You may know of Michael Klim as legendary Australian swimmer and gold medalist, formerly representing Australia in three Olympic games.
We ask Michael about training outdoors, how being in the pool so often had affected his skin, and his thoughts on how sun protection in sport can be improved.
When did you become passionate about swimming?
I became passionate about swimming from a very early age. I learned to swim when I was around 2, around the same time I learned to walk. I think I became more passionate about it when I was at school and I was being recognised for my sporting talents, rather than anything else, and I was selected to represent Australia against New Zealand at the age of 13. From there it kind of snowballed and I was selected to join the Australian Institute of Sport at the age of 16. For me, that was the turning point. When I went from just being a school boy swimmer to an open contender. So, from the age of 16 it got really serious.
How often were you training at the peak of your career?
When I was at the peak of my career, we used to train a lot. On average, we’d train 9 to 10 times in the water a week. On top of that, we’d supplement with additional dry land training, weight training, and then recovery. I used to love training outdoors. The majority of our camps were in the warmer climates, anywhere from Queensland, to Hawaii, Singapore etc.
How did being in the pool so often affect your skin?
Swimming in chlorinated pools my entire life definitely affected my skin by drying it out. And by smelling like a pool most of the time. But I think that was just the standard and as a swimmer, we were very used to looking after our skin. So, washing off the chlorine, moisturising daily. I never faced any issues but I think it was a constant maintenance and upkeep.
Was sun protection something you ever factored in?
Sun protection was something that we definitely factored into our daily routine. We would be spending up to 5 hours a day swimming outdoors, and sometimes training on the beach etc. So, it was very important that we apply sunscreen. Obviously, it’s very difficult to wear protective gear in the pool, but sunscreen was a must. A lot of the swimmers, if you see them from training outdoors, they have little racoon eyes from the goggle straps, but sunscreen was a big part of our training.
How could sun protection in sport be improved?
I believe sun protection in sport could be improved by improving the efficacy of some of the sunscreens that are out there. But, I think generally athletes are really good at looking after their skin and I think, in terms of garments and clothing, they understand the importance of covering their skin while they’re out on the road, or if they’re running etc. So, I think that the knowledge is there. I think it comes down to brands creating products that have high performance value and also have great efficacy.
What are your best sun protection tips?
My best suncare protection tips would be to make sure you find a sunscreen that suits your skin type. So, something that is extra light, super absorbent, 50+. And I think applying regularly, before you actually go out, on dry skin, is probably my number one advice. Once your skin is sweating, or is wet, it’s probably too late. And once you get red, it’s too late. But I think being aware of reapplying regularly, staying in the shade, staying hydrated, and I think you’ll be fine.
This blog is for information purposes only, always consult with a medical professional for expert advice.
Australian rules football coach and former player Jarryd Roughead took the time to answer our questions about his experience with skin cancer.