The Outside Questionnaire: Jimmy Chin

We emailed the professional badass questions about his life in Jackson, his family, and his greatest achievements

Oct 7, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
Jimmy Chin

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011    Photo: Jimmy Chin

The award-winning National Geographic photographer, who released the critically acclaimed film Meru last year, has documented expeditions all around the world, from Chad to Everest to Morocco to China. Here, the North Face climber, skier, and mountaineer talks to us about foam rollers, kids, and his favorite motto.


What time do you go to bed? I’m the type of guy who is hammering emails late into the night. It’s not unusual to get an email from me at 1:30 a.m. 

What time do you wake up? Usually around 7 to 8 a.m. Earlier if I have a good ski day or climbing day planned.

What’s the first priority of your day? Hanging out with my kids or meditating.

What do you eat for breakfast? If I am at home, I make a blueberry smoothie with banana, yogurt, almond milk, and Hanah One. I almost always have a big scoop in the morning—smoothie or no smoothie. [Chin is sponsored by Hanah.] 

What time of day do you prefer to work out? Whenever I have time.

What’s the maximum and minimum number of hours you train in a day? I like to get at least an hour of exercise a day. On big days in the mountains, I could easily be moving or climbing for 12-plus hours.

Do you keep a workout journal? No.

What’s your favorite exercise? Climbing, skiing, surfing, running, and mountain biking.

What do you do on your recovery day? I don’t really have “recovery” days. I’m probably working or traveling on those type of days. But I do try to roll and stretch when I have time.

What’s the most recent habit you’ve tried to adopt? I roll fairly regularly using foam rollers and Mobilitywod rollers.

What change in your approach to training has had the biggest impact on your success? Consistency is what I aim for, but it’s pretty hard with my travel schedule. I try to set up time to do something fun with people where I know I am traveling. I call my friend Michael Muller when I am headed to L.A. and we go surfing, or I’ll call Dean Karnazes on my way to the Bay Area and we can go for a good run. Meeting up with people to get out is definitely helpful for motivation and getting out when I am traveling.

What change in your approach to eating has had the biggest impact on your success? Eating less sugar. Incorporating Hanah One as a superfood supplement has also had an incredible impact. 

Which training habits do you most overuse? I need to over use more! I end up training a lot more cardio and legs just because I live in Jackson and I’m hiking the pass, backcountry skiing, etc. You get super fit in Jackson, but it hasn’t been great for rock climbing. I do what I can.

What do you dislike most about training? I like training because it means I’m probably getting outside and not sitting in front of my laptop staring at emails.

What do you most value in a training partner? Someone who is hyper motivated and fun to hang out with.

What is your idea of a perfect training day? A long day in the ocean surfing or a long day in the mountains skiing, running, or climbing. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would be more decisive.

What will you miss most when you stop going on expeditions? Feeling that deep connection with the landscape you only get after spending weeks or months toiling in it. 

What is your most treasured possession? My van?

What keeps you up night? Emails and ridiculously long questionnaires.

Which athlete are you most inspired by? Kelly Slater.

What do you most value in a competitor? Humor.

What do you most value in a mentor? Vision and experience.

What’s your biggest goal? To live with passion and intention everyday.

What are you doing an hour before an expedition? Packing.

What song would you listen to to get pumped up if you could only have one song? Probably something from Metallica.

What is the first thing you think about when you finish an expedition? My daughter.

What is your greatest fear? To live a meaningless life.

Which athlete do you most admire? There are too many to name, but athletes in any sport who have been able to consistently stay at the top of their game for a long time—like Kelly Slater and Conrad Anker. I also admire the younger breakout athletes that redefine their sports or take it to the next level—like John John Florence, Ashima Shiraishi, or Alex Honnold. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure? Sleeping in.

What’s your worst nightmare? Not having the freedom to live the life I want to live. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My family—my two kids.

When and where were you happiest? Right after getting back to base camp after a successful climb or ski.

Which talent would you most like to have? Infinite creative vision.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being stuck inside on a big powder day. 

Do you have a motto? Commit and figure it out. Or, speaking to myself, “Calm down, dude.”

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Surviving.

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