Strength trainer for Nation's Capital Aquatic Club
Has trained Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder Katie Ledecky for the last 5 years
The Fitter and Faster Swim Tour Presented by SwimOutlet.com doesn’t just allow young athletes to learn directly from elite athletes. It also puts them in a position to improve their agility and strength under the watch of the athletic trainers who’ve help guide their swimming heroes to the Olympic podium and develop them tools for staying injury-free.
When people talk about Katie Ledecky’s technique, the name that comes up most often is her coach, Bruce Gemmell. But part of her success is also thanks to Lee Sommers, the strength-and-conditioning coach to the Olympic gold medalist and multiple world-record holder.
Sommers has been in the fitness industry for the better part of two decades, and has spent most of that time as a fitness director at Sport & Health, a chain of health clubs in the Washington, D.C. area.
After taking over the club’s Bethesda location five years ago, he began working with members of Nation’s Capital’s national team, including Ledecky and Carsten Vissering, a breaststroker who now competes for the University of Southern California.
It was Sommers’ first time working with swimmers, whom he describes as “very different athletes.” And he doesn’t mean swimmers versus the rest of the world. “Working with Carsten and Katie is like training two different species, in terms of stroke-specific needs, age and gender. A sprint breaststroker and a distance freestyler are dramatically different.”
After five years of working with swimmers, Sommers has picked up enough knowledge about the sport that he can now walk into a Fitter & Faster clinic and guess correctly as to who specializes in which stroke. “I just watch how they move as an athlete,” he says.
Sommers’ approach to dryland? “Don’t think of them as swimmers. Think of them as athletes. The more athleticism they build, the more skills they’ll develop that will just make them better overall athletes with better body awareness and better understanding of how their bodies need to move.”
He doesn’t subscribe to the “swimmers are just clumsy” stereotype, either, saying coordination can be taught. “When I first started working with Katie, she couldn’t do a stability ball rollout without falling. She’s progressed so far that that exercise isn’t even part of the routine anymore. It really is about getting a better sense of yourself and how you should move.”
He’s discovered that conducting Fitter & Faster dryland clinics for younger kids presents a different set of challenges and rewards. They keys to success there? “Grabbing kids’ attention and making the curriculum relatable and enjoyable.”