Maybe training isn’t always supposed to be “fun”, but enjoying your training cycle sure makes it easier to get out there. I’ve run in one marathon and completed about half of the training for a 50k before dropping it for something that looked more fun, and during both training cycles the biggest stressor wasn’t the time commitment but the single-mindedness needed. I’m blessed to be surrounded by cool people doing awesome things, but training for a big single-sport event forces you to make some decisions.

It’s hard to fit much more into the weekend when you’re either running or recovering from a 20-miler, so you end up sacrificing fun things to the marathon gods in the interests of commitment to your goal. For someone with my dual diagnoses of AADD (athletic attention deficit disorder) and FOMO (fear of missing out), too many such sacrifices can be the death knell of a training plan.

I’ve always been someone who has bounced between new interests (scrapbooking! card making! sewing!) for just long enough to spend a lot of money on supplies that now fill our garage. Biking or running could have gone this same way if I hadn’t found adventure racing, but the need to be proficient at multiple disciplines gives new meaning to all those individual sports. Now my current flirtation with cyclocross isn’t a distraction; it’s helping me work on my intensity. That Katy Trail trip wasn’t (just) a weekend I should have been running; it was also improving my endurance for long rides. The upcoming 30K I’ve ignored in favor of my bike? As long as I don’t die it’ll be a good training run…or a death march, but since that’s often how we end our adventure races, it counts as training, too.

That’s not all, either. As long as you’re creative, almost anything can be AR preparation. Don’t believe me? Check it out:


It’s a gate! It’s an amusement park ride! It’s both!

Adventure: Go play in the woods with your friends.

Bike repair: In adventure racing, the question is when, not if your team’s bikes will be struck with mechanical issues. Keeping them in good shape is the first step, but being able to fix problems that arise during the race is huge.

Canoeing: Get some paddling practice! Extra points if your use of adult beverages helps simulate sleep monsters.

Eating: Try different foods to add to your race food repertoire.

Flashlight tag: Cardio! Plus, you’ll be more accustomed to moving around in the dark–a vital skill for those overnight orienteering legs.

Geocaching: Arguably more family-friendly than orienteering, geocaching will still get you out in the woods following coordinates to find your goal. Just leave that GPS at home for the next adventure race.


Off-trail makes it feel like an adventure.

Hiking: +1 if you spend at least part of your time off-trail. +2 if you use a map.

Learning a new language: With another team searching the same area, you’ll still be able to talk to your teammates without giving away the location of the checkpoint. Unless the other guys know how to say “It’s over here!” in Lithuanian, too.

Night rides: I hear riding singletrack at night can be a great experience. While I’m still waiting for that feeling to kick in, I know I’d benefit from spending more time on the trails after dark. At least I’d probably be able to put on my own bike light.

Organizing: Next time you clean your closets make time to tidy up your gear tub, too.

Parenting: All those sleepless nights are great preparation for the sleep deprivation you experience in overnight and expedition adventure races.

Road trips: Put away the GPS and use a road map. It’s no topographical map, but you’ll be activating the “map” part of your brain.

Rock climbing: While you’ll know pre-race if an actual ropes course will be involved, you won’t know exactly what kind of terrain you’ll be covering. Scrambling over rocks is a definite possibility (and a lot of fun).


Hiking and climbing in Illinois’ Little Grand Canyon

Surfing the internet: Endless productive hours could be spent researching gear, networking with other adventure racers, learning about endurance nutrition, shopping for bargains, or finding that next big race.

Television: You never know when you might find yourself in a survival situation. Be ready to resolve it Bear Grylls-style.

Vacation: Get used to being somewhere you’ve never been.

Weight training: Proper strength training can help prevent injury, make you faster, and help you hoist your teammate’s pack when he’s dragging.

Yoga: a strong core will benefit all areas of adventure racing, and flexibility will come in handy when squeezing through caves and between downed trees.

If you’re looking for some slightly less tongue-in-cheek AR training ideas, 2Toms posted a great link to some training plans on their facebook page, and if you have other non-traditional training ideas, comment here and share them!