An Olympic swimmer from Great Yarmouth has gone to new lengths in her bid to keep physically fit in a year where “working from home” has become the norm.
Paralympian Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, 24, hasn’t trained in a pool or gym since her visit to the UEA SportsPark in Norwich on Christmas Eve.
Across 2020 as a whole, sessions in the real thing were few and far between, and she’s had to get creative.
“I can’t even explain how much I miss training in a pool,” she said. “I’ve been getting up at 4am to go training for as long as I can remember, and I usually only get Christmas and Boxing Day off then two weeks in the summer. That’s literally it.
“Before the pandemic, every week I was doing eight two-hour pool sessions, eight stretching sessions, two one-hour weight sessions, a sports massage session and a chiropractic session.
“When everywhere closed I had to try and keep my fitness levels up by exercising at home but all the gym equipment was too expensive or sold out.
“I finally manged to find a road bike for sale and bought that, but had a terrible time trying to learn to ride it and was black and blue with bruises.
“Eventually I became a bit more confident and started to get faster, so tried building up my fitness through that alongside online classes and dog walking.
“BHTubs – a local hot tub company – had seen my efforts to keep going throughout the lockdown and they offered to support me with my recovery by providing me with a hot tub to soothe my bruises.
“I felt like I’d won the lottery. It was unbelievable when it arrived. It was delivered on the back of a lorry then lifted over the garden fence by a crane!”
When things re-opened, Jessica-Jane joined Great Yarmouth Cycling Club and threw herself into that, covering 23 miles in a fancy dress care home cycle-by over Christmas to say hello to the residents. She’s also got herself a squat rack for home weights workouts.
But the training that really mattered was only possible when her hot tub was upgraded to a swim spa.
She said: “I am so grateful for it.
“The swim spa has settings on it which I can turn higher or lower.
“These adjust the power of jets of water that push against me. I basically then am able to swim on the spot: the faster I wish to go the higher the jet speed needs to be. It takes a while to get used to and its hard to go out there when its icy but I really want to get to Tokyo so that’s what I have to do.”
The Paralympian said that despite the inventive ways she’s managed to keep fit during the pandemic, it’s still been”mentally tough”.
She said: “I think the hardest part has been watching other countries across the world still having access to pools and gyms for so long where as ours were all shut straight away and have barely reopened.
“I’ve loved spending more time with my dogs and I’m so happy I achieved learning how to ride a bike – so there are always positives in everything.”
Besides that, she says she has been “loving the fresh air”.
“I’m just trying to keep my mental health on track”, she added.
Throughout her career, she’s managed to bag herself 15 medals representing Great Britain in a variety of competitions – including a gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
The 24-year-old – who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – began swimming at Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club at a young age, before going on to compete in her first overseas competition in 2012 where she won two bronze medals for the 50m and 100m freestyle.
That same year, Jessica-Jane won the gold in the 200m freestyle while also setting a time of 2:12.63. Four years later, she took part in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and took home three medals – silver in the 200m freestyle, silver in the 200m medley and bronze the 100m backstroke.
The goal now is to get to Tokyo – whenever that may be.