Josh Prenot won silver in the 200-meter breaststroke at his first career Olympic race in 2016. Prenot competed for Cal from 2012-16, during which he was named Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year in 2013, won the 400 individual medley at the 2016 NCAA Championships and claimed two golds and a silver at the 2015 World University Games. A versatile swimmer, Prenot earned silver in the 200 IM at the 2018 short course world championships. The American record holder in the 200 breaststroke, Prenot detailed at day in his life as he prepares for the 2019 world championships.
Swimming is a sport where tiny fractions of a second have huge consequences. In my first and (so far) only Olympic race, which was over two minutes long, first place was separated from eighth by just 0.9 seconds (I earned the silver, 0.07 behind the winner). When swimmers train, we’re constantly looking for any small improvements that can save us an extra tenth of a second – and that’s why we come to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
The Center sits at about 6,000 feet elevation, which means that each breath of air contains about 75 percent of the oxygen that the same breath would contain at my home in Berkeley, California. This lack of oxygen makes demanding workouts even tougher, but it also helps the body adapt and become more efficient. Another reason why swimmers come train here in Colorado is that the OTC provides a very pure training environment – everything revolves around helping athletes improve. The facilities are world class, there are opportunities for video and biomechanical analysis, the dining hall is filled with healthy options for fueling and recovery, and there’s a great sports medicine staff that helps athletes prevent or rehab from injuries. Here’s what a typical day of training there looks like:
7 a.m. – First Swim Workout
This swim workout is mostly leg-driven. Through the first hour, we’ll do some smooth aerobic swimming, gradually getting more intense as we move through several kilometers. In the latter half of the workout, we’ll move through some kicking work – no arms, just propelling your body through the water as fast as you can with your legs. Isolating the legs helps prepare for the end of races when the arms are fatigued.
9 a.m. – Breakfast In The Dining Hall
The OTC dining hall is stocked with everything you could possibly need. To recover from the morning work, I grab a glass of milk, a bagel and some scrambled eggs with spinach and ham.
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Nap, Stretch, Recover
Naps are very important to swimmers! We just have a little bit of time to relax in between workouts, so we utilize this time to sleep, stretch and do any recovery work that we need – icing, foam rolling, yoga, etc.
1:30 p.m. – Lift
This afternoon’s weight room work consists of some squats, bench press, pull-ups, isometric holds and core work. Weightlifting helps balance out swimmers’ overused muscle groups to prevent injury, and also provides the necessary athleticism to excel at the sport – squats and jumps make dives and turns stronger, pull-ups ensure the lats can pull the body through the water, and core work helps the body remain rigid in the water rather than bending out of position.
3 p.m. – Second Swim Workout
We won’t swim as much as we did in the morning since we just spent 90 minutes in the weight room. This workout will be about power, strength, speed and tempo. We spend a little time getting warmed up, then move into resistance work – swimming with big mesh socks around the ankles, a parachute, or a belt and cord attached to a bucket of water. Swimming against the resistance helps build strength, but it also makes us intuitively feel which muscle groups or movements are most important. Learning how to smoothly pull a parachute through the water ensures that we’re fast, smooth and efficient when we take the parachute off.
5 p.m. – Massage
I grab a recovery drink and head down to the sports medicine building for a massage. My shoulders and hamstrings are tight, so I get those muscle groups flushed out. Working out the knots is painful, but the loose, relaxed feeling afterwards is worth it. I’m ready to get after another day of training tomorrow!
6-9 p.m. – Time To Relax
Right now, there are lots of athletes at the OTC – Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls. Everyone is here for the same reason – becoming a better athlete - so it’s a great community to be a part of. Evenings are typically spent hanging out in the dining hall or common areas, watching sports or playing card games. Sometimes on recovery days we go explore local hiking trails or drive up into the mountains.
That’s what most days at the OTC look like – full but simple. It’s a great training environment and I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it!