Kieren Perkins OAM is a four-time Olympic medalist and is regarded as one of the world’s greatest freestyle swimmers.
An enthusiastic supporter of the Starlight Foundation for many years, this year Mr Perkins is encouraging swimmers to get active and participate in this exciting fundraising event.
Ahead of the Starlight Super Swim, we were lucky enough to have Mr Perkins share his tips on training, keeping healthy, motivation and open water swimming.
I never snack before I train as I like to train on an empty stomach. But after training, I’ll opt for fresh fruit or good grains like a muesli bar.
Warming up and warming down is important. When you swim, your body does movements it’s not naturally designed to do so it’s important to stretch and maintain flexibility to avoid muscle tightness.
I always stretch when I’m cold too and outside of warming up and warming down, as this further helps with flexibility and you need to be flexible when swimming.
I love to watch movies or listen to music to relax and sleep is also important between training.
Stretching before and after training is important but so is maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
It’s so important to get enough protein to support the impact you’re delivering to your muscles when training.
Most important of all though is a good nights’ sleep – if you swim regularly, sleep is a crucial factor to aid muscle recovery.
It’s important to ensure you have daily and weekly goals and to be disciplined with measuring yourself against these goals to use as motivation to keep you going throughout the month.
Stretching regularly, managing your muscle recovery and having and sticking to your goals will help a lot. There has to be something you’re working towards as you’re swimming to keep you going. If you have a goal, it becomes easier to increase your commitment and effort.
It’s important to ask for help if you need it. Swimming is a sport that relies on technical efficiency so getting a swim coach is an easy way to quickly improve your technique. Coaches can help you with stroke correction and support to improve your confidence in the water.
Ocean water swimming isn’t smooth like a pool – there are no lane ropes to guide you. In the ocean, you need to stay on top of watching where you’re going and breathe differently to how you breathe in a pool – i.e. lift your head out of the water more to breathe.
You also need to say safe and understand the ocean’s currents, tides and rips. Depending on how the ocean moves, you could be making life hard or easy for yourself!
The best tip I got was to pick a spot on the shore and use this as a reference point to swim towards. In the ocean, there are no markers or ropes so it’s easy to zig-zag and go off course. But if you have a point you’re swimming to on the horizon, it will make your ocean swim safer and easier because you’ll be swimming safe and straight!
It depends where you’re swimming and the water temperature i.e. when I lived and swum in the ocean in Queensland, I’d wear what I wore to the pool. However, I’m now in Melbourne so have invested in a wetsuit specially designed for swimming to keep warm. Swimming wetsuits are different to surf wetsuits – they have different properties to enable you to move your arms around.
I think about a variety of things but typically, swimming is meditative for me. I like to think through problems I’m trying to solve or reinforce in my mind something I’ve been learning.
It’s best not to overthink it – the more you think, the more you can come up with excuses not to train. Turn your brain off and just get to the pool. Once you’re there and in the water, it’s easy.
Recognise that when you come back to swimming, you won’t feel like you did the last time you swam. It will be hard and uncomfortable to push through but be patient with your body to get used to swimming and floating again.
Not one particular person; I seek inspiration from a variety of people. I love hearing from anyone who has pushed through adversity or who has been successful over an extended period of time. Doing something well once is easier than doing it well year after year.
Have fun and enjoy it!
I was fortunate when I was younger to help grant Starlight Wishes and be involved with Starlight’s hospital programs (including opening some of their Starlight Express Rooms) so have seen firsthand the impact Starlight has on children who have been dealt an awful blow in life in dealing with serious or chronic illness. To see these kids smile and see them happy in the SER environment is so inspiring to experience and I love how this positively impacts their families too. It’s an easy cause to get behind.
Outside of swimming, I was not a sporty kid. I did all school sports like most Australian kids but I most loved hanging out in the library with my mates playing chess!
To take part in the Starlight Super Swim this year sign up at starlight.org.au. The fundraiser runs from February 1, 2022 – February 28, 2022.
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