I've just gotten off the phone with one of my sporting hero's, Ellie Simmonds and to say I'm over the moon is a understatement. I'm even more inspired by her having heard all the positive advice she had for young people, especially those thinking about taking up a competitive sport. Also, her infectious positive energy is so evident in our interview below. Ellie shares with us her thoughts on enjoying sport and making it a part of everyday life. Her love of banana bread. You'll also get chills when she recounts standing in front of the crowd at London Paralympics having just won 2 gold medals.
Hi Ellie Thanks so much for taking our call so tell us why we're here today with Vitality?
As a Vitality Ambassador I'm launching a campaign to get people fit and active again. I think its really important for people to fit fitness and exercise into their daily lives and seeing sport as a fun part of their day. Whether its doing a Yoga class or Zumba, exercising can be fun. There are so many ways that people can stay fit and healthy.
Ellie, what would you top 5 tips be for someone looking to take up a more healthy lifestyle?
1. Have a plan
2. Set short term goals - one's that you'll be happy to achieve and that don't seem like big obstacles
3. Set long term goals - set a goal to look toward like running a marathon or doing a swim race
4. Don't compare yourself to others - exercise is different for everyone and so you shouldn't compare yourself to others.
5. See exercise as fun - exercising isn't just about feeling fit, it can help with your mindset, it can motivate you. Sport should never be a chore. It should be something you like doing and that you enjoy
So Ellie you've been taking a year off I hear before you start training for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020? How have you been spending your time - just vegging on the couch watching Big Brother?
No, I could never just sit around. I always have to be doing something. I took a year off just to start doing things that a normal 22 year old would do. So I've been trying lots of other sports like Yoga, Pilates, Fit Steps and just enjoying myself.
I've done a lot of travelling too. I've gone to Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam...lots of different places so I'm just really enjoying it.
Where was your favourite spot?
Probably Australia or South Africa. In Australia, they have a really outdoorsy lifestyle there and they do lots of different sports and the weather is great. I really loved it.
I lived in Australia when I was a kid too (in Melbourne) and I thought it was great that they encourage children to get out and do sports from a really young age. You're just always outside and so the kids become naturally very sporty and fit. Would you agree?
Yes, the weather in Australia is fantastic, so it was nice when I was there to try lots of different sports. Like surfing! It's so different to be able to go down to the beach and surf.
They have a very healthy view on eating too, don't they? I know all of our food trends come from there, like the Raw Food craze thats happening now. Did you notice any trends while you were there?
Yes, they're really into Banana Bread. Everywhere you go, they have Banana Bread. It's just everywhere!
And they love their coffee too. Coffee is a big thing over there!
Speaking of kids being fit from a young age, you won your first Gold Medal at the Paralympics in Beijing at 13yrs of age.
What was that like as a 13yr old?
It was amazing! Unfortunately, I can't remember too much about the actual event. As a thirteen year old it was just so hard to take it all in. But to stand on the podium and win a gold in my first competitive race was just so unexpected. It was amazing and to be there with my team and enjoy it all together was just terrific.
And then you won a further two Gold Medals at the London Paralympics in 2016 - what was it like to win in front of a home crowd?
Oh (Ellie lets out an audible squeal of excitement), it was just unbelievable. To be able to win and stand up on the podium, sing the national anthem and hear the crowd singing too. It was just amazing! The atmosphere was terrific. I'll keep that memory of standing in front of that crowd for many, many years to come
And now you have Tokyo next? So when do you start training for Tokyo and whats an average day like for you when you are training?
Yes I start next month, so once I start I get back into the routine again. So its a 6-8a.m. swim and then again in the afternoon. In between we see a psychologist and a physiotherapist. So it's a full day and a full-time job but i'm excited to start training again and get back into that regime.
Obviously the Paralympics are on right now and we've all been glued to the screen. How important is it that audiences are seeing Paralympians as equal to Olympians in every way and cheering them on just as loudly?
I think it's terrific that now the Paralympics seems to be seen as another great sporting occasion and not necessarily as being about disability. We all compete as professional athletes so its terrific to get that recognition. It was really evident in London when so many people turned out to support us and just winning those gold medals was just fantastic!
I know you haven't had many disappointments in your sporting career, it just seems to be gold, gold, gold. But if you do perform badly or you're disappointed with yourself, how do you cope with that?
No I have been lucky, but I definitely didn't perform as good as I could have at last years championships. I usually just try to have a good outlook on it. I might be hard on myself the night of the performance and in my mind start running through where I went wrong and how I could have done better. But, in my head the next day I just think "its only swimming" and I just get over it and put it behind me.
I think thats a great message Ellie, not to dwell on disappointments too much and to have a positive mindset.
And if you could give advice to a young girl out there who is reading this and thinking about taking up competitive swimming, what would you say?
I'd say just have fun with it. Enjoy it. It's really important that you enjoy the sport that you do. I mean, I won't be doing this forever so i think it's really important to encourage the younger generations who will take our places and spur them on to be the best they can be and enjoy their sport.
Thank you Ellie for being such positive role model for people all over the world. Even though I'm based in Ireland I've been cheering you on just as loudly as those in Britain. You've really inspired a generation of young girls to become competitive swimmers and get involved in sport. Thanks!
And with that the call was over, but you can catch Ellie on the Last Leg on Channel 4 tonight where she'll be winning them all over with her stellar personality and charm no doubt. And make sure to follow her road to Tokyo from next month.
As an Ambassador for health and life insurer Vitality, Ellie Simmonds uses her passion for healthy living to inspire people to be active and make positive changes to their lifestyle. Visit www.vitality.co.uk for more information.
Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality, said: “We are delighted to have Ellie on board as an Ambassador. Ellie is an incredible young talent and already inspires many with her determination and focus. It’s a privilege to be working with her and sharing our collective passion for healthy living.”
Other Vitality Ambassadors include Jessica Ennis-Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Root and Jonny Wilkinson.