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Strength training crucial to success in outdoor pursuits

Maximize performance by training for specific activities

Outdoor activities such as trekking, paddling, and skiing burn calories and build fitness all year through fun, challenging outlets. According to wilderness fitness trainer Doug Schurman, outdoor enthusiasts can maximize performance, enjoyment, and safety by training for their favorite activities. He and his wife, Courtenay, have teamed up on The Outdoor Athlete to offer training advice on outdoor activities.

According to Schurman, strength training-often overlooked in favor of endurance training-provides the base for the safe pursuit of challenges in outdoor activities. "Strength training is crucial to success in outdoor pursuits because appropriate training gives you power, strength, force, and the ability to withstand both the predictable and unforeseen challenges," Schurman says."It also helps the body adapt to overload to prevent injuries, provides muscle balance, improves performance, and enhances body composition."

  • Helps the body adapt to overload. Strength training gets outdoor enthusiasts ready for any and all overloads that might happen in their activities. "If you start into an outdoor activity too quickly without allowing enough time to adapt to overload, you might suffer injury from stresses that are too great," he explains.
  • Provides muscle balance. Strength training helps keep joints healthy by ensuring that the opposing muscle groups are worked in direct proportion to the primary movers. "After a substantial time, if you have used one group of muscles almost to the exclusion of the others, the body will stray from ideal posture," Schurman says.
  • Improves performance. Strength training significantly improves performance with both outdoor and everyday activity. "A trail runner with fantastic cardiorespiratory endurance might feel ready to tackle a challenging backpacking trip," says Schurman. "But until he gets his legs used to moving uphill over uneven terrain with added weight, he might struggle with a short hike that gains several thousand feet of elevation."
  • Enhances body composition. Strength training enhances body composition by increasing lean muscle mass and improving calorie-burning metabolic functions. Schurman says that instead of relying on the number on the scale, you should pay attention to what your body is saying about energy levels, task performance, and a change in clothing size or inches lost.

The Outdoor Athlete offers workouts and programs for 17 activities, including alpine mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing, trail running, snowshoeing, and skiing. The book also includes nutritional considerations for each activity and information on environmental factors affecting participation and training.

For more information, see The Outdoor Athlete.