How meditating fuels Simone Manuel's desire for greatness

The USA swimming star reveals how she is maintaining her competitive edge during the lockdown through mental training, and a golden training partner in Katie Ledecky.

One of the key ingredients to swimming's sprint events is explosivity, but Simone Manuel believes she can maintain her competitive edge during the COVID-19 lockdown by sitting still.

Not only has the USA star admitted to watching more TV during her increased downtime in Palo Alto, California, but she has been working on her mental game.

"I've been able to kind of get into meditating, which is something that I hadn't done in the past,” the 100m freestyle Olympic champion told ESPN.

“I've been stretching 15 minutes every day, which is something that I never did. So I'm really just finding ways to better myself outside of the pool… when things hopefully get back to normal, I'll be ahead of the game.”

“I think that's what helped a little bit is trying not to focus on, 'Oh, what is someone else doing over here? What is someone else doing over here,' but really just focusing on what's important for me.

Manuel and Olesksiak tie for 100m Freestyle gold

Manuel and Olesksiak tie for 100m Freestyle gold

Training and inspiring with Katie Ledecky

While solitude and silence create an ideal environment for meditation, Manuel ensures she keeps the best of company for her physical training.

When Stanford University pool was temporarily closed, the 23-year-old started training at a private 25m pool, where she does reps in the lane next to five-time Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky. Their coach keeps socially distant on the side, but otherwise practice continues as normal for the USA and former college teammates.

“(We’re) just trying to maintain that confidence and that competitive edge so that when we get to the Olympics next year, we'll be ready to go and we'll be able to inspire women with our accomplishments," Manuel told Popsugar.

"What I've learned most, especially from being an Olympic medalist, is that we're able to just inspire people. And so for me, obviously I want to win some medals, but I also just want to go to the Olympics and inspire people to have confidence in themselves, to dream big, to work for their goals. And that is something that's so precious to me beyond just receiving a medal or breaking a record."

Elsewhere, Manuel still manages to complete three lifting sessions each week from her home, incorporating more bodyweight resistance work in place of her normal weight training.

"I've just been trying to maintain strength as best possible. I've been trying to adapt my weight workouts since I don't have a full weight room, so some of that includes putting books in a backpack and trying to find different ways to adapt my workout so that I'm still getting the work and the strength that I need without having all the equipment that I usually use," she continued.

Goal setting

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Manuel became the first African American woman to win an individual gold in swimming. In addition to her 100m free title, she helped the 4x100m medley relay team to gold, won silver in the 50m free and silver in the 4x100m free relay.

At the 2019 world championships in Korea, the Texas native added four more gold medals to her tally, and is hoping to achieve her new Olympic ambitions in spite of the year postponement to Tokyo 2020.

"I do want to elevate them," Manuel said of her goals. "It's another year of practice and work and improvement, and I have already seen that improvement. So the hope is that even though I have specific goal times or specific placings, hopefully after we get through this experience I will have improved."

"[Isolation] has made me more appreciative for getting to compete. That's definitely what I miss the most.

I'm someone that gets my confidence from working hard in practice every day, but it's not the same when there's no checkpoint of a competition. So I know that when the next competition comes, I'm going to be so excited for it."

The USA Olympic trials for swimming will take place June 13 to 20, 2021, in Omaha, Nebraska, where Manuel will be expected to underline her status as the nation's top female sprint freestyler once again.

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