At only eleven years old, Seth Ingle is already a talented gymnast. In fact, he’s the current Yorkshire Champion and member of the Great Britain Foundation Squad. Seth was brought up on a vegetarian diet, and wants everyone to know you can be strong and healthy without eating meat. Here, we chat to Seth and his parents…
Hello Seth. Have you always been vegetarian?
Yes, and now I’m almost vegan.
Do you think there are any advantages to being a gymnast and being vegetarian?
People say athletes doing lots of training need to eat lots of protein from animals and lots of calories. I don’t each much food and I don’t eat meat but people are often impressed by how strong I am. I seem to be proof that you don’t need to eat lots of calories and protein from animals to do lots of training or be strong.
Do you think there are any downsides to being vegetarian as a gymnast?
I don’t think there is. I’m struggling to think of one, so there can’t be many!
How often do you train?
Before lockdown, I was training for over 20 hours every week. But my schedule has been affected and changed because of the lockdowns.
Have you been able to keep training even in lockdown?
We have not always been able to train at the gym during lockdown, but I have been able to keep training in different ways. When I have had to train at home, I have had home programmes written by my coach to do on my own, and I have done extra things on my own too. The gym has now organised Zoom sessions, and the Great Britain Foundation Squad has done the same. I’ve been able to keep my strength and flexibility up, but it’s harder to keep up with the skills when we haven’t been able to use the apparatus.
How is your daily diet different compared to people who are not in training?
I don’t think it’s that different – apart from one extra snack in the car on the way to training. We do have a long journey to the gym.
What’s your favourite meal and why?
That’s a hard one! I can’t choose one – it would have to be two… dad’s vegan curry and mum’s Sunday roast (with vegetarian substitutes).
Who’s the best cook? Your mum or your dad?
They are both good at making different things, so I don’t think I’d be able to choose!
What are your favourite veggie snacks when training?
If we do a double session, we have a break and my favourite snacks are dark chocolate and nuts.
What do your friends think about your gymnastic achievements?
My friends are really supportive, and they’re impressed by the things I can do.
Are any of your friends vegetarian?
No, none of them are. My friend was telling me how much he likes duck pancakes when I played with him online the other day. Obviously I don’t agree, but we get along fine!
How do you balance your training with your school work?
I have always been home schooled, but not because of my gymnastics. My older brother and sister were home schooled when I was born so I went to all the home schooling groups and activities ever since I was a baby! It’s been helpful though, because I can fit in school work around my training. I even do some school work on the long journeys to the gym!
How do you like to relax? Do you have any hobbies?
When I can, I like to see my big brother and sister because they are grown up and don’t live at home anymore. I like to read, play chess, see my friends and play with them online. I also like walking in the Peak District near my house and riding my bike.
What are you hoping to have done in the next five years?
My goal is to represent my country in international competitions.
Above: Seth demonstrating his gymnastic skill
And now, a quick chat with Seth’s mum and dad…
So, are the rest of the family vegetarian too?
We have both been vegetarian since our late teens. We have two older children in their mid-twenties who have always been vegetarian. Our daughter has been vegan for a good few years now. All our children have always been given the choice to be vegetarian or not.
We presume you have to consider Seth’s nutrition very carefully. Do you get any advice from coaches or trainers?
Both Leeds Gymnastic Club and British Gymnastics have given all squad parents general advice. As we have been vegetarian for a long time, we were already used to considering nutrition carefully – especially when we were younger and vegetarian and vegan foods were harder to come by. As the years went on, we have tended to eat more healthily generally and now we don’t tend to think of it so much anymore.
Have you got any good tips for creating healthy vegetarian dinners?
Lots of different coloured vegetables, a mix of vegetarian proteins, combined with alternating pasta, potatoes, gnocchi or rice gives a variety of nutritious healthy meals. Which means chips and pizza now and then is also fine!
What do you think of Seth’s achievements to date?
We are so proud of him. He does so much training – we don’t know how he does it sometimes. Gymastics is a hard sport and he’s been doing it since he was four years old. We are born and bred in Yorkshire, and are incredibly proud of him being Yorkshire Champion. We were so excited for him when he was selected for the Great Britain Foundation Squad. He was only nine at the time. It’s been an honour and a privilege for him.
To be an athlete at Seth’s level, you have to be very disciplined – where do you think he gets this from?
His coaches and his gymnastics club play a huge part in this. He has incredible coaching, which includes life lessons, and discipline is one.
Does Seth being a gymnast present any challenges for you?
It can bring angst, as well as pride, and the angst brings challenges. We worry about the choices made in order to do the training needed, and the impact of this on other areas of his life. It’s a challenge to keep trying to find ways for him to get some balance and not miss out on the other things that are important to him. Another challenge is we have to drive a 100 mile trip to his training and stay there as it’s too far to return home. Thankfully the gym has a parents’ area where we can do some work.
What do you think he gets out of it?
Seth gets a lot out of it. A sense of achievement, the thrill of learning a new skill, the happiness of doing well in competitions, the learning opportunities when it hasn’t gone so well, friendship, fun, teamwork, trust and respect for his coaches. The excitement of training at Lilleshall with the Great Britain Squad and learning how persistence, hard work and discipline helps him move toward achieving his ambitions.
What do you admire most about Seth?
When he sets his mind to do something, nothing seems to stop him until he’s achieved it. We also admire how kind and thoughtful he is. He’s also funny and good company.
What do you think it is that makes him winner?
From being a toddler, we realised how competitive he was. Not in a bad way, but he was always so determined to win no matter what he was doing. He seemed to have been born that way. So it’s probably that, combined with a natural talent for gymnastics and lots of hard work.
Do you get comments from coaches and other parents about him being veggie? Are people are supportive of it or critical?
People haven’t really commented – it’s not something that has been brought up. We just let them know when he is at the residential training with the Great Britain Squad at Lilleshall and they have plenty of vegetarian options in the restaurant.
What are your hopes and dreams for him?
Exactly the same for all our children: to be happy and healthy, and for us to be able to support him in anything he wants to achieve.
Above: Seth (in the red t-shirt) with his family
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