Tips from adventurers on how to improve your performance and block out painful distractions
When it comes to pushing your limits, record-breaking professional adventurers are the pinnacle. When traditional sportsmen perform, they have masseuses and luxury to recover in; adventurers have hours of toil, and a tent. We asked the cream of British adventuring how they get expedition fit, and their answers will help you reach your goals; be it running longer, lifting heavier or eking out one more pull-up.
Preparation is key
“A friend once sent me a text saying: ‘The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in real life’ – you’ve got to put the time in,” says world-leading alpine climber Kenton Cool (kentoncool.com). “In the gym I warm up with a 4,000m
row, and I’m a big convert to CrossFit. For me, the key is training with other people – I’m fiercely competitive.”
Polar explorer Ben Saunders (bensaunders.com) recently finished the record-breaking Scott expedition – walking 1,795 miles dragging a 205kg sled for 105 days. How? “There was a year’s worth of training specifically for this trip,” he explains. “I live in London, no glaciers nearby – instead there was a lot of running [including seven marathons and three ultras], cycling and three gym sessions a week with heavy weight training.”
Break it down
Whether during a gruelling training session or an endurance feat itself, to keep focus – and the will to live – you must separate the task into smaller goals. “We’d stop every hour and a half to eat and drink [on the Scott expedition], so I’d just think as far ahead as the next break,” Saunders tells us. “If I started thinking how I’ve still got 1,500 miles to go, it’d be overwhelming. It’s the same with most challenges and goals in life.”
Cool agrees: “Along the journey – say, if you decide you want to climb Everest – you set achievable milestones to remind you that sacrifices you’re making are worth it. It might be climbing other mountains or entering marathons or races – things along the way you can celebrate.”
Smash the pain barrier
There’s no getting around it – when you’re exerting yourself, it’s going to hurt. “When I’m ice climbing and things start getting tough, I have this mantra: ‘Strong as an ox’,” says Cool. “When I’m hanging on an ice axe and my forearms feel like they’re about to explode – if I’ve put the training and the time in, then I know that I can do it – ‘Strong as an ox, strong as an ox’ – and ignore the pain. No matter how grim a situation is, there is always an end to it.”
Sir Ranulph Fiennes (ranulphfiennes.co.uk), ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, has another method. “When I had crotch rot and gangrene, I invented my own fight against the voice telling me to stop; to picture my two heroes – my dad and my grandad. I imagined they were watching, and I didn’t want to shame them by being the first to crack – even though I was hurting.” Considering this is a man who sawed the dead tips off his own frostbitten fingers, it’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about.
Cool, Saunders and Fiennes spoke to ShortList at the Land Rover Discovery Adventure Challenge in Megeve, France, while searching for Land Rover’s Next Generation Explorer; discovery.landrover.com
Read more from the Shortlist Tri Challenge Blog
(Image: Human Events)