You know I am always going on, and on, and on about the incredible vegans in our community. There are so many! I recently had the opportunity to interview John Bartlett, local vegan triathlete using his passion for health and fitness to try and make a difference for children. He has started a project called “My Life in Spandex” to bring awareness to childhood obesity and the benefits of a vegan diet. He doesn’t just compete for his own benefit – but uses his sporty ways to encourage children and families to keep their bodies in motion.
Vegan Score (VS): How long have you been vegan and why did you decide to choose this lifestyle?
John Bartlett (JB): I became vegan over 8 years ago while working for a chain restaurant in which I was handling meat all day long. Seeing people eat so much unhealthy food really started to have an effect on me and it forced me to evaluate my own diet and lifestyle. One of the key factors of me becoming vegan was that I could no longer look at animals and think about them being harmed for my “benefit.”
VS: You’ve only been doing triathlons for about a year. How did you get into them and what do you love about them?
JS: My entry into the crazy world of triathlons was through cycling, which I have been doing since I was kid, both mountain biking and urban cycling. Once I moved to Seattle in 2010, I focused on running and started participating in running events, which was a great way to prepare for the crowd atmosphere of triathlons. Swimming is my weakest event and I sometimes describe it as “controlled drowning”. If I had to pick one thing I love about triathlons, it has to be that you are forced to push yourself more than you thought possible, both physically and especially mentally. The sense of accomplishment when I crossed that glorious finish line at my first triathlon was an amazing rush and like nothing like I had ever felt.
VS: You are out to chase down childhood obesity. How did this cause come to your attention and why should we paying attention to this issue?
JB: This cause first came to my attention when I noticed how inactive children were becoming and also the unhealthy foods that they were surrounded by. When kids make unhealthy food choices, they do so because they are not aware of the effect it could have on them now, or in their future. It is our responsibility to be role models for the next generation and educate children from a young age about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle.
VS: What are your top 3 tips for parents who want to raise active children, tho’ they themselves may not be athletic and may work long hours (or two jobs, as many must).
JB: I fully understand that parents are busier than ever these days. You would be amazed what kind of example you could set by doing something as simple as creating a 5 minute workout plan for the whole family that they can do together. The second thing would be for the parents to encourage physical activity in the kids as opposed to having them sit at the computer or tv for a few hours (or encourage video games that require the kids to get off the couch and dance, jump, and move, which is a great way to show them it is fun to be active). The last, and probably most important aspect for parents is to lead by example. If a child sees that their parent is willing, and wanting to lead an active and healthy life, it will serve as an inspiration that will last a lifetime.
VS: Who are some of your role model vegan athletes?
JB: I have so many vegan role models! So as not to go on forever, here are a few: Carl Lewis (Multiple Olympic gold medalist for track & field), Robert Cheeke (Bodybuilder), Dr. Ruth Heidrich (Marathon runner), Brendan Brazier (Ultra marathon runner), John Sally (NBA player retired), and a recent addition, Rich Roll (Ultraman competitor).
VS: What is next for you? Triathlon in Seattle? Summer outings? Guest speaking?
JB: My triathlon season has started to heat up, including two triathlons in July. I will be travelling and competing all over Washington this summer, with races in Spokane, Elma, Mercer Island, and Enumclaw, and potentially Portland, OR and Vancouver, B.C. and Las Vegas, NV. As for public appearances, I am in the process of setting up some youth camps in which I will get kids together and play games and be active, while educating them, and their parents on healthy eating habits. I will make sure to keep you up to date!
VS: If there is one thing Vegan Score readers could do to help get the word out about My Life in Spandex and your efforts what would it be?
JB: I would love your readers to join my Facebook and Twitter pages and share it with their social circles! The more exposure this project gets, the more people it can help by bringing in more sponsors and supporters that will help this project grow.
I am grateful that someone like John has taken a very self-focused activity (keeping in shape, running triathlons) and has turned it into a way he can give to his community and make a different for future generations. All while also working a full time job. Didn’t I tell you Seattle was full of awesome vegans? If you want to support John’s efforts, cruise on over to his fundraising page and drop a few bills.