Hi Fabien! You are actually our first french guest in the interview series and we are really curious about your fitness passion. Can you introduce yourself to our community?
Fabien: My name is Fabien, I am a French trail runner and I have been vegan for 5 years after years of vegetarianism. At the dawn of my 40s, after quasi 20 years of being a couch potato, I decided to start running.
When did you become vegan and what were the reasons behind?
Fabien: My wife Francesca and I were vegetarians, we had been thinking about veganism for a while. On a summer day of 2012, we watched the now classic speech of Gary Yourofsky “Best speech you will ever hear” together. We didn’t say a word until the end, then we looked at each other, we kind of nodded just saying a timid “ok”, acknowledging our life would never be the same from that moment on.
It took us the time it needs to watch the documentary to become vegan. We emptied the fridge of milk and cheese. We were vegan. Already as vegetarians, our motive was ethical, for the animals. Of course, health and eating a balanced diet is important, but the main reason is and will remain for the animals.
Kathrin: When reading your blog I also saw that you recommend your readers some more videos, e.g. to watch Earthlings. I saw it myself already being a Vegan but still felt so ashamed what humans and society did and still do to animals. When we did public screening of earthling me, being the host of that event, wasn't able to watch all scenes again ... I think that is what we call empathy.
What a pleasure to meet fellow ehtical vegans as you and your wife are!
Let’s talk about sport. What are you compassionate about?
Kathrin: Have you always been a fit vegan or when did your fitness journey start? How do you motivate yourself to stay on track even when days are busy?
Fabien: Talking about sport, I can say my life can be cut in 3 chapters. When I was a teenager until my 20s, I was a mountain bike fanatic. We talk about the late 80s, early 90s, when mountain bike was still a new sport invented by bike freaks somewhere in California and Colorado mountains in the USA. You didn’t see that much mountain bikers around at that time. It was cool, refreshing, badass, with a sense of great freedom to be able to roam in the forests and mountains on a supersize bike.
Then, real life strikes, and the first job arrives. Adulthood meant quitting all kind of activities, except some hiking now and then: living in the beautiful north-eastern mountains of Vosges here in France, loving nature and wilderness, it is inevitable. This chapter lasted almost 20 years (scary!).
Kathrin: I totally feel with you! I think most of our readers know how busy weeks, office hours and change of life circumstances make it really hard to keep good routines up. There can be only weeks between going to the gym or running several times a week, skipping one or two workouts in the next weeks until you end up discussing whether it is worth doing a workout at the weekends at all. Having a gym buddy or a fixed date you have to perform really helps to stay on track.
How did you get back to fitness lifestyle?
Fabien: Finally, in my late 30s I felt the need, the urge to move myself from this static state, to do something. I am a tall guy, 192 cm, at my top I reached 117 kg, that is obesity considering BMI.
I wanted to change the couch/movie/chips/beer lifestyle: I finally gave into my dream of running, and one day I just started running. At the beginning, I tried several times to go out and run, but I was giving up after 2 days because I didn’t know “how to run”. I had no knowledge of it. I can say the real kick in the a$$ was the reading of Rich Roll now best seller book Finding Ultra. It was and still is such an inspiration. I started reading about how to start running, following methods, training plans for beginners.
I started with a run/walk/run routine for a month, then the next month I was able to run a 5K in one shot. Still quite slow, but I was actually running at over 100 kg. You would have told me this 6 months before, I would have laughed. Nowadays I run an average of 40K/week, and besides trail running, I picked up cycling again.
How does your fitness routine look like? How often do you train?
Fabien: My training plan – even if I consider I have no training plan – is to run 3 or 4 times a week, usually following the rule of one day of running (or riding), one day resting. I am not into stats, numbers or performance and the motto “no pain no gain” is not my thing at all. I am running for the mere pleasure to run in nature, it is my way to meditate actively, to contemplate my surroundings. I try to become a better person using sport.
That being said, a typical training week can be:
- Monday: 1 hour easy trail run (between 300 and 400 m of elevation gain)
- Tuesday: rest day
- Wednesday: 1h/1h30 trail run with some specifics, can be tempo run, fartlek, strength work, uphill reps.
- Thursday: rest day
- Friday: 1 hour easy trail run
- Saturday: rest day
- Sunday: long run. Usually between 2 and 5 hours of trail running with more than 800m of elevation gain.
If time is short and you have only 30 minutes for a workout, what do you do?
It can be a short fitness workout, fences, squats, some weight works.
All those are good for runners, kept moderate (you don’t want to gain too much muscles either).
Kathrin: oooh yes. I discuss every February with myself whether I reduce lifting sessions and go really serious for race competition. You don't want to carry too much weight when chasing minutes and seconds. But in the end for me it's mostly 4 months of serious running and then focus on lifting again at the end of summer.
Is there also another workout you fancy ?
Fabien: My wife has being practising yoga for years, so now and then we practice yoga together. Yoga is great for running too (yoga is great for everything). I just wish I was more patient and could learn faster. Otherwise, indoor cycling is a good alternative. I don’t like indoor activities, but I can handle 30 minutes or 1 hour of indoor cycling.
How do you think do your eating habits affect your fitness?
Fabien: Do you mean where do I get my protein?! ;D More seriously, yes what you eat directly affects your fitness and your sensations. As a rule of thumb, I say eating colourful, vibrant, fresh foods can only improve your heath and mood.
Do you follow a special form of vegan diet
Kathrin: e.g. high-carb, low-carb, if it fits your macros or special macro nutrition ratio?
I don’t follow a special diet. I love veggies and fruits, being vegan is already such a great improvement for your health. I do indulge in processed vegan foods (burgers, patties, wurtzels, etc) but only as a special treat every now and then. I have never being a salt addict, but now it has been reduced even more, along with oil: we don’t use salt nor oil while cooking.
I must say that I don’t cook (at all) and this interview is the perfect opportunity to thank my wife Francesca - who is an incredible cook – for all the good things she is cooking for me and all the things she teaches me nutrition-wise.
Can you share how your typical day looks like eating wise?
Kathrin: What are your favourite breakfast recipes, lunch and dinner and do you care about pre- and post-workout snacks?
Fabien: My day always starts with an oatmeal. I just love oats and what is better than anything oat-based to start a day? My breakfast consists of a bowl of oatmeal with ground flax seeds or chia seeds, coconut flakes, some dried berries (mulberries, goji, raspberries), cocoa powder, a dash of vegetal milk and maybe some agave syrup (for French readers, I have a post about my oatmeal in my blog)
Do you care about pre- and post-workout snacks?
Fabien: Bananas, dates and cashews are great fuel before and during long runs or bike rides. And I love having a freshly-made, fruity, post-run smoothie – blending fruits, frozen berries, chia and flax seeds, spirulina with or without the addition of a vegetal protein. You can check one of my recipes (in French).
At the same time, nowadays there is a big marketing buzz about protein supplementation, but I think that someone having healthy eating habits, even as a vegan, gets enough daily protein from veggies, nuts and seeds. That being said, I still add a little bit of vegetal protein powder in my post-workout smoothies especially after long runs.
For those interested, I published a recipe of easy to make Energy-packed Power balls, this article is in English.
Those can be use even during a long run.
How important do you think is meal timing?
Fabien: To be honest, I don’t care much about meal timing, to the point that on weekends, it is not unusual that I wake up late (let’s say 10am), I have an oatmeal for breakfast and I go for a long trail run skipping lunch altogether. When it comes to dinner instead, we try to eat earlier (max. 7pm) in order to have an empty stomach by the time we go to bed.
What are the top five vegan foods you recommend our readers to go for?What are the must haves in your vegan diet?
Fabien: No surprises in my daily basics, these are my top five vegan foods:
- nuts and seeds: I always snack on pumpkin seeds, cashews or almonds
- bananas: because bananas are magical!
- carbs: whole wheat pasta and rice, potatoes, quinoa
- any kind of beans: we have them daily in chilis, soups, stews, with pasta or rice, in salads etc.
As most of our Vegan Fitness Guide readers are from Germany, Austria or Switzerland please tell us about the trending vegan foods and restaurants in your area?
What would you recommend our fit vegans to check out when coming to your city?
Interesting question here. We live in the north-east of France, in the mountainous region called Vosges and being vegan here is quite hard for those who like to go out or have a social life.
We lived in Italy and Mauritius where it is easy to be vegetarian or vegan, so coming back to France and especially in Vosges, we realised how lucky we were before.
Fabien: In the direct local area where we live, there is zero vegan restaurants and I would add that many people don’t even know what the word “vegan” means. About getting food, we get basic things in supermarkets or in some organic stores. But lately, we see more and more vegan products slowly appearing in supermarkets, even some major brands start to have their own veg-based food lines. So there’s hope!
Thank you so much for giving us insights into your fitness lifestyle.
Before saying goodbye let’s play the famous game of 10 questions in 10 seconds.
1. Music or silence while doing a workout?
Even though I’m a big music freak, only one answer to this: NO music! Trail running in the middle of nature and cutting yourself from that amazing environment with earplugs? No way ;]
2. Fake meat – once in a while or a no-go in your kitchen? Sure, once in a while, why not?
3. Girls with six pack, hot or not? Not (sorry).
4. When missing cheese you go for … Vegan cheese (store-bought or home-made).
5. Counting calories is … Not my thing.
6. Your favourite fitness gadget is … My trail running shoes.
Some days I wonder if my running shoes miss me too on rest days ;)
7. The best vegan milk alternative is … Spelt or almond milk
8. Cheat days are … As long as it’s vegan, indulge yourself once in a while! #yolo :D
9. The best gym buddy is … My wife.
10. The best kitchen gadget is … A blender for post-run smoothies.
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Mehr Informationen zum Theman vegane Supplements findet ihr in der Supplement Übersicht im Vegan Fitness Guide