Adam Peaty, one of the best swimmers in the world, has been banned from swimming – by his Strictly dance partner!
The triple Olympic gold medallist has temporarily changed his focus from the pool to the Strictly Come Dancing dance floor – and says his dance partner, Katya Jones, won’t let him swim at the moment.
“I’m not swimming at all, not just yet – Katya won’t let me swim,” Peaty reveals. “I just have to do training and dancing all the time. But by the end of October, I’m probably going to have to swim, obviously I’ve got future championships that I want to win, and I want to get a balance.
“I do miss the swimming now and then, if I can’t get a dance move right. I miss the swimming because I’m good at it – but I also love dancing,” he admits.
Peaty, 26, made history at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics when he became the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title, in the 100m breaststroke. And he’s now – albeit temporarily – transferred the single-mindedness and dedication needed to become an Olympic great to mastering his fancy footwork.
“There’s a lot of training for Strictly – it’s pretty much every day – and a lot of hours spent around the show as well, with filming and interviews,” he says. “It’s very demanding, but it’s going to be – it’s dancing, people do this for 25-30 years of their life, and to try and get up to speed with that, you have to put in the hours. But I’m having fun.”
Although it’s early days for the series when we speak, it seems putting his heart and soul into dancing may pay off – with his first dance on Strictly, he “effortlessly” secured an impressive score, with the judges describing his and Jones’s performance as “amazing” and “incredible”.
So, how does this phenomenal swimmer and now snake-hipped dancer, who is also a dad to one-year-old son George with girlfriend Eirianedd Munro, find the energy?
“My diet is very, very wide, because I have to get so much food in. I try to keep it balanced, but also quite new – it’s all about protein for me, and I love soya yoghurt and custard,” says Peaty, whose high-octane career needs serious fuel.
A few years ago, Peaty tried going completely vegan but says he eventually abandoned the idea because he lost muscle mass. The motivations behind the move are still important to him though, and he says he’s “not fully vegan or fully vegetarian but I try and implement them into my life”, and doesn’t rule out trying an entirely plant-based diet again at some point.
“I might try veganism again in the future – from an environmental aspect, 100%. We all need to wake up and play our part in terms of our environmental input. I used to eat red meat up to three times a week, but now I eat it rarely, maybe once every three or four weeks. I think our diets will naturally shift to that.
“I think people get it wrong, where they have to be vegan and that’s it. It’s all about balance, and that’s what I got wrong when I didn’t eat any meat. If we all reduced our intake of meat, which is responsible for huge carbon emissions, and started to take up a diet that’s more healthy for ourselves and the planet, I think we’d enjoy it a lot more.”
That’s balance with diet sorted, but what about finding balance between work and play. How does he like to relax?
“Dancing, at the moment,” he says, laughing. “Dancing is my relaxation and my work. To be honest, I relax through music – I’ve always loved music and engage with it to manipulate my energy and understand life a little bit more – and films, if I get the chance to watch one. But I usually get in most days at 9pm so I don’t have any chance to relax, and I’m always away.”
He says he grabs “little snippets of the day”, like his lunchbreaks, to switch off a bit. “You never know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so I try and make the most of today,” Peaty reflects. “Free time is a scarce resource in my life, and it’s gone even more scarce now. All my energy is going into my work – my dancing. It’s difficult, very difficult, especially when you’ve got a young boy – but that’s what I have to do,” he admits.
“I’m not really getting much time to see my son. It’s hard being a dad, but obviously the most rewarding and brilliant thing that I’ve ever done. I make decisions now based on how he’s going to perceive it – what matters in the long-term for him. It’s less self and more him.”
Peaty says he’s looking forward to George, who was only 10 months old during Tokyo, being able to watch him swim at the Paris Olympics in 2024 – and even the LA Olympics in 2028, depending on how well he swims in Paris and how he progresses thereafter.
“As I live, I leave a legacy – whether that’s good or bad is about perspective – and I want to make sure that my decisions are the right ones,” stresses the proud dad. “I’ll make mistakes, of course I will, but I will also hopefully make plenty of good choices.”
Will those choices include supporting his son if he wants to be a swimmer like his daddy? Peaty says he’d be happy if George wanted to be a swimmer, but admits: “It’d be hard, it’s a very hard sport. I’d let him try lots of sports, but if he really wanted to do swimming then I’d support that wholly, definitely.”
He says it’s “a given” that he wants to set a good example for his child, and when it’s pointed out that surely he’s already done that, he refers to his next dance on Strictly and says, wryly: “We’ll wait and see on Saturday, shall we?”