DETAILS: You've dialed back your swimming from about 80,000 to 50,000 meters a week. You're doing more explosive lifting. What else has changed this time around?
Michael Phelps: It's harder to recover. Going into the weight room three times a week, it can be harder to swim, it can be harder to hit all the times I hit back in the day, just because I'm older now.

DETAILS: So what do you do for recovery?
Michael Phelps: My trainer, Keenan [Robinson], uses Graston tools, these little metal crowbars. He carves them into my shoulder blades, my back, my knee, my hamstrings—wherever I'm really tight—to loosen things up. It's pretty intense. Obscenities fly out of my mouth the whole time, and I'm usually bruised for two days after it. I also use ice tubs. And when I'm back home, I sleep in an altitude chamber set to about 8,000 feet. All these things help me to be close to my best every time I jump in the water.

DETAILS: What about nutrition? It's rumored that you eat 12,000 calories a day—entire pizzas, two dozen eggs. Is that true?
Michael Phelps: No. People make a big deal out of what I eat, but it's not that crazy. I had a three-egg omelet and three pieces of French toast and coffee this morning. For recovery, I think it's a big deal to eat within a half-hour after you exercise. Otherwise I just try to put carbs into my system before I swim and then load up on the protein after. I don't count calories. Whether it's Sour Patch Kids or Reese's or a bag of chips, if I feel like eating it, I'm going to eat it.

DETAILS: You've got a six-foot-seven-inch arm span, a long torso, and hyper-flexible joints, but your coach says your mental strength is your best asset. How do you withstand all the pressure?
Michael Phelps: When you get to the big meet, you've done all the training. You tune everything out and go up to the block and do what you've prepared to do. You can't go back and fix anything. Whatever happens, happens. If you fail, you just get up and try again.

DETAILS: You've started boxing. What's that about? Do you throw a mean punch?
Michael Phelps: [Laughs] It's not pretty. But Keenan keeps things interesting. If we had the same dry-land routine for 15 years, we'd both be like, "Ugh, this sucks, I don't want to do this." So boxing is something new that can stabilize my core and hold everything together. We're also doing sled pulls and pushes to make it fun. It keeps me from sneaking out the back door.

DETAILS: You've been writing down your goals every year since you were 11. What's on your list now?
Michael Phelps: That's the million-dollar question. Only Bob and I know.

DETAILS: Will you still swim when your competitive days are over?
Michael Phelps: I don't know what I'm going to do, exercise-wise. A lot of my friends are all into Insanity and P90X. I like playing basketball and golfing. I'll stay involved in the sport through the [Michael Phelps] Foundation. We've been able to help almost 3,000 kids be water-safe, to teach them lessons like goal-setting and making the right decisions with healthy, active living. It's always been a passion of mine to show these kids that if you put your mind to something, you're gonna be able to get there.

DETAILS: So you can will yourself to conquer the world?
Michael Phelps: [Laughs] If I want to.

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