How This Olympic Swimmer Calms His Late-Night Thoughts

bobby finke
Olympic Swimmer Bobby Finke Talks TrainingCourtesy Ralph Lauren; Courtesy Finke; Matt Ryan, MH Illustration

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This story is part of Men's Health's "Road to the Olympics" series, where six athletes share their training journeys as they prepare to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics in July. Read all of the athletes' entries here.

Bobby Finke is a professional American swimmer and two-time Olympic gold medalist. At his first Olympics in Tokyo 2020, he claimed the top podium for the 1500-meter and 800-meter freestyle events, setting an American record in the 800m. He's also a 2022 World Champion and three-time NCAA champion during his time as a Florida Gator. He's aiming to achieve even more success in Paris.

He's dedicating pretty much all of his time to training in his college town of Gainesville, Florida, with coach Anthony Nesty. We caught up with him at the end of April at the Team USA Olympic Media Summit in NYC—a kickoff of sorts of all of his Team USA-related obligations. For him that includes appearances for brands like Ralph Lauren. Here's what life is like as he's preparing to perform at an even higher level on his second go-round at the games.

IT'S A LITTLE more than three months until the Opening Ceremonies. Mentally, I feel pretty good. I know it's happening and as things get closer, everything's starting to ramp up. We're doing a bunch more media. It's a lot, but I kind of learned throughout my years competing that the more pressure I get put under, the better I've done.

People don't like being put under pressure—it kind of sucks. I don't enjoy feeling the nerves or anything like that. Even the other day, I was like going to bed, and I couldn't stop thinking about competing—not necessarily [thinking about] what could happen but more so what's happened in the past. I'll analyze my performance in past meets, and it'll keep me from sleeping. So I'll play Brooklyn-99 on my phone and put an earbud in. It kills my screen time data, but it calms the nerves enough to get me to fall asleep.

But I know at the end of the day, I need [the pressure] to be able to perform the way I want to, so that's kind of my outlook on it right now.

Right now, I'm up around 5 a.m.—it's pretty grueling, and you never really get used to that hour. I'll eat something small, like an orange or something, and it's off to the pool. We're in the pool for about 2 hours in the morning, followed by some dry land training in the gym. We're working on a lot of power stuff at the moment—Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches. Which, for me as a distance swimmer, is kind of weird. A lot of swimmers think lifting is like poison or something. But to me, whatever my coaches think is best, I'll do. It's fun, though, to move in a different way.

I'll get a break in the afternoon, when I'll go home, eat, maybe take a nap, and check emails. I get excited to read emails now—never something I thought I'd get excited over. Then I'll be back in the pool for another two hours in the evening.

One of the weak points I'm trying to work on right now is breath control. My coaches are always yelling at me to stop breathing into my turns, but I'm still taking them. So we'll do a lot of hypoxic sets, which means I'll work on breathing every nine strokes, every 13 strokes, every 15 strokes, and so on. Or we'll do sets of 50s with no breath or one breath.

The closer I'm getting to competition, the less I'm doing when it comes to the rest of my life. I don't really do anything...I don't go out anywhere. I'll just be as lazy as possible to conserve as much energy as possible. And honestly, I kind of like it. I'm not really a going-out person. I'll go to breakfast and movies and low-key stuff like that, but otherwise, I don't miss it. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing too much because I'm putting my energy towards doing the things that will give me the confidence to do well.

The most challenging thing is trusting in all the work I'm doing right now. It's hard when you know you won't see the benefits of all this grunt work for several months. There's nothing more I can really do then trust my training and make sure I stay confident in everything I have done, and everything I'm doing now.

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