Caeleb Dressel competes at the FINA Swimming World Championships on Dec. 13, 2018 in Hangzhou, China.
Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Swimmer Caeleb Dressel won Male Athlete of the Month for December 2018 after picking up nine medals — six golds and three silvers — at the 2018 FINA World Championships (25m) in Hangzhou, China. In Dressel's Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, he gives a peek into the daily life of a world-class swimmer.
How do you deal with a packed schedule that includes training for several different events at once? If you’re swimmer Caeleb Dressel, you break things down.
“I like to aim for three objectives per day,” said Dressel, who took home gold with Team USA in the 4x100-meter freestyle and 4x100 medley at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 before becoming a breakout star the following year. “I have this habit where I will just go and go and go and try to get as much done as I can, and I’ll just start making stuff up to do, so I try to limit myself. It lets me go to bed feeling like I’ve gotten a lot accomplished.”
The 22-year-old from Florida is used to juggling a lot at once. This is the man who announced himself as USA Swimming’s next big name by winning a record-tying seven gold medals — including three in the space of about two hours — at the 2017 FINA World Championships, where he was literally running around between a couple of events.
At home in Florida, where he practices under the tutelage of former University of Florida coach Gregg Troy, Dressel maintains a strict training schedule that nevertheless leaves time for things he loves. Here, he takes us through a day in his life.
7 a.m.: Sleeping in. Well, I think of it as sleeping in. After waking up, I go directly for my contact lenses, because I do not have good vision at all. Once I get those in, I say good morning to my roommate and let my dog Jane out. She’s a black lab who’s almost a year old, and she’s usually up before me. In fact, Jane’s usually the one who wakes me up, often about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off.
7:15 a.m.: Fueling up. Breakfast is typically oatmeal with honey — I absolutely love honey — or Wheaties. I try to stay away from the sugary stuff. I’m out the door for practice by 7:30.
8 a.m.: Practice and weights! We run for a while to get ourselves warm, and from there I usually go straight to the weight room. Before every weight session we spend about 20 minutes stretching, foam rolling and trigger pointing because a lot of areas get tight from swimming, and it’s really hard to do some of the Olympic lifts if we have tight shoulders and tight hamstrings. The majority of what I do in the weight room are cleans, power cleans and snatches. After that, we do some exercises to avoid shoulder pain, some medicine ball work and end it with a core set, about two hours’ worth of work right after swimming. It gets pretty tiring, but once you get used to the schedule, you find a good rhythm. I train with a really good group of guys, which makes it fun.
12:30 p.m.: Training with Jane. After weights I go home to train Jane. My dad’s a veterinarian, and I’ve grown up around animals my whole life. I love having a dog. I usually train her every day. We just run around chasing after things, doing some retrieving, some gun dog stuff. I take Jane everywhere I can with me, and she’s gotten a little bit famous in the area! A lot of people have come to know who Jane is, even though they don’t know my name. I hear a lot of “Hi Jane!” as we’re walking around.
1 p.m.: Second breakfast. Or lunch, depending on what I feel like eating. I eat healthy, mixing in a lot of protein and carbs. I could eat seafood every meal, but if I cook at home, it’ll usually be some type of chicken. I eat until I’m full because I know it’s going to get burned off, and I graze throughout the day on apples and oranges. At the moment, we’re training heavily, but we do have doughnut Wednesdays — even if sometimes it’s not Wednesday. Sometimes you just need carbs.
1:30 p.m.: Naptime/worktime. If I have time, I’ll try to sneak a 30-minute nap in. If not, I will try to knock out “work stuff” — responding to emails, doing the occasional interview. I’m only 15 credits away from graduating from Florida, but my schedule right now is a little too hectic for school. Eventually I’ll find a time when I can fit in both.
2:30 p.m.: Practice #2. Second practice begins at 3, so I’m out the door again. We’re in the pool for two hours, and after that, it’s food time. This is when I’ll have the big meal of my day, and if I have time, Jane and I will train again in the afternoon. That way she has two trainings a day too, though hers are a lot shorter than mine.
6 p.m.: Hanging out. No more work stuff — evenings are my time to relax, unwind and recover from practice.
In the evenings I’ll do something completely different, hanging out with friends or reading. I’m currently reading “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing, which my dad recommended. It’s the story of the explorer Ernest Shackleton, who sailed to the Antarctic. His team’s boat got trapped between two ice floes and the book tells the story of how he and the crew all survived, even though they were stranded for months.
I also play drums and the ukulele, though I consider myself pretty tone-deaf. I started playing drums in sixth grade and stuck with it, so when I went to Florida, my electric kit came with me. I’m not very good at the ukulele, but it only has four strings and it’s pretty easy to put chords together. I had a banjo at one point too, but that was a disaster.
I like video games, too, but don’t like playing them alone, so if friends are around we might play a game. My go to is Super Smash Bros., which I grew up playing with my brother. If there’s something going on at someone’s house, I’ll go to that. We often hang out together and watch TV.
10:30 p.m.: Winding down. I try to get eight hours of sleep per night, so if I get up at 7 a.m. I aim to be in bed by 10:30 or 11 at the latest. I do like to sleep.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.