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Ray Zahab: Always Believe In Yourself

Ray Zahab: Always Believe In Yourself

A former “pack a day smoker,” Ray Zahab ran across the Sahara Desert in 111 days; he ran the three coastal trails of Canada, covering 400 kilometres; he and two others broke the world speed record for an unsupported expedition by a team to the South Pole; he ran 1,200 kilometres in 20 days in the Atacama Desert; and in 2013, he took on his most grueling journey yet when he ran over 2,000 kilometres to cross Mongolia and the Gobi Desert.  The founder of impossible2Possible, an organization that inspires and educates youth through adventure learning, Ray’s presentations showcase his challenging adventures, focus on his philanthropic endeavours, and–most importantly—relay that the impossible is possible. Ray is currently starring on television’s The Project: Guatemala. He answers some questions for Men’s Health magazine here:

How many hours a week do you spend training?

It depends on what I’m training for. I like to tell people that I train specifically. I take an entire year and I dedicate it to an expedition I’m training towards. For me max volume is somewhere between 100k and 180k per week, but most of my training is speed work, interval workouts and up-tempo runs. I do occasional long, slow runs but they are more social – I like to do them with my friends.

What’s your top training tip?

I have three. Number one, set a goal. If you have a goal then you’ll train for it. Number two, prepare yourself with a really good programme. You want to train with quality not quantity. Number three, include conditional strength training in any preparation programme – it’s so important.

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self today?

Believe in yourself. You really can do extraordinary things. I was never a natural athlete and back in the day I used to be a pack-a-day smoker, the whole nine yards. I can remember thinking that I’m not very sporty but – seeing what all these 16-year-olds do as part of my charity – I would just want to say: Don’t underestimate yourself’.

What put you on the path to who you are today?

I was 30. I had barely made it out of high school and I dropped out of community college. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life and I just sat wondering what my life was about. My younger brother was a great inspiration to me because he is the athlete of the family. I saw him doing all this cool stuff and I suddenly decided I wanted to try and live my life like him. It obviously took a few years for me to get my stuff together but that’s how it started.

How healthy is your diet?

Well for me it’s the same as anything else. I start eating healthy but after a while I’ll get bored and and go back to eating stuff like burgers. I try to eat as healthily as I can. I include lots of fruit and veg (all the normal things you usually hear) and try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Healthy fats are incredibly important for long distance runners (olive oil and avocados are amazing) but I also believe that one day a week you should have whatever you want. That’s the best way to break up the monotony.

What’s your worst vice?

Potato chips – I could live off them.

You’ve been offered a pill that will make you live forever. Do you take it?

No. Life is meant to be explored, it is meant to be celebrated but what’s more important than that is the fact I don’t want to outlive my children.

What are you scared of?

Camel spiders freak me out.

Who would you most like to go for a beer with?

Muhammed, our expedition leader in the Sahara desert. He was such a great guy.

Who is your hero and why?

My brother is my greatest hero because without his inspiration I would never have been able to achieve all the things I have done.

By Edward Lane/Men’s Health/September, 2013