Plake Ponders – Glen Plake on Staying Fit and Injury Free


One question I got asked recently was: “How do you keep fit?” Well, I have to say, I do not work out at all – never. I might do like a hundred jumping jacks – I enjoy that actually – and I don’t mind doing some pushups or something. But do I have a routine? No, absolutely not. I probably should, but I don’t.

The way I approach sport is I tend to go really, really hard. Whether it’s water skiing, or riding dirt bikes, or snow skiing – if I’m getting ready to do something, I’m all in, and I go and I go and I go. Then I won’t do anything for like a week or two, because I’ll be at trade shows or sitting on airplanes. So I’m hot and cold. I often wonder what I’d be able to do if I was able to truly maintain a level of fitness at all times.

But I’m proud of my abilities. I just came back from Mexico, where I was riding motorbikes with a bunch of guys, and we were doing 250-mile days and I was riding pretty fast considering I wasn’t necessarily what I would even consider ‘in shape’. I’m always proud of that, just knowing that I’ve got a good, strong foundation to work with. 

Do I stretch? Heck no! I have a friend in Chamonix and he’s always telling me to come do yoga with him. And I’m like: “I’ll just have you do yoga for me, man”. That’s our joke, that I’ll pay him to stretch for me. I mean, if you’re a real guru, you should be able to do that, right?!

I will warm up before doing something though. When we’re short-line water skiing, which is a very violent, heavy body-loading sport, I’ll run like a hundred medium sets before I even think about getting into the more radical sets. And when I snow ski, I prefer to take a couple of warm-up runs before I push hard.

But then, I guess the big thing is, I don’t ever really push hard. Somewhere along the way, a coach or somebody told me that technique will get you further than strength. And I’ve never been a real pusher, like: “I’m going to muscle this”. I’ve always been more like: “Okay. How can I figure out how to do this right, so that I don’t have to use strength to do it?”

But my body, it’s in good shape – the only ailments that I’ve ever had have been from accidents. Two broken legs, a lacerated liver, a cut thumb, and a protruding disc. The lacerated liver happened when I was literally just skiing down a cat track. It was foggy and I skied off a two-metre widow-maker into a creek bed and just gut flipped myself into the frickin’ hospital.

I’ve never had any injuries that were due to physical degeneration or deterioration, or anything like that. When I hurt my back, the doctors were all passing around the scans of my MRI because they couldn’t believe the condition that my spine was in. They were like, “Can you believe this? This is a 50-year-old skier’s back!” Everybody thought I’d just be this clapped-out, fickin’ old trail horse and it wasn’t the case at all. I was in really good condition. I’m proud of that.

I obviously have good genetics, and a good skeleton. But I think it also comes down to the way I live and the way I approach sport. I mean, you look at all these stupid men’s health articles and all these so-called ‘gurus’ and all this bullshit, and I just sit there and laugh. I’m like, they never called me, I’ll kick all their asses! And I’ve got history in a sport that’s known for kicking your ass!

When it comes to what I eat, I tell everybody: “I’m on a shark diet” – I eat on opportunity. I don’t really pay attention to what I eat, but I eat really well. I don’t eat a lot of sweets – I can count the times I ate a piece of chocolate in the last year on one hand. I don’t drink sodas. I quit drugs and alcohol a long time ago – I think that’s had a massive effect on my longterm health. I do drink coffee, like frickin’ water.

When it comes to physical endurance, there is also the mental aspect. In the world of ski teaching we use the term ‘lateral transfer’. I’ll pull from different experiences and relate it to the situation that I’m in. For instance, I think a lot about riding my bicycle when I’m ski touring. I’ll think about some big headwind that we’re riding against, or think: “I’ve really extended myself out and now I’m in this recovery phase – I’m not stopping, I’m recovering as I go”.

So I think there is something to be said for relating one experience, or one technique, to what you’re doing. Maybe it’s even just something that you saw. We always make Alberto Contador jokes every time we get out of the seat on our bikes and start kicking, we’re like “here we come!”

 And I do the same when I’m ski touring – I can get inspired from an image, or a feeling that I felt somewhere else, and try to relate that to what I’m doing.

Glen Plake | Facebook

When do I eat during a ski tour? I’m a definitely a protein eater. I eat a lot of beef jerky. But it depends on the length of what I’m doing. The longer I go, the less synthetics I want to put into my body. If we’re going on some two-hour blast then yeah, let’s frickin’ load up and just sprint ourselves to death. But if we’re going to do, let’s say, a 24-hour bicycle race or something, you better eat some proper food – save the synthetics for that last hour.

I’m really messed up though, because I’ll eat plenty of starch and salt. Nutritionalist would be like, “He’s completely wrong”. And I’m like, “yeah, I know, but it works.”

I rode with a doctor whose father was one of Arnie Schwarzenegger‘s partners back in the seventies, and for them it was all 12 raw eggs and a steak for breakfast. This doctor and I, we were on this big endurance bike race together and he was watching my intake and he was just laughing his head off. I was eating burritos, and tacos, and orders of French fries, just mowing through food. He was like: “Dude, you are doing everything wrong!”

But we ended up going for 48 hours and at the end of it I was in the best shape of anybody that was still standing! He was like, “You did everything wrong, but I watched it work.” And it really  made him really think about everything, because he grew up in a time where everything was about what I kind of did, and he just watched it work.           

So while you might have ‘nutrition program of the week’, it might not be great for everybody. In the long run you’ve gotta find what works for you, and, and if it doesn’t fit into the nutritionist book, then who cares?