Personal trainer Tim Tarpley moves himself and others in the right direction.
Tim Tarpley jokes about how he started running when he was growing up in California. “I really started running because I got kicked off the school bus,” he says. “I didn’t want my parents to know so I ran the three miles to school. I’ve always been an active person.”
Tarpley pretty much exemplifies the Blue Zones principle of Moving Naturally. A personal trainer since the 80s, Tarpley’s expertise is wide and varied. “I’ve literally played every sport there is,” he says. From playing professional football for two weeks to going to bull riding school at age 30, Tarpley says “I was trying to find my place.” In addition to running, Tarpley made the transition from body builder to endurance athlete about 20 years ago. “Back then, we didn’t have the internet to look things up,” he says. “I’ve already made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to.”
As a personal trainer and coach, Tarpley says that the problem isn’t that people don’t want to exercise. “Life gets in the way,” he says. “You’re tired, your kids are sick, but you have to figure out a way to get it done in the morning.” In addition to having an impact on the rest of your day, exercising in the morning removes all the post-work “I’m exhausted” excuses. But you have to make a commitment to do it most days. “Don’t change your routine,” Tarpley says. “It’s got to be in your calendar like an appointment.”
To get control of your morning, Tarpley talks about another Blue Zones principle – Downshifting. “You have to get control of your night,” he says. That means making a purposeful effort to slow down, unplug from the electronics, and reduce the time you spend looking at screens. “Don’t lie to yourself,” Tarpley says. “Your cortisol level gets out of control when you’re fighting with yourself.” He also tries to encourage those around him to have a positive outlook through his daily uplifting social media posts.
Last year, Tarpley lost both parents to COVID, and he says that the lesson for him with his parents dying within an hour of each other cemented the idea of both Downshifting and Family First. “On your deathbed, you learn what really matters,” he says. Tarpley credits the staff in the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital ICU for bringing his dying parents into the same room to hold hands at the end.
Tarpley works as a trainer for current Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price – someone with an incredibly challenging schedule. “The first year of the mayor’s Triathlon, I saw her compete in the race and try to be on her game afterward and I knew I could help her,” he says. He sent her an email and about eight years later, he helps make sure the Mayor puts in the work. In addition, he’s helping her entire team. “It’s my job to make sure her team is eating and drinking right for marathons,” he says. “Her security guys have to keep up with her!”
You might be surprised to learn that this endurance athlete is a firm believer in eating with a Plant Slant, another Power 9 principle. “I am fully plant based and haven’t had an animal product in four years,” Tarpley says. As far as getting the protein needed for muscle rebuilding, “I get my protein where your protein gets its protein,” he says, laughing. Tarpley’s favorite easy snacks: “A squeeze-and-go tube of peanut butter, pita with hummus, or even some regular pretzels,” he says. “So many people want ease and simplicity. It doesn’t get easier than eating fruit or nuts.” One thing about a diet with a Plant Slant he says, is not to overthink it. “Don’t eat just to eat – wait until you can make a healthy choice,” he says. Tarpley dismisses the idea of moderation in consuming plant-based foods that may help stave off or mitigate cancer and inflammation. “Moderation is used with alcohol or unhealthy foods,” he says. “Nobody has ever said you have to eat fruits and veggies in moderation.”
Much like athletic training, managing your diet requires a level of commitment. “Most people treat their car better than they treat their bodies,” Tarpley says. “You go to the doctor and you want a pill to fix what you’ve done. It’s just not that easy.” But with a little commitment, mindfulness, and some small modifications, Tarpley says everything will fall into place. It has for him. “I’m 53 and in the best shape of my life,” he says.