Interview with Rob Tilling: Vegan Cyclist
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Thursday, 07 March 2013
Rob Tilling has been vegan for over 20 years and will not be going back to animal exploitation. He is a determined environmentalist who avoids motor vehicle use and aeroplanes as well. Many aspects of Rob’s life are geared towards a "green" result. He loves to cook quality, vegan, and whole food meals but still enjoys a bit of cake or chocolate from time to time.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I became aware of animal rights issues gradually as I grew up and by the time I was a teenager I understood that I would become a vegetarian. It just seemed like an obvious thing to do. As a teenager, I came across veganism and only spent around a year as a vegetarian before giving up milk and eggs. I found milk consumption distasteful throughout childhood and I do not believe that I can digest it properly so the giving up of dairy was very easily achieved.
How long have you been vegan?
Over 20 years
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
My weight has become stable and I am no longer over-weight. As a child, I was always carrying extra pounds.
What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism is now second nature to me. I have spent my adult life as a vegan and it makes up a large part of my identity. Veganism impacts upon many areas of life; social; political; work; lifestyle, etc and it cannot be unwoven easily from my life without questioning every part of my behaviour and motivation. It has become part of me and I generally do not even think of it, having been following a vegan lifestyle for such a long time.
What sort of training do you do?
I am a cyclist. I cycle around 1000 miles per month. More in the summer and a bit less in the winter. I cycle for utility, work and leisure as well as in organised rides and for "personal development."
How often do you (need to) train?
I will do at least one 50-80 mile ride every weekend, but this can easily be doubled in the summer. I will sometimes ride on an evening, after work, 3-4 times in the summer months and even on dark, cold winter nights I attempt at least one or two rides through the week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
No, I am willing to try and push beginner cyclists along where possible but they are not cycling at my level. I have taken new road cyclists out on occasion and introduced them to rides, which are a little longer than they are used to!
What sports do you play?
I have never considered myself to be a true sportsman. I cycle and attempt to run and climb at a very basic level. I enjoy walking, in particular up hills and fells - or even mountains.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do
you address this?
Perhaps the notion that we are torturing ourselves by depriving ourselves of the joy of eating flesh and dairy. All I can do to address this is to look happy with the delightful meals I prepare myself on a daily basis, come across as a lover of food and be knowledgeable about the very wide range of foods available to vegans.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
Not having to feel the urge to stuff in "crap" when visting cafes. I carry decent food and enjoy it whilst others fork in heaps of lard and cream.
What is your biggest challenge?
Cycling Lands End to John O'Groats (the length of Britain) - I haven't done this yet.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Occasionally, but generally I feel that cyclists have a negative attitude to veganism.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes, they have had to get used to it. If they want to have me visit or visit me then vegan food needs to be on the menu.
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
Perhaps "Oh, that must be difficult" to which I reply that it isn't hard to prepare delicious vegan meals at home when my cupboards are over-flowing with quality vegan whole foods. I point out that vegans typically have a far greater culinary and dietary repertoire than most "conventional omnivores."
Who or what motivates you?
I am self-motivated. If I were the only vegan in the world, I'd still not start eating animal products. Die hard.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Porridge with sultanas and banana or muesli followed by toast and yeast extract. Some fruit usually too. Strong tea if I'm riding or chamomile tea otherwise. If I've ridden a lot the day before I usually eat some corn cakes with peanut butter and jam as well.
Lunch - Mostly just fresh fruit - a lot of apples and oranges in particular and rarely bananas.
Dinner - Curries and rice or chapatti, Stews with dumplings, Soups, Roasts, Pizza, Sushi, Pasta dishes and plenty more. Usually I look to see which vegetables need eating up and add beans, pulses or tofu to it. I'll serve it with whatever starchy food goes best with it.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - A lot of dried figs and dates. I don't get much of a kick from eating junk food and almost never eat crisps or drink fizzy drinks. I have chocolate and biscuits from time to time. If it's cake then I'd like a fruit cake best of all - these "treats" are rare though.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Chick peas or "braised" tofu (it comes in a tin)
Calcium - Figs - by far
Iron - Beetroot and green leafy stuff
What foods give you the most energy?
Do you take any supplements?
from the Vegan Society (UK) - for B12 and vitamin D in Winter. It contains other nutrients too.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Eat some protein every day and vary the source.
Losing weight - Cut back on the big portions of starchy food.
Maintaining weight - Exercise regularly. Eat organic whole foods. Do not eat junk foods including hydrogenated fats.
Improving metabolism - Cycle regularly and quickly
Toning up - Cycle regularly
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By being active and staying fit and healthy. By staying happy and continually challenging the misconceptions about veganism by getting on with life and not dwelling on the petty nature of some people who feel threatened by our life-style.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Get a decent (light) bike. Get some quality instruction on how to cycle safely. Ride whenever and wherever possible. Stop eating animal products and junk foods today.