As both an aspiring medical school student and a hopeful Olympian, Swimming World Champion Madisyn Cox knows the importance of having a healthy mentality when it comes to being successful, both in and out of the pool.
The ability to juggle the workload of med school and the intensive training required to be a world-class athlete is no easy feat. Madisyn relies on her airtight scheduling to ensure she is accountable for all of her obligations. Her training has her in the water for up to five hours a day while the other six or so are spent either applying or interviewing to med school or volunteering at a children’s hospital.
Much like in swimming, Madisyn manages this intense schedule by setting attainable goals for herself. Even in the face of adversity, she holds herself accountable for her actions and what it is going to take to reach her goal. Similarly, Madisyn has found comfort in the knowledge that failure is not always negative. Rather, it is a chance to learn from our mistakes and improve towards our goals.
Sometimes it can be hard to measure your success in the moment. For Madisyn, having a bad practice doesn’t always translate to a lack of effort. Through Instabeat she has found accountability in the ability to visualize her real-time effort level while she’s training.
For Madisyn, accountability is everything. It encourages her to push through any adversity she encounters in life to continue pursuing her goals. Much like scheduling, Madisyn trusts the real-time analytics of Instabeat to hold her accountable for her training, using the knowledge to further better herself in and out of the pool. Learn more about her in our chat below.
Q: Why do you swim?
I started swimming because I just love the sport. I’m extremely competitive in nature, and it was the perfect combination of competition, hard work, friends, and that team aspect of the sport. I still swim for most of the same reasons. I love my teammates, my coaches. I also do it now just for the people that got me here, for my mom who’s driven me to 5 am practices every day and my coaches who have just invested so much in me. A lot of my kind of desire for results stems from giving back to them and that way.
Q: How do you feel after you finish a really hard workout?
That’s another reason why I love swimming, but there’s no better feeling than not just coming off a good workout and you’re exhausted and you’re tired, or you just feel so accomplished and you really feel like you’re taking steps in the right direction. I mean that feeling is unique. I’ve yet to see it paralleled in the other parts of my life.
Q: Have you ever tried other sports?
So I actually did a lot of sports growing up: basketball, soccer, track, volleyball. I really liked basketball. I did that throughout middle school and then I ran track, all the way through high school so it wasn’t until I started college that I was solely focusing on swimming.
Q: So there’s something about swimming that’s special to you?
Yeah, absolutely. I had a fair amount of talent or a decent amount at least, and then I also found it really easy to work hard at it. And I like swimming because it’s, for the most part, pretty direct. You work hard, you put in the effort, you do everything you need to do and the results will show. That’s something I really enjoyed. It’s such a gratifying process, but sometimes it’s frustrating because you know that’s not always how it works out. With team sports, there’s a lot of other factors that go into it compared to swimming. While it is still a team sport it’s also individuals so it has a unique combination of both.
Q: You’re studying for med school right now, correct?
I’m actually I’m applying for medical school right now. Last year about this time was a lot of studying for the MCAT, so I worked really hard towards getting a good score on that. Now I’m actually interviewing across the country, and it’s been a fun time. It’s definitely hard to figure out the time management with swimming and interviews so I am obviously still keeping my priorities straight, but also just trying to work towards my future beyond just sports. It’s just been a little bit of juggling.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
On most days it looks something like this
7:30 AM 2 hour practice
10:00 AM Volunteering at the Children’s Hospital.
12:00 PM Lunch
2:00 PM Weight room
3:00 PM 2 hour afternoon practice
6:00 PM Dinner
Q: How much time do you sleep, and how do you maintain mental sanity?
I try to get at least nine hours of sleep a night. 10 hours is good. 12 hours is pretty rare, but if I had a really hard week of training on Saturday night I can definitely get 12 hours of sleep. I definitely prioritize sleep because it’s so important both academically and athletically. When I was in school I stopped studying at a certain time, I would always cut it off at say 8 pm. I really think there’s more value in getting a good night’s sleep and that little bit of extra studying.
Then in terms of mental health and just like self-care I like just making greeting cards, like homemade greeting cards. I do that, and it’s nice because it’s not physically taxing, but I still really enjoy it and it brings me another sense of fulfillment, you know, sending them to other people making their days. Then the other thing that I really liked doing is I have a dog. So taking him for a walk or just hanging out with him cuddling with him.
Q: How does your schedule change over the holidays?
Unfortunately, swimming doesn’t have quite an offseason. The two weeks off after our summer nationals and that’s really the only offseason we have. So, this year in that two-week break I spent a week of it not working out at all, I just I went to Cabo with my family where we went on hikes and went scuba diving and did a bunch of fun stuff like that. Then the next week I did reintroduce some weights, just so that I wasn’t losing too much muscle mass and then I started swimming again. But I do think that that time is really important to actually take away from the pool, just to kind of refocus and re-energized cause you don’t want to burn out. I still want to go to the pool every day for a workout, I genuinely look forward to it.
During the holidays I try to loosen up a little bit, I still watch what I’m eating but not as strict and I really just try to focus on being happy and spending quality time with my family and being present for them.
Q: What has been your favorite race that you’ve competed in?
My favorite race is the 2017 World Championships, the finals of the 200 IM. At World trials about a month earlier, I got food poisoning the day before I left for the meet. And it was so severe that I couldn’t keep any food down, I lost all this weight so I almost withdrew myself from the meet, but I ended up swimming it anyway. I swam prelims and semis of the 200 IM and I didn’t feel great, so I was really worried about the final. But I was just like, “you know what I’m going to go for it. I can give it what I can give it and that’s it,” and I ended up coming in third.
I was really proud of myself and then, more importantly, I was proud to win a medal for our country. It’s so incredible. When you’re on the podium looking up and you see the American flag raised above your head and knowing that you did that and you contributed to your country’s results.
Q: How were you able to overcome the fear and get yourself in the zone for the finals?
It was really mentally hard to come back from that food poisoning. But what I had to think about was all those practices that I’ve done, all that good training that you put in, I think about it like putting money in the bank; when you have a good practice you’re just putting more money in the bank and when it comes to meets, that’s your time to pay out and so in my mind, I had to just have that as the positive affirmation of that money is not all going to waste you know. Just because I got sick or just because this little thing happened that’s all still there and I’m still capable of achieving the goals that I want to achieve. I believe so much in hard work and that applies to school too. Everything that you sacrifice and the hard work that you put in is not for nothing, and hopefully, it will pay off. Life’s not always fair but you try to control what you can control and hard work is definitely one of those things.
Q: Do you see yourself swimming for a long time, or is it kind of until the next Olympics/until the next phase of your life, maybe med school?
My plan for swimming is to swim through trials and you know hopefully the games. I’ve not made the team and so obviously that’s what I’m preparing for and those are my goals. Then after that, I plan to just go to medical school and at that time my competitive swimming career will be over so I’ll retire. I do still plan on staying in this for a while and I want to try out triathlons actually. But I know it’ll be too hard to manage medical school and competitively swimming so this year’s games will be my last year.
Q: How has Instabeat helped you train to reach that goal?
Training is hard. I talked about hard work and it’s so easy sometimes to work hard. When you know what you’re doing and you know you have people next to you competing against you. But a lot of the time that’s not the case and especially at this level there aren’t people next to you training so it’s hard to know how you’re doing, where you’re at, where your heart rate is and what your effort level really looks like and Instabeat solves those problems. It keeps you accountable. Some days you’re having a bad practice and you think you’re working hard just because it’s harder to do that but your heart rate doesn’t lie. So, I love the accountability aspect of it. It keeps you accountable and keeps you to having good workouts even if you’re by yourself or the conditions might not be ideal.
Q: How did you feel about entering your last year as a competitive swimmer?
Mixed emotions, I’ve been competitively something for two decades now. I definitely love the sport, it’s given me a lot and it’s going to be different without it, but at the same time I’m excited for that next chapter of my life.
I’m actually excited to go into this summer’s trials and games, knowing that whatever happens, no matter the result, my end goal is to really help people through medicine so I think it almost takes some of the stress off of it. I’m not defined as a swimmer and I’m not putting my entire life into this and I actually know that no matter what happens, I’ll be okay and that I still have more to give to the world.