The author on Day Five on Rainier's High Orbit ski mountaineering route. Still smiling.

How I Stay Fit: Contributing Editor Steve Graepel

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.

Mountaineering, ultrarunning, and bikepack racing — a passion for endurance sports hasn’t always been core to my life.

Funny thing, I never worked out as a kid. In fact, I sucked at it. I didn’t play soccer, didn’t toss a ball, didn’t shoot hoops. I didn’t run cross-country or track. Put simply, activity wasn’t core to my family. In fact, my PE teacher told me to go home and show my mom why I got a C in phys ed (because I couldn’t swing a tennis racket). But I did love being outside, and my parents encouraged it.

I got the “activity” bug in college, where I rowed competitively all 4 years. Pulling on an oar for hours at a time, you gotta get comfortable with the voices in your head. During downtime, we’d drive across the state to the Cascades and hoist that fitness up and down the mountains.

But to be clear, I still don’t do traditional sports. I prefer to play outside: mountain biking, rafting, trail running, backcountry skiing, or long, drawn-out rides before work that snake back to the office. It’s a veritable puree of exploring dramatic landscapes, mixed with a healthy dose of fitness. The fitter I am, the more I can explore. Living in Idaho, I’m fortunate to pursue it all with gusto.

Mary wearing gray pants and orange shirt, crack climbing on toprope in Indian Creek
How I Stay Fit: Reporter Mary Murphy
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. Read more…

Contributing Editor Steve Graepel: Bikepacking, Trail Running, Mountaineering

Fitness motto: Keep the legs moving.

Personal stats: 5’10″, 165 pounds, 48 years old.

Home state: Idaho (by way of Oregon).

Favorite sports: Cycling (in all forms), trail running, mountaineering, packrafting, skiing.

Career highlights: Superior Trail 50-miler (first place); first recorded rim-to-rim-to-rim run of Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America (2013); Summit of Khan Tengri (the northernmost 7,000m peak); Smoke ’n’ Fire 400 (2018).

Weekly routine: Cycling in summer, running in winter. TRX twice a week. I occasionally bum my wife’s Peloton account for a quick workout in the basement.

Training on (and off) trails in the Boise Foothills

How I keep it fun: After rowing, running dominated my life. At my peak, I logged some 120 miles per week on the road. I also was a frequent flier with my physical therapist. He eventually kicked me out (telling me I could probably write the book on how to rehab a broken body).

It got so bad I had to take a 3-year hiatus from running, which was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It got me into cycling and eventually back into running, but never on pavement and never 2 days in a row.

Nowadays, I follow the seasons. The circadian rhythm of the year naturally breaks up my training regimen with cycling until snow, then running until the backroads clear up. Sure, I’ll cycle and run in my “offseasons,” but the focus flips. I still run in the summers, just less so, and focus on the stints in the saddle. I’ve been able to keep it fresh and stay out of the PT office ever since.

Rapidly approaching 50, I’m the geriatric writer on staff. Motivation doesn’t burn as hot as it used to. In addition to mixing it up, setting goals keeps me inspired. Whether prepping for a trip or setting sites on a bikepacking race, goals keep me honest and motivated during slumps.

Of course, slumps still happen, and I’m more forgiving with days off. But the goal pulls me back when the stress of life dips down a bit.

Recent fail: Over the years, I’ve developed a close relationship with heat. You can read more about it here.

Case in point: A few years back, I was aiming to run the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. As a training run, I planned to tackle both the Sawtooths and the Whiteclouds back-to-back on a solo run.

Forty miles into the Saws, in the heat of the day, my gut became bloated and gurgled back up. My run slowed to a walk. I tossed my gut (sorry) and eventually crashed at a campsite. I had no cell and no SPOT device, so my wife spent the night calling three different police departments to try and find my whereabouts. Fortunately, two women in camp let me sleep next to their fire and said an awkwardly long prayer (out loud) for my speedy recovery.

Failure is the best way to hone in on success. Experiment, tweak, and try again. I bailed on the Wonderland but researched hydration and nutrition, bought a SPOT, and cashed those chips in on a run across Washington’s notorious Ptarmigan Traverse. And to date, the Ptarmigan in a day remains one of my top adventures.

250 miles into the Smoke’n’ Fire 400. Only 150 to go.

Fitness goals for 2020: Stretching! Muscle memory can still carry me through long days in the hills. But I pay more for it (inflation of age, I guess). Strength training also pays dividends for card-carrying AARP members. Maybe I can get a discount at the gym.

Steve Graepel

Steve Graepel is a Contributing Editor and Gear Tester at GearJunkie. He has been writing about trail running, camping, skiing, and general dirtbagging for 10+ years. When not testing gear with GearJunkie, he is a Senior Medical Illustrator on the Neurosurgery Team at Mayo Clinic. Based in Boise, Idaho, Graepel is an avid trail runner, camper, angler, cyclist, skier, and loves to introduce his children to the Idaho outdoors.