By Grant Killian
Cavemen would have made terrific adventure racers; in my imagination at least, cavemen are durable, resourceful, and tenacious — if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have lasted long enough to evolve into the civilized city-dwellers we are today, right?! Imagine the genes we carry with us from those fantastically fit cavemen!
So, while modern life is all about comfort, a key step to success in adventure racing is the opposite: getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. In adventure races, you can be tired, disoriented, dirty, and scratched up. Your pack can feel heavy and the weather can beat you down. The beauty of the sport, of course, is in overcoming the adversity and finding your way to the finish line — it can be life affirming and euphoric like no other activity — so with that goal in mind, the euphoric finish line, let me offer some AR tips inspired from our Neanderthal brethren.
Instead of hiking 10 miles and calling it “exercise,” cavemen would do a hike and call it “finding food and shelter.” Endurance is a way of life for cavemen. Bring this into your modern existence by integrating your training with your normal routine. For example, after a week or two of biking to work you won’t consider the effort “exercise” so much as how you get from home to the office. In the process, you’re building a phenomenal fitness base without having to invest time specifically in “exercise.” Do the math: if you have a 45 minute bike commute, and you bike to work and back 3 days per week, you’re adding 4 1/2 hours of cycling to your weekly routine! If your office is just too far to bike to, consider running to your gym instead of driving there or how about biking for your groceries (you can get that heavy pack workout in with your milk and bread in the backpack). Maybe you can paddle into town? Work with what your environment offers.
Another way to blur the lines between “exercise” and “normal life” is to add a Ball Chair or Ergo Sit to your office (both items can be found at TheraGear.com). These items convert your sedentary desk into a core-strengthening zone, and give your stabilizing back, hip, and ab muscles attention while you’re focussing on the computer. A stronger core is something all adventure racers pursue — who would’ve thought you can train for your next kayak leg while you’re sorting through email at your desk?
Cavemen made the most of any equipment they had, and their ingenuity had to get them through tough situations. As an adventure racer, you can exhibit this resourcefulness by finding a stick and using it as a trekking pole (and then drop it when you’re done — can’t beat the weight savings of not carrying trekking poles an entire race!), drying your wet socks by tucking them under your tights (seriously — thighs generate a ton of heat and can dry socks in a few hours), or improvising a blister fix by duct taping or super-gluing the drained blister (seriously!). It’s hard to anticipate how you might need to adapt during an event, but develop your ingenuity and don’t always take the easy way out when training. For example, if there are stream crossings during your trail run, consider bypassing the bridges to force you adapt to wet footwear for the rest of your effort. Don’t take senseless risks, of course!
These are a few measures that can revolutionize your way of looking at training for adventure racing. Don’t have a few hours each week set aside for “exercise time;” instead, pursue a lifestyle that folds walking, hiking, running, biking, paddling, and other activities into a genuinely ACTIVE LIFESTYLE — it’s not just a marketing slogan! This can be a transformative process, and is also tremendous fun. Don’t be surprised when, after biking to the coffee shop to meet your friends a few times, they begin biking too. It’s contagious. Remember, you were literally born to live an active life and our cavemen ancestors never knew any different; it’s in your genes to experience the outdoors, and who are we to deny genetics?