Katie Ledecky is a 7X Olympic gold medalist, 19X world champion, and multiple world-record holder for Team USA women’s swimming (Team USA, n.d.). When she was just a freshman in high school, she qualified for the 2012 London Games by achieving an Olympic-trials record in the 800-meter freestyle. In doing so, she became the youngest member of the U.S. swimming team (Augustyn, 2021). What goes into her daily 24 hours to keep her so far ahead of the pack?

Video Credit: The Washington Post

Katie Ledecky’s Daily Routine (Rio 2016):

  • 4:05AM – Wake Up
  • 4:15AM – Snack of toast w/ peanut butter, banana or apple
  • 5AM – Swim practice, 6,000 to 6,500 yards
  • 7AM – Breakfast of bacon, egg, cheese and tomato omelet with potatoes; or bagel with cream cheese and egg; or yogurt and fruit with berries… preferred beverage is chocolate milk.
  • 8AM – Nap
  • 10AM – Snack of yogurt, honey and granola with mixed berries, plus either an apple or pear
  • 11AM – Dryland training
  • 12:30PM – Lunch of pasta with chicken or Caesar salad with chicken and an avocado
  • 1PM – Watch TV, read or take another nap
  • 2:45PM – Snack of fruit and sometimes more toast w/ peanut butter
  • 3:30PM – Swim practice, 7,000 to 8,000 yards
  • 6PM – Snack of yogurt; key lime flavor is a recent favorite. Drinks another chocolate milk.
  • 6:30PM – Dinner of carbs, such as pasta, white rice, or arugula with white beans, tomato, garlic and chicken or steak. Ledecky does not eat candy, ice cream, cake or soda. Although she did have a tiny piece of her mom’s birthday cake in April.
  • 7PM – Read, watch TV…”She has become a news nerd, especially the primaries, caucuses and debates,” her father Dave told ESPN.
  • 9:15PM – Bedtime (Hersh, 2016)
Katie Ledecky sitting on an armchair while holding a glass of chocolate milk and smiling. She is wearing a "Team USA" shirt.
Photo Credit: @katieledecky

Gearing Up for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Due to the interference of COVID-19, Ledecky’s training for Tokyo was unconventional. Yet, in spite of the adversity she has faced due to the pandemic, Ledecky found a way to keep swimming through it all.

In March 2020, the Stanford University pool Ledecky typically trained at underwent a 3 month-long shutdown due to COVID. Yet, she was able to still maintain a training regimen due to the kindness of a local family, who offered their backyard pool to her and her teammate Simone Manuel for swim practice. The pool happened to have two lanes and be 25 yards long, which was a blessing, given the circumstances (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

And amid the dark clouds of the pandemic, another bright spot appeared along with this pool. The family who leant Ledecky their pool has grandchildren that would come over and enthusiastically root for Ledecky and Manuel–in a socially distanced manner–as these two swimming phenoms glided through the water with grace and speed (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

Ledecky kept the encouragement of those kids in her heart and mind at the Tokyo Olympics: “I think I’ll have that cheering of those kids kind of echoing in my ears — something that I want to remember back on when I’m getting on the blocks in Tokyo” (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

Additionally, Ledecky maintained that her pool situation at the start of the pandemic was just another opportunity to pivot, adapt, and grow. She notes that all Olympians, by virtue of being in the Olympics, have to deal with different forms of adversity at different times (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

Ledecky swimming toward the camera. The lens is positioned underneath her, so that she is shown swimming from above. The photo is in black and white.
Photo Credit: @katieledecky

College Graduate

Another opportunity for growth that the pandemic presented Ledecky with was completing her college degree! Ledecky earned her psychology degree from Stanford due to the Olympics being pushed back a year. This shows that when life gives Ledecky turbulent waters, she’s able to wade through them in style (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

Katie Ledecky with her arms outstretched, standing on Stanford University's campus.
Photo Credit: @katieledecky

Tokyo 2021

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Katie added to her legacy by winning two gold medals (800m and 1500m freestyle) and two silver medals (400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay). She became the first woman to win the 1500m freestyle event, which was newly added to the Olympics​.

Preparing for Paris

After the Tokyo Olympics, Ledecky relocated her training base from California to Gainesville, Florida, to train under coach Anthony Nesty at the University of Florida. This move has allowed her to train with elite male swimmers, including Bobby Finke, enhancing her training environment and pushing her to new limits​.

Katie’s training regimen for Paris 2024 includes 10 swim practices and five gym sessions per week. Her focus remains on consistency and pushing her boundaries. She also prioritizes nutrition and adequate rest, which are crucial elements of her body clock calendar​​.

In addition to her rigorous training, Katie published her memoir, “Just Add Water,” in June 2023. The book chronicles her journey in swimming, drawing from journals she has kept since childhood​.
Ledecky has expressed her excitement about competing in the Paris 2024 Olympics and potentially continuing her career through the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics. Her dedication and love for the sport drive her to keep competing and inspiring the next generation of swimmers​

Keeping It All In Perspective

Ultimately, no matter what the outcome is of her races at the Olympics, Katie longs to “represent Team USA well, both in and out of the water.” And she never forgets her “Why”, declaring, “I’m still in the sport because I’m having fun and I’m still making a lot of friends” (Wire & Ramsay, 2021).

Katie Ledecky sitting in front of a pool, smiling, with her "Team USA" shirt on.
Ledecky always remembers WHY she does what she does, and has fun doing it! Photo credit: @katieledecky

References

Augustyn, A. (2021). Katie Ledecky. In Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Katie-Ledecky

CNN. (2021, Mar. 10). Katie Ledecky on training in a backyard pool for Tokyo 2020 [Video]. https://www.cnn.com/videos/sports/2021/03/10/katie-ledecky-tokyo-2020-olympics-postponement-training-pandemic-swimming-spt-intl.cnn 

Cronkite News. (2023, September 27). Katie Ledecky prepares for Olympics after historic World Championships. Cronkite News. https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/09/27/katie-ledecky-paris-olympics-2024/

Hersh, P. (2016, Aug. 3). Katie Ledecky: Road to Rio training regimen. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/story/_/id/17213524/2016-rio-olympics-katie-ledecky-training-regimen

NBC Olympics. (2021). Tokyo: Ledecky shines in 1st Olympic women’s 1500 final. NBC Sports. https://www.nbcolympics.com/videos/tokyo-ledecky-shines-1st-olympic-womens-1500-final

Schwager-Patel, N. (2024). Katie Ledecky on securing Paris 2024 berth for USA and Olympic swimming history goal: “I challenge myself to stay consistent”. Olympics.com. https://olympics.com/en/news/katie-ledecky-paris-2024-trials-win-consistent-goal

Team USA. (n.d.). Katie Ledecky. https://www.teamusa.org/usa-swimming/athletes/katie-ledecky 

Wire, C. & Ramsay, G. (2021, Mar. 10). Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky on training in a backyard pool and her aspirations for Tokyo 2020. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/10/sport/katie-ledecky-olympics-tokyo-2020-spt-intl/index.html