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Sights Set on Rio

Hammer athlete Stephanie Peacock prepares for the 2016 Olympics

By Hammer Nutrition 

Stephanie Peacock has been making headlines as a competitive swimmer for years. The Florida native and University of North Carolina graduate set NCAA records in the 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle. Her 1,650-yard record of 15:37:06 broke the one set by Janet Evans 22 years earlier. A couple of years ago she expanded her focus to include open water competition as well, with her sight set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This past December, Peacock won the 1,000 and 500 freestyle races in Oklahoma City. Just three days later, she and her former UNC teammate Chip Peterson placed 2nd in an open water relay in Rio de Janeiro - the same course that will be used in the Olympic event. In February at the Midmar Mile race in South Africa (the largest open water race in the world) she placed 3rd in the mile and 2nd in the 10K, her first competitive 10K race. Just a month later, she won the Crippen Cup 10K open water race in Ft. Myers, Florida. She hopes to compete in both the 800-meter freestyle and 10K open water events at the 2016 Olympics.

HN: How did you first get into competitive swimming? What did you love about it?

SP: I tried a few different sports when I was younger. I was really shy, so team and contact sports weren't a good fit for me. I really enjoyed swimming because I was in my own lane and no one could climb over the lane line to tackle me. I liked how I determined my own outcome. Also, summers in Florida are very hot, so it was fun for me as a kid to jump into the pool just to cool off.

HN: Why have you expanded your focus to include open water competition?

SP: I wanted to try out open water just to try something new and different, and to keep things interesting. In my mind, open water benefits my pool swimming as well because competing in 10Ks will only make me stronger mentally and physically to compete in my 800 meter freestyle pool event. Open water events are more relaxed than pool competition, which I'm enjoying too.

HN: Are you training differently for open water events?

SP: My coach and I have tried a couple of new things. One day a week I do a quick dry land routine to raise my heart rate, and then jump into the pool to start the main set. It's challenging, but it's preparing my body to get going right away, without a warm up. In a pool event, I warm up with about 1500-1800 yards before my race. In open water, there really is no warming up.

Something I want to try is blacking out a pair of my goggles and swimming. It's supposed to teach me to swim in a straight line without having the visual of the black line at the bottom of the pool. In open water, there is no visual.

HN: What does a typical training week look like?

SP: I train six days a week and rest on Sundays. I swim Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings for 2 hours and about 6000 yards each practice. I also swim every afternoon, Monday-Friday, for 2 hours, about 7000 yards each practice. Monday through Friday I do some a core or lifting workout in the gym for about an hour. Each day, Monday-Sunday, I do static stretching for about 30-60 minutes. I try to fit in yoga at least once a week, usually on Sundays.

HN: Is there anything special that you are focusing on in your training this year?

SP: I'm focusing more on the little things, which is what matters most for a pool event. I've been working on my flip turns and streamlines. It's important to sustain the momentum from swimming into the wall so that you can use that momentum coming off the wall. I've also been focusing on having a tighter streamlines off the wall so I am able to push through the water more easily.

HN: What specific Hammer products do you use, and how have they benefitted you?

SP: During a 10K, when I am able to feed, I use HEED and Hammer Gel and I absolutely love them! HEED is great because it provides me with the fluids and electrolytes I need to finish the race. It also has enough calories to fuel my body for the duration of the event. During practice, I use HEED every single day.

HN: How do you prepare mentally for a race?

SP: I usually just try to have fun and not take my races seriously. In a pool race, I like to look up into the stands and find my parents so I can smile and wave at them before I get up onto the blocks. I know I have the endurance and capability to keep up with my competitors, so it's really all about enjoying myself. If it's a big race, I do get nervous just like everyone else does, so I try to take a few deep breaths and just enjoy the moment. I try to stay in the present moment, because if I think into the future about what I hope my time or place will end be, I end up not focusing enough to swim well.

HN: What are your big races this year?

SP: My biggest race coming up this year is the 10K at the Open Water Nationals. Other than that, I will just to get in some good races with my competitors before the pool 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.