How to stay strong, so you’re always ready for your next adventure.
I’ve been asked numerous times how I train for my long-distance expeditions. The simple answer is that I don’t specifically train for any journey—it’s more about building “outdoor fitness” into your everyday life.
I’m lucky enough to live in North Vancouver, British Columbia—with great access to both urban and wilderness activities. No matter where you live though, you can be ready at a moment’s notice to head off into the wilderness for a month or two of continuous physical movement.
Here are five keys to fitness that work for me.
Be Strong on Your Feet
Whether you’re canoe tripping, ski touring, hiking, or biking, it’s crucial that you’re strong on your feet. To achieve this strength, you should mix in activities where you support your entire body weight on your own two feet at least three times into your weekly routine—activities such as running, hiking or skiing (as opposed to cycling or paddling, which I'll address as well).
Even though I'm perhaps best-known as a paddler, my base activity has always been trail running. Road running is good in a pinch, but the side-to-side and up-and-down nature of running on trails is an ideal full-body activity. In addition, the softer surfaces of trails are easier on your body than pounding the pavement—which is a key consideration for long-term fitness into your latter years. In the wintertime, I try to get out cross-country skiing too, which is a great full-body workout. You don't have to be near a ski resort to do this either—when the snow flies, the fallow terrain of a nearby golf course is an easy, accessible place to do a few laps on skinny skis.
Do something active every day. It’s not good enough to just wait for the weekends to be active. When I’m on a ski-tour, canoe trip or pack rafting journey, there aren’t any days off—you move every day. Likewise, you should do something physical and cardiovascular on a daily basis. If you're pinched for time because of busy days, consider commuting back and forth to work by bicycle. It's a nice low-impact variance to mix in on your running off-days.
Do Something You Love
You ultimately must love your daily activity. Be it running, mountain biking, road riding, paddling, hiking or cross-country skiing, if you love it, the activity isn’t a chore—it's a pleasure.
Mix It Up
A change is as good as a rest, so mix up your activities. I try to alternate activities day to day, ideally not going back-to-back with any activity—that way my body recovers from the previous day's activity while remaining active. I typically switch my days between trail running and mountain biking—and in the winter here on the West Coast, I will additionally mix in cross-country skiing and whitewater kayaking.
Find Your Flow
The key to doing long-distance journeys is to get into a rhythm and flow. You want to be in the moment and not look ahead, enjoying where you are and the activity that finds you there.
For example, I typically put in 10-hour days on my canoe trips—but I don’t wake up everyday thinking about the immensity of the thousands of kilometres the entire journey presents. I enjoy the day, the moment and the experience I’m having every second. Before I know it, evening has come and it's time to camp.
The same goes for getting out for an hour every day. Enjoy your surroundings, the rhythm of your breath, the roll of the terrain. Time will whip by and it'll be the best part of your day—and you'll be ready for any epic adventure at the drop of a hat.