Rebecca Adlington – Olympic Double Gold Winner – Her Swimming Workout

Rebecca Adlington
Rebecca Adlington, May 2008

Rebecca Adlington:

  • Date of Birth: 17/02/1989
  • Lives: Mansfield
  • Born: Mansfield
  • Country of Birth: England
  • Height: 179cm
  • Weight: 71kg
  • Club: Nova Centurion
  • Coach: Bill Furniss
  • Occupation: Swimmer / Olympic Hero / Superstar!

Rebecca Adlington is Team GB’s most successful swimmer in a long time, in fact the first British woman to win two gold medals in over a century. Not only did she win the Beijing 2008 women’s 800 metres freestyle final, she knocked two seconds of the previous world record. She also won 800m freestyle gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Rebecca Adlington started swimming when she was seven years old, following in the footsteps of her sisters Laura and Chloe. She says that she started swimming “just for the social side of things but I just got better and better and that’s fun.”

Rebecca Adlington’s Swimming Training Workouts

Rebecca has dedicated herself to a gruelling training regime. In the run-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, she followed a weekly training plan, with 2-3 workouts per day. Sunday is total rest day.

Monday: From 6am to 8am, swimming about 7,000-8,000 metres per two-hour session in the Olympic pool at Nottingham Uni. After the morning swim, she goes home to have breakfast and rest. She would then go running or circuit training for an hour at around 3pm, before returning to the pool around 5pm for another two-hour training session, and then another gym session before bed.

Tuesday: Up at 5am for a high intensity session. In the afternoon it is an aerobic session, involving steady swimming for endurance training. These sessions are repeated on Thursday and Friday evening.

Wednesday: Just one 2 hour session in a 50m pool in the afternoon, followed by an hour of weights in the gym, which is next to the pool. Total training session is about 4 hours.

Thursday and Friday: Another 5am start, with both morning and evening sessions in the pool morning and evening.

“It’s all sleeping, training, driving and occasionally finding time to eat. That’s what my life is about.” Rebecca Adlington, 2008.

Saturday: 7am start for one session in the pool. She says that “by the end of the week I’ve swum 65,000-70,000m. For the rest of the day, I get to indulge my passion for shopping. I am into shoes in a big way. I have dozens of pairs.”

Sunday – Rest Day: Sleep until 10am and then just relax for the day.

The longer you do it, the harder it gets. Every year is harder. To keep improving it has to be like that. I pushed myself harder than ever in my training cycle up to the Olympic Trials. I’ve been crying in training, I’ve been in so much pain. Sometimes I finish training so tired I wonder: ‘What am I doing this for?’ Then you do an amazing swim and you know why.” Rebecca Adlington, 2008.

Rebecca Adlington is a true Olympic hero. When you see what she puts herself through each week, it is not possible to feel such admiration and awe. Her spirit and dedication to her art are what makes her a double gold winner, and one of Britain’s best athletes of 2008. She should certainly be nominated for Britain’s sports personality of the year!

After her winning performance in Beijing she said “I can’t believe I swam so quickly,” she said immediately after the race. “It’s so nice when you work so hard and it comes off. As soon as I was on my own, I thought, ‘right, I’m going to go for this time’.” She was given an incentive to win the 800m as after her 400m freestyle victory, she was promised some Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin designer shoes if she one her next race. Her love for designer shoes gave her the little extra she needed to such to victory!

Becky Adlington’s Grusome Swimming Regime

Becky Adlington was in the mainstream news again in 2009 following her defeat in Sheffield in the 400 m freestyle final. She still beat the previous world record, but her team mate Jo Jackson got in first and beat the world record in the process.

Daily UK newspaper, The Guardian, interviewed her coach, Bill Furniss, regarding her training regime. Furniss is quick to point out that in the UK there is a huge emphasis on football, and many members of the public are under the impression that all sports require no more than a few training sessions per week in between games. In America and Australia people regard swimming more highly as they understand what is required to compete at the highest level.

Training for swimmers is similar to track and field athletes, with periodisation planned throughout the year. Training schedules are worked backwards from major events. Furniss also started Adlington on a four your training program at the end of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, to ensure that she is ready for London 2012. To put it into context, a martial artist can go from novice to black belt in this time – Adlington will be working to retain her gold medals.

Training involves several phases. The first phase builds on strength and endurance. This is simple long sessions in the pool, performing 10 sets of 400m in the pool, each in under 5 minutes. Once endurance work has been covered, set are increased, and distances reduced. Typically 30 sets of 100m are done, aiming to improve power and speed. Heart rate is kept at 180bpm, and each set is 90 seconds, including rest. This is intensive interval training at the extreme. 5 sessions like this are done each week.

Adlington and Jo Jackson have been following this sort of training since they were 12 years old. The day starts at 5am with a pre-school pool session.

Endurance sets are done to build up lactate intolerance, which helps a swimmer manage lactic acid, both physically and mentally. No matter how fit an athlete is, they will produce lactate. Basically the purpose of training is to teach the body to tolerate pain and discomfort. Like with running, part of the battle is not hitting the ‘wall’ then can stop even the best of athletes in their tracks.

The final part of a training program is winding down, to increase rest and recovery periods, to ensure that by competition day the swimmer is at maximum fitness, lactate intolerant, and fully charged and raring to go. This, according to Furniss, is one of the hardest things to get right. Under work, and fitness and stamina suffers, overwork and overtraining occurs.

Adlington has admitted that media attention has badly affected her training. She currently feels that she has not put enough work in for the 800m final this week. She simply has not had the time to do all the training.

Becky’s typical weekly schedule

  • 10 swimming sessions, endurance and speed. 4 hours a day.
  • 3 dry sessions, each one hour. Circuit training and core strength. No weight lifting.
  • Two 3 mile runs, on Monday and Friday mornings, before the pool session.
  • 70-80km swimming a week in total, or about 7000m for each pool session.
  • She has 15 weekends off each year. The rest are filled with either competitions or weekend training camps.

Bill Furniss has been a swimming coach for 30 years. Now 54, he is a sports science graduate and a level 5 swimming coach. He has been training Becky Adlington since she was 12, and says that he has bever seen anyone so dedicated and determined as Adlington.

References and Swimming Links

Photo by AYoung.

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