Chasing rabbits rather than world records is helping Olympic champion Adam Peaty enjoy his swimming like never before.
The reigning double breaststroke world champion over 50m and 100m is constantly looking at ways to keep his training interesting prior to defending his Rio 100m gold in Tokyo in eight months.
Peaty’s participation in the lucrative all-new International Swimming League (ISL) is certainly freshening things up and bringing a new and regular racing focus.
But away from the razzmatazz of the ISL, it is the endless hours in the training pool at his Loughborough base which the 24-year-old readily acknowledges can be “tedious”.
Peaty’s new-found interest in rabbits is alleviating some of the boredom at least, but that comes in the form a shiny new piece of swimming kit rather than the cute and cuddly variety. His hunt is an LED-rabbit, a virtual training assistant that is adding a bit of fun to his relentless regime.
“When you get to a point when are you are a second and a half or two seconds ahead of the world that is where technology helps because I have to set that pace for myself,” he explained.
“It is also a little bit of a distraction and there is a lot of management around that. I have been doing this for God knows how long so it’s great to have technology coming through to add a little bit of fun. The winter can be horrendous. It can be very monotonous.”
There are no such fears about the ISL, which Peaty has been backed with great gusto. He races for London Roar, one of eight franchise teams in the controversial, privately backed competition featuring draft-picked teams from Europe and the USA.
Peaty set the fastest 100m breaststroke time of the year at the last ISL meet, clocking 56.19 seconds in Budapest.
“The ISL keeps me on my toes. I love racing. I love the crowd and I love showboating,” he said with more than a flash of excitement as he ponders his next round in London on the weekend of 23 and 24 November.
“It’s not going to replace the Olympics or the World Championships but it will compliment it as the years go by.”
This year’s World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea saw Peaty defend his 50m and 100m breaststroke titles for a double double, as well as lower his own world record in the latter, win the men’s 4x100m medley relay and take bronze in the mixed event.
He is not, however, interested in a prolonged “ride on the highs of the summer”.
“This is a very important year for me with the Olympics, the ISL and developing new techniques,” Peaty added.
“It’s a very busy time of the year with lots going on and I am not reflecting too much on what has gone on because that doesn’t really matter to me now. It’s not relevant. It’s in the past. I want to get in the present and get the work done. I know exactly what it will take in seven or eight months.”
There is also a new approach to his previous obsession with records and medals, famously with Project 56, a quest to become the first man to dip under 57 seconds in the 100m breaststroke. He seemingly does not want to put a limit on what he can achieve.
Loving the new vibe
“It’s no longer about a time for us,” said Peaty, the ‘us’ referring to his 10-year partnership with National Lead Centre coach Mel Marshall, who has been his guru since they first teamed up as teenage swimmer and head coach at the City of Derby Swimming Club.
“Putting a quantitative time or figure on it doesn’t work as well as having a feeling.
“That’s where the ISL comes in. I am doing the 200m short course, having fun and loving what I am doing. I have never really felt this vibe before. I am bouncing around the place. I will let the results come to me. I am no longer chasing those results trying to be Olympic champion, world champion and world record holder.
“To make the next step I need to go ‘look, this is the best version of myself, this is the happiest version of myself. I have worked as hard as I can so those results will come to me’.
“That is a sign of me growing up a bit. I am enjoying what I do.”
The journey with his good friend as well as coach is far from complete, with Tokyo 2020 very much on the horizon.
“I always believed there was something incredible in him,” Marshall told BBC Sport. “The more you go on the journey the more it unfolds. There was always that belief that something impossible was possible. Maybe that was naivety, maybe that was the fact I am a dreamer, but what he has achieved over the past 10 years is incredible.”
The results are still coming but Marshall says there remains a vital awareness of avoiding complacency by continuing to challenge themselves every day.
The two-time Olympian said: “While striving for more, you also have to consolidate and give yourself a pat on the back and say well done because if you don’t look after the wins while you are striving forward you forget all the good things that have gone on and it’s a bank of information we should draw upon.
“The ethos this year is to do what we do, but do it a little bit better.”
That involves being better at recovery, better in training, in short, a bit better in everything – even being better at chasing rabbits.
“Swimming training is just really really hard,” Marshall added. “There is no music in the water, it’s repetitive and it can be mind-numbing in terms of the daily grind so it’s how much stimulus you can give them.”