Tom Daley on his Olympic hopes, recovery routine and how he’s become a ‘double stitcher’ in lockdown

Liz Connor speaks to the diving champ about the road to Tokyo, and how knitting and yoga are helping him to switch off from the pressure.

Tom Daley
Tom Daley

After spending a good proportion of lockdown swapping swimming trunks for nappies as a stay-at-home dad to his son Robbie Tom Daley is back to long training days at the pool – in fact, he’s chatting to me over Zoom with wet hair, having grabbed a quick moment for interviews between dives.

The Olympian and double World Champion diver is hopeful about bringing home another medal for Team GB at this year’s rescheduled Tokyo Games, having famously made his debut at the Olympics in Beijing, aged just 14.

Now 27, life is a bit different for Daley, having welcomed the arrival of his first child with husband Dustin Lance Black in 2018. We chat to the two-time Olympic bronze medallist about his fitness routines, the importance of recovery and how his mindset around sport has changed over the past decade.

What’s your training routine like at the moment?

“The pre-season training is when we’re at our most intense, but right now, there’s less than 30 days to go [until the Olympics], which is crazy, as it feels as though it’s coming around so quickly.

“We’re doing nine training sessions each week, and each one consists of an hour to an hour-and-a-half in the gym, and then the same amount of time in the pool.”

How do you recover from your intense training sessions?

“I do a Gyrotonic session [a training method that mixes yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and t’ai chi] twice a week. Even on my days off, I like to do active recovery, so something that’s going to improve my flexibility and mobility, to allow me to dive better.

“I take ice baths and apply ice to my arms, and I like to use recovery compression boots – you put your legs inside them and they compress to improve the blood flow to the area.”

You’re a big fan of knitting, and have even created your own knitting page on Instagram. What is it about it that relaxes you?

“I started knitting just before lockdown. It was initially Lance’s idea, because he sometimes saw people on set [Black is screenwriter and director] knitting these little squares as a way of switching off and focusing on one thing.

“I found a YouTube video and tried to teach myself, which didn’t go very well, so I got an Australian diver, a Russian diver and one of the Chinese coaches to teach me.

“As an athlete, it’s just as important to sit down and recover, but I struggle to stay in one place, and if there’s a cupboard that needs sorting out, I’ll do that instead.

“[Knitting] was a way of me being able to slow down in the evenings. There’s something really rewarding about being mindful and present, but then also creating a piece of clothing that you can give to someone as a gift.

“I started crocheting last summer, so now I’m a ‘double stitcher’, if you like.”

So, once the athletics career is over, would you start your own knitting shop?

“That’s the dream – to just literally knit and crochet all day, somewhere sunny, on a beach.”

Has becoming a dad changed the way you’re approaching this Olympic Games?

“It’s shifted my perspective massively. In the previous Olympics, I was defining myself as a person on how well I did in the competition.

“I put so much pressure on myself to do well, whereas now, going into competition, I know that Lance and Robbie are going to be at home cheering me on. I know they’ll love me regardless of whether I do terribly or really well.

“Knowing that has really allowed me to take the pressure off myself, so I can actually go and enjoy it. Lots of athletes are guilty of trying so hard for this four-year period, and then when you get [to the Games], you torture yourself through the whole experience – even though you’ve dreamed of it for so long.

“Now, I’m going to soak it up. I think you’re able to dive better that way, because you’re actually having fun.”

You’ve teamed up with Vodafone to create a yoga routine called VodaYoga, to help combat the effects of home working. How important is staying active to you?

“In the first lockdown, it was really hard to keep motivated, especially with pools and gyms closed. Doing yoga myself really helped me to connect my mind and body, so we wanted to design something that got people up and moving.

“There are different versions, so people can do 12, 26, or 34 minutes of yoga, depending on their fitness level.

Vodafone EVO – Tom Daley launches VodaYoga, London, 30th June 2021

“Being active just makes me happy. I find it really difficult to sit still. People often don’t look forward to lifting weights in the gym, but there are so many different ways to be active, and it’s about finding what works for you.”

Tom Daley has teamed up with Vodafone to create VodaYoga, a yoga class specifically designed help get the nation in its most flexible state of body and mind, to celebrate the launch of Vodafone EVO – its new flexible mobile offering. For more information visit vodafone.co.uk.

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