Physical Preparedness for Outdoor Adventures
Spring is coming fast and, it’s time to plan that multi-day backpacking trip, or that epic mountaineering traverse.
And just like you invest in the right gear to be prepared for your favorite outdoor activity, you should also invest in physically preparing your body and mind.
That's why we asked legendary trainer and ultramarathoner Kevin Barata to share some tips on how to get your body ready for your next big adventure!
Kevin Burata is the head trainer for an elite Emergency Response Team (SWAT) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He has completed over 20 ultra marathons with numerous top-ten finishes, including four 100 mile races.
Prepare (verb): To make ready for a specific future purpose.
It seems too often we’re hearing stories of rescue operations for people who venture off into wild environments completely unprepared. Yes, most of these people lack the equipment or physical readiness to get them safely home.These well meaning fun seekers underestimate their level of physical preparation which can only serve to make an already challenging scenario worse, and in some cases, much worse.
Just like you’d invest in the right gear and equipment for your favorite outdoor activity, you should invest in physically preparing your body and mind. Being physically prepared doesn’t mean you have to be the fittest or fastest, it just means you’ve taken the time to invest in specific and deliberate training.
Carving out time in our busy lives doesn’t have to cost us a whole lot of time or money. Being physically prepared boils down to consistency and commitment. Give yourself time to prepare for your next planned venture. Whether you’re planning a multi-day backpacking trip or long, epic ski mountaineering traverse, here are some tips on how to get your body ready for your next adventure.
Practice your activity.
Whatever your outdoor sport or activity is, when it comes to being physically prepared for your next adventure, specificity is king. What do I mean by specificity? Simply put, practice what you love! This only makes sense. Specific practice that’s geared toward your activity will always yield you the best results for being physically prepared. This will ultimately make your outdoor experiences more enjoyable and increase your ability to overcome any challenging situations you might encounter. For example, as a trail runner, most of my physical preparation is focussed on running. Although I enjoy a multitude of sports and activities, running trails always prepares me best for my next race or mountain adventure run.
Set a goal, make a plan and see it through. Goals are incredibly important and empowering. They give us a measurable point to aim for and can help in holding us accountable and motivate us. Consistency is the key to achieving these goals. Something is always better than nothing. Remember, “the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do”. Have honest, self directed check-ins from time to time to access your progress and make adjustments if you need to. Make fitness and staying healthy a lifestyle choice!
Build your muscular strength.
The benefits of strength training are well known. In addition to improving heart health, managing body weight through increased metabolism, strengthening bone density, and improving your energy and mood, establishing a strength training routine will serve you well when getting your body ready for outdoor adventures. There are countless options out there when choosing which strength exercises or programs are best suited for you. Whatever you choose, your routine should be intentional to maximize your time and efforts. Choose a strength routine that is focussed on building the muscles that your activity or sport relies most on.
For me, I focus primarily on my lower body muscles during my strength training. Towards the end of a long run, it’s the legs that give out, not the lungs. Building lower body muscular endurance is therefore important, especially for my longer distance runs and races. Nonetheless, adopt a full balanced strength training regiment with an emphasis on the muscles that are most specific to your activity. Don’t neglect your core muscles. Your abdominal, back and hip muscles contribute immensely to your flexibility and balance. They’ll support virtually every physical activity you’ll engage in.
There are plenty of excellent body weight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, jumps, planks and sit-ups (just to name a few) that you can do anytime and anywhere. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or even a pricey gym membership. If you lack motivation and thrive in structured environments, then consider joining a group fitness gym or hiring a coach. These are great options for people new to strength training, getting started and even seasoned athletes to help motivate and focus their efforts.
Improve your aerobic efficiency.
The entire realm of aerobic fitness is highly complex but, simply put, aerobic fitness is the ability to sustain an effort over a prolonged period. Compared to anaerobic fitness which is sustaining an intense effort over a short period, outdoor enthusiasts should look to improve their aerobic fitness to better prepare them for their adventures. To improve our aerobic fitness it helps to look at aerobic efficiency, which is your body’s ability to utilize oxygen and deliver that oxygen to muscles that need it while they’re working.
Your heart’s ability to efficiently deliver oxygen to your muscles won’t happen by accident. It requires specific training (usually cardio based like running, cycling or rowing) that generates a higher heart rate (usually 80% of your maximum HR) sustained over a short period of time (30-90 seconds) followed by a recovery period and then repeated for several rounds (typically 3-5 sets). By incorporating this style of training into your preparedness, your body will become more efficient at consuming oxygen so that your muscles will be better adapted to utilizing energy. Generally speaking, working on your aerobic fitness makes you fitter and better able to cover longer distances at moderate efforts.
A common approach to this style of training would be something like interval training. Whatever cardio modality you choose when working your aerobic fitness, incorporate bursts of high intensities for short periods. These HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions can often yield similar or even better aerobic results than longer sustained, easy to moderate intensity workouts.
The last word.
Enjoyment of the outdoors and our activities is why we choose to venture outside. A little intentional investment in your overall fitness goes a long way and pays big dividends in making your experiences even greater. Stay focussed, stay motivated and most of all have fun in your preparation.
Enjoy the outdoors!
Kevin Barata is the head trainer for an elite Emergency Response Team (SWAT) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He has completed over 20 ultra marathons with numerous top ten finishes, including four 100 mile races. Most notably, Kevin finished 2nd at Alberta’s Last Person Standing race in June 2019 after completing 130 miles of running in 31 hours. He also serves as Co-Race Director for the Abbotsford Run for Water Trail Race, an annual race that raises money to create access to clean drinking water in remote parts of Ethiopia. Kevin is an Altra Footwear Ambassador and an Outrun Rare Ambassador.