From climbing mountains to running marathons, a job at GearJunkie requires a solid level of fitness. Our ‘How I Stay Fit’ series profiles editors and contributors on our staff for a peek at their fitness habits and idiosyncrasies working out and adventuring in the outdoors.
My fitness journey began the day I stepped onto my college campus. Having been involved in traditional sports growing up, college presented a new fitness landscape for me. I was no longer pursuing competitive sports, and there was no official season to prepare for.
I had to decide if I wanted fitness to be part of my life outside of sports. So I threw on my gym clothes, convinced a buddy from the dorm to join me, and set out for the nearest bench press. Little did I know that hitting that gym the first day of college would send me flying down a path where fitness, adventure, and pushing limits would become a cornerstone in my life.
Since then, my pursuit of improved fitness has become an emotional outlet, proving ground, and a unique way to connect with new people.
Digital Marketing Manager Zach Burton: MTB Racing, Hiking, Climbing, Hunting
Fitness motto: Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
Personal stats: 5’8″, 163 pounds, 29 years old.
Favorite sports: Cyclocross, cross-country mountain bike racing, climbing, hiking, soccer, hunting, fly fishing, snowboarding.
Fitness accomplishments: Dakota 5-0 Top 100, Lutsen 99er Top 50, a handful of cyclocross podiums, two double-century (200-mile) bike rides in a single day with Break the Cycle, and a year-round bike commuter in Minneapolis (170-plus commutes in 2019).
Weekly routine: I’m active 7 days a week in one form or another. And I aim to hammer through my workouts early in the morning before work. I hit the gym 2-3 days a week with a focus on lifting heavy weights, balance work, and cross-training. On my off days, I follow structured cycling workouts outdoors or through Zwift.
Weekdays are for fun — bouldering, soccer leagues, cross-country skiing, etc. On weekends, I get away from my routine and get out climbing, hiking, fly fishing, bike riding, and hunting. While I don’t necessarily view these weekend activities as “fitness” in the moment, they certainly play a role in my cumulative level of fitness.
How I keep it fun: I lean on an amazing fitness community and variation. I work out at a hidden gem in Minneapolis, Life Time New Hope. The people there get to know you and genuinely care about you.
Even if you try to skip a couple of workouts, someone will inevitably message you asking where you are and if everything is OK. And they’ll definitely encourage you to get back to the routine. Feeling a sense of community where you work out is huge when motivation is lacking.
But you also have to keep your workouts exciting. Life Time New Hope plays home to one of, if not the, best studio managers and fitness instructors, Monica Moreland. Monica leads high-intensity interval training workouts that push your limits mentally and physically while focusing on improving your athletic performance.
These workouts are unique and bring together a like-minded group of crushers who bring out the best in each other. Building these workouts into my routine keeps things interesting week to week.
Recent fail: Ah, the Borah Epic mountain bike race. This beautiful race offers up 100% singletrack through Wisconsin woods on CAMBA trails. And I was on pace to smash my previous best course time despite the 90-plus-degree heat. Then the issues began.
First, my rear wheel blew out. So I added sealant and pumped the tire back up as fast as I could, all while riders passed me. I jumped back on the bike and started working to get back into position.
And again, the rear wheel went flat. Fast forward a few hours, and I had repaired four flat tires, losing any chance at a solid finish on the day.
I crossed the finish line 3 hours later extremely dehydrated, mentally broken, and completely dejected about a very average finish, after what promised early on to be a great race. I capped the day doubled over vomiting while trying to rehydrate.
A personal tip for staying fit and pushing limits: Surround yourself with people who push their limits and don’t accept mediocrity. The GearJunkie crew has exposed me to a whole new level of outdoor experience and reshaped what it means to truly feel uncomfortable.
With that, I’ve reached a point where I seek out races and experiences that fall way outside of my comfort zone. If you told me a few years ago that I would be out ice climbing on the North Shore, I would have Googled “ice climbing” just to know what you were talking about.
You’ll find the best memories come from pushing limits and digging deep.
Finally, learn to enjoy the process. The outdoor industry has a way of making fitness accomplishments in your life seem incredibly small and insignificant.
Remember that you don’t need to be the best climber, fly fisher, or cyclocross racer to get out there and have a good time. Be proud of the things you accomplish and keep striving to better yourself, regardless of what others around you are doing.