At only 16 years old, Leah Hayes surprised swim fans earning a bronze medal with her 2:08.91 200 IM at the 2022 World Championships. At the recent Westmont Pro Swim, with the hometown crowd cheering louder for Leah than the Olympians, she swam a solid in-season 2:10.03 to win the event. That time makes her the fastest American this season, surpassing Regan Smith’s 2:10.40.
In this interview Leah unpacks her races and what she’s doing differently — ramping up to double practices and adding weight training to her regimen.
Following the Pro Swim Series Westmont, SwimSwam drove 30 minutes east to Aurora, Illinois, to the Fox Valley Park District Riptides, Leah’s home club team, to capture a Practice + Practice. You can see that episode here
Follow Leah Hayes on Instagram here.
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Opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the interviewed guests do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the hosts, SwimSwam Partners, LLC and/or SwimSwam advertising partners.
This is a Gold Medal Media production presented by SwimOutlet.com. Host Gold Medal Mel Stewart is a 3-time Olympic medalist and the co-founder of SwimSwam.com, a Swimming News website.
If you do the same exact training forever, you’re taking a huge gamble that it’s the one thing that works best for you without having any data to back that up. If you change up your training regimen, you actually get to find out what works. I don’t see why this is so controversial- makes complete sense to me.
Is the 200IM her only realistic event for making the team or does she have other options? The 2IM is going to be a bloodbath at trials (and even worse at Worlds).
Funny how it went from arguably the weakest women’s event in Tokyo to one of the strongest so quickly.
2IM is going to be incredible at worse.
Likely need 2:07 to win bronze.
thats a stretch.
“…ramping up to double practices and adding weight training to her regiment.”
The proper word here is regimen, not regiment.
Thanks professor. Did you write this after swimming an IM or were you rested?
Michael Phelps didn’t start lifting weights until he was 17 and he hurt his back doing it. James Gibson says the most common problem with lifting weights is injury. I hope she takes lifting weights slowly. Her free arm recovery is flat , horizontal with straight arms putting unnecessary stress on her shoulders. Working on eliminating this would be important if she is upping the yardage.
Almost every scientific study shows injuries in lifting to be at the same rate as any other sport. Not only is it safe, but with proper loading and coaching, it is incredibly beneficial to young athletes health, not to even mention performance.
Michael Phelps, Adam Peaty, Missy Franklin
Of course the most common problem with lifting is injury. What’s the most common problem with swimming – might also be injury. Lifting is a huge reason why times have gotten faster and faster the last 10-15 years. The pros drastically outweight the cons.
Lifting weights is not a huge reason swimming has gotten faster. Swimming has gotten faster due to other variables such as rule changes. For example stroke rule changes, start rule changes, underwater rule changes, turn changes. It used to be that on backstroke you could not turn on your stomach to turn. Now you can do a freestyle turn on backstroke which is so much quicker. Now everyone gets a dolphin kick on breaststroke turn and can shoot their hands out of the water on breaststroke that was against the rules. There has been massive improvement in swimsuit and google technology. Competition pool, lighting, lane line, starting blocks, and air quality improvements. Coaches improving quality of workouts moving away from… Read more »
The rules of swimming haven’t really changed that much. I mean, when was the backstroke flipturn rule allowed? 1992? Breaststroke has effectively allowed a dolphin kick since 2004? I guess you could make an argument for backstroke wedges and starting block wedges, but those aren’t making the differences we’ve seen in the last 15-ish years. And let’s be honest….swimsuit technology has actually regressed relative to 2008/2009. And goggle technology most likely hasn’t had a significant effect since the actual invention of goggles.
The biggest changes far and away are training and nutrition/recovery. And with training comes the actual understanding of weights/dryland as it pertains to the sport itself (or actually, even more recently, LESS specific but more about athleticism… Read more »
Breaststroke is basically an entirely different stroke largely from the hands out of water now permitted along with the dolphin kick off the start/turn. The records for breaststroke have come down much more so than other strokes. Backstroke with the 15 underwater and freestyle flip turns have also led to massive drops. I see the best 200 LCM backstroke swims from pre-rules changes are John Naber’s 1:59.19 from the 1976 Olympics and Betsy Mitchell’s 2:08.60 from the 1986 World Championships Trials.
lol this is such a stretch.
Sure, all of that stuff contributes in some amount. But “swimmers being jacked as hell” is a lot bigger deal than “improvement in goggle technology.”
Swimmers don’t need to be “jacked as hell” to swim fast when they are teenagers. David Mr World Record in the 100 free is not “jacked as hell”. He describes himself as being “skinny”. Rowdy Gaines was never “jacked as hell”.yet he won Olympic Gold. I was referencing the goggle technology that improves training sets with capturing data and now gathers data during racing. Let’s not forget the training technology that is used to analyze each individual’s stroke that was illustrated by Thomas Heilman.
Mark Spitz won 7 Olympic Gold medals and wasn’t “jacked as hell” and had no swim goggles. Now there are all kinds of goggles that you can pair with data collecting tech to assess performance. Cody Miller uses a pacing device that fits under his cap for several years now. All these variables makes swimmers faster not just being “jack up on weights”. In fact many commentators on swimswam complain that Ryan Murphy has a middle linebacker physique and that has slowed him down.
Yes, Leah has been successful with her current training. However, there is nothing wrong with adding more strength as long as it doesn’t negatively impact flexibility. Athletic development through dryland is also a huge positive. I don’t see a downside to either.
Watch out world! Leah may be swimming the 2IM in Paris.
I’m rooting for her. I honestly see Kate and Leah going 1-2 at trials. If Alex has a good meet, it will be a dogfight.
after PBing in all 3 events at NCAAs, you don’t think she’s (Walsh) at least in the same form in long course as she was last year?
fair point. I’m thinking more along the lines of how dominant Kate was at NCAA’s and short course worlds. Of course, they are vastly different than LCM but Kate has evolved more all around. Alex very well may take the gold at trials.
oh she gonna do work this summer. Lookout
So you’re telling me she’s already this fast without doing doubles and weights? Then why change anything? Swimming more doesn’t necessarily equate to swimming fast. Look at Daniel Diehl as well.
Dryland training and weights are very important in long course swimming. Any weakness shows exponentially in the pool on race day. No hiding bad training practices
Re: weights, I would argue just the opposite. Dryland consisting of core strength exercises, yoga, Pilates, etc will serve you better than weights LC especially so with female swimmers.
How did she medal at worlds of weights are so important?
Thats a silly question. She medaled because she is unbelievably talented. DeSorbo is going to turn her into a machine. Do you see how strong the Virginia girls look? Thats not swimming alone, thats quality dryland.
How many Virginia girls beat her last summer in the 2IM?
The only one who raced her, the world champion Alex Walsh. KD scratched the 2IM to race the 50 free at trials
Alex did, so whats your point? Also, Kate would have probably beat her as well. Both on a very strict lifting program.
Why not also experiment with adding more? Don’t want to have any regrets abt what could’ve been.
This to me is the most fascinating cutting edge of swimming. The interplay between evolving training as a swimmer ages. How much do we know? How much have we just gotten lucky on? Is 18 the right age to substantially change training?
And then how do we reconcile all of that with the fact that the two best male sprinters in the world are now 17, and the best female swimmer in the world is 16, which is sort of a reversion to the old means of the sport?
It’s going to be a wildly complex set of data. I hope we can harness AI to figure it out. But also, figuring it out might make it less fun.
I do think pure talent plays a bigger role than most would like to admit.
How would AI help this?
The data it’d be working with would never be able to capture enough data points, both in like, pure number of “elite” swimmers, as well as enough data about the few elites there are.
Maybe there’s a way to capture all the diet / sleep / training / genetic info that can go into this, but color me insanely skeptical.
(Though my favorite part of this is we can never know if an athlete really reached their potential doing any specific thing. “Michael Phelps would have been better training under Peter Andrew” is a potentially defensible – if insane, lol – take someone could have. ((Not me tho. I’ve got a normal brain.)))
because she is at the age where these dryland changes are going to make her a better swimmer in the long run. As far as doubles, I dont know how I feel about that.
The way some of y’all talk, Diehl swims in his backyard puddle in his tennis shoes 😭
It’s true. I do.
Swimming has become so competitive that it is not smart at all to swim doubles. Races come down to a matter of .1 of a second over a 200m swim. If you have to swim two 200m races three times, your times will not be as fast. She needs to rethink her strategy
They are talking about adding double practices(2 a day) not double events at meets.
thats highly dependent on the swimmer. Also, what are you talking about? How many times to elite swimmers race in elite meets? I think you know the answer to this.
Maybe she picks a specific event in the future by why in earth should she limit herself in training and practice meets