Interview

Tom Daley: “I want to make it accessible for people to feel healthy”

January 9th 2017 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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We talk diving, his new book - Tom’s Daily Plan - fitness tips and abs of steel with one of Team GB’s brightest stars

Few Olympians are as recognisable nor as well loved as Tom Daley. Winning gold at the European Championships aged just 13, his projects both in and out of the pool have seen him cultivate a career that transcends the diving board and garner a legion of loyal fans that spans generations. Now 22 and with a wealth of experience under his belt, his new book Tom’s Daily Plan looks to not only share the valuable nutrition and exercise tips he’s learned as an athlete, but to also change perceptions of what healthy living entails too.

Sharing his insider knowledge on how to make healthier food and effective fitness affordable and sustainable (read our review here), attainability and accessibility are key themes that run throughout, with Tom using his experiences performing on sport’s highest platforms to strengthen both body and mind. Recipes are delicious, exercises practical - a combination certain to appeal to those who’ve struggled to make healthy meals and time-efficient workouts work for them.

How does Tom himself stay physically and mentally strong? We caught with him to find out and to talk all things diving, healthy eating and fitness motivation.

GTG: What was your inspiration behind the book and who would you say it’s for?

TD: It started last year when I was doing my YouTube videos. I was covering fitness routines, life hacks, drinking lemon water, sleep tips, goal setting and those kinds of things, and then the idea of the book came up. I've always been a lover of food - if I'm not diving or sleeping, I'm usually eating - and I went to cookery school, so I've always been a fan of being in the kitchen. I started writing down the recipes for the things that I cook day in day out and then thought about how to make healthy eating accessible for people who don't have much time, as well as for those who think eating healthy foods is impossible. So I made it so that you can get all the ingredients for the recipes on your way home - at your Sainsbury's Local, Tesco Express - so you don't have to go to a major store to get specialised ingredients. They're also really quick to make and the home workouts I’ve included only take 20 minutes to do. You don't need any equipment whatsoever. I also touch on mindfulness as well, because it's not just about physical health but mental health too.

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GTG: We really liked the 'Eat, move, live' ethos of the book. That and the ‘life hacks’ you recommend make everything that much more sustainable don’t they?

TD: Exactly, because if you can’t have a book that's just about losing weight through boiled chicken and a piece of broccoli. The aim isn't to crash, it's about changing your lifestyle to feel healthier and happier.

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GTG: The recipes all look delicious. Have you always been a good cook and how did you get into it?

TD: When I used to go to my grandma and grandad's house, we always used to bake cakes and buns. Then as I got older, I started making soups with them and then I went on to making a pasta bake - the recipe is actually in the book. After that, I just got more and more involved in food and wanted to always be in the kitchen and when I was about 16, I went to Ashburton Cookery School and did six weeks there. I just loved learning about food because as an athlete, food is fuel and all you think about doing is eating in order to be able to be best prepared for training competitions. That's something that I've had to really focus on. Having the right amount of brainpower - the right focus and attitude throughout life is what it’s about and that's not just for athletes; it's for people going to work, going into an exam, going to school...eating the right things can fuel your brain to be as good as it can be.

GTG: We found the part in the book where you talked about creating your own food rituals really interesting. What are yours and why are they so important to you?

TD: One of the main things I do every morning is drink lemon water. I also do my 10 minutes of meditation and then I go on to making breakfast. I think having a bit of a plan about what you're going to eat rather than quickly grabbing something is important. In the book, you can take a photo of the recipes and just get the stuff you need on your way home plus, there are also lots of things you can cook that you'd usually have the ingredients for in the house any way.

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GTG: The setting goals section also resonated with us. What are the goals that motivate you most?

TD: I think goals are really important for anyone - whether you're an athlete or not, in terms of being able to see what you need to do and being able to achieve them each day. My main goal is to win an Olympic gold medal in 2020, but that doesn't just happen overnight. I have to set myself medium term, long and short term goals and break it all down so it's manageable, rather than get overwhelmed by the fact that I need to get to an end goal. This year, we've got the World Championships but before that, we've got Nationals, the World Series and another National Championships and then it all starts again for the next year. There's lots of things coming up.

anything can happen in competition. You've just got to keep fighting until the very end

GTG: We’d love to have an insight into your training routine. If we were to look in your workout diary, what would we find?

TD: When I started diving, I only trained every Saturday morning and then it increased and increased as it went on and now I'm doing six hours a day, six days a week. It's pretty intense and it’s why I have to eat. If you’re training that much, you have to adjust your portion sizes so the book’s targeted to people who are doing the 20 minute high intensity interval training and those doing an hour of exercise a day. After each exercise, there are also snack recommendations too, so that's how you add in your calories, rather than just doing it all at once. They’re spread out across the day.

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GTG: In terms of the workout plan, could you talk us through it and its key principles?

TD: There are different levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced and if you find it hard to do certain exercises at first, there are adapted versions too. Being able to track your progress and go from beginner to intermediate and then to advanced ensures you feel like you're constantly advancing. There's a different workout for each day and as each week goes on, it should get easier and easier.

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GTG: What would be your advice for those who struggle with their ‘middle management?’ Do you think women need to do different exercises to men?

TD: Because these workouts are all bodyweight based, you don't need to add anything to them - they're good for everyone. You're not going to get a good midriff by doing exercise solely though - they always say ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ and it's kinda true to a certain extent. You have to eat healthily and be pretty lean in order to be able to start seeing definition, and these exercises will help because interval training is something that can really help you to burn fat quickly.

GTG: Can both men and women do the exercises in the book?

TD: Both men and women will be able to do them and feel the benefits just as much as each other. Anyone can start at any level and it's only 20 minutes, so you can fit them into your day whenever too.

GTG: What's on your workout playlist?

TD: It's always a bit of a variety. Usually I just use Spotify Discover Weekly and it kind of knows me or, when we're actually training, my coach just puts her music on and a range of things come out on there! Sometimes the Bee Gees, sometimes Elvis and then sometimes you’ll get Sean Paul or David Guetta...there's a random bunch of things.

GTG: How do you stay mentally strong?

TD: I do 10 minutes of meditation every morning. I think it's really important to give yourself that bit of headspace to be able to just sit there and focus on your breathing. It really does reset everything and makes you feel calm and collected and ready to go.

GTG: What goes through your mind just before you're about to dive and how do you focus?

TD: I focus more on my breathing and I think about the process of the dive and what I need to do in order to make it good. I don't think, ‘I need to get a 10 on this dive,’ but I think about the arm swing, the jump, the reach and the shape as it comes and focus on being in the moment.

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GTG: Do you have any pre-dive rituals?

TD: I've got a bit of a routine. I always have a drink at the bottom of the stairs and then I'll go onto the 5 metre board, which is halfway up, cover my eyes and do a visualisation of the dive. Then on the next board up, I'll do a physical run through, like swinging my arms and practising the movements and so by the time I get to 10 metres, in theory, I've already done the dive, so I just go out and do it. It’s like a mental and physical rehearsal, followed by the real thing.

GTG: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given and who gave it to you?

TD: There have been a couple of things, but "Work hard and success will follow," has always stuck with me. It was given to me by Leon Taylor, one of the divers who got a silver medal in Athens and does the commentary now. I had a British Diving Calendar when I was about nine and I used to run around asking the divers to sign it - it's what Leon wrote in it. It always sticks in my head and is something I try to work by.

GTG: What would you say has been the best thing you've learned thus far?

TD: I think the fact that it's never over until it's over, because anything can happen in competition. You've just got to keep fighting until the very end.

GTG: What does the future holds for you? A workout DVD or any other projects outside of the pool?

TD: I don’t know what the future holds, but I've been doing lots of videos on my YouTube channel already, so I guess in that sense, I've already kind of released a DVD. I want to make it accessible for people to be able to feel healthy, energised and focussed and I think it makes you feel happier when you feel like you're doing the right thing.

Tom’s Daily Plan, £16.99, buy online here.

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