Locomotion is important to the outdoor athlete. One should move efficiently in varied environs. I’m not transporting myself around outside very efficiently these days and I know that if I can’t keep up with the cool kids I’m going to miss out on fun stuff. There are two mediums I regularly contend with: ocean and mountains. Consider my use of the term “mountains” pretty loose – mostly this means I’m scrambling around in chaparral between sport climbing crags. Regardless, I’m getting my ass kicked out there, mostly due to this past year’s leg surgeries. But all that’s behind me now. I’m ready to kick my locomotion up a few notches and I know the best way to get better at a thing is to do the damn thang.

Let me confine my thinking here a bit. Think of the outdoor activities I pursue as actual sports. Because they are. This is not survivalist training or an otherwise immeasurable forest hobby. The form of climbing I practice is quantifiable by sport route rating. My ocean travel is by Stand Up Paddle Board, an ancient paddling method contested today at a variety of distances from 2 to 16 miles and more. Furthermore, my focus is always to progress my abilities in whichever activity. I want to make a distinction between this and the casual pastime. I’m obsessed with and committed to my athletic pursuits. It just so happens they are performed outside, rather than in a gym or pool or stadium (thankfully). I make this point because it took me a long time to recognize these types of sports as being on the same level as traditional sports. I realize now they are just as challenging, though not as evolved as traditional sports, and the athletes are just as driven.

So we’re talking about developing athletic pursuits. Actually, we’re talking about moving to and from locations where the actual pursuits are performed. In the case of sport climbing we’re talking about hiking. In the ocean, SUP is the method of transport but we could suppose this is to move between, say, different surf breaks. This distinction helps me zero in on a goal. Consider hiking: the purpose is not to push the limits of trail mobility but simply to move efficiently between car and cliff. Look at the disparate physiques of hikers and climbers. Hikers have big legs and climbers would rather have unhealthily small legs. It would be nice to be the world’s most capable hiker if I didn’t then have to climb a hard route once I got to my destination, where my giant calves would be a hindrance. So I’m not just saying I don’t need to be a great hiker but that I purposely should avoid being very good. I’m shooting for a hiking ability between painfully bad and grossly adapted.

Paddling is a little different because it’s not strictly the means to an end. It can be the end itself in that there may not be a destination where the real work happens. This is how SUP races are contested. If I’m being honest with myself I need to concede that my ambitions in SUP are minor compared to my climbing goals. Originally I started paddling as cardio training for climbing. I can say that paddling has grabbed me and I want to integrate it permanently into my life but there is not the 20+ years of commitment I bring to climbing. So again, I’m talking about pursuing paddling to a degree that does not hinder my climbing. For this reason I choose to categorize it alongside hiking – important, but not the point. For simplicity’s sake lets presume paddling is the in-between thing on the way to the real thing – say surfing a far-off break – and we want to be better but not obsessed with it.

Let’s not re-invent the wheel. Neither hiking nor paddling are new things. There exist resources out in the world for these sports. I am not trying to be the best the world has ever seen so I can be confident following in a more advanced practitioner’s footsteps. At no point should I need to break off on my own to push the known limits of hiking or paddling. Include in this conversation that I have a job and that this job is not to train all day. Basically my job is to sit in this chair for ~9 hours. The conversation is now sufficiently constrained that we can Google our faces off.

Imagine searching the internet for advice on becoming a better hiker/paddler. Approach from a different angle: parameterize the search from the perspective of an athlete in order to separate useful results from those pandering to the neophyte/survivalist/insane crowd. I’m looking for strategies to develop my athleticism holistically. Rather than go straight for hiking/paddling methodologies I’m looking to fill in the gaps in an otherwise developed athletic repertoire. In other words, consider what I’m missing and forego developing the strengths I already have. I can do a lot of pull-ups, for instance, but I can barely bend over to put on socks. Everything is connected, sure, but I feel I don’t need to train classic back/arm pulling nearly as much as I need to develop power through my legs and trunk.

One thing I definitely don’t have is technique.

Stand Up Paddle Technique

Four-time Olympic Canoeist and founder of Quickblade paddles Jim Terrell knows paddling.

Jim Terrell: SUP Stroke Analysis

Larry Cain also knows paddling. For one, he’s Canadian. He’s also competed in three Olympic Games to win both Gold and Silver medals in Sprint Canoe, and stuff.

Larry Cain:
#1 Improving Technique with Drills
#2 Entry Drill
#3 Gathering Drill
#4 Catch Drill
#5 Applying the Catch Drill
#6 The Middle of the Stroke
#7 Exit Drill
#8 Achieving Maximum Results

Olympic weightlifting via CrossFit

There’s a lot I don’t like about CrossFit. Like a lot. However, I appreciate that this is the perspective of an outsider observing a cult fitness trend. It actually sounds better to describe it that way. But I can forgive the nuts kipping/burpee videos if I tell myself this is a popularized version of a time honored weightlifting tradition. And I’ve always wanted to develop the Olympic lifts. CrossFit, I believe, can get me there. And if a person can clean/snatch big weight then hiking/scrambling should be no problem – I think.

A good introduction (as if I would know) to Olympic Weightlifting is probably the Bergener Warm-Up:

Kendrick Farris moves a lot of weight: