When Michael Phelps’s alarm clock went off at 6:30 A.M. on the morning of August 13, 2008, he crawled out of bed in the Olympic Village in Beijing and fell right into his routine.
He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and walked to breakfast. He had already won three gold medals earlier that week—giving him nine in his career—and had two races that day. By 7 A.M., he was in the cafeteria, eating his regular race-day menu of eggs, oatmeal, and four energy shakes, the first of more than six thousand calories he would consume over the next sixteen hours.
Phelps’s first race—the 200-meter butterfly, his strongest event—was scheduled for ten o’clock. Two hours before the starting gun fired, he began his usual stretching regime, starting with his arms, then his back, then working down to his ankles, which were so flexible they could extend more than ninety degrees, farther than a ballerina’s en pointe. At eight-thirty, he slipped into the pool and began his first warm-up lap, 800 meters of mixed styles, followed by 600 meters of kicking, 400 meters pulling a buoy between his legs, 200 meters of stroke drills, and a series of 25-meter sprints to elevate his heart rate. The workout took precisely forty-five minutes.
At nine-fifteen, he exited the pool and started squeezing into his LZR Racer, a bodysuit so tight it required twenty minutes of tugging to put it on. Then he clamped headphones over his ears, cranked up the hip-hop mix he played before every race, and waited.
Excerpt From: Duhigg, Charles. “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” Random House Digital, Inc.