Snowed in at 7,000 feet and surrounded by the snow-topped mountains of Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Josh Jespersen could think of nothing else but how to snowboard them. It was these mountains that inspired Josh to move to Colorado to pursue snowboarding and mountaineering as a lifestyle. These days, the ex-Navy SEAL is known for becoming the first and only person to climb and ski/ride from the summit of all 54 Colorado fourteeners in a single ski season, setting a new record of 138 days.
For Josh, his skiing and snowboarding career has given him new goals to crush, which he feels is critical for all veterans transitioning back to civilian life. Along with three of his veteran comrades, Josh founded Mission Memorial Day, which aims to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day. Through this organization, Josh and his team have climbed Denali carrying the names of fallen comrades and successfully marched the actual route of the Bataan Death March in tribute of the 76,000 prisoners of war of WWII.
Whether on the battlefield or the peak of a mountain, Josh is a master of making the most of every situation. We chatted with him to get his tips for mastering your own “summit.”
Q: How has your experience as a SEAL impacted your career?
A: You learn so much with the Teams, so many life lessons that set you up for the rest of your life. The BUD/S training program (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is so rigorous but teaches you to keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other. That has stayed with me in my athletic ventures.
My experience has also translated to my passion for helping wounded veterans. For so many of us, transitioning back to civilian life can be tough and can make you feel unfulfilled. I want to give them a goal that they can work to accomplish so they can feel that fulfillment again.
Q: Why do you think you’ve found success as an athlete?
A: I try not to give myself too many goals at once. For example, when I’m working on one skiing project I’ll often get invited to participate in another. I make a practice of sticking with my primary goal so that I can give it my all. You need to be really stubborn with yourself in that way to be successful.
Q: What workouts do you do to prepare for competitions?
A: I put in a lot of miles –whether its hiking in the mountains or in the gym. My legs and my core are the majority of my focus. For my sport, it’s important to find balance between being strong but not too strong, fast but not too fast. It’s about perfecting the combination of endurance, strength and power that makes you extremely durable in the mountains when you take a big fall.
Q: What does our mantra, “kill the quit,” mean to you?
A: This saying resonates with me because this is exactly what we are taught in the military – to keep going. It’s no wonder KILL CLIFF was founded by a former SEAL! Your mindset and your spirit are just as important to your success as your athletic ability.
Josh’s Exercise to Try:
Josh says that this exercise will “wake your abs up and prep your upper mountain chassis for those big days.” Give it a try!
1 min kettlebell swings @ 53#
10x Cauldron (10x each side, 20x total @ 30#)
15x Ankles to bar
20x GHD sit-ups
20x Poor Man’s Reverse Hyper