Name: Tim VanOrden
Birthplace: Bennington, VT
Current Residence: Venice, CA
Sports: Track & Field, Road Racing, Mountain Running, Stair Climbing
Why did you become vegan?
I switched to a vegan lifestyle in 1998. At the time, I was an actor in Los Angeles and was concerned with keeping the signs of aging at bay. Since that time, I have experienced a complete physical and emotional transformation. I could now cite numerous reasons for choosing this lifestyle, such as animal cruelty, health, environmental impact, and most recently, improved athletic performance.
My transformation took another leap forward in 2004 when I became a raw vegan, excluding all cooked and processed foods. This choice was motivated by a desire to improve my health, but the impact has been all encompassing. The vitality and energy that I now experience are remarkable, I feel like I'm twenty years old again.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I have been interested in athletics since I was a very young boy. I remember watching the Munich and Montreal Olympic games and wanting to be like the athletes I saw on TV. I tried to make an Olympic team myself in my late teens in Cross Country skiing, but I fell quite a bit short and then retired at the age of 20.
When I switched to a raw vegan diet in my late 30's, I felt a renewed energy. I felt like I was 20 again. So at the age of 37 I made a comeback as an athlete to see what was possible on a raw vegan diet.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I'm a 100% raw vegan (predominantly organic). My diet consists of uncooked, unprocessed, whole fruits,vegetables and a few nuts and seeds. No supplements of any kind. On a daily basis I will have many different types of fruit and a large salad with many different types of vegetables in it. My total daily caloric intake is around 1,500 calories. Far below what sports nutritionists would recommend for someone with my training schedule… and yet I build and carry too much muscle for a runner… figure that one out.
How would you describe your training program?
I run 6 days a week. Mileage per week is between 45 and 65 miles. The vast majority of my runs (unless mountain trail) are done at a 6:40 to 7:10 pace. Twice a week I'll do a hard run; one being uphill for 20 minutes to an hour, and the other being a "flat" road race at a 5:00 to 5:20 pace. I also incorporate some form of leg strength and leg strength endurance 3 times a week,
i.e. stationary bike, elliptical machine, squats, lunges, stairmaster. For the leg strength endurance, I'll engage in an activity at a barely sustainable pace for 15:00 to 25:00 – this simulates the leg burn experienced in a stair climb race.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
As part of the Running Raw experiment, I don't take any supplements of any kind. I get all my nutrition from off the shelf fruits and vegetables.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
You don't get enough protein. You are vitamin B12 deficient. You don't get a good quality heme iron and are most likely anemic. We care about animals more than we care about people. We are all "hippies". We are weak and unmotivated.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
The mind. Not letting the ego determine what the body should look like and perform like. Listen to your body, be one with it. Fight with it, not against it.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I love the community aspect of it. I love being a part of a larger conscious community. Physically, the benefits are numerous: sounder sleep, less mind chatter, improved recovery from exercise, stronger immune system, improved eyesight, etc… it's a win win lifestyle.
What do you like best about being fit?
I believe that ALL human beings are born athletes. When I'm in good shape and expressing myself physically, EVERYTHING in my life seems to come into line. I feel like I'm being my purpose in those moments.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
Strength is first and foremost in the mind. I have an enormous community supporting me on this athletic journey, and that gives me confidence and purpose. Confidence and purpose give me the strength of mind to train as hard and as often as I need to, and they allow me to rest and recover as I need to. When you are training and competing for someone else other than yourself it allows you to bypass a lot of the games that your ego will play on you. This is a tremendous strength for an athlete to possess.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Don't listen to the naysayers. There are so many examples of successful vegan athletes out there. Find one and learn from them. Find a mentor. Seek community. Have confidence that you are making the right choice, no matter what anyone says to the contrary.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
The same answer as above: Find a mentor. Seek community. Have confidence that you are making the right choice, no matter what anyone says to the contrary. The current state of the world and America is NOT sustainable. Choosing to live a vegan lifestyle is a great step towards sustainability. You are making a difference, remember that.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
I am committed to my mission: to show the world that athletes who eat exclusively raw, whole, plant foods can not only stand atop the world stage, but can achieve levels of performance not possible on a conventional diet. I hope to inspire other athletes to take up this challenge and leave doping and steroids behind. As this movement grows, my dream is for these athletes to become role models for children, and help to educate people around the world about the benefits of choosing this lifestyle; for athletics is a language that transcends, race, religion and politics. It is a universal language capable of inspiring all that witness it's expressions of grace, power and speed.
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
Robert and I are pretty much doing the same thing. We have the same mission of being examples of what's possible on a plant based diet, and inspiring others to join in our cause. I love what Robert is doing, and when I feel alone in the fight, I will check out veganbodybuilding.com to see what he is up to and it always re-inspires me.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
Make it fun, make it a part of your life. The alternatives are not pleasant.
Thank you so much!
The Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Team