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How To Build A Body Like Parkour Champ Tim Shieff
Few athletes’ journeys to the pinnacle of their sports begin in McDonald’s. But then, Tim Shieff is no ordinary athlete.
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Aged 15, he was a keen breakdancer. Talented, yes, but not obviously destined for greatness. “I was working at McDonald’s at the time,” he recalls. “I was on my break and this programme came on called Jump Britain. It looked like 3D breakdancing. It was beautiful.”
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What Shieff had chanced upon was a documentary about free unning – the sport that turns urban landscapes into jungle gyms. A sport which, in the years that followed, he would come to dominate.
Now 29, Shieff has over a decade of pro parkour experience and a World Freerun Championship under his belt. But it’s his performances on cult Japanese series-turned-primetime Saturday night telly Ninja Warrior that have earned him international recognition.
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“I like the idea of a competition where it’s not you against another person, it’s you against the course,” he says. “If I do better, that doesn’t make someone else do worse.” To date, Shieff has led Team Europe to victory in a special series of American Ninja Warrior, and been the last man standing in the UK.
To prepare his body for the rigours of competition, Shieff trains every day – but you won’t find him in the gym. “The more I’m in square environments, the less I enjoy it,” he says. “The key is training in nature, be that running or just climbing trees. Then it’s not a chore.”
His motivation is neither the glory of winning nor the satisfaction of a six-pack, but something far less glamorous. “It’s just sweating. There are so many pressures and stresses on us that can be released by sweat.”
Most unusual, though, is not what Shieff has achieved, but how he has fuelled his success. For the past four years, his super cut physique has been built on a purely vegan diet. “I was at a training plateau and it just came at the right time. I felt better and got leaner.”
Shieff believes he is living proof that you don’t need to devour the protein equivalent of four chicken breasts a day to sculpt a functional, yet visually impressive body.
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“I go for a high carb, low fat, low protein diet. I aim for 30-40% of my food to be green, and then I just enjoy the rest. Then I eat a lot of potatoes, rice and fruit.” We can hear the clean eaters and fad dieters wincing. But you can’t argue with the results.
As he prepares for season four of Ninja Warrior, in the shape of his life, it would seem McDonald’s has a lot to answer for.
Video: 5 Minute Parkour Workout
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