Training Secrets from a Multisport Dad
Ten tips from Will Gadd to get you moving
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We’ve all heard the warnings: Sitting is the new smoking. Even for athletes, every hour you spend parked in a sedentary position cuts minutes from your life expectancy and raises your risk of diabetes and heart disease. But there’s a simple solution: Move.
Move your body every day. That’s the key to staying fit and happy, says Canadian Will Gadd, a three-time X Games ice climbing champion, and former world-record holding paraglider.
In a recently released video, the 46-year-old single father of two daughters lobbies for simplifying exercise by simply moving. “The more you sit still, the harder it is to move, the less you move, well, you get the picture,” he says in the film. “I have never regretted working out, going for a walk, or getting on a plane stinking—dripping sweat—not once.”
If the video doesn’t make you want to take a run around the block, read on for Gadd’s tips for achieving peak performance, juggling fatherhood with adventure, and generally loving life.
START EARLY IN THE DAY
Balancing parenting and adventure is like anything in life: You have to develop systems and then stick to those systems. I have less time, but I’m more committed to using the time I do have. Do the most important things early in the day. Get that walk in, go to the gym, do whatever it is, but get it done and you’ll be a better parent.
We all waste a lot of time surfing the internet, and in transitions from work to home. Steal those moments back and go exercise. Go for a 30-minute run instead of sitting on the couch.
INVOLVE THE KIDS
I often incorporate my kids into workouts. We’ll hike a local peak, and I’ll let my two-year old daughter walk as long as she wants. Then I’ll carry her. Or we’ll go to a playground, and I’ll do pull-ups, front levers, squats, dips, with intervals of being the “Monster, Daddy!” It’s a lot of fun, and my kids will exercise, too, in their own way. I’m showing them that physical activity is important, fun, and doesn’t have to be fancy.
Sometimes the other parents will look at me like I’m a freak, but I’m OK with that. There’s a fundamental disconnect where all the kids play on the playground and the parents sit down and do nothing. That’s wrong! We need more adult playgrounds.
TRAIN WITH THE SEASONS
Don’t draw a line between strength and cardio. In real life, they don’t happen independently—they’re joined. What activity I do is less important than the fact that I do something physical pretty much every day. I switch sports based on the seasons.
In spring I paddle, mountain bike, run, and climb. In summer I fly my paraglider, but also do some mountaineering, riding, and hiking. In fall I rock climb, and spend more time in the weight room building up for winter and repairing any injuries or imbalances. In winter I’m ice or mixed climbing, and Nordic skiing. I move about 20 hours a week; movement always trumps training.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Climbing gyms are fast and fun, but I refuse to do any type of aerobic training inside—that’s a tremendous waste of the outdoors. I run in Manhattan and I hike during layovers at airports. It’s great way to see the gritty side of cities (and it freaks people out when you walk out of an airport and head cross-country). We’re all pretty free to get outside and exercise. We should exercise that freedom, not suck in stale indoor air on a treadmill to nowhere.
BE MENTALLY TOUGH
Analyze your performance. I beat myself when I fail to perform well. I try to understand why I sucked. This whole Barney worldview is bullshit when it comes to performance. You’ve got to dig in, roll in the failure, sift through it, feel it, embrace it, understand it. Then change.
I train to failure, and then I rest until I want to train again. If I don’t feel like training, it’s because I’m not recovered. I’ll scale down a workout to where it’s fun, and do it gently. Then I go hard the next day.
Focus on how food makes you feel. Eat simple, unprocessed food. Americans are always dieting and obsessing over low-fat this and calorie-reduced that, and they’re fat. Avoid sugar, eat vegetables, but most of all move every day that you can. If you’re exercising every day, then you don’t need to be neurotic about every cookie (although eat waffles for breakfast and you’re going to bonk fast; eat eggs, fruit, a whack of Muesli, a sausage maybe, and you’re set).
Supplements are a waste of money if you’re eating a half-decent diet. People always want shortcuts to performance, but there aren’t any legal ones. Take the money you would have spent on pills and potions, and put it toward training, to moving every day.
DO WHAT FEELS GOOD
There’s way too much emphasis on the minutia of workouts, body fat percentages, and medical jargon. Devote time to whatever exercise makes you feel good. The rest is really details unless you’re a top-end competitive athlete. Eat reasonably, sleep, exercise with meaning and intent. Be happy with where you are, but stay a little hungry for more.
STOKE THE FIRE
I’ve won national or international titles in ice climbing, rock climbing, and paragliding, so I’m pretty driven to perform at the highest level I can in whatever I’m doing.
High performance requires discipline, but more often if you keep the exercise fire stoked, then you’ll be stoked to exercise. The downward spiral begins when the fire dies. I’m talking about just getting out and walking the dog, being outside, soaking up where you live, in whatever form it comes in. It’s way of life, a religion.