5 Keys to Consistency and Longevity with Roland Schoeman

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

South Africa’s Roland Schoeman has done what very few swimmers have been able to do, make a living from the sport that we all love. Over the course of his career he has represented South Africa at the Olympics 4 times dating back to the Sydney Games in 2000, has won numerous world championship titles, won a medal of every color at the Olympics, and still holds the fastest time ever in the 50m freestyle (SCM).

Here are 5 keys to Roland’s longevity and consistency on our sport’s highest level:

1. Take your own path. Everyone has an opinion about what you are doing. Too young, too short, too tall, too old. Like it or not your job is going to have to be to decipher through the noise and pick out the things that matter or will help you through to your journey from those that are noise. The easiest path will always be the one that is most tread; and for those who seek to achieve beyond the common, taking your own path and learning to listen to your gut about what is and isn’t possible becomes a requirement.

2. Take care of yourself. Being a professional athlete means more than just swimming fast during practice, it means living a lifestyle that recognizes your goals and profession. This includes taking a proactive approach when it comes to anticipating and managing injuries. As swimmers we are almost all at one point or another cursed with some variation of a shoulder injury. Knowing that it is going to happen, and doing something about it beforehand, greatly decreases the impact that the untimely injury or strain will inflict.

3. Be willing to take strategic breaks. As swimmers we pride ourselves on being 24/7/365 athletes. As much as we like to consider that we are above the needs of taking a break, they are necessary not only from a physical standpoint, but also mentally. Periodic and strategic breaks to refresh yourself for another round of training are not only necessary, but inevitably help you push further forward by helping stave off burnout and mental and physical exhaustion.

4. Make the most of your “off” days. There will be days where the last thing you want to do is set foot in an aquatic center. Where we would rather do anything (chores? Check. Homework? Check.) than train. And if you do make it to the pool, everything and everyone seems to supporting this thought: the pool is way warmer than it should be. You left half your equipment at home. You are simply not “feeling it.”

In the pool we all have those days where things go exceptional. But how many of us can really say that we make the absolute most of the days where we feel totally off in the water? When things aren’t going your way, salvage your workout by focusing on the things you do have power over. Technique. Breathing patterns. Correct body position. And so on.

5. Excuses don’t work. You do. How many times have you heard a coach say, “She’s got lots of talent, but terrible attitude.” These “coulda-woulda-shoulda” athletes are a dime a dozen. Ultimately, the buck stop at you with your swimming. All the talent and genetics in the world can only take you so far. At some point you will have to sit down and have an honest conversation with yourself about your work ethic. Are you making excuses for your training? Your racing? When you accept accountability for your swimming you don’t just take full ownership of it, but you will also stop looking outwards for answers and explanations.

You can follow Roland on his way to Rio on Twitter here.

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More backstroke
6 years ago

Coulda swore I read this same article about 3 years ago.

6 years ago

Didn’t manadou break his scm 50 free WR? So he isn’t the fastest time ever.

6 years ago

Great points! By the way, Florent Manaudou beat Schoeman’s 50 free WR in Doha 2014 by 0,04 sec.

8 years ago

it is a lot easier to continue swimming if you are only training for a 50….not exactly the same as the 400 IM or mile or 2fly

Reply to  weirdo
8 years ago

I disagree. The 400 IM and 50 each require something different in terms of training and longevity. I think swimming actually has it backwards when you compare our sport and relative ages per event versus something like the marathon where you see older athletes thriving, winning and getting better. We have many more ‘older’ athletes focused on the sprint events in the pool, but that doesn’t seem to make sense when, clearly, aerobic systems can be trained to perform at an elite level late into life.

I think the advice of strategic breaks might make sense for more of our elite distance and longer IM swimmers to consider as they age. For example, maybe in 2017, after a full… Read more »

Reply to  weirdo
8 years ago

It’s true that they are different beasts. The 200s and 400s are arguably the toughest events for older swimmers to train for, because they require going near-top-speed for a long time.

That said, many of the world’s best open water swimmers are in their 30s. There are also swimmers who have found a way to sustainably train for long sprints at 30 years old. I suspect it requires a combination of maintaining great overall fitness and a stroke so natural and ingrained that it doesn’t require “breaking yourself down” early in the season. As you get older, you can’t take it easy on your shoulder for a couple days and expect it to get better. Cseh, Phelps, Lochte, Pereira, Korzeniowski… Read more »

Reply to  weirdo
6 years ago

Some major armchair quarterbacking here

9 years ago

Ther are some very good points here, but the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” comment stands out. Too many “swimming talents” pack it in early, and regret it later on in life. RS is setting an example to a whole new generation. Well done.

9 years ago

Good stuff and thank you! I’ll be sharing it with our swimmers.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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