Access Alaska Stairs Snowboarding Brookline Snow Brisse SpotsWords: Jim O’Leary

If I was cooler, this discussion wouldn’t even be necessary. I’d be skinning up mountains every couple of days getting massive calves that could crush thousands of feet of vertical every day without even trying. But I’m not that cool. Not even close. I’m a writer, even when I’m not doing Yobeat stuff, I’m just writing product descriptions. It’s a desk job, and even though I work from home so I wear what I want, I’m still in essence “a suit.” It makes me a bit of a social liability even without leaving Boston, and out at Tailgate Alaska, it puts me at a bit of a disadvantage.

That’s because the mountains in Alaska are big. Like, really big. The Alaska Range has the tallest mountains in the world outside the Himalaya or Andes Mountains. Even the lower Chugach Range I’ll be riding at TGAK dwarfs anything I could find here on the East Coast. And since those mountains don’t start from a base that’s already a mile up, they tower over anything even Colorado can offer.

Making things a bit more challenging is the fact that, as I discussed, this trip is pretty much coming out of my pocket. And I don’t have heli- or sled-bump money. So if I’m going to ride anything, that means I’ve got to climb up it. Which means I need to get my ass in shape.

Access Alaska pipe gloves dakineRUNNING

3 miles (give or take) 3-4 times a week.

Let’s make one thing clear right from the get-go. I hate running. It’s boring, it’s hard, everyone that does it is a huge nerd and spends way too much time worrying about pronation and gait length. It’s stupid.

But here’s the thing- it’s so much easier than everything else. As someone who grew up snowboarding and mountain biking, I’m used to “exercise” requiring a couple grand in gear, an hour to get ready for, and days of planning in advance to make it all happen. But running is different. From deciding to run to stepping out the door only takes about twenty minutes to change, stretch, find my headphones, and step out the door. That’s it.

It’s dirt cheap too. My $150 New Balances came with a bit of sticker shock, having spent the better part of a decade in clearance-priced Sambas and whatever cheap skate shoes I fancied at the time. But when I put it in the context of all the money I spent on snowboarding, or mountain biking, stuff it was a downright bargain.

And it’s kicking my ass. Where I live is a particularly hilly section of the city, and I’ve been planning routes that force me into more uphill time than is particularly necessary. Every time I think of taking an easier path, I just remind myself that every step here makes a few feet of vertical easier come March.

YOGA

Forty minutes, once a week.

Yoga gets a bad rap. Stay with me on this one. Sure, it’s really popular with the kind of person that pretends to have Celiac disease or thinks crystals can adjust your “energy.” And I really could do without the white girls telling me “namaste” at the end of every session. But when you cut out all that crap it actually is a hell of a workout.

And the good news for brokeasses like me is it’s even cheaper than running. Obviously not if you’re going to some kind of “studio,” even before the obligatory uniform of Lululemon. But thanks to the beauty of the Internet, you can find plenty of lessons and practices to keep you downward-dogging for a long, long time. This one has been a go-to for me for a while now, and I can actually feel myself getting better every time I do it. Though that mermaid pose is still well beyond my ability level-

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Though running and yoga make up most of my snowboard-specific physical preparation, it would be disingenuous to not mention a few of the other things I do to try and be less of a fatass:

  • Soccer. One hour, once a week. I’m not good, even by American standards. But it gets me out of the house and thinking about something other than snowboarding which can actually be a good thing.
  • Walking. Two to five miles daily. Boston is one of the most pedestrian-focused cities in the country. Between an … adequate… transit system and the absolute hell that is driving and parking, I honestly only ever use my car when heading out of town. As a result I’m necessarily less sedentary than most people with desk jobs.
  • Dumb jock stuff. 6 or so times daily. I have a bad back, likely a result of too many hours spent hunched over a keyboard. To combat that a doctor recommended a goofy but honestly pretty effective trick. Every time I go to the bathroom, I do ten pushups and ten sit ups. It’s not cool, it’s not perfect, but it does keep my back happy even after a long day writing. It was a bit awkward when I was working in the board shop, but now it’s just the cat looking at me like I’m crazy. And he looks at me like that anyway.

None of these things are particularly groundbreaking fitness routines. I won’t be entering any Mr. Universe contests any time soon, and honestly if I really cared about my health I’d be more worried about what I’m eating, rather than how I’m exercising. But in the end I only spend about one hour, five days a week working on this kind of stuff. And I’m already seeing results. I’m sleeping better, feeling better, and getting up and down those hills better.

Snowboard-specific results have been a little less tangible, but that’s not the point of this. I know how to get back down a hill, and I know I’ll be fine once I’m strapped in at the top of a mountain in Alaska. But if this stuff can make the trip up to the top of that mountain a little bit easier, it’s time well spent.

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