Sometimes, you need to take a risk. Sometimes, you need to give up the security of a “comfortable” job to follow your dreams and make your mark on the world.
And that’s exactly what Islam Abdou did in 2016. He quit his job as an engineer and became a swim coach…Is he crazy? Maybe.
When the pool called, he dropped everything and dove in, giving 100% of himself to the sport of swimming and building one of Egypt’s top swim teams.
But Islam is not just a swim coach. After rediscovering his love for swimming, he has become a 3-time Oceanman gold medalist and a top-20 Masters World Championships athlete.
So how did Islam know to take the leap and leave his stable job behind? Let’s take a look at his swimming journey.
Giving Up Swimming
Islam started swimming at age 4, and got good enough to compete on the Egyptian National Team.
Even though he was pretty successful as a kid, Islam decided to give up swimming in 2009 to focus on his education. Little did he know he’d be out of the water for 12 years.
Taking the Leap
After starting his career in engineering, Islam felt the pull of the pool again.
He made a crazy decision. In 2016, he gave up his stable job at a multinational company and did a complete 180. He decided to turn his back on the corporate world to become a swim coach!
Related: How I Became Canada’s First 40-Year-Old, Nationally Ranked Paraswimmer
He wasn’t sure if it was going to work…but he took the leap anyway. It just felt right.
He named his team Fit4Life. Because swimming is life!
Islam wanted to change the way swimming was coached in Egypt. Because it’s never too late to learn to swim!
He wanted to give adults who never learned to swim as kids the chance to start now.
Fit4Life specializes in helping people overcome fear of water, and also provides specialized coaching for different kinds of competitions, including swim meets, Ironman triathlons, open water races and more.
Islam has taken a holistic approach to coaching at Fit4Life, offering private or group swim workouts, plus dryland training and nutrition coaching…the trifecta that’s key to swimming faster.
These days, Fit4Life offers programs for swimmers from 2.5 years old to 80+. Some of Islam’s clients include 80-year-old multi world champions, and 63-year-old FINA Worlds gold medalist.
What started as a small venture has blossomed into a thriving business. Fit4Life has coached more than 1,500 athletes, and is one of the top clubs in Egypt. Islam has multiple coaches working under him, and a few different locations for workouts.
Ultimately, Islam’s goal is to empower his athletes and make them better people.
I think it’s safe to say that his career pivot has worked out swimmingly! He certainly isn’t going back to engineering any time soon…and we don’t blame him!
Rediscovering His Swimming Routine
As you may have guessed, starting a swim team was the catalyst that got Islam back in the water after more than a decade.
So how did he go from an out-of-shape “swammer” to a super fit, 3-time Oceanman gold medalist and world-class Masters swimmer? He trained. A lot.
Related: How Open Water Swimming Saved My Life
Inspired by his athletes, Islam started swimming alone, with his sights set on Masters competitions. With his new role as a full-time swim coach, Islam felt like a professional athlete.
With some coaching experience under his belt, Islam was ready to approach his training thoughtfully.
He approaches his training thoughtfully, applying his coaching experience to his goals.
If he’s training for an open water race, he does more workouts focused on distance per stroke and freestyle technique.
If he has a Masters competition coming up, Islam will focus on higher intensity workouts that include speed work and drills.
Related: How to Create a Swimming Routine You’ll Actually Stick To
Islam writes his own workouts, and uses workouts from the MySwimPro app on his Apple Watch to create the perfect training plan for his goals.
The MySwimPro app allows him to see his expected workload, and the Effort Levels he can expect to target in each workout. Goal times for each set are also helpful, giving Islam an idea of the pacing he should stick to throughout the workout.
With his busy coaching schedule, Islam makes his workouts a priority. Otherwise, they just won’t get done!
So, take it from Islam…schedule your workouts into your day and make them a non-negotiable!
A New Outlook on Swimming
Coming back to swimming as an adult has given Islam a new outlook on the sport. Being an athlete means something different now.
Instead of focusing only on winning medals, Islam has learned that swimming is about longevity and finding new ways to enjoy the sport. From pool swimming to open water swimming and even ice swimming, there’s always something new to learn from being in the water.
To Islam, swimming is more than a sport. It’s life!
It’s a place for him to ease stress, challenge himself and make a difference in the world.
Islam is living proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. It’s never too late to take the leap and dive into something you’re passionate about. Whatever you’re hoping to achieve in the pool, know that if you commit and believe in yourself, you can achieve it.
If Islam’s story inspired you, you too can become the swimmer of your dreams. To get started, download the MySwimPro app and take the first step to becoming the best version of yourself.