We have a lot to look forward to in 2016—new gym routines, seeing Batfleck in action, finally learning the fate of Jon Snow—so it’s easy to forget that next year marks the arrival of yet another summer Olympics. And that means the sports world will inevitably cast its eyes, however briefly, on competitive swimming. It also means that swimwear giant Speedo will debut its new bathing suit for Team USA.
Now, if you paid any attention to London (2012), Beijing (2008), and Athens (2004), you know that racing swimwear has come a long way from the Superman-style briefs and banana hammocks of the past. (Remember when Australian Ian “Thorpedo” Thorpe debuted his crazy full-body “Jetconcept” thing before Athens?) Well, this year, the high-concept swimwear is only getting more high-concept.
The new Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer X resembles a biker short. It’s been designed to act as compression shorts for the swimmer, focusing on support and compression of specific muscle groups. When Cullen Jones, two-time Olympic Champion and current World Record Holder for the 4x100 Freestyle Relay, first put on the newly designed suit, it took him almost 20 minutes. This is partly because the Speedo proprietary fabric has smart technology that provides compression horizontally and stretch vertically. All within the same fabric. It’s expensive stuff, retailing for upwards of $500 or so, but luckily, starting in the new year, suits of a similar style in a more affordable fabric will be available.
In the meantime, as Speedo unveils its new swimsuit for next year’s Rio games, I sat down with Jones and his fellow American Olympian Ryan Lochte to discuss everything from fitness to cheat days to the Speedos themselves. Plus, what the future may hold for these guys after their swim season is over (which may be sooner than you think).
Barret Wertz (Men’s Fitness): What is your workout routine currently like?
Cullen Jones: Our coach is very innovative in a lot of the things that he has us doing for training. So we climb ropes, we're doing jumping jacks—on the side of the pool—you know this is all integrated into our workout. So it's not always the back and forth, staring at the black lines.
BW: How much do you guys train in any given day? Offseason vs. training up to the Olympics, what’s the average?
Ryan Lochte: If you put swimming in the pool, and doing dry land, doing weights, I would say probably 30-35 hours per week that we put in. A full time job.
BW: How and when does training change gearing up for the Olympics?
CJ: I think it’s really a four-year stage for us. We think in quadrenniums. We're always focused on that. So this year, we’ve been going pretty hard all year. There are moments when we get breaks, but we're in that last phase right now, so we’ll be six months out of trials. So now its go hard or go home.
BW: I know you both focus on different strokes. Does that determine how you train as well?
RL: There’s certain things I'll do that might help me with my other strokes. But for the most part outside the pool, we do the exact same kind of weightlifting. (Cullen) just does more weight.
BW: Cullen, why do you do more weights?
CJ: He’s more of endurance, mine is more power because I’m a 50 (meter) freestyler, for shorter events, he’s in the 500 (meter), so it's really about churning large amounts of water really fast. So although where I’m sprint, and he’s more mid-distance, the effort is still there, its just kind of different.
BW: A lot of people outside of your world associate exercise with sweating. When you’re in the pool, you’re wet, so you’re not really feeling the tactile result of hard work. What, if any, are the diet requirements you guys have to stick with?
RL: So swimming we burn so many calories—we probably burn the most out of any other sport. We have to replenish our bodies, so we’re eating probably around 6000-7000 calories a day, so we’re constantly eating.
CJ: Yeah, it’s kind of nonstop. When people sit back and say, I wish I had more [room], its like “yeah well, we’ll take that off your plate.” We’re constantly eating and when it comes to sweating I think we’re always drinking water, we have to stay hydrated. As Ryan said, we train all the time and we burn so many calories and we eat as much as we can because we burn so many calories.
BW: So when you’re saying you have to eat 6,000-7,000 calories, do you guys focus on a lean protein portion and a carbohydrate portion and a vegetable portion, or are you just getting as much as you can all the time? Is there time to consider what the balance and the ratio is?
RL: I think it's a little of both. If we’re having a really hard workout and it just killed us, we’ll probably put more protein in our meal. And if it’s a lighter one, we won’t. For me, I’m always trying to watch what I eat. I do have my cheat days, I’m not a health freak or anything.
BW: What are your cheat days?
RL: Mine is on Fridays. Ever since I was 8-years-old, I had pizza and wings as, like, a family tradition—and I still do it. I’ve only missed it five times in my life.
CJ: Yeah I’m a burger fan, you load up and be happy—usually around Saturdays.
BW: So a lot of pools have transitioned to salt water pools, but I know chlorine can really wreak havoc on your skin and hair. What’s your go-to product to help you not completely dry out and crack?
RL: Cocoa butter.
CJ: With shae. Every swimmer gets out of the pool and especially with chlorine, were all like: “I need lotion." We burn in the water for two hours so we definitely need to hydrate the skin too.
BW: A lot of guys keep their skin smooth to highlight their toned physique. Swimmers are often thought to shave their body hair for speed. Is there any...
RL: I mean we shave like once a year, right before our major competition. We shave everything, and ingrown hairs, they do come. But it’s not really an issue.
BW: What are you looking forward most to about Rio? Have you been before?
CJ: [It's] the first time for me to be in South America, so I’m definitely excited for that.
RL: The weather too. Enjoying the sun. I love the sun. And just being part of the Olympics—this will be my fourth time.
CJ: It was funny—I remember in London 2012 I was like 'oh man, I think I might be done.' Ryan just looked over at me and goes, ‘Brazil. One more.”
RL: I was like we got this, we can do this.
BW: Oh wow. So Cullen, do you think you’ll go out on Brazil?
RL: I’m going to try and convince him. I know I want to go another four years, to go to 2020, and I need a partner in crime for that. He’s going to hate me for it.
CJ: I have planned on being done in Brazil, but I don’t know. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had an appreciation for actually training. I kind of like it now, and I think another four years of doing that doesn’t sound awful. I think I went through a little bit of a lull, [but] I think I’m right back into it now. Especially, a lot of people say in Olympic years I pay attention and get focused, and its definitely been that way this year. Another four years? I thought about it. I know he’s pushing it again but we’ll see.
BW: When the time does come, what do you guys see your lives like after swimming. What are you waiting to check off the list until you have more free time?
RL: I definitely want to get into fashion. Whether it’s designing my own clothing line or having my own clothing store. I really thought about that so I’m not going all the way in. I mean, I’ve dabbled in that with being with Speedo [and] designing some clothes for myself.
BW: What turns you on to fashion?
RL: I don’t really have a set style. I mean, honestly that’s the reason I love fashion because you can do anything. There are no rules. So it’s your personality, and mine is just always out there, and I think it would be perfect. I think I have a creative mind so I think it would be good for me.
CJ: I want your job (Style and Grooming Editor). I’m also big into fashion, I’ve always loved it, my parents were always very self-aware. They said when you’re leaving the house you’re representing the Jones family so get it together. I grew up with clothes and fashion and that sense of identity around it. I’ve always wanted to do something with it. I definitely would love to write about fashion.
BW: Favorite designer or brand?
CJ: Yeah, G-Star.
BW: Is there anything you guys want our readers to know about you?
RL: A lot of people think we just train. Like eat, sleep, train; that’s all we do. But there’s a lot more to us than that, that we like outside of this sports world.