Get Fit for a Lifetime

To help prepare you for going big, we've pulled together 15 essential tips from award-winning writer Paul Scott's new book, Outside Fitness. Whether you run, bike, swim, climb, or simply want to keep yourself in peak form, follow these fundamentals to stay primed for action.

Kelly Slater believes the key to success is a sound body and mind.     Photo: Sam Jones

1) PERIODIZE YOUR WORKOUT. Systematically increase volume and intensity over three-week periods; on the fourth week, cut the workload by half. This pattern of stress and recovery will maximize your training and prevent your body from becoming unresponsive to stimuli.

2) REST AND GROW STRONGER. Schedule a day or two of time off each week, an easy week every month, and a solid month of active rest, such as walking, per year. You get stronger when your body recovers; if you keep pushing yourself every day, you'll quickly burn out.

3) REALIZE THAT 30 MINUTES IS 30 MINUTES. Ten minutes of exercise three times a day equals 30 minutes of exercise done all at once. Just make sure those ten-minute blocksinclude hard efforts like jumping rope.

4) REACH YOUR PEAK BY EASING OFF. If you've been training hard for months, taper your workload by 25 percent each week starting four weeks before an event or adventure. During the last two weeks you want to be mostly resting up for your big day or trip.

5) TAKE YOUR EXERCISE OUTSIDE. First, you'll have more fun; second, it'll seem easier, because you'll be visually distracted; and third, you'll stick with it longer in life, because it's not dull or monotonous.

6) TRAIN BODY MOVEMENTS, NOT BODY PARTS. In the real world your muscles are used for stepping, squatting, pushing, pulling, extending, and rotating, which requires training with multiple joint movements like squats and standing overhead dumbbell presses.

7) WORK OUT IN THE MORNING. It'll take longer to warm up and loosen your spine and joints, but an a.m. workout completed before the day's obligations pile on is the best way to ensure that you exercise regularly.

8) FOCUS ON PERFECT FORM. Three lifts done with good form build more muscle faster and more safely than 30 lifts done poorly. In the same way a perfect stride or stroke makes a faster runner or swimmer, a perfect lift teaches you how to apply your strength precisely.

9) USE DUMBBELLS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE WHEN LIFTING. They're safer than a barbell and generally more effective, since they prevent one arm from becoming stronger than the other. They also better replicate how you lift loads in everyday life.

10) LOWER WEIGHTS SLOWLY. In the real world, muscles are most needed when absorbing shock and torque from dynamic sports like basketball, tennis, and volleyball, and descending against gravity while, say, skiing, mountain-biking, or hiking. Train your body for these circumstances by letting the weight down smoothly and slowly after you lift it up.

11) MAKE STRETCHING A DEDICATED PART OF YOUR WORKOUT. Try yoga, or a DIY session involving your own sport-specific routine, for at least 10–15 minutes a day. You'll improve your flexibility and boost muscle endurance.

12) CREATE A HOME WORKOUT. That way, you have no excuse not to exercise. Whether you start a run out your door or clear space somewhere in the house for a dumbbell-based lifting plan, you're at your gym the second you leave the bed and hit the floor.

13) STRENGTH-TRAIN AT LEAST THREE TIMES A WEEK. Research shows once is generally too little to effectively build a strong body. Three times a week, allowing at least 36 hours of rest between each weight-lifting session (yoga and Pilates count, too), will give your muscles enough time to recover.

14) MAKE YOUR CORE MUSCLES YOUR FIRST PRIORITY. If you have time to work only one muscle group in the weight room or gym, make it your torso, which includes your back, stomach, hips, and chest. Without a solid core, you won't be able to excel in any sport.

15) LEARN YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD (LT). LT is the approximate point where you start to struggle to maintain your effort, and training just above and below that level through brief intervals builds speed and endurance. To find yours, wear a heart-rate monitor during an endurance session and note your heart rate when you start breathing too hard to sustain a conversation. Then, twice a week, mix in several three-to-ten-minute intervals where you hit your LT.

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