Q&A Interview with Jason Magness, Adventure Racer

adventure racing

Chelsey Magness in the Godzone race

Adventure racing (also called expedition racing) is typically a multi-disciplinary team sport involving navigation over an unmarked wilderness course with races extending anywhere from two hours up to two weeks in length. The principle disciplines in adventure racing include trekking, mountain biking, and paddling.

Jason Magness has a passion for adventure. As professional multi-sport athlete and part of Team YogaSlackers, he travels the globe competing in some of the toughest races on earth, battling rugged conditions and exploring the edge of human potential. Vasa founder and CEO, Rob Sleamaker, had the privilege of interviewing Jason and finding out more about his journey as an extreme adventure racer.

Why do you participate in Adventure Racing?

Jason: Adventure Racing kinda happened to me.  I was super interested and dabbling in mountain bike, distance running, kayaking, triathlon; and at the same time an avid backcountry rock climber.  The first real adventure race I did felt like a combination of endurance and exploration. I was hooked.  And big every race seems to take me further from the beaten path.  I guess I am a sucker for doing events where the question is not “when will I finish?” but simply “will I finish?”.


What kind of on-water kayaking do you do?   

Jason: Currently we are spending most of our paddle training in the Surf Ski.  Using a Stellar double.  Although we rarely get to race in really nice boats, the training and technique we develop are pretty easily translatable to whatever boat we are in – even a canoe or basic SOT kayak.  I’d be a total liar if I said it was pleasant to make the switch from a training in a racing boat to racing in a recreational fishing kayak.   

For fun and adventure, we do a lot of pack rafting with Alpacka Rafts, exploring difficult to reach whitewater.

4 racers in the 2 tandem kayaks

Do you have adventure racing & kayaking goals you are training toward?

Jason: In 2017 I’ll be racing several of the Adventure Racing World Series events, the World Championships, and lots of local races.  I’ll also be entering my first pure paddling race – the 300 mile non-stop Everglades Challenge.  Shortly after that my wife Chelsey and teammate Daniel, will be defending their title at central Oregon’s famous multisport race – the Pole, Pedal, Paddle – where they came from behind in the final paddle leg to win the extremely competitive Tandem pairs category.


In your kind of kayaking, what’s the difference between a good paddler and a great paddler?

Jason: So much of it is about adaptability, teamwork, tenacity, and endurance.  We are paddling all kinds of boats, in all kinds of conditions, at all levels of fatigues and often huge distances.  If we can’t work together in real time to learn how to take our training and apply it to each situation we just suffer. Well, we suffer anyway, just a lot more without those four elements working together.


In the past 2 years, you and your team prepared for and raced some amazing Adventure races.  Tell us about those and how training on the Vasa KayakErg benefited your specific paddling fitness?  Describe how the Vasa KayakErg has been effective in moving you towards achieving your goal races.

Jason: It has been a challenge living in Bend, OR to really hit the big spring races in top paddling for.  The Vasa KayakErg has allowed us to really use the winter to increase our paddling base, build strength and maintain technique during cold winters. Most of the water near us freezes for a part of the season, which in the past has put us at a huge disadvantage going into Southern Hemisphere races in Feb, March, and April.  Those are usually huge paddling races.  Being able to train on the Vasa has made it possible to race in amazing places like Patagonia, New Zealand, and Belize and still end up on the podium.


How realistic do you find the Vasa KayakErg compared to being in your boat? Have you found that the fitness benefits from KayakErg training translate well to paddling on the water?

Jason: Absolutely.  And we are getting better at it all the time.  What we have found works best for my paddling partner and I is to train with the same workouts, same intervals, same cadence…so we are more in sync when we get in the boat, and we both feel connected in keeping the training relevant.


Do you and your team set aside specific time each week to train on the Vasa KayakErg, or is it just a foul-weather workout machine, for when weather constraints keep you off the water?

Jason: I wish we only needed it as a foul weather option.  Bend is a ski town in the winter, and we indulge in the powder when it comes.  But we also plan several days each week on the Erg – one day higher volume, one high-intensity intervals, and one technique.  Even during the summer, we find ourselves using it in the evening or to supplement training.  It is a GREAT tool, and we feel lucky to be able to train on it.

Jason paddling on the Vasa KayakErg located at Recharge Sport in Bend, Oregon

Indoor training is not always as inspiring as being on the water. How do you keep the workouts interesting, fun and motivational?  Would you describe your favorite KayakErg workouts?

Jason: We make them hard.  And we keep metrics to quantify results. There is nothing like realizing after two weeks of a brutal protocol that in a certain workout my average watts have increased by 10%. Music, of course, helps too. We make playlists of songs at a BPM that reflects our desired cadence. There is a whole website that gives you remixes of any genre at a specific BPM so I can go on an 80’s trip and never miss a stroke.

Kayak HIIT workout

>>> Download Indoor Kayak Paddling HIIT Workout here<<<

We have goals we are trying to meet each one.  My teammate Daniel can put out some serious power but is less consistent.  I’m just the opposite, but the training is helping us both move toward consistent power which is what it will take in Florida for the 300-miler.

Team Yogaslackers Dan Staudigel paddling to break the 100m/min mark on the Vasa KayakErg. He was so close!  

Understanding everyone would like to be in the water all the time, KayakErg training does provide a controlled training environment.  Paddlers can focus on stroke technique, interval training, sustained power, and progress testing.  How do you structure your KayakErg workouts to gain some of those advantages?

Jason: See above.  We are really regimented with keeping simple metrics and making sure that we stick with a program for a few weeks or more before we retest to see it’s effectiveness. We are also very focused on recovery and shoulder activation – before and after workouts.


It seems like the Vasa KayakErg would be a great way to help paddlers of all abilities to work on the fundamentals of their stroke technique.  Has the Vasa KayakErg worked well as a teaching aid for learning a more efficient and powerful stroke?   If yes, why and how?

Jason: Honestly – the thing is like magic with one caveat.  You have to use it.  One of the biggest barriers for beginners is simply time paddling.  Weather and transport of equipment are the two biggest excuses we hear from adventure racing athletes we train.   But a tool like the Vasa KayakErg allows a paddler to train their fitness and technique more regularly.  Don’t get me wrong, it is no substitute for actual time in the water.  Some of us are lucky enough live on a bay in San Diego or Hawaii with a boat waiting at water’s edge and 350 days of sun. The Vasa KayakErg was built for the rest of us.
Jason Magness Team YogaSlackersJason is the co-founder of premier US Adventure Race Team YogaSlackers, an internationally renowned yoga teacher, author at GearJunkie, AcroYoga teacher, environmentalist and former physicist. He has been featured by Yoga Journal, ESPN, MS-NBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and much more. When not racing through remote regions of the world, he enjoys training clients with his wife Chelsey as part of J&C Training, hosting adventure races as part of Bend Racing, and enjoying local craft beers.

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