CrossFit, Kayaks, and Big Sky: One Adrenalized Vacation

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Peak Photography of Montana

On the broad spectrum of activities characterized as "fitness," CrossFit and trail running couldn’t be farther apart. CrossFit hinges on strength, typically cultivated in the gym. Trail running is all about endurance and the great outdoors. So what happens when you combine CrossFit-type workouts with trail-running, yoga, and other tests of will in the backwoods of Montana and Wyoming? Everyone, no matter their skillset, ends up humbled.

That’s the point of the new Reebok Fitness Vacations by Austin Adventures. The co-branded venture is an unlikely collaboration between Reebok (best known as the maker of step-aerobics shoes in the 80s and, more recently, official CrossFit apparel) and Austin Adventures (a veteran Bozeman-based adventure travel outfit.) Via a grueling dawn-to-dusk itinerary, the five-night, six-day trips aim to challenge gym rats and marathoners alike to put their hard-earned fitness to the test in real-world environments outside their comfort zones.

For the inaugural trip in July that meant: logging 63 miles of trail running, hiking, and white-water kayaking in and around Yellowstone National Park; muscling through a squat/lunge/push-up circuit on a series of cliffs overlooking a waterfall; and stretching out with Downward Dogs in Montana’s starkly beautiful Beehive Basin.

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"People are becoming less interested in spending their vacations on the beach sipping umbrella drinks," says Linne Kimball, head of licensing for Reebok International and the brain behind its foray into travel. With the market already crowded with mono-sport trips like cycling tours and running and yoga retreats, Kimball envisioned a vacation that had all those plus the functional-fitness emphasis engrained in Reebok’s DNA. "On this trip, you are using the environment as your gym."

One key plus: Diverse offerings draw a diverse crowd. Among our group of 10 were several avid East Coast CrossFitters, a yogi, a professional hula-dancing instructor, and an 8-time marathoner from the Colorado mountains. That meant we each had moments of being toward the head of the pack, but also our moments of terror (like when I, a runner, had to slip my tiny kayak into the raging Yellowstone).

One potential downside: Reebok is promoted heavily throughout, with subtle product plugs and discount offerings that have the potential to make vacationers feel like, well, they are being marketed to. (Brace for the stink-eye if you show up wearing the Nike swoosh). The trip is also notably short on down-time; you should not come here to relax.

On one particularly packed day, we woke at dawn at Big Sky Montana’s rustic 320 Guest Ranch for a riverside "Western workout" in which we had to hoist hay bales across a field, squat-press freshly-bucked logs, and help pull a three-quarter-ton pick-up up a dirt road. Next came a 6-mile run along Yellowstone’s seldom-traveled Fairy Falls Trail, complete with a birds-eye view of the awesome Grand Prismatic Spring. After easing our throbbing legs in the river, we hiked around Old Faithful (one of the only places we encountered crowds all week). Then it was off to the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel for a cold pint in the lakeside bar, a poached pear salad, and a Montana-sized bison tenderloin.

[More Info: Reebok and Austin Adventures will offer eight fitness vacations in 2015, including trips to Utah and Costa Rica. The Montana/Yellowstone trip runs $2,748;]

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