It’s hard to believe that World 50m Freestyle (Shanghai 2011) Champion, Therese Alshammar won her first national short course title at the tender age of 14. It’s even more surprising that 23 years later, not only is Therese still considered one of the best sprinters in the world but she also resembles a woman half her age… Something in the water perhaps!
During a recent ADN Swim Project Open Day in Caserta (Italy), we asked the mum of one what she considered to be the biggest differences between swimming professionally in your twenties to swimming in your thirties.
What are the biggest differences Therese?
When you get older you have more experience which is a good thing, but you also start comparing yourself more. Once I hit my thirties I began putting more pressure on myself, measuring myself against my past achievements, whereas this was not the case in my twenties, as I had nothing to measure myself against. You compare more as you get older and comparison is not always a good thing.
The key is to try and stay free, to not compare yourself to others or to your own self.
Did your training regime change as you hit your thirties?
Yes, I found I could train more as I got older. In my thirties I became more interested, more invested in training and pushing myself harder. I wanted to understand how much further I could go and to what limits. I went to altitude training for instance when I was 35 and swam 50,000 metres plus per week, the first time ever in my life. In my thirties I found I could put more energy into my training.
Did your diet change as you got older?
As I got older I became more educated on how to eat, rest and prepare myself for training. I ate healthier, left better intervals between meals and always tried to eat straight after training, I also took more care of recovery.
Was there a time in your career you thought it’s time to change something?
In 2008 I was already over 30 and I could feel I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, I needed a change of environment. I then began training half the year in Australia and the other half in Europe with the team, which offered me the encouragement and inspiration to train harder, in a much more relaxing environment. The warm summer sun shining down on me made my training practices much more enjoyable and it was then I realized that it’s not all about results in training but more the enjoyment of going out there and doing it.
How do you maintain the motivation?
I have been swimming for so long now but I still don’t really don’t know where my motivation comes from. It just comes automatically from inside and until the day it doesn’t, I will continue with my swimming. My mother and family are highly motivated and during childhood I was always motivated and encouraged to try harder and harder, over and over again. I take this with me, it’s a good quality to have in sport.
What about your young competitors?
They really motivate me. Swimming is a young sport, we don’t swim for a long time, so everything evolves quickly. The young swimmers motivate me to see what we once perceived as a limit is a limit no longer. There is endless possibilities to what we can swim and achieve. No one ever thought a female swimmer could ever swim under 50 seconds in the 100m freestyle, but I’m sure very soon we will see this. This is amazing. The young swimmers don’t waste time thinking about things too much, they just go out there and swim! 🙂
Many swimmers are now continuing over 30, is there really an expiration date?
I really hope not. Like Dara Torres once said, age is nothing more than a number, but more what you make of it. You just have to take care of yourself, listen to your own body. You can’t do what the twenty year olds do but you can find your own success.