After marathons and mud runs, Jenna Lee needed a new fitness challenge. Her pick? A 25 mile hike through the Grand Canyon.
Fox News anchor Jenna Lee grew up playing organized sports and later switched to training for big fitness events that gave her a similar competitive spirit. In recent years she’s competed in half-marathons, triathlons, and a Tough Mudder. So when seeking out a new challenge, she and husband Leif Babin, a former Navy SEAL, picked an extreme sport that seemed a little different: a 25 mile rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon. We caught up with 33-year-old Lee about her training routine leading up to the event, what she ate on the trail to stay strong, and what's she's signing up for next.
SHAPE: What kind of preparation went into this?
Jenna Lee (JL): I have a labrum tear in my hip, so I had to be careful with my training and went to physical therapy twice a week leading up to the hike. For training, I spent a lot of time on the stair climber—not the stair master, the climber—to get used to going uphill. I did a lot of squats and core work to focus on core stability. Twice a week my husband and I would go on long hikes or walks just to get ourselves used to being on our feet for hours. Normally I’d do the stair climber for 10 or 15 minutes, but for this preparation, I’d do 50 minutes three times a week; it was very tough.
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SHAPE: What was the hike itself like?
JL: There were a lot of ups and downs physically, but the training was spot-on so we felt good about the way we trained. We woke up at 3 the morning of the hike and hit the trail around 4 with head lamps on. By about six hours in, we had made it toward the Colorado River, which was about 14 miles. At that point, it was getting really hot and we were about to pass the hardest part of the hike, a shade-free area called Devil’s Corkscrew. It took us about two hours to go through those three miles.
SHAPE: How did the heat affect you?
JL: You realize how quickly you can be overrun by the elements if you don’t have the proper supplies. We took it very slow and stopped whenever we saw shade even if we didn’t want to. We hit 120 degrees on the hike; it was very hot.
SHAPE: How did you stay hydrated?
JL: My husband and I both had CamelBaks and Nalgene bottles. We also brought electrolyte gummies and turkey sandwiches with avocado—those couldn’t have been better. It felt like I was eating the best thing of my life. When I first trained for a marathon, someone told me to eat something every 30 minutes, so that was the key. I started with goos in the morning, had an apple later, and we snacked on Triscuits and Fig Newtons to keep our blood sugar up.
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SHAPE: What kind of supplies were must-haves?
JL: The best thing I had was a change of socks, but I could have used another one. Everything just gets completely filled with sand, and that can cause a lot of blisters. I used a glide stick at the beginning of the hike and we had a blister kit, but there was no way to avoid blisters. We also used hiking poles, which were really helpful. And I wore a big floppy hat that covered my face. I wore SkinCeuticals 50 SPF, too, and only reapplied twice—I didn’t burn at all.
SHAPE: What was your takeaway from the experience?
JL: This has just really pushed me outdoors, and I feel like there was a certain point in the middle of the canyon where you realized there was only one way out. It was empowering and a great reminder that you only need your two feet.
SHAPE: So what’s next when it comes to fitness challenges for you?
JL: I’d really like to see myself take what I’ve learned in a gym, what I’ve learned in boutique fitness classes, and apply that in the wild. I’m a frequent flier at Flywheel, but this experience was a good reminder that you can take all of that outside.
To keep up with Jenna and her next fitness venture visit her on Twitter.
Related: Here's another Grand Canyon endeavor you don't see every day: Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across 1,400 feet of the canyon on a 2-inch steel cable. Watch this video to see him complete his highwire stunt.