Jess Sigsworth and Katie Zelem ahead of a Manchester United Women training session.

At home with... Katie Zelem and Jess Sigsworth

Over the coming days and weeks, ManUtd.com will be checking in with various members of the United Women squad, to find out how they’ve been staying fit, keeping a positive frame of mind and filling the gaps in the day since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

To kick things off, match programme editor Charlie Ghagan speaks to a pair of housemates – Reds skipper Katie Zelem and forward Jess Sigsworth...

Hi Katie. Hi Jess. How’s life in your house?
Jess: Okay, thanks. It’s just me and Zel here, in one of the club houses [outside Manchester and not too far from the team’s Leigh base]. Martha [Harris] used to live here also but she’s in another house now, so it’s just the two of us.

No pets to keep you company, like a few others in the squad?
Katie: No, we don’t need any pets!

Talk us through a typical day’s training for you right now?
Jess: We’ve all got quite a set programme we've got to follow at the moment. There are various challenges on some days that we need to focus on, but it’s generally getting up in the morning and doing our set routines.
Katie: The coaches are trying to get us to maintain a bit of structure from the training we would usually have. So we still have the same days off that we'd have if we were going in, and days that would be harder at training are still the harder days when we train at home. When we first finished training a couple of weeks ago we all got sent out training programmes for that week, and we’ve continued to follow that. By maintaining as much structure as possible, when we do go back to training it’ll be a little bit easier for everyone.

 

 

Any fitness tips for readers who might not have access to equipment?
Jess: If you can, go for a run once a day, which of course is allowed. If you’ve got no weights there are a lot of bodyweight exercises you can do – you can use the stairs, or different things in the house, to keep you fit.
Katie: As Jess says, there’s always a way with fitness, no matter what equipment you have. There are exercises you can find online and adapt to work for you. We're lucky in that we do have weights and equipment and we're able to continue as normally as possible, but if you don’t that doesn’t need to stop you.

Like the Frenchman who ran a marathon last week by doing laps of his seven-metre balcony…
Katie: I read about that this morning! Adaptability is really important right now, and this is a great example of that.
Jess: I heard about a man in this country who did the same in his back garden – 800 laps or so, which was the equivalent of a marathon. Amazing.

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What exercises have you been doing in your garden?
Jess: We've got quite a nice garden here – it’s a bit downhill but we can do quite a bit in it. We’ve got a rope set up so we get on that to keep fit, and we've got a football as well, of course, to do some ball work. The garden gets a lot of sun too, which is great. 
Katie: Even if you're not quite as active as we need to be for our jobs, it’s so important to get outside for some less vigorous exercise, or even just a walk, like my parents are doing.

How have you been staying in touch with your family members?
Katie:
Just before we went into lockdown, purely by coincidence I went home and visited by parents, which was nice to do before all this happened, especially as my mum works for the NHS so she's working really long hours at the minute. We message each other every day and FaceTime as much as possible, although it’s easier to speak to my dad as he’s off work and has a lot more spare time right now.

What does your mum do for the NHS?
Katie:
She works in the anaesthetic department of North Manchester Hospital and is involved with the scheduling, but they’ve cancelled all operations. Like so many others there, they’re being trained up to learn new skills so they can help out with the coronavirus.

And what about your family a bit further north, Jess?
Jess: I didn’t see my family massively when I was in training, although we’d have the odd call in the week, so I don’t think I’m struggling with not seeing my parents in the same way as others might be right now. FaceTime obviously helps though. My sister begged me to download the Houseparty app so we can interact more online, playing games and stuff, but I’d rather just stick to Zoom or FaceTime.

We hear the squad has been embracing the video chats in recent weeks…
Jess: Yep, we have Zoom calls organised for Tuesdays and Fridays, so we all get to chat to each other, and Casey will send over a few video messages also. It’s nice, and it’s important, to be able to stay in contact with everyone like that.

With no football on the box, everyone’s got a TV recommendation right now. What’s yours?
Katie: Don’t ask Jess, she hates any fictional series! [Laughs]
Jess: I just prefer stuff that’s real-life. I’ve started watching the F1 documentaries [Formula 1: Drive to Survive] on Netflix. I’m really enjoying that. And on 1 April one of my favourites will be coming back, Sunderland ‘Til I Die. The first one was so good and I’m so excited!
Katie: I’ll watch anything and everything, but when I’m trying to watch a series Jess likes to play videos [on her phone] over the top of it, so we have to separate and have a bit of alone time on occasion when it comes to watching TV! I’ve just started watching The Stranger, plus another Netflix drama called Paranoid, which are good. We’re still using Martha’s Netflix… although I’m not sure she knows that!

It’s also an ideal time to try and learn a new skill...
Katie:
I’ve been trying to learn Italian. Obviously I was there for a year or so [with Juventus in 2017/18] so I had semi-knowledge of the language, but once I moved home nobody really spoke it and I didn’t put any time or commitment into it and I fell off a bit. Now’s a good time to pick it back up again.
Jess: I haven’t looked into a new skill, but I have been reading a little bit, which I haven’t done for a while. The book’s called Becoming A Great Team Player [by Allistair McCaw and Denise McCabe]. It’s a book Casey gave to the whole squad, and it’s quite good actually.

The boss will be pleased. What about new skills in the kitchen?
Jess:
I cooked a big chicken pasta bake yesterday, with asparagus and broccoli on the side. Very nice.
Katie: We do share meals, although sometimes we cook individually as Jess is a fussy eater [laughs]. I’ve been cooking salmon, sticky chicken, all sorts, and on our day off we cooked a banana loaf together, which tasted good! I’m new and improved in the house – my mum actually called me a “domestic goddess” yesterday, which I welcomed!

How else have you been filling the hours in the day?
Jess: I’ve got a new watch which can track my running and fitness – I find that very interesting and it’s been passing a bit of time learning how to use it properly.
Katie: Social media is an easy way to fill time, but I’ve actually been trying to stay off it when I can, as it’s easy to get sucked into it with everything going on in the world right now. I have become a bit obsessed about reading up on the coronavirus, though. I’m always looking things up and telling Jess about statistics, which I’m not sure she appreciates!

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Any more traditional activities, such as board games or darts?
Jess: We don’t have anything like that. We play a bit of FIFA on the PlayStation if that counts? I’d love to get hold of some Crash Bandicoot games, which were childhood favourites for me.
Katie: Does sunbathing count as an activity? I did a bit of that last week in and around my training schedule.

Erm, it’s a ‘no’ on both counts there. What smaller thing are you going to miss in your lives in the weeks ahead?
Jess:
Getting my eyebrows and eyelashes done!
Katie: [Laughs] My eyelashes are going to need doing in a few days’ time!

Can you not do each other’s?
Katie:
Definitely not, I’d be scarred for life!
 
Fair enough. And finally, do you have a message for the United fans stuck at home?
Jess:
Just please stay at home, and stay safe. At the moment the main priority for everyone is just to stay safe. Hopefully we’ll all be back at the football soon.
Katie: Although it’ll seem like a long time without football right now, we have so many seasons ahead of us, regardless of whatever happens with the current season. Like Jess says, everyone’s health is the most important thing right now. No doubt football will resume at some point so we need to look forward to it, and we’ll enjoy it more than ever when it does.

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