Seventeen years ago, something happened, and he came to a turning point in life. He decided that enough is enough and he promised himself that he would never ever neglect his family again.
Thomas is a 39-year-old Swedish “active lifestyle guy” that loves spending time in the nature together with his family, preferably in combination with his favourite sport Ultra-trail/Skyrunning.
In his previous life, before being the calm and responsible person that he is today, he slipped into the wrong path in life.
The childhood wasn’t easy, and he was brought up in a messy home with alcohol abuse problems in the family. In school he was kind of shy and he was one of those unobtrusive kids in class. He tried to stay as little as possible in school and instead he devoted himself into trouble. The behaviour escalated during his teenage years, and eventually he was deprived of liberty and ended up in prison.
This was probably the turning point in life that he needed in order to make a change. He promised himself that he would never ever neglect his family again, and he started to train. This was also the time where he discovered that he had talent.
After a lot of hard work on himself, training, and also some doubts. He is now where he wants to be in life.
He’s a loving husband and a father of three kids, he is practicing the sport that he loves, and he works as an HR manager at demolition and transport group with over 250 employees.
It’s also important for Thomas to inspire and to create value for others. For that purpose, he and his wife took the initiative and founded “Vardagsstark” that you can read more about further down in the article.
For sure it hasn’t always been easy, and Thomas has put a lot of work in this to get him where he is today. Happy!
This is Thomas story…
Who is Thomas and what is most important for you in life?
I like to see myself as an inspiring, very energetic person who always wants other people well, and who always has a new project going on.
Basically, I am a calm and confident person that usually think before I speak. I have no problem standing in the centre and speak if I have something to say, but I might as well take a few steps back if it is that other people in a context have a greater need to make their voice heard.
The most important for me is my everyday life. I love working and I love spending time with my family. My great interest is the “outdoor lifestyle” spending time in nature, whether it is walking, hiking or just sitting on a rock and thinking. For me, it is important to live life every day. I do not want life to be a transport route for the holiday or until you have made enough money to buy the house you dreamed of.
I have never valued gadgets and status particularly high, on the contrary. The relationship and love of the people closest to me means everything.
I dare to say with my hand on my heart that I am happy. Of course, I have not always been confident in myself and it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point where I am today.
Your passion for Skyrunning/Trail-running? Where is it coming from?
In 2016, my wife and two friends would participate in the “Fjällräven Classic”. A hiking event that lasts for five days and involves moving 110 kilometres on foot between Nikkaloukta and Abisko in the most northern part of Sweden.
Their plan was to reach the distance as quickly as possible and only stay overnight in tents for a few hours during the night. They made it to the finish line after 36 hours and when my wife came home, she told me that there were also people running the distance.
A thought came to life and I decided to meet up with the challenge next year. I had experience in gym training, football and martial arts, but I had barely run 10 kilometres earlier. So, running was something totally new to me.
In 2017 I started my adventure between Nikkaloukta and Abisko with 16 kilos of packing on my back. I made it in 21 hours, and in the same time as I crossed the finish line, I decided to do it again, but lighter and faster next time.
It was an amazing experience and I fell in love with nature and the mountains. I fantasized about what it would be like to run in really high mountains in the Alps and started looking for cool races.
After my first race in Italy, I was hooked. I loved taking on this long distance on foot through magically beautiful surroundings. The feeling of how small you really are surrounded by the majestic mountains appealed to me.
I am convinced that it is useful for all people to be in an element where they themselves do not decide. I think many people would gain perspective on their own problems and find better tools to deal with them if they discovered the greatness of movement in nature.
Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?
I am positive and solution oriented by nature. I’ve always had the attitude that everything is possible. A positive attitude in combination with stubbornness and hard work creates favourable conditions for success. However, you must never forget that it should be fun. Without pleasure, the road becomes much more difficult.
I do not feel that I am at a high level in running and would rather call myself an elite amateur. I run tough races and perform according to my own conditions. To be honest, I am a better runner at shorter distances.
I often place myself at the top when I line up in smaller trail runs around 10 to 21 km. I love to run really hard and fast and to go all out. The problem is that I like adventure races where I get to stay active for over 20 hours. But my love for running fast also means that I often run out of energy at the first 30-40 kilometres. After that, I always end up weak and have to work my way back.
I think it would benefit me as an Ultra-trail runner to run a little slower and more stable. But fast feet in difficult terrain is fantastic fun so I may continue with my tactics. It usually takes me to the finish line at the end of the day anyway.
What do you do for a living? Is Skyrunning/Trail-running something you would like to work with in the future?
I work as an HR manager in a transport group with over 250 employees. My role is to be an expert-supports to all the managers and leaders in the organization regarding work environment and personnel issues.
A fun job that I enjoy, where I get to be a part of the organization’s development. In addition to my regular work, my wife and I run the non-profit initiative “Vardagsstark” and I also organize my own hill-races and sometimes work as a race leader.
I have no plans to be a professional runner and I will never fight for top positions. I am confident that I will continue to develop as a runner, but I do not want the training to go beyond my family.
I know how much work it is behind every successful runners’ performance. Most of them run between 120-200 km a week and I also have friends who run more than that. I have neither the time nor the will that is required to invest in that time and hard work.
Have you always had this type of lifestyle or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?
No, this is not the type of background where I am coming from.
I come from a messy childhood with alcohol abuse problems in the family. In school I was kind of shy and I was one of those unobtrusive kids in class. I tried stay as little as possible in school and instead I devoted myself into trouble.
I have always had a lot of energy and drive, but I used it for a destructive purpose instead of doing something good with it. The behaviour escalated and during my teenage years I mostly devoted myself into trouble.
The turning point came when I was 22 years old. When my first son was born, I was deprived of liberty, which resulted in me ending up in prison. That’s when I made the decision to change my life and I promised myself to never neglect my family again.
During the period I served my sentence, I began to train with sheer boredom. I didn’t only discover how wonderful and energizing it was, I also discovered that I had talent.
Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?
Definitely the period in life when I was deprived of liberty and wasn’t able to take care of my son.
Do you usually push yourself outside your comfort zone? How does it feel at the time? Can you see that the rewards coming out of this, and is it worth this little extra effort?
Pushing myself to do uncomfortable things have in my opinion no purpose of its own. However, my attitude to life and challenges make me very often end up in such situations.
I have experienced my greatest development in life when I was exposed to mental challenges rather than physical ones. I am for example a very shy and withdrawn person, but over time I have learned to speak to large groups of people by exposing myself to these kinds of situations. In my work it is required of me and in my spare time I have the ability to always end up in situations where I am exposed to such challenges.
As far as running concerned, I am convinced that 90% of the success is to be mentally prepared. Of course, you have to be physically prepared too in order to cope with tough races, but I have learned that it’s your head that ultimately makes you perform.
How does your race plans and goals look like for 2020?
My racing season starts early in the fall, so I’ve just got off to a good start after this summer’s adventure. The focus right now is to get in shape and next year is an unwritten leaf.
Autumn in Sweden usually offers lots of fun trail runs in shorter distances which I think is incredibly fun. I just returned from a two-week stay in the Swedish mountain world where I combined some work with training. I got to experience the shift between autumn and winter in the mountains. It was absolutely fantastic.
When I arrived, nature was covered in incredible colours and last weekend we got a good deal of snow in the mountains. It really felt like winter was coming. This week, I have prepared myself for the first real challenge this autumn, which is going to take place this weekend.
The idea is for me to run 90 km and 3000 altitude meters in the southern forests. My form is not the best at the moment so we will see how it goes. But I will focus on having a great experience and socializing with nice people. So, I don’t think the challenge will be a problem for me to cope with.
My upcoming adventure is planned in November and then I have a couple of months to recover till the next challenge in February. But what I look forward to the most 2020, is a challenging race that I will do together with a friend. The Björkliden Arctic Mountain Marathon (BAMM), which is an orientation race on the mountain that is performed in pairs for two days. It’s a competition I really long for!
How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now?
My training consists mostly of transport to and from work as well as some long runs or hill-work in the weekend. I wake up every morning at 3:30 and start with 45 minutes of yoga, mobility and strength before breakfast.
A few days a week I run to work and home, and somtimes I take the bike. Usually I do around 60-70 km of running a week and 120 km of cycling, which I think is a great amount of exercise.
But the most important part of the exercise consists of “the everyday exercise” in the way that I walk wherever I go, never take lifts or escalators, hike, climb and play with the family. I see running as a hobby and a way to experience and relax. I like that attitude and have no dreams that running should become a bigger part of my life than that.
Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners/Trail-runners all over the world?
My philosophy is that a strong and healthy body can handle most things. I try to be in as good shape as possible all year round, whether I have races planned or not.
My workouts consist as much of everyday easy exercise as of hard workouts. Above all, I have noticed that runners often have a tendency to “forget” strength training and mobility training. Of course, I understand that many people find it more fun to go out and run in the mountains or in the woods than to go to the gym, but my experience says that this leads to injuries and flaws that become an obstacle in running.
Of course, I am aware that there are exceptions. I also know runners who do not exercise strength but still stay injury-free and perform well. But in general, strength training and above all mobility training is something most runners benefit from.
Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners/Trail-runners all over the world?
The most fun and enjoyable race I have run is the Dolomiti Extreme Trail, which is a 103-kilometre-long race in the Italian Alps with over 7000 D+. I’ve run it twice and plan to run it again. The race has an incredibly nice atmosphere and starts and finishes in the small mountain village of Forno di Zoldo. The race offers a variety of distances and the entire village residents are involved. A family-friendly and cozy arrangement I highly recommend.
Can you tell us a little about Vardagsstark? What do you do? Purpose? Vision and goals etc…
“Vardagsstark” (Everyday Strong) is a non-profit initiative that I run together with my wife. It started as an Instagram account where we wanted to inspire people to performance-free exercise, preferably in nature and with the family.
We feel that people in general have a hard time to manage their lives with everything that come with it. Work, school, children, cooking, activities and above all training. People usually put too much weight on the word training. The word is associated with achievement and performance.
When you fail to get that thoughtful workout into your everyday life or when the workout does not turn out in the way you wanted, you get disappointed. We do not want training to be associated with anything anxious. We want it to be a way to feel good and also a way to socialize.
In our Instagram account, we suggest on how to lower the “performance bar” and how you can easily get some exercise into your everyday life. How you can involve your children, other family members, friends or colleagues.
“Vardagsstark” has grown and in addition to social media we give lectures in our philosophy and we also organize various activities that everyone is welcome to participate in. Best of all is that participation is completely free. We like more people to discover this wonderful lifestyle and highlight that training in the nature is free and also very easy.
Are you involved in any other types of running-projects that you like to talk about?
As I told you before, I always have a new project going on and a new thought is constantly spinning in my head. I organize, among other things. race meetings along with like-minded, different races and other fun activities.
Right now, we are working on preparations for “Tre Toppar”, a small hill race here in Stockholm where around 200 runners will attend.
I am also planning a 50-mile race of 6500 D+, which will be launched in April next year.
Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?
An incredible number of dreams and goals exist, but they change from day to day depending on which ideas come to my mind. But, basically my goal is for me and my family is to stay healthy and enjoy.
How does your game plan look like for that?
Whoever listens to the heart, body and mind will not fail. It is when you start chasing the goals of others that you get lost.
What is your inner drive?
Joy and curiosity. I will continue as long as I think it is fun. I have a constant curiosity about where both my mental and my physical limits might go. I haven’t found it yet so I will keep looking.
What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good/much as you?
A good start is to do hiking. In order to enjoy mountain running it’s important to know how everything works, and before going out in a really tough environment you have to practice and gain respect for nature.
The best experience you will get when you feel that you are working in symbiosis with nature. Everyone has a small forest with a little mountain in their vicinity. Start small-scale and make no big deal of it. But above all, my best tip is to Stop dreaming. Just do it!
Thank you very much Thomas, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! You are a real fighter, a true role model and very brave!
Wishing you all the best luck in the future with your Trail & Skyrunning and everything that you like to do.
Name: Thomas Nindjja Gottlind
Family: Wife and three kids (kids every other week, wife every week haha)
Country/town: Stockholm, Sweden
Your team or sponsor now: I run for Team Vardagsstark (Everydaystrength)
Occupation: Human Resources Director
Education: HR, Leadership, project management
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tretopparna/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Instagram: @vardagsstark @tretoppartretimmar
Webpage / Blog: http://www.vardagsstark.se