Don’t be fooled by all the overzealous adventuring that goes on out here at our Santa Fe office. As much as we’d like to be able to snap our fingers and run an ultra, crush an all-day ride, or send a 14-er, we have to put in the work to make it happen, too. That means training plans, running logs, and—yes—even gym workouts. Read on for our editors’ go-to’s.
Right now, I'm training for the Bighorn Trail Run 50K in June. That means I run five days a week, Saturday being my long run day. Wednesdays are hill and strides days, which I like to log on the desert trails behind my home. I usually rock climb Tuesdays and Thursdays at the gym, and try to get on some real rock during the weekends. Important note: Every long run or try-hard climbing day is followed by a beer or burrito, often both.
I lift weights three days a week in a gym (eek!). It's not a popular opinion here at Outside, but not only has it kept recurring injuries at bay, I've also seen a huge improvement in all my favorite outdoor activities. I can ski longer and harder days, carry a heavier pack, and charge higher peaks without a second thought. As my trainer loves to say, "strength is never a weakness."
I don't work out in the typical sense. I get most of my exercise from mountain biking in the summer and fall or skinning up the local hill in winter and spring. If I'm going to work that hard, I need it to come with a heavy dose of adrenaline. But recently I've started running. Even three miles is often enough to make me feel like I've accomplished something. I do it to become a faster mountain bike rider and a faster skinner, but also because, according to a friend and former Outsider, running is a wonder drug.
I hate working out. I haven't set foot in a gym in a decade. But because I work at Outside, I have a vested interest in being just a little bit in shape so that I don't embarrass myself when riding or skiing with colleagues. So for the past five years, the only "workouts" I've done are the Dave Kalama exercises that Outside recommended in 2013. They're quick (the whole routine takes me all of ten minutes), they're easy (no gym visit required), and they keep me in decent enough shape that I can at least sort of keep my fellow Outsiders in sight.
I've never trained for my bouldering until now. For the last few weeks, I've been using the Kayla Itsines Sweat app, and it's proven to be the perfect fit for my lifestyle. Each week consists of three resistance workouts (abs and arms, legs, and full body), three sessions of low-intensity steady state or LISS cardio (walking, swimming, hiking, etc.), an optional HIIT session, and two recovery sessions. Since I climb two to three times per week, I'll count my trips to the climbing gym as LISS or my abs/arms strength work, depending on how hard I pushed. But I like that the Sweat app forces me to both dedicate additional time to training other parts of my body and to recovery. I'd highly recommend the beginner plan to anyone looking for training guidance but can’t attend a class or hire a personal trainer. Sure, it’s 20 dollars per month, but that’s an easy trade off for peak performance. Plus, it's easy to work into your life, even if you don't have a ton of exercise experience—the app visually demonstrates all of the workouts, the beginner plan doesn't require gym equipment, and the workouts are only 30 minutes!
I used to run—exclusively. But then I discovered my love for the breathless, heart-pounding, lung-bursting exhaustion that brings me to the floor after a hard core HIIT workout. When I lived in New York City, I frequented a fitness studio called The Fhitting Room. The instructors there create brutal circuits that hit every muscle from head-to-toe, compile kickass playlists to push you through, and make sure you work your hardest through the end. After just a few months, I ran a half marathon PR, without logging any extra miles. Now that I live in Santa Fe, I recreate their workouts (many of which they post on their site) or source ideas from the Instagram accounts of my favorite trainers. An exceptionally killer combo? A mix of kettlebell swings, heavy weighted lunges, and bosu burpees.
I hit the climbing gym three to four times a week for about two hours each session. Most of the time I just have fun by trying new sets or working on projects. But for about a year now, I’ve also been more disciplined with my “training,” aka using workouts to target and improve my climbing fitness and push through performance plateaus. Last year I completed Power Company Climbing’s Boulder Better, a 20-dollar e-book that guides you through different workouts to do after you climb, guaranteed to improve your performance. I saw the biggest gains in my endurance. Now, rather than just winging it, I make up my own post-climb workouts, usually some combination of core and shoulder exercises, pushups, and pull ups.
Honestly, I'm pretty terrible at forcing myself to do structured workouts. I occasionally do an ab workout, but my fitness bread and butter is just getting outside—trail running, climbing, ski touring, cross-country skiing. During the week, when I'm crunched for time, I typically run or go to the climbing gym (during ski season, I'll sometimes wake up early and skin up the local resort). Weekends usually involve some combination of ski touring, sport climbing, bouldering, and longer runs on trails that I don't get to frequent during the week.
I'm all about a solo session in the weight room. I love to climb, bike, and ski, and sometimes my body feels like it's going to crumble when I've really been getting after it. It's tough to opt for fluorescent lights and sweaty benches when I'd rather be outside, but I’ve found that weight training is the most surefire way to prevent injury and stay fit for long days in the backcountry. I primarily use free weights, keeping the weight low and reps high, working on major muscles like glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and core—all of which take a bit of a beating when I'm out playing. It feels like I'm consciously putting my overworked body back together.