'Breathing exercises really help my mental health' - Tom Daley on how he keeps his body and mind fit17th Apr 19 | Lifestyle
Prudence Wade chats to the Olympian and new dad about everything from physical fitness to food.
He’s got a fair few medals under his belt, as well as a husband and a baby, and he’s only 24 years old. Professional diver Tom Daley has been in the spotlight since he was a pre-teen, so it’s perhaps no surprise he’s matured fast and accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time.
Baby Robbie – who was born via surrogate with husband Dustin Lance Black – came into the world last year, and even though Daley is currently fathering a nine-month-old as well as being in the midst of competition season, he seems more secure and calm than ever.
Daley, who is an ambassador for British Lion eggs, took some time out of his packed schedule to tell us about how he manages to take care of his mind and body on a daily basis.
Mindfulness has become a big part of Daley’s routine, as a way to “take care of my mind, as well as my body”, he says. “I started off using an app – I used Headspace for a while, and that helps teach you the basics. I’ve done that for a long time now – I don’t necessarily do it every morning, and sometimes I do it on my own.”
“I think lots of people get so ahead of themselves in thinking about what they’ve done wrong in the past, the things that might not have gone to plan, and worrying about what’s happening tomorrow, when all you can control is today and right now.”
The diving world is a competitive and stressful one, so breathing techniques have proved to be a saviour for Daley. “Breathing really does help my mental health,” he confesses. “If I had to do a horrible dive tomorrow, I would spend the afternoon thinking about it. I’ve got to the point with my mindfulness and breathing techniques now, where I can think, ‘What’s the point of spending the energy worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow when I’m not there yet?'”
As well as various techniques to calm his mind, fatherhood has brought about a huge shift in Daley’s thinking. “It changes your perspective on everything,” he says. “All the little things I used to find stressful or worry about feel so insignificant [compared] to being able to look after our child. Coming home from training and seeing his little smiling face waiting for me – there’s no better feeling.”
Before Robbie’s birth, Daley knew he had to take care of his body and train sensibly, so he could continue to compete at a high level – but now he’s much more concerned with being fit for his son.
With this in mind, he says he now does different things outside of the pool. He loves spinning, and supplements this with “lots of yoga and Gyrotonic”.
The Gyrotonic method describes itself as “an original and unique movement method that addresses the entire person by opening energy pathways, stimulating the nervous system, increasing range of motion, and improving strength and movement efficiency”. Using specialised equipment, classes are led through a sequence of natural movements designed to open up your body.
Regularly practice can help strengthen joints and increase mobility. It’s particularly well-suited to Daley’s gruelling training regime, because it helps relieve aches and pains, and can make the body more supple.
A big part of protecting your body is wrapped up in your diet, and this is something Daley is keenly aware of. “Over the last 18 months, I’ve been focusing on post-training recovery,” Daley says. “Eating right after training to help repair your muscles is something people massively overlook.”
His post-training go-to at the moment is eggs, as it easily helps him adhere to the 20:20 rule: “20 grams of protein immediately after training, within 20 minutes.” This ethos helps “boost muscle recovery and repair, so you can be at your peak, ready for your next training session”, he says. This is particularly important, because Daley isn’t your average gym-goer. “For me, it’s not a matter of doing one training session with a whole week to recover,” he explains. “I have to make sure I repair as quickly as possible.” When we speak, Daley is fresh out of his morning training session, and has just a few hours to rest up before going back to work again.
“Sometimes I just have boiled eggs, but when I have more time, I like to make a frittata,” he says. “I just chop up onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach and put it into a muffin tray (oil it, so it doesn’t stick), then you bake them and have these little omelette/frittata things. Having a couple of those hits your 20 grams and you’re sorted.”
You can really feel the passion in Daley’s voice – he absolutely loves cooking, and could talk about it for hours. “I find it really therapeutic,” he gushes. “I cook every single night when I get home, because it gives me a chance to switch off. I have some music on and I chat to Robbie.”
He’s keen to pass on his love of food and cooking to his son. “I learned baking from my grandparents – it wasn’t necessarily nice, healthy stuff,” he admits, “but it gave me the initial interest in cooking.”
In fact, when Daley was 16 he learned the basics at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon, and he’s been experimenting in the kitchen ever since. As well as educating himself on what will make his body work the best, it’s another way he boosts his mental health, and it allows him to be a bit more social. He says: “I love to cook for people, so I’ve always got friends stopping in each evening. I love eating food, I love making it, I love sharing it – it’s that social element to food that’s so important.”
Even though Daley is based in London, the nature of his job means he has to do a lot of non-stop travelling. “We don’t really get much time to acclimatise before we compete,” Daley says of arriving in a new country. “We leave on Monday, have training on Tuesday and then compete on the Friday – so we have to be quick to get ready.”
Because he’s been competing on the world stage since he was 12 years old, Daley has his flying routine down pat. “I’m so used to travelling now,” he confesses, adding: “I wear compression leggings on the plane to help keep my legs fresh, I wear flight socks, I try to get as much as sleep as possible and have one litre of water every two hours – or as close to that as possible.”
Luckily, he’s in the right profession for tackling jet lag quickly. “Fresh off the plane, the one thing that’s proven to be really great is immersing your body fully in water,” he says with a grin. “Not just taking a shower, but actually submerging yourself in water – going and getting in the pool and diving is a great way to get over jet lag.”
Tom Daley is an ambassador for British Lion Eggs and their #WonderEgg campaign. Visit eggrecipes.co.uk.
© Press Association 2019