Here’s a quick summary of Ryan Lochte’s life leading up to London 2012: strongman workouts, junk food, Florida parties, and yardage, yardage, yardage in the pool. Now, four years later and heading into his third Olympics, the 31-year-old swimmer says he’s a “completely different athlete,” thanks to a lifestyle change and revamped training routine.
“Leading up to London I wasn’t focused on taking care of my body outside of the pool,” says Lochte, who, in October 2013, moved from Gainesville, Fla., to Charlotte, N.C., to train under swim coach David Marsh. “It’s more quality than quantity now.” There, he also teamed up with SwimMAC Carolina strength and conditioning coach Darin Tyson, who helped him refocus his training with outside-of-the-box methods, such as boxing, and started to track his sleep with sponsor Speedo's new wearable device.
“It’s a full body workout and when I do go to the pool, I can put all my focus there because I’m not always thinking about swimming all the time,” Lochte says.
The boxing sessions are typically mixed with strength training: three minutes with gloves, then an active recovery with exercises such as a squat on a Bosu ball. “Something where he has to be engaged but it’s not as taxing on his body as the boxing is,” Tyson says.
“We do different cadences, rotations and combinations and he’s always moving so he’s not just stagnant hitting gloves,” says Tyson. “The goal was for him to react from a fatigued position and focus while he was exhausted, but part of it was also the aggression and mental training.”Tyson separates Lochte’s weightlifting sessions across four days—upper and lower body Olympic lifts, always paired with shoulder rehab exercises—and splits the program into four-week cycles. The shoulder movements emphasize the rotator cuff muscles, as well as the deltoids and scapula, but are always retractional, or pulling, to reverse the effects of the repeated movements Lochte does in the water. Though Lochte's training will taper down as he nears his races in Rio, the rehab work will remain consistent.
"Swimmers have the same overhead movement patterns as baseball players do, like a pitcher," Tyson says. "So we have to continue to do those [exercises] to prevent the possibility of getting too tight or getting inflammation in the shoulders."
Tyson is a big proponent of core connectivity, or syncing up your abdominals with the hip and quad muscles, which can help swimmers with their kick in the water. But Tyson doesn't make Lochte do typical linear exercises, such as crunches. Instead, most involve a rotational movement from a ground-based, standing position, not sitting or laying. Examples include the woodchopper—using a cable machine or resistance band from a high position and pulling it down and across the body with arms extended—or medicine ball throws against a wall. Lochte's core program consisted of new exercises every three weeks for 15 weeks, until he returned to the original exercises.
Lochte's eating habits have also changed since London 2012. When he moved to Charlotte, Lochte hired a personal chef, Glenn Lyman, to help keep his nutritional habits on track.
"I was a junk food person. But I started realizing that what I put in my body really has an affect on my performance and my attitude," Lochte says. "I’ve been eating a lot more greens. More protein. I find myself actually counting the calories I put in—I never cared for that before."
Lyman estimates that Lochte takes in about 8,000 calories a day between supplements and his six meals, which typically contain a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate and leafy greens. (Get Lyman's recipe for one of Lochte's favorite healthy meals below.)
"Ryan's diet is not as a portion-controlled as some of the NFL guys are, because he's burning so many calories a day and he needs to eat to recover," says Lyman, who comes to Lochte's house once a week to cook several meals for him. "He's not eating one giant meal. I try to give him a variety because it can get monotonous to eat that much everyday."
At the U.S. Olympic swim trials last month, Lochte suffered a groin injury and failed to qualify for the 400-meter individual medley and other events, but made the team for the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle. Now, as he readies for Rio, the 11-time Olympic medalist will stick with a similar training schedule and taper off as competition nears.
Though Rio will mark his fourth Olympics, Lochte says he's grown since his last try for gold.
“Now that I’m older and more mature I’m listening to my body and understanding what I need,” Lochte says. “I’m eating a lot healthier, taking care of myself with recovery, sleeping better—paying attention to the little things, you know?”
Jeah, we get it.
Garden Jasmine Rice Bowl with Rock Shrimp
Courtesy of chef Glenn Lyman
2 servings, total 775 calories each
1 cup brown jasmine rice
3/4 pound raw wild American rock shrimp, cleaned
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
3/4 cup broccoli florets, chopped
3/4 cup zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup organic vegetable broth
3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, sliced
• Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and reserve covered.
• In a small bowl, season shrimp with Old Bay, sea salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. In a large non-stick skillet, saute shrimp over medium-high heat for two minutes, remove and reserve.
• Add remaining oil to hot pan. Stir in onion, bell pepper and carrot. Saute over medium high heat, stirring constantly for two minutes. Add garlic. Stir in broccoli and cook for one minute, add zucchini and cook for one minute. Increase heat to high and add vegetable broth, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until veggies are crisp tender.
• Return shrimp, with any accumulated juices, to the pan and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked rice. Serve immediately in large bowls garnished with green onion.