We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
For me, the allure of the multisport lifestyle comes from the possibilities it provides for exploring the world. I view fitness as a vehicle for adventure and discovery—both outward and inward. With this in mind, I want to introduce you to a concept I use in my own life, something I term the adventure workout.
Adventure denotes an unusual and exciting experience or activity that is daring, taps into enterprise and enthusiasm, and explores some aspect of the unknown. The adventure workout touches on one or more of these characteristics in relation to your own curiosity, interests, and state of fitness. An adventure workout may or may not have universal appeal as long as it appeals to your own sense of adventure, indulges your own curiosity, allows you to explore something unknown to you, and challenges you to step beyond your usual. In other words—and this is key—only you can define your own adventure workout.
Before I go any further, let me emphasize that I firmly believe in a systematic approach to training. If you are preparing for an event—which may be a type of adventure in its own right—predictable, known workouts hold an important place in that preparation. Doing those cruise intervals on a course you know well with precisely marked mile splits and water stops is invaluable. Yet sometimes it’s okay to set aside quotidian routines, leave predictability behind, and set off on an adventure!
What does an adventure workout look like exactly? Again, that’s entirely up to you as long as it touches on the exciting and pushes you a bit beyond your normal. For example, this might take the form of a long run on a new course. Maybe you are fascinated with the idea of running from home to work, a commute you do every day over a distance that roughly corresponds to your weekly long run. So you research water stops along the way and work out the transportation logistics for the point-to-point run. And off you go on your adventure!
Or maybe you have always wondered what it would be like to bike to the border of your state and back, a distance that is challenging yet accessible and allows you to explore new scenic roads. So you work out the plan and substitute this adventure workout for your usual weekly long ride. These types of experiences expand your vision of the world and what is possible. And if you travel over familiar terrain, you learn to view the familiar with new eyes. That route from home to work will never look the same once you’ve run it, and that line on the map will take on new significance once you’ve biked to it and back.
In my own life, I thrive on adventure workouts. These are the workouts I cherish the most for what they teach me about myself and the world around me. One summer, I set out to do a different “epic run” every weekend across Colorado. The routes sometimes included mountain passes, sometimes a fourteener, or at other times unexplored trails. I took advantage of rides from friends and family to plan point-to-point routes I’d always wanted to explore or link together in a new way. Or, while staying close to home in Boulder, I would explore familiar routes in new ways, such as starting on one end of town, running across the mountains that form Boulder’s backdrop, and finishing on the other side of town to catch the bus to take me back home. Another summer, I woke up early one day, rode my bike to the Longs Peak trailhead where I locked it up and changed into the running shoes I carried in a backpack. After running up and down the mountain, I rode back to Boulder and headed to the pool for the masters swim workout. Adventure workouts such as these hold special personal significance even if they have little, if any, meaning to others.
Remember, the point of the adventure workout is not to plot out the most gonzo challenge in some absolute sense. You are not trying to emulate someone else’s definition of what is challenging, exciting or interesting. The point is to choose an adventure that is personally meaningful to you and starts where you currently are in terms of fitness and psychological readiness. In other words, the challenge should always be relevant and meaningful to you. It should build upon your current fitness level, providing an accessible yet challenging workout. You define the challenge. You define its significance. You define its scope.
So if you’ve made it this far and are still a little unsure about what I’m trying to get at with this notion of the “adventure workout,” read about triathlete Kostadis Roussos’ adventure swim done while on vacation near his boyhood home in Greece (part 1 | part 2 | part 3). As Kostadis describes his swim around the mountain that has held his fascination since childhood, note how the challenge epitomizes various elements I’ve tried to pinpoint above. I guarantee he will never view that mountain again in the same way. And when he lines up for that next unknown adventure he undertakes—whether it’s his first half-Ironman or a swim around that island he mentions—he can take confidence from what he learned about himself in this particular adventure workout and use that to push the envelope a bit further.