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10-hour hikes in Colombia? This is how you train for them

Bruce Poon throws punches at a boxing camp in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chad Krolouski/Chad Krolouski

Few people credit a trip with the president of Colombia as an incentive to exercise, but Bruce Poon Tip, founder and captain of Gap Adventures, can. The 44-year-old runs the world's largest adventure travel company, based in Toronto, but his job means he is seated at a desk or on an airplane. When we spoke to him earlier this year, he was training for uncharted territory.

My goal

"I'm going to Colombia as a guest of the president [Juan Manuel Santos]to visit indigenous communities – getting to them takes five days of trekking through an unorganized trail. The president wants me to consult on sustainable tourism in Columbia. It's 37 degrees daily there, and rough terrain, and it's mountainous and there will be long distances. In order to make it in the time frame, we will walk eight to 10-hour days."

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My workout

"I work out every day on some level. Every Monday I play volleyball – on the courts in winter, on the beach in summer.

"In the last six months I took tennis lessons, now I'm re-starting one day of Muay Thai boxing with a personal trainer.

"I do Bikram yoga, three times a week for an hour and a half, and have for nine years. I go to the gym. I do 45 minutes of weight training, three sets of 10 reps of each exercise.

"For the trek, I'm doing a lot of running, 8 miles twice this weekend, and then I'll add weight on my back because I'll be carrying 30 pounds. There's no altitude training."

My lifestyle

"I run 17 offices around the world, so everything I think about is mobile, being able to move. My job is about leadership and creating innovative ways to show people the world.

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"I don't eat breakfast. The big issue I have is I spend a lot of time eating in restaurants or eating out and a majority of time I make smart choices. I don't drink anything but water. Ever. No coffee, no tea, no juice, no pop.

"When I'm training, my diet is different. I eat more protein and I'm conscious of carb intake. I'm a big-lunch eater and a small-dinner eater. When I'm at home for a stretch, I watch very strictly what I eat during the week – I live like a monk – but I go nuts on the weekends. I love going out to eat Friday and Saturday nights, steak or sushi or pasta, the whole enchilada and dessert.

"I have a standard pattern: I gain 10 pounds in the winter (and it's off by the end of summer)."

My motivation

"My company and my people. I have to be healthy and fit to do what I do with the amount of people relying on me. And I want to say young for my two kids."

My anthem

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"Can You Feel It? by The Jacksons."

My challenge

"Eating in restaurants and travelling 100,000 miles every year."

The critique

Bonnie Baxter, registered dietitian with Somerset West Community Health Centre in Ottawa

Pack portable snacks

"When Bruce flies he could carry snacks like a mixture of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts, which have healthy fat and lots of protein. This gives him energy and means he won't get hungry quite as fast as if he were to have just carbs. This would help when he has missed flights or delays. He could have a handful (half a cup) of the mix or a low-fat granola bar with two grams of saturated fat or less."

Divide the plate, conquer calories

"I suggest Bruce ask the restaurant to make his plate half full of vegetables for lunch and supper. He needs eight to 10 servings of vegetables a day. His protein should be three ounces or the size of a deck of cards, and carbs should be a cup or the size of a fist. This cuts back on calories so within a month he'll notice he won't be putting on the pounds he often does in the winter."

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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