Olympian Katie Ledecky and Athleta Want Us to Keep Moving | Well+Good

Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky is part of a generation that has changed womenโ€™s sports forever. Without hyperbole, sheโ€™s the greatest of all timeโ€”and as she trains for the Paris Games this summer, sheโ€™s also hoping to help open up more opportunities for those following in her, um, wake.

Ledecky, who turns 27 on March 17, became an Olympian at age 15 when she competed in the London Games. Back then, she was the youngest competitor across all sportsโ€”and she came home with a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle. She hasnโ€™t faltered since.

Over the past 12 years, Ledecky has won 10 Olympic medals, 26 world championships medals, and set world records in the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle events. If all goes according to plan in Paris, sheโ€™s favored to take the gold in the 800 and 1500 meters.

This kind of success doesnโ€™t come without grueling hours in the pool, weight room, and in dryland sessions. It also doesnโ€™t happen without tremendous support from family, coaches, teammates, and many others. Thatโ€™s why Ledecky announced a new partnership this month with Athleta, the womenโ€™s sports apparel brand, as a member of the Power of She Collective. The Collective includes other female sports legends, like gymnast Simone Biles, who โ€œchampion wellbeing, create meaningful impact, inspire product innovation, and support women moving women forward.โ€

โ€œAthletaโ€™s philosophy for athlete partnerships is so unique and I wanted to be a part of something that inspired me on a personal level,โ€ Ledecky said in an email interview with Well+Good. โ€œI believe you are not defined just by your achievements, but by what you stand for and how you use your platform.โ€

โ€œI believe you are not defined just by your achievements, but by what you stand for and how you use your platform.โ€โ€”Katie Ledecky

Through the endorsement deal, Ledecky will collaborate with philanthropies that empower women and girls with access to opportunities in sports, fitness, movement, and education. According to the Womenโ€™s Sports Foundation, by age 14, girls drop out of sports at two times the rate of boysโ€”thatโ€™s a statistic sheโ€™d like to see improve.

โ€œLack of physical education in schools and limited opportunities to play sports in both high school and college mean girls have elsewhere for sports, which may not exist or may cost more money,โ€ Ledecky says. โ€œIโ€™m excited to work with Athleta to help address these challenges and make an impact.โ€

4 fitness tips to steal from Ledecky

Ledeckyโ€™s interest in inspiring fitness and movement extends to adults, too. She offered some of her expertise and advice for all of us who are just trying to stick to a fitness routine week-in and week-out. Here are four ways this Olympic star stays dedicated to training for the long-haul.

1. You can train to train

Before you get into any fitness routineโ€”and especially one with a goal, like a race or other competitionโ€”you have to start gradually. Professional athletes like Ledecky have periods of time when theyโ€™re building toward their actual training cycle, when theyโ€™re putting in consistency and a base of fitness before getting into the final months of more intense or focused preparation for something big, like the Olympics.

This base-building keeps injuries at a minimum and helps lay a foundation of good habits, not just when you’re actually working out, but also fueling properly, getting enough sleep, and creating a routine to build from.

โ€œItโ€™s assessing where your body is and how it needs to function for optimal performance and creating a plan to build on that responsibly,โ€ Ledecky says. โ€œTo avoid injury, developing a progressive plan with measurable goals and key milestones will help prepare you for any fitness goal, big or small.โ€

Ledecky swims 10 times a week, so sheโ€™s often in the pool twice a day. She lifts in the gym five days a week, where she also completes her dryland program two times a week, which is rooted in more cardio and stamina mixed with agility.

โ€œSwimming is low-impact, it works the whole body from a strength perspective, while still being a cardiovascular workout. Itโ€™s the best-kept secret in fitness,โ€ she says.

2. Define and redefine success

Nothing is static when it comes to goals and fitness. Our bodies and lives are always evolving, so our interests and needs are bound to adapt as we enter new seasons and chapters. Donโ€™t fall into comparison trapsโ€”your exercise and fitness objectives are your own.

โ€œSuccess for me is just thatโ€”for me,โ€ Ledecky says. โ€œI donโ€™t feel pressured by other peopleโ€™s expectations. I am grateful to have an incredible support network of family, friends, and coaches with me every step of the way. As long as I know Iโ€™ve done my best, Iโ€™ll always be happy.โ€

3. Love what you do

Maybe itโ€™s clichรฉ, but the more you love the type of exercise you do, the greater the chance that youโ€™ll continue doing it and achieve the consistency that matters most in your health and fitness. If you find that one type of class or sport no longer feels engaging or fun, itโ€™s time to try something new. Itโ€™s OK to change up your routineโ€”and, in fact, itโ€™s healthy.

โ€œI truly enjoy my sport and I donโ€™t even view time in the gym as workโ€”I tend to view it as play time,โ€ Ledecky says. โ€œBut like anyone, some days are harder than others. I focus on my goals. Goal-setting is big for me. It keeps me focused.โ€

4. Let failure be fuel

Nobody is perfect, even a GOAT like Ledecky. In fact, her 13-year winning streak in the 800-meter freestyle just came to an end at a meet in February when Summer McIntosh, a 17-year-old Canadian, swam 8:11.39 to Ledeckyโ€™s 8:17.12. Ledecky stows the loss away as motivation for laterโ€”like, in Paris this summer.

โ€œI use those moments as learning opportunities to come back better,โ€ Ledecky says. โ€œSuccess to me is not determined by the results, but by the effort put into achieving them.โ€

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