Festival Fitness

World-class athletes are forced to get inventive to stay in shape as the Jeep World Outside Festival rocks on to Seattle

Jan 7, 2002
Outside Magazine

Jimmy Blakeney works his upper body atop a platform in the bike trials course.

Erica Mitchell and Jamie Cooper sprint up the stairs during Sheryl Crow's sound check.

July 29, 2002 Traveling more than 10,000 miles of pavement from coast to coast and everywhere in between, the Jeep World Outside Festival will cover a lot of ground this summer. But with long bus rides between concerts, the festival's world-class athletes, accustomed to daily training regimens, are forced to exercise creatively—wherever and whenever they get a chance.

Dark recesses below the second stage, amphitheatre stairways and even scaffolding have become impromptu work-out facilities as the athletes strive to keep in shape while living on the road.

Kayaker Rusty Sage, who says he prefers cross training when not on the road, naturally turns to other activities in the adventure village for his daily workout.

"I climb the rock wall almost every day," he says.

An all-around athlete, Sage does whatever he can to make the 24-foot tower more challenging. He has been spotted climbing blindfolded, backwards, and even up the walls most difficult routes using only his upper body.

Sage says he also gets a good workout while paddling in the kayak pool. "The boat fills up with water as I do tricks so it gets heavier and harder to maneuver, he says. "It's like running with a parachute behind you." Former Triple Crown kayaking champion Jimmy Blakeney says he prefers daily workouts in the shade found beneath the second stage, but the lack of space and equipment forces him to stick with basic exercises like push-ups and sit-ups.

Trials Rider Ryan Leech can also be found beneath the second stage on a regular basis but prefers Pilates, which he learned while performing with the Cirque de Soleil, rather than traditional exercises.

"I used to have a lot of lower back problems," he said "Pilates basically strengthens your core and since I've started I have felt really good."

For Leech, his exercise routine is so important he doesn't even hesitate to do it on the bus.

"Even a five minute routine makes me feel a lot better."

Erica Mitchell, world champion freestyle kayaker, can regularly be found with fellow paddler Jamie Cooper running up the stairs in the amphitheatre but says she also gets a great deal of strength training done while working with concertgoers in the kayak pool.

"Pushing the kayaks in and out of the pool all day is really good exercise for my arms and lats," she says.

All the athletes agree that in addition to their extracurricular efforts they still get a decent workout during their daily exhibitions in the adventure village.

On their days off the athletes also take advantage of hotel gyms, pools, and city streets to keep in shape.

But for top-level athletes competing at professional levels, exercising the body is only half the battle. Staying mentally sharp is also very important and regular chess matches have become a popular way of strengthening the brain.

"You have to strategize which is important in competition," says Blakeney. "It really helps if you are already in that frame of mind."

The athletes will need all the strength they can get as the tour makes its way north to Seattle before heading back east for nine more shows.

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