Peter Vanderkaay has competed in three Olympic Games. During his Olympic career, the middle-distance swimmer has earned two gold and two bronze medals. Earlier this month, the 28-year-old swimmer took a few minutes to answer questions and share advice with fans via a Facebook live chat. Below are five of the tips he shared for those who dream of becoming Olympic athletes themselves.
Don't Get Too Caught Up In Training
If you become too consumed in training, the sport and your lifestyle can quickly become too monotonous, Vanderkaay said. It's important to have interests outside of the pool.
"I've definitely been in that position before, and it just leads to a very monotonous life where you're constantly thinking about training and other things," Vanderkaay said during a live chat.
In order to interrupt that monotonous feeling, Vanderkaay said he took some business classes at the Keller Graduate School of Management in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games. You don't have to take classes, though. Just about anything that takes your mind off the sport for a few hours can be beneficial -- as long as it doesn't conflict with other life goals.
Don't Be Afraid to Work Hard
No, really work hard. It may seem like the most basic advice, but working hard, according to Vanderkaay, is one of the biggest keys in becoming an elite-level athlete.
"You have to work hard. You can't be afraid to work hard," Vanderkaay said during the live chat.
Take a look at those around you, and determine who is performing better than you. What is he or she doing that you aren't? What can you do to work not only harder, but smarter as well?
It might be the most cliché advice out there, but according to Vanderkaay, it really is true. If you aren't having fun in your sport, you are less likely to be successful.
"One of the other things that's essential about getting to this level is making sure you're having fun doing it. I've never really known anyone who got to the Olympic level and didn't really enjoy the process and appreciate it and have fun," Vanderkaay said during the live chat. "A lot of the swimmers who didn't have gun never made it quite to this level. If you're not enjoying it, it's way too much work.
Believe in Yourself
In order to become an elite-level athlete, you have to believe in yourself, Vanderkaay said. You have to be able to see something so far down the road that maybe other people haven't quite seen it yet.
"You have to have an element of imagination. You have to believe you can do it, you have to visualize success, and you have to picture yourself doing it," Vanderkaay said. "I just really believe that if you can't see yourself doing it, it won't happen."
In order to make it happen, set a long-term goal and keep working toward and believing in that goal, even when it seems like you might not be getting closer to the end result. Continue to believe and imagine, and you'll have a better shot than those who have given up.
Don't Worry About Things You Can't Control
When you step up to the block, it's important to stay within yourself and only worry about things you can control, Vanderkaay said.
"You don't want to get caught up in what other people are doing," Vanderkaay said during the live chat. "For me, it's more about controlling what I can control."
You can't control what other people are doing before, during and after the race, so why spend extra energy worrying about it? Control what you can, focus on yourself and swim your own race.