Training for Rio with Ryan Cochrane

Training for Rio with Ryan Cochrane

- Kia Schollar

Have you ever watched Canada’s most decorated swimmer, and three time Olympian, Ryan Cochrane, swim?

While you watch him, have you thought, “wow, that looks effortless.”?

Now, envision yourself splashing in the pool ‘swimming laps’.

Try to picture swimming 1500 meters in 14 minutes and 39 seconds.

A race which includes 29 flip turns – that’s right – Twenty. Nine. Flip. Turns.

When you talk to Ryan about his plan going into 2016, flip turns are where much of his focus laid. It was in the small details of those flip turns. He told me that he spent 5-6 months focussing on trying to drop .03 seconds off each flip turn because that would equate to a 5-7 second improvement on his overall 1500-meter time. Mind blowing right – but as I talked with Ryan more, it became obvious that success, for him, is in the details.

Ryan spends much of the year swimming 80 – 100 kilometers per week.

His training program includes swimming 2 times a day, 5 days a week. But that wasn’t all he was doing in pursuit of the podium. There was also 45 minutes of pre-practice, dry-land training: broken down into 15 minutes of easy stretching, 15 minutes of movement that starts to get the heart pumping, followed by 15 minutes of intense exercises that have an explosive focus.

Phew, I am warmed up just visualizing all of that! But that is just the start.

Now it’s time to get into the pool for a 2 to 2.5-hour swim practice. It’s at this point, most of us would say that was quite enough for one day. But, after swimming, Ryan has a quick snack and heads for the weight room. Now, many long-distance swimmers skip this part but Ryan, and his team believe, weights are a valuable tool to develop the, critical, core. So, what kind of work was he doing in the gym?

The goal was to create a stronger core because higher hips means faster swimming. This included balance exercises and increasing the ever-challenging Olympic lifts by modifying them to include additional, core specific, elements.

When you think about fitting 6-7 hours of physical practice time in, day in and day out, it is easy to see how balance might be a bit difficult to find.

Ryan noted that he broke his training cycles into manageable chunks, and used each day to find little bits of motivation. Admittedly 2016 was his best year of training: he was in a good head space; happy; living in the moment; and appreciating the process.

I found it amazing to learn that Ryan has not missed a single practice in nearly 10 years. T-E-N years.

He said he doesn’t question what he is doing. His favorite part of training is when you come into a practice, and you think you can’t do what is being asked of you, but you put your head down, push through the hard set, and surprise yourself.

He knows that nothing can replace hard work and that showing up, pushing through the bad and finding an inkling of improvement are the days that help him see the light and realize the plan is working.

Most of us are not going to find 6 hours in a day to exercise. But, we can take away the key elements of Ryan’s message, and apply them in our daily lives.

Set goals. Break them into manageable chunks. Put in the hard work. And no matter what, show up and do your best (even when we’re not sure we can).