Interview with Dan “Captain America” Vandenbosch

If you’ve been coming to Spring Hill Fitness for any length of time, you’ve probably seen Dan Vandenbosch around the gym and may even know him personally.  Dan is one of our long time members who takes advantage of just about everything available at the gym, from weights to the turf track, cardio, and group classes such as Spin.  I’m just still waiting for him to show up to one of our dance parties.

dan v gym pic squareFor all his hard work, Dan has built one heck of a physique and is incredibly fit.  I’ve heard people at various times refer to Dan as “that really muscular guy”, “Captain America”, and “my gym idol”.  Dan also happens to be extremely humble and the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back (and not just to show off his abs!).  I’m sure many of you are interested in learning more about Dan and how he got to be in such fantastic shape, so without further ado here is the interview.

SHF:  Hey Dan, hope you’re doing great.  Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your family?  What is your age, profession, and where are you from originally?  What brought you to the Spring Hill area?

Dan: I will have been married for 14 years this coming June to my wonderful wife Tara.  We are originally from Michigan and moved to Tennessee from Florida.  We have two children, Zack and Taya who are 11 and 10 consecutively, and my son can hardly wait until he can come to the gym with me.  I am 40 years old and have been in Law Enforcement for 16 years.  We moved to the Spring Hill area 9 years ago, mostly due to the fact that we fit the demographic;  30-40 YOA 2-4 children.  Spring Hill has exploded since then.

SHF: Were you athletic as a kid?  When did you take up lifting weights and what got you interested in it?

Dan:  I would not have considered myself an “athlete”.  I went to smaller Christian schools and we only had a basketball team; I did play basketball. 

I began lifting weights when I was in high school at approximately 16 years old.  I would lift weights off and on, but I got a job working in a gym when I was 18, and I have been lifting regularly ever since.

SHF: What motivates you to work out as hard and consistently as you do?  Did you ever get involved in bodybuilding shows or strength competitions or have you always just trained for personal satisfaction and overall fitness?

Dan:  I want to stay healthy; this is my main motivation.  I feel so much better when I am active than when I am sedentary.  Exercise increases heart rate, blood flow and releases endorphins.  It is “good stress”.  It is also is a distraction from  “bad stress”.  You get focused on your workout or meeting your personal goals and other things seem to just fade away.   My job also motivates me to work out as hard as I do.  Law Enforcement is very stressful and I use weight/athletic training to relieve some of the daily stress.  I am also the fitness trainer for the Sheriff’s Office, and I do 3 “boot camps” a year that are 6 weeks long.  We start with basics to gain flexibility while engaging stability and core muscles, and then move into plyometric, speed and coordination drills;  I have to stay on my game for this. 

I have done some smaller competitions, such as gym sponsored power and endurance competitions and have run in some 5K events.  Most recently, I was sponsored by HG Fitness, now Spring Hill Fitness, and I competed in the Tennessee Fitness Challenge.  I just love to exercise; even the challenge, I did for enjoyment.

SHF: Has your fitness level and physical presence come in handy at work as a police officer?  I assume that when you give orders they are taken!

Dan:  Yes, presence is very important.  People do not like to try an Officer that looks fit and professional.  However, occasionally we have to deal with the person that is drunk or high on drugs and they are hard to deal with.  This is where being strong and fit can help prevent injury, not only to the officer, but to the subject as well.  The sooner the situation is under control, the less likely it is that someone will become injured.

SHF: Do you have an overall weight training philosophy or approach that you follow?  Do you focus on lifting heavy weights or do you prefer higher reps and volume?  Machines or free weights or bodyweight stuff or all of the above?

Dan:  Yes, my philosophy is that consistent training with slow, steady progress will net the best results.  All too often people want results overnight; this is not realistic.  Don’t worry about what weight someone else is doing…work with a weight/speed that you can manage, and the results will come…and with less potential for injury.  I try not to focus too much on one particular type of exercise.  I do a mixture of all types to maintain an overall athletic physique and healthy cardiovascular system.  I use a mixture of free weights, machines, and body weight exercises as well.  The more options and variations that you employ, the better.

SHF: How do you incorporate so much cardio in your training while keeping your size and strength?  Is it a misconception that a lifter will lose his/her muscle mass from doing cardio?

Dan:  You can build muscle while doing cardio.  If you are taking in enough calories/good carbs and nutrients, your body will be less likely to metabolize muscle tissue to get the proteins it needs to function.  I also use HIIT training with compound movements to spike my heart rate and increase VO2 max for most of my cardio training.  With the exception of spinning, I do not do long periods of intense cardio activity.  I believe that there is a bit of truth in the statement that a lifter can  lose muscle mass, but this is generally a person with a very low body fat  and/or insufficient food intake….I don’t have these problems.

SHF: Can you give us an example of a typical workout or day that illustrates the kind of training you do?

Dan:  I prefer to push and pull on the same day.  It is harder on the joints, but it enables me to lift heavier weights for a longer period of time.  The way I break it up, it allows me to keep blood flow and nutrients focused in the same general area, while affording one muscle group to recover better while working the other.  I do: Chest/Biceps; Back/Triceps; Shoulders/Traps; and Quads/Hamstrings/Calves.  I incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Abs with several of my workouts.

SHF: Do you have any advice for someone new to working out who wants to look better and feel better?

Dan: Yes, if a person is new to working out and wants to look better, they most likely have a physique that needs improving.  Don’t be too self conscious.  Most likely no one will be looking at them in a negative manner, it is in their head.  And, as I mentioned before, slow and steady will get results; don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.  Also, don’t blindly take advice from everyone, myself included.  Take the information and research it to see if it is correct and will help you meet your goals.  A good resource at the gym is Ken Hughes.  He runs Solutions in Personal Fitness and is CSCS certified through the NSCA, which is the most credible and vetted organization for personal training certification.  He is great at assisting people of all fitness levels.

SHF: Have you had any major injuries to deal with?  Do you do have any advice for avoiding joint problems and injuries?

Dan: I have had a couple of injuries that I had to work through; none of which were sustained in the gym.  If a person is injured, they should seek the advice of a physician that is not overly risk aversive and specializes in the type of injury that it being rehabilitated.  Joint injuries can be a more common type of injury to a person who exercises.  Some of this can be mitigated with proper warm up and flexibility drills. 

SHF: What is your diet like?  Are you a believer in supplements?

Dan:  My diet is about average for a person who exercises regularly.  I pay attention to what I eat, and mostly make better choices when selecting food.  A tip I was given that is easy to remember is, that in most cases, the less legs the better.  Fish have 0 legs, chickens and turkeys have 2 and cows have 4.  This is overly simplified, but for the average person who is not on a strict diet, it is a good way to remind yourself which type of meat protein to take in.  Several small meals per day keeps my metabolism running and keeps my energy level more stable.  Supplements have their place, but it is just that….to supplement.  I probably even take too many; you get the majority of your nutritional needs from the food you eat.  A person’s physician, or a certified dietician, can give the best advice about supplements….what is beneficial and what is just “snake oil”.

SHF: Do you have other hobbies or interests besides working out?

Dan:  Not really, I enjoy, fishing, shooting and riding ATV’s, but nothing comes close to my passion for exercise.

SHF: Do you have any fitness goals or plans for the future or anything else that that you’d like to share?

Dan:  I plan on continuing with a healthy lifestyle.  I am not as young as I used to be and I want to look good and be healthy for my age; no matter what it is.

SHF: Last question – I have to ask if you have a favorite super hero or comic book character.  I’ve heard people refer to you as Captain America and didn’t know if you were a fan or it’s just due to the resemblance.

Dan:  I do like super hero stories, and I am flattered that anyone would liken me to Captain America.

SHF: Thanks for taking the time for the interview.  It’s a true pleasure knowing you and having you and your family as members of Spring Hill Fitness.

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