How Ian Thorpe Did 20 Sessions Per Week To Regain Fitness

How Ian Thorpe Did 20 Sessions Per Week To Regain Fitness

Australia’s Ian Thorpe was perhaps the best swimmer of his generation, winning five gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

Having looked set to dominate for years to come over the 400m freestyle event, it was a shock when he announced his retirement at the age of just 24.

Fast forward a few years and Thorpe attempted to make a comeback for the 2012 Olympics, going all-in to try and get back to the level he was at in Sydney and Athens. It was a huge undertaking requiring a phenomenal amount of training.

Unfortunately, he ultimately failed to qualify for the Games and ended up retiring for a second time due to a shoulder injury. But his lifestyle overhaul during that period is still one to be admired and it can provide some valuable tips to anyone looking to get back to full fitness after a long break.

Ian Thorpe’s London 2012 Training Regime

Thorpe was 29 when he embarked on his journey to try and qualify for a third Olympic Games. The depth of talent in Australian swimming at the time was always going to make it a difficult task, especially after spending five years out of the sport.

He decided to uproot and move to Lugano in Switzerland in order to train under coach Gennadi Touretski. The move also allowed him to focus solely on his swimming, and he said he was able to draw inspiration from the stunning mountainous surroundings.

Touretski put him on a strict plan, swimming between eight and 11 sessions per week, plus three weight sessions in the gym and seven land-based fitness sessions.

Thorpe was trying to come back over the 100m and 200m distances, so focused on sprinting sessions and power development. He said dropping his ego on these difficult lactic sessions, having come from a distance background, was key at times.

Ian Thorpe’s Diet

Like many athletes who quit their sport, Thorpe gained a fair bit of timber around the waist. He had to lose a hefty 20kg to get back to race weight.

However, he still made sure he was fueling appropriately, putting in 3,000 calories a day so he could maintain his massive training output.

His fundamental rule was always to eat fresh and avoid processed or fast foods. It’s something he’s still passionate about today, and he tries to encourage the general public to eat well, even if they live busy lifestyles.


Perhaps the biggest factor that underpinned Thorpe’s return was his unwavering discipline. To reach your full potential, you have to live the right lifestyle.

It was a source of frustration to him at times that he couldn’t explore the Swiss and Italian towns surrounding Lugano a little more, but it was a sacrifice he made to make sure his swimming was the priority.

Despite having been able to indulge in his retirement, Thorpe cutout wine on his return to training. And, if he had a meal out, he made sure he was at the restaurant by 7pm before making his excuses to leave early so he could be fresh for his early workout the next day.