How Alex Harris Trains Outdoors

Men's Health |

Harris is an overachiever. With a CV that most adventurers would kill for, he’s worked hard to make his passion become his occupation.

Back in 1996, Harris was the youngest person (at 25) to lead an expedition to Everest, the first South Africa to climb on all seven continents and has ticked off all the seven summits.

But mountains aren’t the only thing he’s conquered. He won the Freedom Challenge in 2010 and 2011 (a 2 400 kilometre MTB race from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town); and earned five golds and one silver in his age category at the 2010 South African Track Cycling Championships. But that’s not all, he’s done the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic and is planning to cross the Arabian Desert later this year. By foot. Which will also be a first.

My training programme is always unusual

“The specifics all depend on what I’m training for, but I’m always doing a lot of different training. I believe it all compliments each other in the long term. Even though I’ve been riding a lot for the Epic and Freedom Challenge, I’m also training for my Arabian Desert crossing. I’ll be doing more strength work as the year progresses (such as tyre-flipping and pulling) because I’ll be pulling a cart across 1 000 kilometre of desert. It’ll be the first human-powered travel across the desert (not on camels) and we’ll be carrying all our own supplies. But it all depends on what’s coming up. At the moment I’m cycling, trail running, track cycling (on Saturdays in the Joburg league) and doing gym work. Cycling is my base and it’s great for injury prevention as the risk of injury is much less and you have many different training tactics (hill climbs and skills). You also have greater access to the environment as you can cover more ground. I personally prefer MTB as it is much safer in Joburg, and it’s my go-to training where I can have uninterrupted time to think.”

Motivation comes from having fun

“The wider your range of fitness pursuits, the less chance you’ll have of losing motivation. If you feel like you’re not enjoying it, take some time off. You don’t want your passion to become your prison. I’m not a professional athlete, I am an explorer that needs to keep fit for my job, so that I can make money. I can’t afford to lose my motivation. I also love hearing something is impossible. It’s usually the quickest way to get me to do something.”

Adventure puts your life into context

“I feel like the whole planet is filled with mysteries that need to be explored. My base started with mountain climbing, but now it has expanded to fit almost anything that happens outdoors. Adventure is a great excuse to get fit and experience the beautiful scenery in South Africa. There’s no comparison between outdoor and indoor training. I love taking a left turn where I have never been before. It’s unpredictable, always changing and its easier to motivate. The variables of the outdoors are what make life exciting. Having to respond to them differently also makes you a better athlete. All my creative ideas come from my adventures.”

Ignite Your Bucketlist

You don’t need to travel to the seven summits to have an adventure. Here are five recommendations from Harris

1. Kloofing in the Magaliesberg. Crystal clear water an hour out of Joburg.

2. Hiking in the Drakensburg. One of the last untamed mountain ranges on earth.

3. Rock climbing on Table Mountain. Hard to beat for views.

4. Visit the sand dunes of the Naukluft Desert in Namibia. Unparalleled serenity and open spaces.

5. Caving in the Kromdraai near Joburg. Tight caves where there’s always a chance of getting stuck (which will definitely get your heart rate going).

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