This is excellent reading (and reference) for anyone who is active in outdoor sports from hiking to paddling to biking. There's no fluff or hype here at all. It is a dense (in a good way) book full of detailed information and exercise science that should help anyone who is serious about improving his/her performance and, importantly, who is interested in remaining injury free. If I were to choose one book on outdoor fitness this would be it. (It's far better than Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, which I have also read.)
The book is organized into three parts:
1) Foundation for Outdoor Fitness.
If you wanted, you could skip this chapter and just move on to the specific conditioning programs for the activity you're interested in, BUT you'd be missing a critical point of the book: creating an understanding of why a foundation is important and how to build it for your activities. And besides this, it's surprisingly interesting. This section covers everything from basic training to assessing your fitness, increasing your endurance, maximizing your strength, nutrition and overcoming environmental obstacles. There are tons of nuggets here. A few that I like:
* The Components of Sport-Specific Fitness chart, which breaks down the needs for each sport into aerobic conditioning, anaerobic conditioning, upper-body strength, lower-body strength, flexibility, skill, cross-training (e.g. off-road biking rates a 4, 4, 3, 5, 2, 4, 1 in each of these areas respectively, which makes total sense). This is very helpful for setting priorities, especially when you have limited time to workout.
* FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise) parameters.
* Advice on establishing training blocks.
* Cross-training chart which shows the activities that have low to high overlap with the sport you're interested in.
* Very specific guidelines for assessing your cardiovascular and strength fitness (e.g. vertical push is measured with an overhead dumbbell press. Completing 5 reps with 25% of body weight rates a 1. 70% of body weight rates highest and is a 5. Of course not all outdoor sports demand a level 5 for vertical push--for climbers this is ideal, for trail runners it's overkill.)
* Developing your own, personalized aerobic/anaerobic and strength programs--The Tabata Intervals are not for everyone, (they're killer), but have been great for me.
There's just tons of info in this first section, some of which I haven't gotten to yet.
2.) Conditioning for Specific Activities.
This is the section that most people will probably turn to quickly as it provides detailed info and guidelines on the needs and training for seven areas of outdoor sports: hiking, trekking and backpacking; scrambling and mountaineering; climbing; trail running; off-road biking; canoeing, kayaking and rafting; snowshoeing, cross-country and backcountry skiing. The chapters are about 12-20 pages in length and offer practical and insightful advice for building endurance, strength and stamina for everyone from beginner to advanced. For example the hiking, trekking and backpacking chapter offers detailed training (aerobic and strength) programs for a moderate hike (8 miles, 17 lb. pack, 3,400 ft. of elevation gain), an intermediate backpack (3 nights, grand canyon rim-to-rim, 35 lb. pack, 5,000 ft. elevation gain), and an advanced high-altitude trek (6-day Kilimanjaro at 19,340 elevation, with 20 lb. pack, long days with great vertical). Each training program is highlighted in carefully constructed charts and there are numerous helpful tidbits that you sense are derived from personal experience (e.g. sore quads are often a problem after a high vertical descent with a pack--authors recommend reverse step-ups, Bulgarian squats and backward lunges to help avoid).
3.) Exercises for Peak Performance.
The final section offers up the specific exercises they recommend. The Exercise Finder chart is useful for adapting or creating your own training programs as it not only notes the goals for each exercise (e.g. body stabilization, flexibility, etc.), but also the most applicable sports. Each exercise is clearly explained, demonstrated in photographs and precautions and variations are noted.
There are a few negatives that bug me so far:
* It is very dense. Future editions would benefit from a better, more reader-friendly layout--more white space, more sub-heads, and more photography.
* There's no index. A real pain in the butt especially for a book that has so much information.
* At times the charts are a bit difficult to understand or refer to exercises many pages away.
In the end, however, these irritants are easy to forgive because the book is just loaded with tons of useful information. I'd like to see a sequel entitled The Outdoor Athlete II: More Performance Training for...