Who: Will Gadd, pro-outdoor sports guru
Gadd has participated in rock climbing, ice climbing, paragliding and kayaking events. Growing up in a family that hiked and climbed mountains whenever possible, Gadd’s earliest memories include backpacking trips and windy summits. His list of accomplishments is long, and includes setting the world record for paragliding distance (twice), winning three gold medals at the X Games and, of course, surviving his exploits.
Diet: I spent years trying every diet under the sun, and every single one failed not only for me but for everyone I knew. Stunningly, I kept trying another one. Eventually I realized that any form of “diet” was flat-out crazy, and I stopped doing that and started actually listening to what my body was saying. Today I eat food that makes me feel good long-term, I exercise a lot because it’s fun, and I feel great. Most of us have completely disconnected what we “want” to eat with what we need to eat; Oreo ice cream is not actually what your body will run really well on and in fact will cause a severe blood sugar swing, but it tastes great. I’ll eat some occasionally, but I’ve been eating basically the same way for ten years now: Simple, mostly unprocessed foods that fuel me up for being outside and active.
Health Resolution: I try to do something, it doesn’t matter what, every single day. Go for a walk with my daughter on my back. Climb a rock. Swim. Kayak. Paddle a canoe. Lift weights. Run. Just do something physical and outside if at all possible every single day. We are all athletes, and capable of amazing things. Yes, even those of us stuck in office chairs for way too long… Sometime in the not-so-distant past our ancestors hunted, fought, climbed, gathered, survived harsh conditions with little clothing and generally kicked ass. Those genes are in us or we wouldn’t be alive today, we just have to find ways to express them. Getting outside and into the mountains feels good on so many levels that I think it must be a DNA-level response to what works for us as humans. Outdoor adventure sports, from kayaking to snowshoeing to surfing, are life-long activities that aren’t just “cardio” or “exercise,” they are communities, a lifestyle, a way of looking at the world. Once your friends are all going outside and hiking on Saturday then you want to as well, and doing a couple of mid-week walks to stay fit for the weekends comes naturally. We have to get back in touch with our ancestors who knew how to breathe hard and enjoy the sun on their faces because they did it every single day. We can too; the rewards are life long and so deep that they are truly soul-changing. But we have to commit to moving, to finding our inner athlete, and enjoying our time moving. Running on a treadmill is NOT sustainable. Hiking in the woods is. Simple.
Most surprising thing in my fridge: Oreo ice cream.
General thoughts on weight loss and healthy living: “Sustainability” is a big buzz word in politics these days, but it actually applies to exercise, diet and lifestyle really well. Can you see yourself doing what you’re doing now for “exercise” day in, day out for the next 20 years? If not then you probably won’t. Staring at a TV screen in a gym while running on a treadmill is NOT sustainable. Eating only “Paleo” or Primal or Atkins or every other “diet” is totally unsustainable as well. But eating good basic foods, going outside and hiking, and deciding to put a real priority on just doing something physical and fulfilling every single day is sustainable. I look at all the old hikers in the mountains, the Nordic skiers at my local ski area, the walkers in the mall—they have found something sustainable, and an occasional cookie isn’t going to lead to fat thighs or some other crazy body-image problem. Live, breathe, give! Simple.
Fitness regimen: I do four sports at a high level (Rock climbing, ice climbing, paragliding and kayaking), and again I’ve tried a lot of different training schemes over the years. Today I primarily train by doing my sports; my goals are performance based, not about looking good or dominating a barbell. I need to be actually good at my specific sports, and sports-specific training works for me. On top of that I layer a few really basic exercises that I do at least once or twice a week on average. These exercises keep me broadly “strong” in ways my sports don’t. I do squats, pullups, bench press, front levers (body tension is far more important than “core” strength” in my sports, if you can do a front lever your “core” is plenty strong), and dead lifts. I’ll throw in other stuff in the weight room, or substitute pushups or dips if that’s what I have handy, but these basic exercises are all the “strength” training most adventure athletes are ever going to need. There are those who will argue that strength training is essential for outdoor performance, but I have the medals and they don’t, enough said. Simple.
Guilty pleasure: But if I need 3,000 calories to eat for fuel on a big climbing day I’ve got nothing against chocolate chip cookies at all; sugar is fuel for big days. Look at what the top athletes who WIN in sport are eating; generally good basic foods, and doing their sports a lot. Simple.