"I've always believed that to be a great racer, you've got to be a great trainer"

Double Olympic champion James Guy has shared his top advice for becoming a great racer during a recent talk with Swim England’s National Event Camp and Junior Squad athletes.

Guy won two gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games and holds a further two silver Olympic medals from the Rio 2016 Games.

He detailed his own struggles with training consistently earlier in his career, which he credited as being the reason he had an ‘okay Games’ in Rio five years earlier.

He said: “I’ve always believed that to be a great racer, you’ve got to be a great trainer in the pool. To be a great athlete, you’ve got to be able to put in the work.

“You are the number one but train as if you’re the number two. If you’re the number one in the world, there’s only one way you’re going to go and that’s down unless you’re working your backside off every single day by being smart.

“My compliance went from being the worst in British Swimming (85%) to being 99.8%, so it’s about getting that consistency up and doing everything right.”

‘Confidence from training’

Guy explained how putting in the hard work at training has given him confidence throughout his career and is something he advises all young swimmers to do.

He said: “When I was at Millfield school, and we did 25x400m freestyle in 2009, I remember it as clear as day.

“These sessions would fill you with confidence so when it came to the major meet I’m thinking ‘I’ve got 400 free today but I did 25 of them at threshold, today I’m only doing eight lengths’.

“So when you’re mentally prepared by banking all this work, and you’ve banked it all for weeks and week and you’re starting to rest and you’re tapering, you can look back and think ‘I’ve done everything I can do to be the best that I can on this day’.

“Don’t be afraid of the hard sessions. To get to where you want to be, you’ve got to put the hard work in. If you train as if you’re the number two, then you’re always going to be fighting for that top spot.”

‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’

The freestyle and butterfly specialist also shared his experience of lockdowns in England and how he prepared for what turned out to be the most successful Olympic Games ever for Britain’s swimmers.

He said: “When we went home in March 2020, one thing I knew is that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

Guy explained how he and coach Dave McNulty developed a plan that would see his training continue outside the pool and ensure that he was ready for the Games which would take place in 15 months’ time.

That plan initially focused heavily on land training and nutrition while pools across the UK were closed, and Guy explains that by knowing what works for him as an athlete, he was able to thrive.

He said: “Every athlete is different, of the 180 people here on the call, everyone is a different swimmer and you all respond to work differently.

“I know what works for me and when you realise what works for you, you’ve got a plan.”

‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda’

Guy explained that he and teammate Adam Peaty had a saying they used during their time in Japan: ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’.

This phrase gave a nod to his previously mentioned commitment to training consistently in order to get the best results possible.

“At the end of the day, the Olympics for us is the biggest thing we can do,” he said. “You want to go there knowing you’ve done everything you can do to be the best athlete you can be.

“Adam Peaty and I had these three words we kept saying while we were over there [Tokyo]: ‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda’. Nobody cares what you’ve done in the last five weeks, it’s about what you do on race day.”