As a freestyle sprint specialist, Wasick analyses every small detail of her stroke and thinks in 100ths of seconds but, when it comes to competition, she’s a swimmer who focuses on how she feels. The four-time Olympian is one of the fastest sprinters on the planet and says sprinting comes down to details and good old fashioned hard work.
Training at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Wasick swims six or seven days a week. Every training day starts with a two-hour morning swim practice. “I swim the 50 free which is less than 25 seconds but we still swim two hours a day. Every 100th of a second counts so if you’re off a little bit, you miss out. It was only a few 100ths of a second that separated 1st-9th place at the Olympics,” Wasick says, who missed a medal by eleven 100ths of a second.
During swim practice, Wasick says they break down the components of the race to really focus on the details. “The dive, breakout, catch, pull… We work on one thing at a time,” she says. One of the major components, especially for sprinters, is power. When Wasick wants to focus her training on building power, she uses a weighted “PowerTower”. A PowerTower is a pulley system that attaches to a swimmer with a waist belt that is tethered to a weighted rack on the deck of the swimming pool. Swimmers can control the amount of weight used for resistance, just like a weight machine you would find at a gym. “It’s easier to create power on land but in the water it’s hard without any resistance. The PowerTowers are great to create power in the water. For sprinters they are great,” Wasick says. Wasick has been using the power tower system since swimming at the University of Southern California but, now that she specializes in only the 50m free, she trains with the system more frequently.
“I love using equipment in my training. Paddles, fins, everything that will help get to the race speed and stay there as long as possible,” she says. “The PowerTower makes swimming workouts more exciting. When I use it as a power set, I focus on moving through the water with the most amount of weight and hitting my goal tempo and times. It’s all about hitting the right time and a tempo so you actually work on power not on strength in the pool.” Depending on the time of the season and her training goal, Wasick will use anywhere from 20-80 lbs of resistance.
Since a PowerTower isn’t typically an accessible piece of equipment for most swimmers, Wasick says a parachute can be a great substitute. “I’m a big fan of parachutes. Parachutes are easy to carry in the equipment bag and they can be just as great as PowerTowers. I always have one with me.”
In the afternoons, Wasick continues to work on power in the gym. A few days a week that means she is lifting but other sessions are focused on stretching and recovery.
“You are training to be perfect when you race,” Wasick says. In the pool or at the gym, there is time to think of each movement in detail. “But you have to be ready and accept at a meet that everything should be automatic, you shouldn’t think about it” she says. “When you step on the block—and I don’t think I’m an exception—my best race I can’t ever remember what happened. I just blackout before the block and then I touch the wall and look for my name. Everything is automatic because I trust my process. I trust that I’ve done it a thousand times in practice.”
All the hard training Wasick dedicates for seconds of racing could mean there is more pressure but she sees it the other way around. “It’s just one 50m. It’s just one race instead of doing those hard sets in practice. Sometimes I tell swimmers that struggle with the mental aspect and can’t deal with the pressure at the meets, ‘come on this is just the cherry on top of the cake’. This is one race and you’ve done so much more in the workouts. The workouts are the hardest part, the competition is just so much fun.”