Pro snowboarder Louie Vito can run nearly 20 miles without distance training

Louie Vito after a Wings for Life World Run. Photo: Courtesy of Christian Pondella/Wings for Life World Run

Louie Vito after a Wings for Life World Run. Photo: Courtesy of Christian Pondella/Wings for Life World Run

Sure, Louie Vito is a professional snowboarder (and a damn good one at that). But if you didn’t know that about him and were to see him, say, doing the Wings for Life World Run and chalking up 13 miles or 17 miles (his distances the last two years), you’d have no clue he was also a top-tier shredder. Dude is in some serious shape.

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With the Wings for Life World Run coming up on May 8, we wanted to get inside the training regimen of an athlete whose sport is not running, but who is getting real close to that marathon distance with his WFLWR finishes. This year, if you can’t make it to one of the 34 locations worldwide for the run, you can download the Selfie Run App and join along with the rest of the world from anywhere you want.

Vito himself is going to be hosting a Selfie Run in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where everyone can join along with a catcher car to raise money for spinal-cord-injury research.

Hey Louie, how’s it going?
Vito: Great. I’m up in Mammoth [Lakes, California] right now. It’s a little windy and started to snow a bit — already got some fun riding in.

Nice. So I’ve heard that you don’t do any training for the Wings for Life World Runs, despite running 13 and 17 miles?
Vito: Yeah. The first year, I did 13.22 miles, and last year I did 17.77 miles; I cut 15 minutes off my half-marathon time the second year. I don’t ever do any long-distance stuff, though; I don’t change anything from what I normally do.

I just do my regular training program that I have. My program is progressive interval stuff, short and intense.

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Have you run a marathon before?
Vito: I had never even done a half marathon before I got involved with the Wings For Life races. For me, my goal was to run the whole time and not stop running. Even though at the end your running is not as fast as you had been, as your body and mind feels, you’re pushing it.

I don’t ever do any distance training. The most I’ll do is 2 or 3 miles of an interval; that’s under 30 minutes, though. Nothing long — all my workouts are short and intense.

I just stay on my program, and with the shape that I’m in, it allows me to carry it over to distance running. My trainer isn’t surprised, but I am. He’s like, “Why are you surprised? You’re in insane shape right now and can basically do whatever you want.”

The infamous John Schaeffer is your trainer, right?
Vito: Yeah, he’s had multiple Olympians and world champions. LeSean McCoy trains with him. John has world records in powerlifting, a kickboxing championship at 51 and he’s trained special forces.

At 64 years old, I’d put him in a fight against anybody. He’s so fast and built like such a brick house, he doesn’t even have to train anymore. He’s just done it for so long. The first time I met him was at “Dancing with the Stars” with Apollo Ohno and he looked at me and the first thing he says is, “Your center of gravity is too high.”

He told me before I started with him, “I can make you stronger in four to six weeks than you’ve ever been in your life. I promise you. But I’m going to tell you, I’m going to take you to a place your body has never been and back again.”

I was working with another trainer who was definitely a top-notch trainer, but John definitely lived up to his word. After the first five-and-a-half weeks of being with John, people were asking me if I was working out, and I hadn’t lifted anything with my upper body. I just leaned out.

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So what’s your program like, then, that it allows you to not do distance training, but can go run a near-marathon?
Vito: I’ll come in after my season when I’ve really just [been] doing maintenance stuff because I’ve been riding all season. I worked out with McCoy one time after a riding season and he was like, “Damn, Louie, you’re in shape.” And I thought to myself, “This isn’t even the shape I want to be in because it’s after season.”

Nowadays with snowboard training you stand on a balance board and then you’re going to take the medicine ball and throw it between your legs and you’re going to grab these bands in these directions and so on. Everything John and I do, though, it’s designed for snowboarding, but it’s straight old school — no BS.

I do a lot of hopping steps, a lot of steps with dumbbells in my hands, running steps, single-leg hops, double-leg hops, all with dumbbells. For me, I don’t really lift a ton of upper body because everything is lower body.

But it’s been more than just that, right?
Vito: I changed my diet up, too, and I stopped drinking. I haven’t drank in five years. I changed up everything with John. I don’t do any workout for more than 45 minutes. But there’s no water-cooler talk. Whatever it is, it’s 10 seconds, hit it again.

There’s no time to stop. I get in, get out. Short and intense.

So it’s all about intervals?
Vito: Yeah, it’s a progressive interval. Some people do intervals where they sprint and stand on the side. Sprint, stand on the side. Mine, though, gradually get higher. If I’m doing 6 mph, then I do 8 mph then 10 mph then 12 mph. At the end of my runs, and depending on the treadmill, I’m finishing on the max of what the treadmill can do.

But also remember, I’m doing these intervals at 15 percent incline. I’m only 5’6″, so 15 percent incline at 10 mph, my little legs are moving. Then I’ll do single-leg squats, six sets of four. There’s no time to check my phone, none of that lag time.

So what’s the experience been like with the Wings for Life World Runs so far?
Vito: It’s been great. It’s a cool thing to be a part of and something that means a lot to me because it’s 100 percent for spinal-cord research. Being in snowboarding, I’ve been affected by that through close friends. So it means a lot to me.

It’s such an awesome idea in the way they execute it, with 34 cities around the world running at the same time and the catcher car starting at the same time everywhere so when you finish you can see how you finished compared to everyone else in the country and the world. It really brings everybody together.

It’s one of those rare charities these days that is 100 percent charitable. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the research. None of it goes to shutting down the roads or anything. That’s what I think is so cool.

It’s hard; I’m always telling people about it, but if they’re in Utah, where I live, or in Ohio, where I’m from, they either have to go to California or Florida to run it. So it wasn’t always something I could get people involved in.

Is that why you’re undertaking the Selfie Run in Columbus?
Vito: Exactly. Now with the new one with the Selfie Run App, it’s able to bring people in that can’t make it to the official stops and get them involved in something.

For me, Columbus, I was born and raised there, so it’s a place I’m proud to be from and love. This is something where I can get my family to do it with me. It’s not necessarily a race; you don’t have to go for it. If you hate running, then just walk it; you don’t have to run.

Do you have a goal for this year?
Vito: I always like to beat my distance from the year before. Now I’m getting closer and closer to that 20-plus-mile mark. I don’t know where my body is going to be at that point. The hard thing for me is coming right from riding out in Mammoth, so I’ve got to see how sore I am and how far I’m able to push it.

I always say I might take it kinda easy because I still want to ride a few more times this season, but when you get into it, it’s kinda hard to slow down.

Well, good luck, Louie!
Vito: Thanks, and everyone who wants to get in on this year’s Wings for Life World Run should get the Selfie Run App and follow it all on there and partake.

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