Champion’s Mojo Podcast: A Chat With Breaststroke Star Cody Miller

cody miller

Cody Miller (Champions Mojo Podcast)

For the first time this week, Swimming World introduces its readership to the Champion’s Mojo Podcast, which has emerged as an elite podcast in the sport by featuring interviews and conversations with top athletes and coaches. Hosted by Kelly Parker Palace and Maria Parker, this week’s podcast provides a chat with American breaststroke star Cody Miller, who this past weekend won the 200 breaststroke at the U.S. Open.

The podcast, this week and through past interviews, does a superb job of discussing not just the competitive aspect of swimming with its interview subjects, but also dives into issues beyond the pool. Parker Palace and Parker are well-versed in the careers of their interviewees and provide a tremendous forum.


How does Cody Miller maintain balance in his life? He’s an Olympic champion, professional swimmer and YouTube star, with a dedicated training schedule toward the 2020 Olympic Trials, who says maintaining consistency and showing up for yourself makes all the difference. In this episode of the Champion’s Mojo Podcast, you’ll learn more about the mojo that Cody uses to succeed to help you accomplish your own big goals. Tune in for a great interview that will definitely inspire you!

Below is an abridged Q&A of the interview with Cody Miller. You can listen to the full podcast episode #41 here or at

CHAMPION’S MOJO: From the outside looking in, your life looks like it’s been charmed. Many people don’t know how much you have overcome on the road to the top of the Olympic Podium. Can you share a couple of the toughest obstacles that you’ve dealt with?

Cody Miller: That’s interesting that you say from the outside looking in, it kind of looks like it came easy. The first biggest struggle I ever really had, that people didn’t really know about (until I started talking publicly about it ) was that I was born with a medical


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

condition called pectus excavatum. This is sunken chest syndrome. So I look like I have a big hole in my chest and I had a few struggles at that. I was extremely self-conscious with the way that I looked growing up. I was very uncomfortable in a bathing suit on the pool deck from a young age. I distinctly remember not wanting to take off my t-shirt in gym class because I was afraid of getting made fun of. I was afraid of the way that I looked. I didn’t like the way that I looked in the mirror. And that took a really big mental toll on me. Eventually I gained the self-confidence to grow out of that. My lesson was that everybody has their own insecurities. And you just don’t see those insecurities. And once you recognize that, I think it kind of lets you be a little bit more comfortable in your own skin.

Secondly, I grew up in a fractured household. My dad had drug problems all through my high school years. My mom divorced him because he had debt collectors coming into the house to try to track him down. Long story short, his drug addiction became so bad that he was living homeless for a number of years, refusing help from any of our family members.

That was a really big struggle for me, just dealing with the fact that my dad was out there struggling and wouldn’t accept any help. I was struggling with not knowing what to do, not knowing how to handle it. And then unfortunately, he passed away about six months before the Olympic trials where I made the Olympic Team. That was something that I just had to compartmentalize and shut down and deal with, after the fact. It never came easy for me. There was always something that I was dealing with. So I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster. But, honestly, all those things made me better. All those things made me stronger. And yeah, I mean, we’re doing OK. You know, everything’s all right.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: You’re doing in that answer what I think you do really well in your public life, which is trying to be really positive. But you are also very real. You share your challenges, but in a positive way. Is that something you’ve been deliberate about?

Cody Miller: I think it just kind of came organically because as I started making videos and as I started becoming more prevalent on social media, it was like, OK, what am I trying to display and what do I want my viewers to get out of this?

When I think about it from that perspective, it’s like I want people to have that ability to recognize flaws and recognize struggles, but then also still have a positive mindset when trying to work through those things.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: You seem to have mastered this ability to stay on track when faced with an obstacle. What is your immediate inner dialog and mindset and how do you visualize that happy moment down the road?

Cody Miller: I think that I was raised in an environment where we were taught to kind of just press on and push through pain. I want to make this as positive as possible. I grew up swimming for a club team in Las Vegas called the Sandpipers of Nevada. And they’re very


Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold/Aringo

much famous for being a program that grinds hard. They go volume. They go yards. I mean, they’ve got 10, probably 10 or 12 high school kids on the U.S. national team, you know, doing open water, swimming. And I’ll never forget coming into coming into practice one afternoon. And my club coach, Ron Aitken, was writing this pyramid IM set on the whiteboard and it was an 8,000 IM. And I remember in my brain I was like, how am I going to do this? And then we were starting this 8,000 IM and about 400 yards into this pyramid IM my whole leg completely cramped up. I got this really bad Charley horse. I was like sitting on the lane line and I said Ron, I can’t do this. Like, I can’t swim. And he just turned around. He looked me. He said, you better find a way and keep swimming. And in that moment, I was just totally distraught. And in my head I thought, I can’t do this. And then when he said, find a way, there was no other option but to keep swimming. I put my head down and I started swimming slowly and I kind of shook out my leg. And within, you know, within a couple, maybe 200 yards, my leg had kind of loosened up. And it was fine. You know, it was temporary. But I realized, looking back at that moment that, you know, had he not forced me to keep going and kind of just trooped on, I probably would have given up and not even done that really long 8,000 yard IM set. And so I grew up in an environment where, you know, the only option was to kind of forge on.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: When did you decide to put a smile on your face and tell yourself you’re going to be happy?

Cody Miller: That was around the time when I started making more videos and taking my YouTube channel even more seriously. And a big part of the videos was I wanted to show people how fun it can be. And in trying to do that, just basically showing people, you know, by making these videos how fun it is at the pool, how fun it is goofing off with my friends, with Blake (Pieroni) and Lilly (King).

I was having fun doing that. And that’s when I realized, OK, this is what it’s all about. Right? I mean, at the end of the day, we all want to win medals. But you also have to enjoy the process because, you know, the process is everything.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: How do you keep your perspective on things like an 8,000 yard IM set, a DQ or an injury?

Cody Miller: I think it becomes a habit. Right. It’s looking at things as a glass half full kind of perspective. Right. I find that when I’m training the hardest, when I’m training the most, and when I have those battles on a regular basis, it makes everything else a little bit easier. Because you’ve become accustomed to that and because, you know, I think as high level athletes, we develop this mindset where failure is not an option. You know, and sometimes it’s with those struggles in life, it becomes OK. Sitting here and sulking and being disappointed is not an option.

You know, we develop these techniques and these tools to just move forward by realizing that you can and that you have to. It just kind of becomes instinct, I think.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: In watching some of your videos, it seems like you’ve had some struggles with depression. Can you talk a little about that?

Cody Miller: That’s definitely true. You know, I’ve been up and down with depression, not like serious clinical, suicidal depression, but

Miller, Cody-10

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

I’ve definitely been down in the dumps quite a bit. Swimming has been my outlet or my safe place. Growing up, you know, whatever it was that I was dealing with, swimming was always a place for me. I had friends and I felt like I was accepted. It was something that I felt like I always had total control over. So my results in the pool, or whatever I was getting out of every single practice was pretty much completely determined by me. It’s like, how hard do I want to push? What do I want to get out of this? And so, yeah, I’ve definitely struggled with a bit of depression. And it’s like, OK. How do I climb out of this? Ultimately forcing myself to struggle in the pool kind of helped me grow and help me find my legs to climb out.

I’m not some guru that has the answer to prevent depression, but speaking from my own experience, the way that I’ve helped combat that and kind of eliminate that, a little bit in my own life, is just having balance.

Like I can still see myself as wanting to be the best breaststroke I can possibly be, but I have to have other things out there, other things outside of the pool that are equally as important.

So that one day when my swimming career is over, I don’t just shut down once swimming ends. There’s got to be something else. I think athletes need balance. But that’s just that’s just my opinion.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: There’s so much more to you than swimming now that you are a major vlogger and have such a following on YouTube. Many people outside of the swimming community are enjoying your videos. Including me, (Maria), I’m not a swimmer and I love your videos! What are your thoughts on that?

Cody Miller: Well, first of all, that’s probably the best compliment you can give me, I really, really appreciate that. I’m always fascinated when I hear from people who watch my videos that aren’t regular swimmers. I think that that hopefully means I’m doing something right.

I certainly try to structure it in a way that most people out there will like what I’m doing. But ultimately, you know, I’m trying to make it fun for me and the viewers.

When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with Olympic swimmers Brendan Hansen and Aaron Peirsol. You know, that generation of stars. And I think about that when I’m making these videos. What would I like to see if I was 13, again, idolizing these Olympic swimmers? Because remember, I was just like those kids not that long ago. That’s absolutely what I shoot for. I make sure that it’s fun and engaging. I want people who aren’t the highest levels of swimming to be able to experience and enjoy my videos and the concept that I put out there. So hopefully people are enjoying it.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: So what are some of your future plans for your YouTube Channel (which as of today has over 120K Subscribers)?

Cody Miller: My YouTube channel has really grown into something that I never really anticipated. It’s kind of weird and in the best way.

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

It’s really awesome because it was just a hobby that has kind of turned into this into this career, into this vessel that is providing something. It’s helping put food on my plate, literally. So I have some pretty ambitious goals for our YouTube channel. I really want to continue to grow it. It’s a big passion of mine.

I want to leave the sport better than when I joined it. And hopefully the video content that I’m creating is helping not just inspire swimmers, but it is helping them find ways to enjoy it and have fun and really recognize that. You know, one of the beautiful things about our sport is that struggle and that pursuit and showing people that.

Back to your question. I would hope that my channel will continue to grow and gain enough viewership that I can continue making videos, because as long as the audience is there and the audience is supporting me, I can continue creating content for that audience. And I try to be as transparent with my audience as possible. You know, just within the last year, I’ve started taking on, you know, dozens of sponsors, new sponsors, which is great because for me, it’s allowing me to justify the amount of time that I’m putting into doing this, far more so than I would just a regular hobby.

There are a number of things that I want to do with my YouTube channel, especially when, you know, my swimming career, when I decide to kind of close the book on, OK. I’m no longer trying to be this high level elite swimmer now. I’m just going to be a regular swimmer and it’s going to open up these doors for me to spend more time into making other kinds of hopefully really fun, cool videos.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: What are your thoughts on the International Swim League (ISL) and on Pro Swimming as a career?

Cody Miller: I could do an entire podcast just on this topic alone. Number one, the ISL needs to be successful and there needs to be viewership and eyes on the league so that it so that it happens organically. It needs to be as successful as we all think it can be. And then number two, I think that individual athletes really do need help with being a Pro Swimmer. I think swimmers need help growing their brand and growing their platform. And a lot of people just don’t understand how to do that. I took it upon myself to learn how to do it, because nowadays we live in a wonderful time. We live in the greatest time in the world. If you want to learn how to do anything, you can go to YouTube. You know what I mean? You can Google search just about anything and you can teach yourself how to do something. And that’s kind of what I did.

It’s like, OK, how do I grow a following? How do I create an audience? How do I cultivate something something special? And you look for trends and you look for things. And, you know, at the end of the day, the thing that I’ve learned is it’s just that consistency. And I think that I know that there are there are classes on social media that you can take. I know that that’s a big thing now. But I definitely think that that’s something that USA Swimming should implement for U.S. national team. I think anybody could benefit from that, even just like a two hour show or just like a one hour seminar on, you know, how to how to grow your brand just a little bit. Dude, I’m willing to talk to anybody about that. But look, by no means am I like the world leading expert. I’m a swimmer who’s growing his YouTube channel and is doing OK. It’s not like I have millions of followers, but I do want to help people.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: We’d love to hear some of the things that you do routinely or rituals that have helped you succeed.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Cody Miller: Yes, absolutely, I think that consistency is the number one most important thing on the track to success. You know, for me being consistent in all the little areas that matter the most, but our tiny little things that ultimately accumulate into being a big thing. And what I mean by that is the little details. Like stretching after practice, going easy on the ice cream and going to bed on time. You can ask my wife, she’ll vouch for me. We do not go to bed past 9 pm, ever.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: How are you balancing Swim Training and your commitments as a Sponsored Athlete and dedication to filming editing and producing a weekly video for your 120K+ YouTube Subscribers?

Cody Miller: Right now, my number one focus is training for Olympic trials. So I won’t edit footage after 8 p.m. because if I’m staring at a screen, you know, within an hour of when I go to bed, it messes with my ability to fall asleep or I’m thinking about the edit in my brain.

So I limit myself on number one, how much time I’ll spend editing and number two, when I will edit. So like during the day between practice, this is good.

And then, it’s time management. It’s like I won’t allow editing the footage or doing audio corrections or going into film a sponsored video or whatever. I won’t allow any…all those things are secondary to training right now.

But in another year or two, there will come a time when that switches, when I’m still in the swimming world. I’m still swimming regularly. But the number one focus will be on producing those videos. And that’s OK. And that’s something that I’m looking forward to.

CHAMPION’S MOJO: Thank you for taking the time. This has been great, Cody. We appreciate it and good luck! We’ll be cheering for you!

Cody Miller: Awesome. Thank you guys so much. This was awesome. This was one of the most fun podcasts I’ve done in a while, so thank you so much!

CHAMPION’S MOJO is a weekly podcast for the Swimming Community, sharing interviews w/ elite level swimmers and coaches and conversations w/champions related to the sport of swimming and techniques champions use, in general to succeed in life. Your hosts Kelly Palace (Masters Swimmer) and Maria Parker (Endurance Cyclist) are both world-record holding, sister-in-laws and champions with a chemistry you’ll love. Odd numbered shows are interviews with the most elite swimmers and coaches in the sport. Even numbered shows are the hosts discussing topics related to performance, mindset, goal achievement, health, fitness and wellness.

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