Elena Orde interviews vegan freerunning athlete Tim Shieff on his daring lifestyle and ethical outlook.
Tim ‘Livewire’ Shieff is a professional freerunner and winner of the World Freerunning Championships. If you’ve not yet heard of this particular athletic field, think of it as a kind of urban gymnastics, with an emphasis on imagination, strength and grace of movement. Picture hanging off and jumping between buildings, performing handstands at dizzying heights, and you’ll be close to visualising the kind of tricks Tim gets up to.
Veganism as mindfulness
Since he became vegan, Tim has been passionate about promoting the lifestyle from an animal rights perspective.
“I prefer to engage people on an emotional and compassionate level," he says earnestly. "When I became vegan I stopped training for myself and started training with a purpose greater than my own. Veganism for me is about mindfulness. I do this to liberate animals.”
The healing diet
That said, as a result of Tim’s change in diet, he has seen a real improvement in his athletic performance.
“Before I went vegan I had tendonitis, and I would get joint aches and ligament strains, and my knees would be sore," he grimaces. "All that went away as soon as I switched to a wholefood plant-based diet. It’s anti-inflammatory, and your digestive system gets a break. Eating meat takes a lot more energy to digest, and so that energy can’t be spent healing other areas ofyour body.”
Tim believes that he wasn’t really an athlete until he went vegan. “I didn’t understand what it meant to be an athlete. I was big, muscularly, but I was swollen; it wasn’t ‘healthy big’. Now I’m leaner, sharper, quicker, and my mind’s sharper too.”
"Veganism for me is about mindfulness. I do this to liberate animals."
The running bug
Tim has recently been enjoying the more traditional kind of running – that which doesn’t involve backflips or scaling buildings. “I just got hooked on it,” he says, “and now I want to do it all the time.” I don’t have difficulty believing this, as Tim is out on a jog during our phone interview.
Having only started running less than a year ago, Tim’s progress has been nothing short of phenomenal. Completing his first marathon in April last year, he then took on the 100k London to Brighton ultramarathon in May. Taking 12 hours exactly, Tim wore a ‘Vegan Runners’ vest for the duration of the race, in the hope of inspiring interest in vegan living.
You may have seen Tim on the Ninja Warrior UK series last year, making it further through the obstacle course than any other competitor. Tim has just had another spell captaining Team Europe on the USA Ninja Warrior ‘USA vs the World’ competition, unfortunately narrowly losing the title they won in 2014 to their US hosts.
Tim is currently focusing his efforts on his YouTube channel, uploading athletic commentary, quick and easy recipe videos, and thoughtful meditations on veganism and animal rights.
Tim agrees that it’s an exciting time to be involved in the vegan world. Commenting on the mainstreaming of veganism, he believes we’re reaching a tipping point.
“It’s time. The next two or three years are going to be very interesting.”
By Elena Orde
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