in Touch
James is in regular contact with his British national teammates, including Olympic medalist Adam Peaty. James said he and his teammates are relatively relaxed about the Olympics being postponed, likely because the games are still going to happen — they weren’t canceled outright.
He also keeps in touch with numerous American swimmers, and said the sentiment is similar. Elite swimmers around the world are in the same position, and the only thing they can do is to stay positive, avoid stressing about the situation and keep fit.
James doesn’t have access to a gym or pool, so he has to train at home. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday James tunes into a 30-minute HIIT workout with his teammates on Zoom. He also has a pull up bar, resistance bands and a boxing bag in his garage, and creates his own at-home workouts.
James said this time out of the pool is not a break. It’s an opportunity for him to remain focused on his goals and better himself. During this period of downtime, James is working on numerous projects, including creating his own website, building a series of training plans and exploring opportunities for his career after swimming. There’s also a healthy dose of fun, with daily Xbox sessions and whipping up brownies in the kitchen!
Overall, James said he is working to keep his mind occupied and maintain his fitness as much as possible.
Advice for Swimmers
For swimmers struggling to find a dryland training program, James recommended that they find something that they like, and will realistically complete. He also suggested that swimmers mix up their activities to keep your mind engaged. Swimmers don’t have to do a tough workout every day, but they should get active every day.
James competed in the 200-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Reflecting back on the experience, he said he didn’t perform as well as he wanted, but that he was amazed to see how much his teammates stepped up, acting as role models in the swimming community. He was honored to race against Michael Phelps in the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay — he called it a peak moment in his career.
To keep big meets such as the Olympics in perspective, James said he remembers a quote from elite coach Bob Bowman: The Olympics are just another swim meet, with a lot of media around it.
James said that all he thought about at the 2016 Olympics was winning medals. In reality, he said it is best to think about how you’re going to swim the race. Do your best, and medals will come to you.
Proud Moments at World Championships
Looking back on the last few years, James highlighted his most memorable races:
- Winning the 200-meter freestyle at the 2015 World Championships. He beat Olympic medalist Sun Yang by .06!
- At the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, James swam a 50.83 in the 100-meter butterfly. 30 minutes later, he clocked a 1:43 to help his team win gold in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. He was so proud of these times, especially in races that were so close together.
- At the 2019 World Championships in Gwanju, China, James is most proud of winning the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay. The American team is a heavy favorite for this race, and James was surprised that he and his teammates won.
200 Freestyle Tips
James is a 200 freestyle master. He explained that racing the 200 free long course (50-meter pool) and short course (25-meter or 25-yard pool) are completely different races.
In short course, James said underwaters are key. Long course, on the other hand, is more about stroke speed and efficiency. You can’t go out too fast in the first 100 meters, or you’ll burn out in the second half of the race. You want to control the first half of the race and much as you can, so you can push hard in the last 75 meters.
Improving the 100 Butterfly
James’ current personal best in the 100-meter butterfly is 50.67. Breaking the 50-second threshold is a huge feat, and James is working on it. With his new coach, he’s been swimming more aerobic butterfly, including multiple reps of the 100 fly to help him stay strong in the back half of the race.
James has seen numerous changes in the swimming world since 2007, when his career started to take off. He recalls the 2011 World Championships being one of the fastest meets he has ever attended, due in part to the full-body racing suits that are no longer legal.
He has noticed that many swimmers who previously specialized in the 1500-meter freestyle are dropping down to the 400-meter freestyle, introducing new racing tactics.
He also mentioned that while freestyle technique has remained relatively stagnant, breaststroke and butterfly technique has changed a lot.
Thankful for Family
James expressed gratitude for his family’s support in the early stages of his career, through to the present. James attended boarding school in Somerset at age 12, and his parents changed careers and moved closer to the school so he could succeed. James is grateful for their sacrifice — without his parents, he wouldn’t be where he is today.