how did Michael Phelps start swimming how did Michael Phelps start swimming

How Did Michael Phelps Start Swimming? 6 Most Essential Points Highlighting His Journey

In the annals of sports history, few names have made such an indelible mark as Michael Phelps. Known for his irresistible speed and technique in water, Phelps is the most successful Olympian ever, with an awe-inspiring collection of 28 medals to his name.

So how did Michael Phelps start swimming? This blog post will delve into the commencement of Phelps’ swimming career, tracing the path that led him to become the world-renowned athlete he is today.

Through this exploration, we will uncover the dedication, discipline, training regimes, psychological approaches, and other aspects that contributed to shaping Phelps into a formidable force in the swimming world.

How Did Michael Phelps Start Swimming?

 Michael Phelps
Source- Shutterstock

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Phelps was the youngest of three children. His formative years were spent in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood of nearby Towson. From dealing with the divorce of his parents at a tender age of nine to overcoming personal struggles, Phelps’ journey is as much about resilience and mental fortitude as it is about physical prowess.

Phelps’ career is filled with moments of triumph and redemption. He got dropped from the team for the 2015 World Aquatics Championships due to a DUI. But he responded with a stunning performance at the US National Championships (long course) in San Antonio, taking home gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, and the 200-meter individual medley.

Each of these victories was the fastest time recorded that year. He replicated this feat at the Winter Nationals in Federal Way, bringing his career total to an impressive 62 national titles.

Let’s recall the inspiring journey of Michael Phelps from his humble beginnings in the world of swimming to becoming the most decorated Olympian in history.


1. The Early Days: Phelps’ First Foray into Swimming

Picture a young boy, just seven years old, hesitantly stepping into a local swimming pool, initially too scared to put his head underwater. This introverted youngster, allowed to float on his back by his patient instructors, was none other than Michael Phelps.

He was introduced to swimming following his older sisters, Whitney and Hilary, who had joined a local swim team. It was in these modest beginnings that the seeds of Phelps’ greatness were sown.

The first swimming stroke Phelps mastered was the backstroke, an achievement that may come as a surprise considering his later dominance in various styles.

But, it wasn’t until witnessing swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta that Phelps began to dream of becoming a champion. Inspired by their performances, he launched his swimming career at the Loyola High School pool.

Phelps’ Early Achievements

As Phelps dove deeper into his swimming journey, his talent became evident. He met his future coach, Bob Bowman, when he started training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center.

Bowman immediately recognized the young swimmer’s potential and competitive spirit, initiating an intense training regime together. By 1999, at the tender age of 15, Phelps had made the U.S. National B Team, an outstanding achievement for a swimmer so young.

Initial Motivations and Ambitions

From the outset, Phelps was driven by a fierce desire to excel. His aspirations weren’t merely to succeed at swimming. He dreamed of becoming a champion. The sight of top athletes competing at the Olympic games ignited a spark within him, a burning ambition that would propel him towards unprecedented success.

Despite being just a teenager, Phelps displayed a remarkable level of determination and tenacity, qualities that would later become the hallmarks of his illustrious career.

In essence, Phelps’ early years in swimming laid a solid foundation for his future triumphs.

From mastering his first backstroke to making the U.S. National B Team at a young age, Phelps continually pushed past his limitations and stepped out of his comfort zone. His initial motivations and ambitions, though immense, were only the tip of the iceberg.

Little did he know that he was embarking on a journey that would lead him to become the most decorated Olympian in history.


2. The Power of Discipline: A Closer Look at Phelps’ Training Regime

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, is as famous for his incomparable discipline and work ethic as he is for his record-breaking swimming career. His training regimen was not for the faint-hearted. It required an extraordinary level of commitment, a rigorous routine, and an unwavering dedication to the sport.

In the peak of his training, Phelps was known to swim about 80,000 meters a week, an equivalent of almost 50 miles. This incredible workload symbolizes the sheer volume of effort he put into perfecting his craft.

So intense was his training that it was said to be akin to running a marathon several times a week, an achievement that even the most dedicated athletes would find daunting.

 Michael Phelps
By ESPA from Depositphotos

Phelps’ Disciplined Approach to Training

Phelps’ training style extended beyond just physical exertion.

  • He placed a great emphasis on rest and recovery, often stating that sleeping was as essential to his success as training.
  • From comprehensive nutrition plans to using supplements like whey protein and creatine, Phelps recognized that his body needed adequate rest and the right fuel to recover from such strenuous workouts. But his disciplined approach didn’t stop there.
  • Phelps also prioritized mental training. Even from a young age, he would spend hours visualizing a swim race, preparing for both victories and potential mishaps.
  • This mental training proved crucial in his career. It helped him maintain his composure during high-pressure situations, such as when he had to swim blind for most of his race at the London 2012 Olympics.

Phelps’ Dedication to His Coach

Another facet of Phelps’ discipline was his loyalty to his coach, Bob Bowman. Phelps once stated that training with Bowman was the smartest thing he had ever done. Such was their bond that Phelps followed Bowman across the country to continue training under his guidance, from Maryland to the University of Michigan, and eventually to Arizona State University.

This commitment to his coach and training program played a significant role in Phelps’ success and longevity in the sport.

A legendary quote from Phelps encapsulates his extraordinary discipline: “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.” It is this mindset, combined with an unrivaled work ethic, that set Phelps apart from others. He famously stated that by training seven days a week, he gained “52 extra days each year” over competitors who took Sundays off.

This level of discipline and commitment is undoubtedly one of the key factors that helped shape Phelps into the greatest swimmer the world has ever seen.


3. Mental Strength: Phelps’ Psychological Approach to Swimming

In the realm of competitive sports, the importance of mental strength cannot be overstated. It is the invisible force that propels athletes beyond physical limits, allowing them to triumph even in the face of towering challenges. This is particularly true for Michael Phelps, whose mental fortitude played a crucial role in his swimming career.

Phelps’ mental strength was partly inherent but was also honed over years of rigorous training and competition.

According to a Washington Post article, Phelps never sought the counsel of a sports psychologist. Instead, he relied on his innate ability to handle pressure with grace, stating, “Throughout my career I’ve risen to the occasion when obstacles come my way.” This resilience not only helped him endure physical strain but also allowed him to leverage high-pressure situations to enhance his performance.

The Power of Rituals and Structure

Beyond inherent mental toughness, Phelps cultivated a robust psychological approach to swimming through consistent routines and rituals. In an interview, Phelps credited his mother for helping him manage his ADHD through structured routines.

Swimming itself became a calming ritual, providing a sense of tranquility amidst the chaos. Phelps stated, “Being able to get in the water, I felt more relaxed. The more time I spent in the pool, the more relaxed I found myself.”

Mental Fortitude and Consistent Improvement

Phelps’ mental strength also manifested itself in his relentless pursuit of improvement. His commitment to progress was unwavering, even when others were taking breaks.

For instance, Phelps swam an astonishing 13 kilometers a day, six or seven days a week – totaling at least 80,000 meters every week. This unyielding consistency, even in the face of physical tolls and temptations to rest, underscores Phelps’ incredible mental fortitude.

Pre-Race Rituals and the Right Mindset

Another testament to Phelps’ psychological approach is his extraordinary pre-race ritual.

  • As outlined in Graeme Cowan’s analysis, Phelps followed a meticulous routine on race days, from breakfast to stretching exercises and precision-timed warm-up laps.
  • These habits not only prepared him physically for the race but also instilled a sense of ‘simplicity and certainty’ that primed his mental readiness for competition.

In essence, Phelps’ psychological approach to swimming showcases the power of mental strength in sports. His journey underlines the fact that while physical prowess is essential. It is the mind that ultimately determines the extent of an athlete’s success.


4. Beyond the Pool: Phelps’ Influence in Other Areas

The realm of Michael Phelps’s impact is not confined to the swimming lanes. His influence has permeated beyond the pool, shaping other aspects of society and his own life. Whether through philanthropic efforts or collaborations with other sports celebrities, Phelps’s success story doesn’t end at the poolside.

Philanthropic Endeavors

Through his foundation, Phelps has made a significant difference in the lives of countless individuals. The Michael Phelps Foundation has reached over 100,000 people around the world through its IM program, in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs and Special Olympics.

The initiative has been instrumental in providing swimming grants to athletes in financial need, amounting to more than $80,000. Phelps’ philanthropic reach extends far beyond his athletic prowess, demonstrating his commitment to making a difference off the podium as well.

Inspiring Future Generations

The influence of Phelps’s success extends to budding athletes who aspire to make their mark in swimming. Many swimmers closely observe Phelps’ career and are inspired by his dedication and versatility.

The ripple effect of Phelps’s achievements can be seen in the careers of promising talents like Chase Kalisz and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino. They have expressed their admiration for Phelps and credit him for inspiring them towards excellence in their respective swimming careers.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Undoubtedly, Phelps’s journey hasn’t always been smooth. In 2014, he was arrested for drunken driving, leading to a six-month suspension from USA Swimming.

But, demonstrating remarkable resilience, Phelps managed to bounce back, using this setback as an opportunity to reinvent himself and return stronger. His ability to overcome adversity serves as a powerful message about the importance of resilience and personal redemption.

Transition to Business and Personal Branding

Phelps’s success isn’t limited to his medal haul. It also extends to his business endeavors. Phelps has translated his goal-setting strategies from his swimming career into his post-swimming business pursuits. It include endorsement deals and his own MP swim brand.

By applying the same dedication and discipline that led him to victory in the pool, Phelps has created a strong personal brand that extends beyond his sporting achievements.


5. The Hero’s Journey: Phelps’ Transformational Odyssey

michael phelps
By ESPA from Depositphotos

Every hero’s journey is marked by trials, tribulations, and transformation. Michael Phelps’ story is no exception. His path to becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time was far from a smooth swim in calm waters. It was an odyssey shaped by challenges, discipline, and an unrelenting resolve to excel.

A Life Marked by Challenges

Michael Phelps had his fair share of struggles. Like many heroes, he faced setbacks and doubts. Yet, with each challenge, Phelps emerged stronger, using these experiences as fuel for his drive to win. Phelps learned to see setbacks as opportunities and used trash talk from his competitors as motivation. This resilience was integral to his transformation into a champion.

The Power of Discipline

A vital aspect of Phelps’ journey was his unwavering discipline. His training regime was notoriously grueling. At his peak, Phelps swam about 80,000 meters a week—almost 50 miles! This commitment extended beyond the pool; Phelps trained on his birthday and even Christmas Day. His dedication was a testament to his commitment to his goals and played a pivotal role in his transformation.

A Mindset of Champions

Phelps’ physical prowess was matched by a powerful mindset. He never used the word “can’t”, a habit instilled by his coach, Bob Bowman. As Phelps says, this approach allowed him to believe he could achieve anything. His willingness to dream big and think without limits was a game-changer in his journey towards success.

Lessons from Phelps’ Journey

Phelps’ journey offers valuable lessons that extend beyond the world of sports. His story is a testament to the power of resilience, discipline, and a positive mindset. Whether it’s overcoming setbacks, maintaining discipline in pursuit of our goals, or adopting a can-do attitude, we can all draw inspiration from Phelps’ transformational odyssey.

Remember, every journey begins with a single step—or in Phelps’ case, a single stroke. So, as we navigate through our own life’s journey, let us remember to embrace challenges, stay disciplined, and always believe in our potential to achieve greatness.


6. The Making of a Champion: Pivotal Aspects of Phelps’ Success

What makes a champion? Is it talent, hard work, or perhaps a combination of both? When we examine the illustrious career of Michael Phelps, we uncover a fascinating blend of factors that contributed to his unparalleled success. Natural ability, stringent training, and unwavering dedication set the foundation for Phelps’ triumphs.

Yet, equally significant were his focus on sleep, recovery, altitude training, and a well-balanced diet. Each of these elements played a pivotal role in shaping Phelps into an unbeatable athlete.

The Power of Sleep and Recovery

Phelps has often emphasized the importance of sleep and recovery in his training regimen. His laser focus on these aspects was not a solo endeavor but was guided by a dedicated team looking after his every need, from strength training to sleep.

This disciplined approach to rest allowed him to consistently perform at peak levels and bounce back from rigorous training sessions and competitions with remarkable resilience.

Altitude Training: The High Road to Success

Another critical factor in Phelps’ journey to becoming the most decorated Olympian was altitude training. By training at high altitudes, Phelps improved his body’s efficiency in using oxygen, thereby enhancing his endurance and performance in the pool.

This strategy, while physically demanding, gave him an edge over his competitors who trained at sea level.

Fueling Victory: Phelps’ Diet

Interestingly, Phelps’ victory recipe also included a meticulously planned diet. Consuming around 8-10 thousand calories per day during his peak training periods. Phelps fueled his body with the necessary nutrients to sustain his intense workouts and expedite recovery. A balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats kept his energy levels high and his body in prime condition.

Natural Advantages and Unyielding Dedication

Beyond these aspects, Phelps was blessed with certain natural advantages that made him exceptionally suited for swimming. His long “wingspan” and flexibility, particularly in his size-14 feet, knees, and elbows, allowed him to take full advantage of each stroke. It propelled him through the water with unmatched speed and efficiency.

Still, these physical attributes would have meant little without Phelps’ unyielding dedication and commitment. He truly embodied the essence of the saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Indeed, Phelps’ success was not merely the product of his natural abilities. Instead, it was the result of his relentless pursuit of excellence, his formidable work ethic, and his courage to overcome challenges.

In the end, the making of this champion was a complex process involving various elements, each as crucial as the other. Phelps’ journey serves as an enriching lesson for aspiring athletes and individuals striving for excellence in any field – a testament to the power of discipline, dedication, and a well-rounded approach to success.



When did Michael Phelps start swimming?

Michael Phelps started swimming when he was seven years old.

What is Michael Phelps’ swimming background?

Michael Phelps was introduced to swimming at the age of seven, following his older sisters, Whitney and Hilary, who had joined a local swim team.

Did Michael Phelps excel in swimming from the beginning?

His talent became evident as he delved deeper into his swimming journey. At the age of 15, he made the U.S. National B Team, an impressive feat for a swimmer so young. Therefore, while Phelps may not have excelled immediately when he first started swimming. His talent and potential quickly became apparent as he gained more experience and training.

What inspired Michael Phelps to take up swimming?

Michael Phelps was inspired to take up swimming by his older sisters, Whitney and Hilary, who had joined a local swim team. But, his dream of becoming a champion was ignited when he watched swimmers Tom Malchow and Tom Dolan compete at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta

How many medals has Michael Phelps won in his swimming career?

Michael Phelps has won a total of 28 Olympic medals in his swimming career, which includes a record-breaking 23 gold medals.

Has Michael Phelps retired from professional swimming?

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Michael Phelps has retired from professional swimming. His retirement came after the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, for any updates or changes after this date, please refer to a more recent source.


Conclusion: Phelps’ Lasting Legacy

As we look back on the journey of Michael Phelps, one cannot help but marvel at the enormity of his accomplishments. Phelps’ story is a testament to the power of determination, discipline, and mental strength.

Born with a unique physique that favored his pursuit, Phelps was able to harness his physical advantages to master the art of swimming. His disproportionately large chest helped him power through water while his shorter legs reduced drag. This combination, along with the sheer volume of training he undertook, set him apart from other athletes. Working tirelessly, Phelps swam an average of 80,000 meters a week, effectively gaining “52 extra days each year” as he once stated.

Yet, it wasn’t just physical prowess and disciplined training that led to Phelps’ success. His mental fortitude played a crucial role in his journey.

In essence, Phelps’ legacy extends far beyond his impressive array of medals and records. His relentless dedication, unwavering focus, and commitment to swimming have left an indelible mark on the sport.

As we reflect on Phelps’ career, it is clear that his greatest legacy might still be on the horizon – a legacy that will be shaped by the new generation of swimmers inspired by his incredible journey.