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We share an appreciation for outdoor recreation.  Whether you're a hardcore four-wheeler, quad or side-by-side rider, dirt motorcyclist or avid outdoor recreationalist who hikes trails or plies waterways in a kayak or canoe, a fundamental requirement is physical fitness.  Lack of fitness leads to injuries that can end your favorite pursuits.  This forum provides the space and a platform for sharing health and fitness experiences while inspiring each other to be healthier and more physically fit!


A common misconception has crept into the outdoor community in recent decades.  Many believe that lack of fitness simply means turning to another kind of vehicle for our motorized recreation.  This can take the form of abandoning dirt motorcycling and buying a quad or side-by-side.  Or maybe selling the quad and buying a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4x4.  In either case, it's assumed that the new vehicle type will be less demanding physically and allow continued access to outdoor recreation.


Note: I can fully subscribe to this if an individual has severe impairment; however, I would also draw attention to guys like Jake Munoz, Jesse Williamson, Chris Ridgway and Fred Meyling.  Jake has been through seven major spinal surgeries and drives the Rubicon Trail in his heavily modified flatfender Jeep CJJesse Williamson is the first double amputee U.S. combat vet to compete in the Baja 1000 on a dirt motorcycle, and Jesse has now raced the 2013 Baja 1000, the 2014 Baja 500 and the 2014 Baja 1000 on the Warrior Built team with 1st Sgt. Nick Hamm and other combat vet riders.  Fred Meyling, a career Army officer, is now paraplegic.  He has driven on the Rubicon Trail in a Jeep 4x4.  Jake Munoz talks about the imperative need to rehabilitate with physical training in our interview at the magazine.  Jake's exercise regimen is phenomenal and an inspiration to anyone rehabilitating from injuries or a surgery.


Another example is the modern outdoorsman/hunter paradigm where the use of a 4x4, quad or side-by-side has taken the place of traditional on-foot or horse packing hunts.  When I was a bit younger, a day's mule deer hunt could be a hike of 6-8 miles in rugged, mountainous terrain with my lever action .30 caliber Winchester long rifle (open semi-buckhorn sights) in hand.  Today, many hunters boast of walking less than 50 yards from their winch equipped quad or side-by-side to a downed animal.  This has many implications, but for the purpose of this forum, I'll stick to the matter of physical fitness.


Also overlooked is the fact that lack of physical conditioning is dangerous.  An out of shape recreationalist crawling the Rubicon Trail in a 4x4 or the unconditioned urbanite from sea level hunting elk at 12,000 feet in the Rockies is at extreme risk.  If the quad, side-by-side or 4x4 becomes stuck or breaks down, stacking rocks or walking back to the nearest paved road could prove deadly


I've been an active member of the 4x4 community for over a half century now.  I'm also an avid outdoorsperson and physical fitness advocate.  One observation worth sharing is that an out of condition four-wheeler is at risk under the best of circumstances, and anyone is vulnerable here.  The annual Easter Jeep Safari at Moab provides an excellent metaphor.  Without muscle tone, knocking around on the rocks in the best equipped 4x4 can be brutal on the spine, kidneys and other vital organs.  If core and other muscles are weak and lax (with characteristic omentum girth hanging over one's belt), bouncing around all day in a 4x4 or quad can cause internal organ, spinal and skeletal distress or damage.  One of the best means for preventing a "bad back" is building a strong set of core muscles.


Cardio-vascular fitness is also paramount, especially when traveling from low elevations to high altitude recreation.  Years ago, I guided a media launch over Imogene Pass in 4WD Geo Trackers for Chevrolet.  As we approached the summit of nearly 14,000 feet, a Seattle-based colleague became cyanotic.  Though summertime, he characterized his symptoms as "the flu".  I spotted the blue lips and lightheadedness immediately as "altitude sickness" and quickly got the group to Telluride before driving my fellow journalist to Farmington, New Mexico where enough atmosphere and oxygen led to his full recovery.  (This was a judgment call, the alternative was a trip to the Telluride hospital's emergency room.)  Dehydration and genetic factors play a large role with altitude sickness, and a period of acclimatizing does help here.  However, this was an individual whose most strenuous activity was getting in and out of a Geo Tracker to take photos, and he had lapsed into a severely threatening health state. 


There is also the case of overdoing exercise.  One of my brothers-in-law has an expression that aptly applies to his fitness level and penchant for outdoor pursuits.  An avid bow hunter, he refers to his zealous gym time on the elliptical machine as "an 18-year-old brain in a 66-year-old body!"  This has led to a forthcoming knee replacement following an athletic and physical life that included many years of pounding asphalt with running shoes to maintain his cardio fitness.  There are limits and the need for balance here.


I have a major incentive for staying physically fit that my wife would likely characterize in my brother-in-laws terms.  (Actually, he's a year older than I am.)  My metaphor for staying fit is the Honda XR650R dirt motorcycle and vintage '84 XR350R.  Each bike demands physical fitness.  While riding dirt motorcycles in the desert or on rocky trials-like terrain is highly physical and constantly works the five major muscle groups, this cannot be my sole exercise regimen.  In fact, after a long period of inconsistent exercise, I went to the gym faithfully for four months before returning to dirt motorcycling.  The best way to avoid injury in any athletic or outdoor recreational pursuit is physical conditioning.


I'll gladly share my lifetime routine and commitment to reasonable physical conditioning and nutrition.  None of us is exempt from the negative impact of poor conditioning or nutrition.  Despite this, each of us has gone through periods of neglect and even avoidance of exercise and proper nutrition.  Some of the health and fitness commitment is aspiration, some inspiration, and ultimately the resolution is consistent perspiration...Considering our growing number of forums members, we should be able to build an impressive information base from our conditioning and nutritional experiences.  It begins right here! 



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  • 3 weeks later...

Moses, id like to add to this in pursuit of another activity that we touched on before, that my father in law and I do in the winter on a routine basis. Although our exercise isnt much above sea level, we snowshoe hike quite a bit, and at times for long distances in all kinds of snow conditions, from soft powder, to packed, icy areas.


Neither one of us really actually gave much thought to physical fitness, in a gym style, routine way, until earlier this year, when he and i were in the adirondacks, on a level wooded trail, and he started to get short of breath, as well as having issues seeing properly. After getting a check up, it was found that even though we do those activities in the winter, most of our summer activities are either shorter hikes, or sitting around a campfire, which was just enough for him to be that little bit out of shape. About the most execise we get in the summer is lazily paddling a canoe around a couple small lakes, and maybe a short hike once in awhile while camping.


After his checkup, his doctor advised him that he needed a more structured fitness regimen, as he is getting older, so his body isnt able to take the rigors of our normal activities as much. Granted, he is in better shape than most his age, but that lazy period during the summer was just enough to put him just enough out of shape for strenuous winter activities.


An example that proved i myself needed to think more about it though, was a 7 mile hike up a curvy, rutted trail on Bald mountain in the Adirondacks. I usually do this hike a couple times a year, but this year i struggled to get up the mountain the second time, and when i got to the top, my legs were a bit sore, and even though coming down was easier, it took awhile for the bit of pain in my legs to actually go away. A checkup revealed that most of our summer activities do place a bit more work on the arms, but sitting in a canoe, or around a campfire, the legs dont get much of a workout at all. He and i then both decided to join a local YMCA so we could use the exercise facilities at least a couple times a week, as well as the pool.

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All good points, Biggman100!!!  In 1996 at age 47, I volunteered for the Tread Lightly USA/UK Team to compete in the Land Rover Trek competition.  Though this was a mini-Camel Trophy event condensed into one very long day, the strain could have severe repercussions for an undertrained competitor.


I had the good sense to focus on cardio fitness, and four months before the event, I began training.  My "conditioning" has never been way off, and I'll get into that point after sharing my training regimen for Land Rover Trek...


My first approach was purchasing a Polar Heart Rate Monitor.  I got the training book that came with this device, a fairly new concept at the time, and followed the use recommendations precisely.  That included one very important factor:  Always train cardio from your current condition and not some "illusion" about your glory days.  For me, this meant not comparing my condition at the time to my days as a high school football player, adult construction laborer, heavy equipment operator, gym member (which I did for many years), my earlier martial arts training or those mountain climber/hiker days.  I was writing books and doing magazine assignments in 1996, working on vehicles at my shop studio, and none of these functions qualified as regular "cardio exercise". 


The regimen with a heart rate monitor is simple:  stay in your correct heart rate zones.  This means the device, much like a tachometer, will help you either increase or decrease your exertion level based upon your real time heart rate.  Initially, a walk could get you in the zone.  Over time, the exertion required for cardio training increases.  A brisk walk, a light jog, soon you are pushing to stay in the zone.  Interval training was my end game, watching constantly for a reasonably quick "recovery" to normal heart rate when I stopped exerting.  Never sit down after a workout, always keep moving as you bring your pulse rate down.


Eventually, actually in only six weeks or so, my heart "muscle" was once again attuning to a cardio workout.  For training at a more athletic level, I held to the 120-140 beats zone, with a gradual warm up before holding in this range.  As for your "right" heart rate, this must be determined by the age formula and your overall condition. 


Caution:  Always make sure your heart is up for training in the first place, get a physical from a qualified physician, and follow the age formula for setting your training heart rate beats.  Start out slower, work up gradually, and don't go beyond the zone.  Pushing beyond the zone will only cause fatigue and delay your conditioning.


At 65 years of age, I can do 20 minutes on a training exercise bicycle at the gym with a target of 120-135, a bit higher than others my age.  At 47, my maximum heart rate, once in condition and able to test myself without risk, was 191 beats a minute, which is normal for a 31 year old.  This state of condition is from exercising and being active over a lifetime and also reflective of very fortunate genes.  We'll see how far this takes me, I never take my health and fitness for granted, and if I don't hold to my end of the exercise bargain, my heart genetics will be for naught.


As for my lifetime condition, I was a very active child.  We camped and hiked at high elevations, I played high school football, ran track and worked after school and summers, including heavy lifting at a Sierra fishing resort as the garbage collector, hoisting and dumping trash drums of fish guts over the rails of a vintage Chevy flat bed truck.  As an adult, beyond the workout from automotive/truck mechanics, I remained outdoor active and worked as both a construction laborer and heavy equipment operator before heading to the University of Oregon at age 28 with wife and kids.  At the U of O, I took PE conditioning classes and studied martial arts, which I continued for several years.  When I graduated in 1980, the only available job at Eugene/Springfield was the working foreman at a commercial big rig tire shop.  I was grateful to have worked hard physically to that point, it helped with the tire busting. 


I kept up gym memberships through a variety of work stints and career moves after college.  For me, outdoor activity included hunting and fishing, hiking and such.  I've done my share of rock crawling in 4x4s, personally and professionally, and the four-wheeling thing is no longer just "driving around in circles or over rocks".  Today, aside from enjoyable family "destination" four-wheeling, I'm as happy on the ground with a video cam along the Rubicon Trail, traipsing over boulders and up granite faces at 7,500-plus feet elevation.  For me, the physical workout is as invigorating as driving the trail.


As for conditioning, I highly recommend a gym environment unless you either cannot afford it or are tremendously disciplined about home exercise equipment.  We have owned a list of home equipment that all went down the road over time, usually after a final stint as a clothing rack.  For me, anyway, the gym works, I'm good about sticking to a regimen—once I get suited and headed in the direction of the gym.  Often, it's that initial push-off resistance that's harder than the exercise routine!


My advice to weekend warriors and those out of shape who have a chronologically older body with an 18-year-old zest for activity:  Get a heart rate monitor before launching your exercise program.  Use the monitor like a tachometer, and don't over-rev your heart!  If you initially have to crawl in order to hold your heart rate in the correct zone (use a guide here, do not improvise on your training heart rate beats), that's okay.  In training this way, you'll get fast gains without stressing your cardio system.  


The heart rate monitor is cheap insurance that enabled me to compete effectively at the Land Rover Trek.  That included running in hills, pedaling a bicycle uphill and through a creek bed in red Georgia clay mud, ropes exercises, canoeing and winching activities, all under the demands of a stopwatch!  The easiest and least physically demanding part was driving the 4WD Land Rovers on an off-road course.  Keep this in mind—even if your 4x4 is in great shape, you made need to do something physical for yourself or others!


As I've mentioned repeatedly, my dirt motorcycle riding is partly an excuse to stay in better condition.  I ride motorcycles in the backcountry as an adjunct to training and the gym, not in place of conditioning.  The demands of dirt motorcycling, both physically and mentally, can be extreme.  I take on this responsibility under only one condition:  being in decent physical shape before throwing my leg over the saddle...Riding is an enhanced, five-muscle group form of additional exercise that I happen to enjoy.



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  • 1 year later...
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flynntr...Any time, a favorite subject!  We need to be encouraging to others at this level, our quality of life is important, and conditioning is very much a key here.  Nutrition is central, fitness is big, and overall, staying healthy matters.  

Worth noting, as we age, metabolism can slow and become an issue.  (Statistically, this can happen from age 25 onward, though exercise and nutrition play a role in postponing or offsetting this process.)  I'm looking forward to cooler weather and riding my dirt motorcycle more, for me that's an incentive to boost and maintain my overall training.  We each have a metaphor for staying in shape and healthy.  It needs to be important enough to follow through...

I picked up a used Specialized ATB (bicycle) for general training, and I ride it regularly, a great investment of less than $300 total including new tires, tubes, seat and seat tube.  We have always had working and field dogs that demand/deserve vigorous walks in the hills, and we're between dogs now.  We're putting out feelers for a puppy or rescue, breeds that have worked for us include Golden Retrievers, Labs and the Australian sheep dogs.  They like to travel in back country and play hard.  Their regular exercise requirements get us moving!

It helps to find a personally gratifying outlet, which can be hiking to a remote lake for fly fishing, hunting in the field, simply walking an energetic dog, whatever you're willing to do on a regular basis.  Body weight in check is very helpful, weight loss a sensible goal if needed, the results raise energy levels and metabolism.  In my experience, it's always easier to maintain weight at a lower set point.  Added body weight increases the amount of energy expenditure necessary to lose weight or maintain the right lean mass-to-fat ratio.  It's much easier to stay a middleweight than a cruiser weight!

Let's keep our community healthy and motivated!


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