Active Expert Joe Decker works out with some tractor tires.
I've been involved in competitive fitness of some sort for about 25 years. I started out as a powerlifter and football player while also running track for a little farming community in the Midwest where I grew up. Then I joined the military only to find Uncle Sam's one-of-a-kind intense fitness program.
After my time in the military, I decided to combine a couple newfound passions of Strongman with ultrarunning to eventually go on and break a World Record for fitness. Having a love of such diverse outdoor disciplines has called for a unique array of gear. Here's my top 10 list of favorite gear that has helped me run long and fast, stay strong and be continually fit.
1. Real Food
I eat an array of fruits, vegetables & lean meats plus drink plenty of water daily. I take no supplements, no shakes and no shortcuts. My mantra is and always has been, "eat right, work hard and play harder." You'll find quite a bit of helpful eating information at http://www.mypyramid.gov/
I do not leave home without it. As a big strong guy who likes to run, cycle and lift, I've found my frame more prone to chaffing in all the wrong areas. This stuff is a life saver, especially on long runs and rides.
Listen, if you're going to be on the ground doing push-ups, on your back doing sit-ups or just running around in shorts and shirts all day, these babies keep the pieces and parts in place. Again, not glamorous but this is for real people and not prima donnas.
I swear by the toe socks. I've worn them across Death Valley, through the Himalayas and during numerous 100 mile trail races without getting one blister. They're like Isotoner gloves for your feet.
5. Running Shoes
I have two favorite running shoes. My longtime love that has been with me since before the Guinness Book in 2000 is the New Balance 1220. There have been many styles since, but none can compare. They are inexpensive, fit great and still hold up well.
My next pair is for down and dirty, in your face billy-goat-style trail running. They are the Salomon Speedcross 2. Not quite the ride of the New Balance, but I call them the "Monster Truck of Off-Road Running." They are going to the Barkley 100 miler with me in 2010.
I'm not a big gizmo guy and actually still wear my old school Casio G Shock watch. It doesn't have a compass or GPS but it is affordable, durable and still looks tough. I don't like to sweat my pace or the mileage, but just enjoy my time on the trail.
7. Hydration Pack
I've been using CamelBak products for hiking, trail running and cycling since they first appeared on the market. I still love and use their products today. I have a 100 oz. old school HAWG hydration pack that goes everywhere with me. I wouldn't leave home without it.
One of the most difficult to master but effective exercises you can find is the pull-up. If you want a strong back, biceps and grip--do pull-ups. I have a traveling pull-up bar that I got from the guys at Torque Athletic. It travels in the back of the truck to the beach or to the park with me. Add some rings and presto! Instant gym. Plus, their stuff is still 100 percent made in the USA.
9. Strongman Gear
My two favorite Strongman implements are the tractor tires and atlas stones. You can get large tractor tires from many implement dealers that are looking to get rid of them. I have about a dozen in my garage that range from 200 to 500 lbs. Who doesn't love throwing around a big tire? And it's an incredible workout. My next favorite piece is the atlas stone. Atlas stones range in size from 75 lbs all the way up to 500 lbs. This is another old school strength exercise that is lots of fun. It's very effective and can be done outdoors. I got my stone molds from Slater's Hardware.
10. The most important piece of gear is a healthy body, a strong mind and a fire inside of you. You cannot buy this in a store. You have to be born with some of it and build the rest. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, only to fail miserably and then learn from your mistakes and come back stronger than ever. As the saying goes, "Where the mind is willing, the body will follow."
These are just a few of the things I have continued to use over the years. They have helped me along the way and will hopefully do the same for you. But remember, gear can only help. You have to do the rest. Hope this helps you on your journey!