Swimmers are known for their relentless training schedules, so what does a typical day look like for medley swimmer, Commonwealth Games champion and Speedo athlete, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor? 23-year-old Siobhan-Marie shares a day in her life with me below.
The Olympic silver medallist, who was the first woman ever to successfully defend their Commonwealth Games 200m IM title during last year’s event in Australia, also reveals her Olympic hopes for Japan 2020. Go, Siobhan-Marie!
In a normal training week I do about 20 hours in the pool (I swim every day except Sunday!) and 10-12 hours of land training. As a medley swimmer, it’s important to be strong on all four strokes, but focus mainly on the stroke that you are weakest in. I always used to focus on my two best strokes and just try to make more improvements on them, but I found I made the most improvement in my medley by working on my worst stroke.
My Commonwealth Games experience last year was amazing! It was such fun competition and the outdoor pool that we raced in on the Gold Coast was right on the beach. It was one of the most beautiful pools I’ve ever swum in and the crowd was fantastic. Swimming is one of the biggest sports in Australia so the atmosphere was crazy. I was really pleased to be the first woman ever to defend their title in the 200IM, so it was a really special competition for me.
I’m feeling very excited about the Olympics next year. I really hope that next April I can book my place on the team at our trials. The past two Olympic Games have been some of the best times of my life, so I really hope I can compete at another one. I’m going to do everything I can from now until then to give myself the best chance of doing so and swimming my best there!
6:15am: Early alarm call, coffee and then ‘Pre-pool’
I wake-up in the morning at around 6.15am. Unfortunately, I’m not someone who can ever just jump out of bed on the first alarm, so I allow myself about 10 minutes to snooze! I then get up, get changed (I always sort out all my clothes/bag the night before) and head downstairs. I make a coffee to go and I take a quick snack with me to eat, usually a breakfast bar and a banana. I do struggle to get out of bed most mornings, especially at the end of the week, but as soon as I have a coffee I feel much better!
I get to the pool for about 7.15am where I have 30 minutes of pre-pool. This is where we stretch or do yoga/prehab work to help us with injury prevention. Sometimes I do breathing training and we check-in with our physio to make sure we’re ready to train.
We then get into the pool at about 8am for a two hour swim – this can be anything depending on the day and the goal of that session, and is usually about 5-6km in total. On a Monday, a typical morning session would be a long warm-up, some sprints and then a long aerobic set.
Breakfast and gym training
After our swim, we have breakfast in the café – this is usually eggs on toast, porridge, or overnight oats that I’ve made the previous night (and more coffee!) before heading into the gym for a 1.5-hour weights session.
Our gym sessions are always three main lifts and one pull exercise. For example, chin-ups, one lower body exercise (normally squats) and then one push exercise, such as weighted push-ups. We also do core work and other strength-endurance exercises. Gym work is important in swimming because it’s a power-to-weight sport, and it also helps with stability and robustness.
Lunch and physio/massage treatments
After gym we have a break in-between sessions for lunch and a rest. Depending on how I feel, some days I’ll go home to sleep and have lunch, or I go for lunch or a coffee with the other swimmers. My lunch is usually something quite light as we eat our main breakfast quite late, so it’s normally either a tuna wrap, something on toast, protein pancakes with berries or a jacket potato with tuna.
Some afternoons we can have treatment sessions, such as sports massage or physiotherapy. I train at the National Centre for Swimming in Bath and we have access to lots of services such as sports nutrition, sports science, performance psychology support and performance lifestyle support, so I’m very lucky to be able to train there.
Training session #3: In the pool
We start our third session of the day at about 3pm. We have another 30-minute pre-pool session before getting in the pool for another 2-2.5 hour swim. The swim in the evening will always be a different focus to the morning, and most of the time our evening sessions are harder than the mornings. A typical Tuesday evening session would be lots of race-pace efforts, so swimming a series of 50s/75s/100s at our 200m race speed. These sessions are usually really hard, as we try and do lots of race-pace in order to get used to swimming at that speed for as far as we can.
Chill time and bed
I usually finish training at about 5:30-6pm. I live about half an hour away from the pool and when I get home first thing I do is have a cup of tea, which makes me happy. Most evenings I just chill by watching TV and cooking dinner. A typical dinner after a heavy day of training would be a pasta bake/Thai green curry or chicken risotto followed by yoghurt with fruit and maybe a snack before bed (peanut butter on toast or bagel).
I really enjoy eating out and going to the cinema, so I try to do this with friends or family at least once a week. I’m a really big foodie and there are so many lovely places to eat in Bath and Bristol; trying new places is my favourite hobby!
Training does leave me really tired so I get into bed about 10 and try to be asleep by 10.30. I really enjoy reading so I try and read a bit if I can keep my eyes open!
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Olympic medallist and World Champion, is a Speedo athlete and one of Great Britain’s most successful female swimmers. For more information: speedo.com