The Adventure-Ready Workout

by Carla Henderson

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Amelia Earhart famously said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” If, like Earhart, you crave the physical and mental test of wild, challenging and daring activities, then this adventure-ready workout is the perfect preparation. From hiking and backpacking to rock climbing and rafting, use this sequence to get in shape for any outdoor adventure.

This adventure-ready workout is broken into three parts, emphasizing the skills and strength needed for different challenges and activities. While you can certainly focus on one area if you are training for a specific excursion or competition, use the entire sequence to build the strength and endurance you need to be ready for anything.

3 Adventure-Ready Workouts

Perform each exercise in sequence as a circuit with as little rest as possible between exercises. Rest one minute between rounds, performing three rounds of each circuit before moving on to the next. Each circuit should take approximately 20 minutes total, which means you can finish the entire workout in about an hour.

Circuit 1: Hiking and Backpacking

If hiking and backpacking are your activities of choice, you must be ready to travel long distances over rugged terrain, potentially while carrying a heavy pack. And unlike traditional big lifts you’d find in the gym, you won’t always have the option to use both sides of your body together simultaneously, which is why relying exclusively on barbell exercises and machines won’t always get you into adventure-ready shape.

Kari Pearce, six-time CrossFit Games athlete and four-time Fittest American Woman, understands the value of thinking outside the box to get in the kind of shape that can take on any challenge. “When I was competing, one thing people noticed about my training was how much accessory/unilateral work I did,” Pearce says. “In daily life, we have our dominant side and tend to use that more often than our non-dominant side, which leads to imbalances.”

This is why weighted step-ups and stair climbers are the best exercises for building leg strength and endurance in this adventure-ready workout. Each time you step up, you’re only able to use one leg at a time, forcing each side of your body to get strong and developing better core strength and balance at the same time. Meanwhile, side squats challenge your balance and coordination in a different plane of motion, strengthening the stabilizer muscles around your hips, knees and ankles. Adding AMRAP burpees provides a total-body challenge for any fitness level to build the power and endurance to reach the top of any mountain.

The Workout

Exercise Reps/Time Alternating Dumbbell Step-Up 10 per side Dumbbell Side Squat 10 per side Burpee 1-minute AMRAP* Stair Climber 2 minutes

*AMRAP = as many reps as possible

Circuit 2: Rock Climbing and Bouldering

No matter how strong you are in the gym, climbing is always a physical and psychological challenge. “Rock climbing is not like some sports, where it is made easier for women,” said Beverly Johnson, the first woman to solo climb Dihedral Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. “On a rock, everything is equal.” While you can develop your climbing skills on a wall or with rope climbs, this circuit helps you develop critical areas of strength for climbing within the flow of a larger adventure-ready workout.

Hanging windshield wipers develop the core strength you need to swing your legs up to foot holds while simultaneously working your arms, back and shoulders in a hanging position. Since you may have to reach, stretch and push off at a variety of angles, archer lunges (also known as Cossack lunges) develop strength and flexibility at the furthest ends of your range of motion. Single-arm hangs develop your grip and unilateral strength, and Spider-Man crawls along the floor perfectly mimic the total-body effort of climbing while getting your heart rate up and challenging your muscular endurance.

The Workout

Exercise Reps/Time Hanging Windshield Wiper 10 each direction Archer Lunge 10 each direction Single-Arm Hang 30 seconds per arm Spider-Man Crawl 2 minutes

Circuit 3: Rafting, Kayaking and Paddleboarding

While it may seem unusual to train for river sports in a gym, the kind of strength you need to successfully navigate rapids is easily developed with a few common core exercises. This final circuit in the adventure-ready workout helps develop the upper-body strength, anti-rotational core muscles and balance needed to help you stay on course as you paddle through the toughest currents.

This circuit kicks off with a dumbbell rotational plank, which is one of Pearce’s favorite core builders. “This is a great movement you can use to improve your core stability and build strength in your shoulders,” she explains. Keeping with the unilateral focus of the workout, the single-leg Romanian deadlift (also known as a straight-legged deadlift) works balance and total-body coordination one leg at a time. Next is the Russian twist, a classic rotational core builder to which you can add dumbbells or a body bar for more challenge and resistance. You’ll finish up on the rowing machine for an intense total-body challenge that works your shoulders, back, legs and core while it skyrockets your heart rate.

The Workout

Exercise Reps/Time Dumbbell Rotating Plank 10 each side Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift 10 each side Russian Twist 1-minute AMRAP Rower Machine 2 minutes

Add this adventure-ready workout to your routine a few times a week and you’ll be ready for the great outdoors in no time.