"My wife, she's like, 'I kind of want a bigger family.' I'm like, 'Okay. Can we wait until after 2020?' " Ryan Lochte tells PEOPLE about having more kids

By Adam Carlson and Karen Mizoguchi
December 02, 2019 02:10 PM

Ryan Lochte is training hard to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but this time around, he has many more priorities than just himself.

Since the Rio games in 2016, the 12-time Olympic medalist has married wife Kayla Rae Reid and the couple have welcomed two children: 5-month-old daughter Liv Rae and son Caiden Zane, 2.

Lochte, 35, spoke with PEOPLE recently at NBC and Team USA’s promo shoots, candidly opening up about how his life has focused on not only being a parent, but also being in top competition shape.

Calling his work-life balance “the hardest thing I’m doing right now,” the swimmer says he’s “struggling” with the two important parts of his life, though it’s all rewarding.

“Being able to train at the highest level that I can and going to the swimming pool, training and then coming home, I don’t have the luxury of taking naps because I have two kids that want to play with their daddy,” Lochte says. “I have to have all this energy when I get home to play with them all day.”

“Then I don’t get a nap, and then I go back to afternoon practice and do it all over again,” he adds. “So it is very hard in that sense of time management and having my body recover, which I don’t get. But they’re sacrifices that you have to make. I’m enjoying it. I’m loving it.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Fortunately, the dad of two leans on his wife, whom he married in September 2018. “She watches the kids when I’m gone for practice, but at least then my practice is only two hours. We take turns,” Lochte shares. “I love just playing with them. If I’m watching or playing with the kids, she can go do the dishes or clean, and vice versa.”

“We definitely do really good in that sense, and we always love being together,” the athlete says of Reid, 28, and their little ones. “We’re always together, just hanging out with the family.”

Lochte has always striven for greatness in his sport, but admits he didn’t expect to have the love and support he has now in a wife and children.

“I’m really big on family. I always pictured myself having kids but didn’t think that was realistic. And definitely not having a wife,” he tells PEOPLE. “When I was younger, I was a little playboy. I was just young and ready to mingle. I guess you just had to wait until you found the right one. And I did it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Ryan Lochte Met His Wife Kayla on Instagram and Knew “She Was the One” After Their First Date

Raving about his life now, Lochte happily shares how “freaking awesome” it has been with his wife and kids.

“I love it. I’m so happy with my life and the way things are going right now. If this was all said and done now, I’d be happy,” he says. “Just because I’m obsessed with being a dad. It is the greatest thing in the world.”

The star adds, “I knew I was going to be a good father, just because I know how I am and how big my heart is. I’m always on cloud nine. I never have a bad day since my kids have been born.”

But he also admits that fatherhood “gets frustrating at times,” especially “when they don’t sleep or they’re being bad. But I look at them, their faces, and I glow. I start crying because I’m so happy. It’s awesome.”

As for expanding their family, Lochte reveals that he’s asking his wife to wait until after the Olympics, in the case that he qualifies for his fifth games. “I’m so happy right now because I’ve always wanted a boy and then a girl, in that order. And I got it, I had it perfect,” he says. “And my wife, she’s like, ‘I kind of want a bigger family.’ I’m like, ‘Okay. Can we wait until after 2020?’ ”

With his family’s love and support, Lochte is more determined than ever for the next chapter in his swimming career.

“I just have a different drive than I ever had before. When my kids were born, I started getting a fire back inside me and I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been, which is crazy because I’ve done so much in the sport,” he says.

“But this is a whole new different feeling, and I’m excited to see what I’m capable of doing. I’m a different athlete for sure,” Lochte adds. “Just in the sense [that] I’m a dad now. I guess I have that dad strength.”

To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin next summer, airing on NBC.