Rebecca Adlington on staying motivated

Rebecca Adlington

[Editor's note: Rebecca Adlington officially retired from competition in February 2013. She gave this interview in 2010.]

London 2012 star Rebecca Adlington talks about her love of swimming and shares her tips on staying motivated.

February 17 1989
Mansfield, Notts
1.79m (5ft 10.5in)
Nova Centurion
Olympic career

  • 2012 Olympic Games:
    Bronze: 400m fresstyle
    Bronze: 800m freestyle
  • 2008 Olympic Games:
    Gold: 400m freestyle
    Gold: 800m freestyle

Always wears a new race costume for each major competition

When did you get into swimming?
When I was younger, my parents took me and my older sisters to swimming lessons so that when we went on holiday, they could leave us in the pool without being scared. Swimming with my older sisters gave me extra motivation as I always wanted to keep up with them.

When did you decide you wanted to compete?
I joined a club when I was eight or nine, but I didn’t start racing until I was 10 or 11. My first big competition was the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2003, when I was 14. After that, I thought I can really do this. After my GCSEs, I took a year off to focus on competitive swimming and I haven’t looked back.

What do you love about swimming?
There’s something uniquely fun about being in the water. There’s nothing like it. Everyone should experience it. I love being in the water, whether I’m competing or not.

This article was part of a special report on the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.


How does swimming keep you healthy?
Swimming works every muscle group in your body, but it’s kind to your joints. The risk of injury is very low compared to other sports. So it’s healthy and safe. There’s no upper age limit for a swimmer. At my local pool at 7am, you’ll see the older guys swimming next to schoolchildren. It’s a wonderful contrast and shows that swimming is for everyone.

What’s your training routine?
I do about 10 sessions a week, at two-and-a-half hours each. All I do is sleep, train, drive and occasionally find time to eat. 

What’s your advice on staying motivated?
I train with a squad of 20 people and that really helps. We’re all friends and we push each other. My advice is to go swimming with a friend regularly. Having someone to swim with will encourage you to swim on days when you're lacking motivation. It’s also good to mix things up. Practise different strokes, use kickboards to work your legs, set yourself little targets such as increasing the number of lengths you can do or improving certain areas of your technique.

What are your tips on fitting swimming into your routine?
My advice would be to do regular short swims, for example 30 minutes, rather than the occasional longer session. If your swimming sessions are too long, it might feel daunting and you might not feel like going. Shorter regular sessions are less of a chore and are easier to fit into a busy schedule. It’ll soon become a habit, like walking the dog.

Page last reviewed: 11/05/2014

Next review due: 11/05/2016


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 29 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

What's your sport?

Find out which sport you're best suited to with this short psychological and aptitude test

Find your sport

Sarah Storey

'Competing is in my DNA'

Britain's most decorated female Paralympian Sarah Storey talks about sport, disability and winning gold medals in two different sports

David Weir, Paralympic superhuman

Paralympic superhero David Weir talks about his London 2012 success and how he got into wheelchair racing

Health and fitness

Boost your health and fitness with fun and practical ideas to get active and improve your general health

Ada Gibson

'I learned to swim at 75'

Ada Gibson learned to swim at the age of 75. She's proof that it's never too late to get active