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Paperback Rider: Book Tour by Bike to Cover 8,600 Miles

Forget the gym; exercise outside. That's the advice fitness coach and author John Colver has been dishing since 2003.

Unconventional? So is his national book tour. Colver rolls out of a Seattle-area suburb today on a bike, pedaling toward the East Coast on the first leg of 4-month bike tour that will cover 8,600 miles and, he hopes, convince new converts of the benefits of using local parks, beaches and open public spaces to pursue fitness goals.

John Colver on RainierColver, author of Fit by Nature, is owner and director of AdventX, a Seattle-based fitness program that uses public parks, paths and beaches as a training ground for people pursuing all sorts of physical goals, from personal fitness to summiting mountains.

A part-time guide with International Mountain Guides, the Scottish-born Colver has reached the peak of Mount Rainier (14,411, the highest glaciated peak in the lower 48) 80 times, including 7 summits in 2010. He is a former parachutist with the UK Parachute Regiment and in younger years was a member of the Scottish national cycling team.

"Back when I was racing we would ride 12,000 to 14,000 miles a year," says Colver. "But I'm 46 now, not 26. This tour is a big chunk for me."

The Why Behind the Ride

So why take it on? "On a personal level I was looking to do something that I feel I can do, but in another way was so big I can't get my head around it. I really wanted to find a challenge that would give me a chance to reenvision what is possible on a personal level."

That's the fundamental mindset that attracts people to AdventX: the simple logic of training for substantial outdoor challenges in the outdoors. Since 2003, Colver's venture has attracted people from all points on the fitness continuum, and his understanding of the human drive behind being healthy and fit has evolved with each new enrollee. The key components: adventure, fitness and community.

"The desire for adventure comes first," Colver says. "It's usually set as a goal, whether it's a 5K, a bike race or climbing Mount Rainier.

"Then the fitness follows. I've found wanting to be fit just for the sake of being fit almost seems a little empty to me. But to be fit so I can now go and live my dream, that is a really tangible thing for a lot of my clients.

"The third thing, which I think is the biggest thing of all, is the community," Colver says. "The key reasons for that are to make fitness fun and enjoyable, and to create accountability.

The Value  of Community in Training
"I meet people who are intensely self-driven and self-motivated and disciplined. But an equally important observation is that the majority of people will probably do better if they are part of a group. I'm not  sure I understand all the aspects of that, but I hear people in my group say, 'There's no way I'd get up at 6 in the morning to go work out if the group wasn't going to be there.'

"The adventure is the thing that inspires many people to get fit," Colver says. "But it's the consistency of the group that keeps people going because they know they're going to have someone to do it with. As we take in so much information, on a societal level it can seems life is all about economics and growth and advancement. It's really easy to overlook  the power of simple friendship. The group aspect of what we do is absolutely key."

Colver says Fit by Nature is written as a fitness manual which lays out 12 weeks of workouts. "The goal is anyone could pick up that thing without necessarily needing a gym membership or a coach, even," he says. "They could self-direct their own program, or better still get a group of friends together and commit to doing a 12-week fitness program together."

During stops along his tour (his first is Saturday, Aug. 6, at noon at Book & Game in Walla Walla, Wash.), Colver plans to invite attendees back the following day to try out his Daily Dozen session of 12 calisthenics in a 12-minute period—a Fit by Nature starter package.

"I'm going to encourage people who come to my talks to try it," he says. "8 o'clock tomorrow morning, let's meet in the park across the street and give it a try."

People can track Colver's progress and learn of future public talks (including some at REI stores) at He is riding a carbon-fiber version of the Raleigh Revenio and departs today from Raleigh headquarters in Kent, Wash., a same-city neighbor of REI's corporate headquarters. He figures he will camp roughly half of his nights out and is packing a feathery but roomy Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2. "That's a nice tent," Colver says, "and I tried out just about every one the downtown REI has."

He will cover 108 miles on Day 1, crossing over 5,430-foot Chinook Pass along the way. He'll be joined by one of his AdventX clients, a fellow named Charles Davis. "Charlie is a success story by himself," Colver says. "He came to me 4 years ago and now is in the best shape of his life."

Students Become Teachers

Colver expects to be accompanied by other past or present clients during his tour, which may include a couple of 200-mile days. "Some of the people who I've worked out with the past 7 or 8 years are now running the workouts themselves," Colver says. "That's one of my biggest hopes for the tour, that we can inspire people to start their own fitness groups.

"There was a past model in the fitness industry where there's the coach and the recipient," he says. "What I see in AdventX is people learning from each other. Sometimes there are even more breakthroughs when the leader is not there. I learn just as much from clients these days from the way they've mastered a certain talent. Will one person's knowledge be exhausted? Probably sooner or later a person will be tapped out. But in the dynamics of a group there's always new stuff coming up. As a group grows together, it sort of fuels itself."

Colver and T.D. Wood at Camp MuirColver provided the steady hand that guided this blogger to the top of Mount Rainier last summer. The guess here is that he'll persuade more than a few listeners on this tour to turn the outdoors into their gym.

What do you think? Do you already use the outdoors as your gym?

Photos, top to bottom: John Colver atop Disappointment Cleaver on Mount Rainier; Colver and T.D. Wood at Camp Muir; Colver traverses Rainier's Ingraham Glacier.



Posted on at 12:13 PM

Tagged: Cycling, Fit by Nature, John Colver, books and fitness

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Stephanie Gundel

Nice post Terry, go John!

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