The Outdoor Athlete: Total Training for
Outdoor Performance (By Steve Ilg)

Book review by Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Spring 1993

Steve Ilg is a nationally sponsored multi-sport athlete who avoids training specificity but races with the big boys in a wide variety of competitive events ranging from mountain bike to XC ski races. He also has numerous first ascent and peak running, skiing, and climbing records to his credit and is one the country's most sought after fitness consultants. His motivation and raison d'être is to achieve a constantly higher level of outdoor performance both in the competitive world and in the great outdoors. The author's path lies in wholistic fitness™, and it is this fully integrated approach to athletic experience and life in general which is carefully espoused within the pages of The Outdoor Athlete.

Ilg writes that "The outdoor athlete seeks not an arena, but embraces the globe" and this open-minded approach to athletic experience is vividly detailed and promoted with the pages of the book. Unlike most overview type books, though, Ilg's work does not skimp on detail or gloss over "the unimportant stuff." For it is precisely the subtle details in a training regimen that pay the biggest dividends. As such, the book dives into the disparate but interconnected topics of strength, cardiovascular, and kinesthetic training, flexibility, breath, meditation, nutrition, and psyche. In addition, exercise prescriptions are given in painstaking detail for a wide variety of outdoor pursuits: mountaineering, nordic skiing, kayaking, snowboarding, swimming, and mountain biking. Fully 80 pages depict and describe the proper methods for performing strength training and flexibility exercises.

Reading the book is an invigorating experience and it can serve duty especially well as a reference tool and motivational friend. The following excerpt helps to elucidate a bit of Ilg's personal philosophy to athletics and motivation:

"For those who have touched perfect joy through discipline there is no question of 'easier or harder.' For those who battle against mainstream mediocrity, a sagacious fulfillment of a different, deeper sort is realized. It is training that brought us here, to this bonfire of our growth. Motivation is the kindling. Constantly we must search for the kindling to keep the fire ablaze. To find it, we must dig around, stray from comfort to collect more, and sometimes break it off from larger things. More times than not, there's always some around. We just have to look closer."

In a world of one-track lifestyles and mono-sport dedication, this work is a necessary and inspiring reminder that excellence does truly come from diversity.

For those desirous of more of Ilg's wealth of outdoor performance techniques, The Outdoor Athlete video, training journal, and CD-ROM interactive computer program are also available from the publisher. I recommend them all.

For more info on Ilg, click