The NYC Bear Crawl Marathon

Motivation, Preparation, and, Hopes For What It Will Achieve...

On October 30th at 5PM, Gymshark Athlete: Devon Lévesque, will begin an ultra-endurance bear crawl that will not only change the lives of numerous veterans, but will bring light to a subject that is too often kept in the dark.

In his feat to complete a monotonous 26.2 miles in what can only be described as an unnatural position, Lévesque will be raising money - with a target of $500K - for FitOps, a foundation that helps to prevent veteran suicide and improve mental wellbeing.

"I wanted to do something outside of an Instagram filter. Something that would tell a story, raise awareness and leave a positive impact on society." - Devon Lévesque.

This challenge is something that is intensely personal to Lévesque: in 2008, his father and hero - a man who was strong physically, succumbed to his mental battles and committed suicide. Now, 12 years later and with better understanding, Devon wants to shed light on the issue, and bring awareness to others battling with mental health.

For those of you wishing to support Devon on his venture, please donate to the FitOps Foundation here!

Why Bear Crawl A Marathon, Why Not Run It?

The Man Behind The Madness: Ross Edgley.

Acclaimed as a veteran of ultra-endurance events having swam around the mainland of Great Britain in just 157 days, Ross Edgley is a man who continually questions the boundaries of fitness and how it is perceived, through the extremities of personal physical (and mental) challenges.

Ross Edgley Talks: Ultra-Endurace Events, And Spiritual Sports Science.

The idea of Devon bear crawling a monotomous 26.2 miles first came to fruition during a Gymshark photoshoot among the mountain ranges of the Lake District (England), where Ross and Devon spent a week together.

"I was reading my bear-crawling-brother extracts from my book The Art of Resilience and although it was only a rough draft at the time, there was a particular part of the book that seemed to really resonate with Devon. It was based on this idea of (what i call) spiritual sports science".

It was about doing something outside of an Instagram filter to tell a story and raise awareness - something that would leave a positive impact on society, Devon explains to us just days before he sets off to complete a marathon on all fours.

"Spiritual sports science is essentially about attempting an athletic adventure for a higher purpose. It's something we humans have been practicing (in some form) for centuries and perhaps the best example I could give Devon takes place among the mountain ranges of Mount Hiei (Japan), where Tendai Monks are famous for Kaihōgyō; a practice where monks run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days in a quest for enlightenment. But, to qualify they must complete an initial 100 days of “practice” running 30-40km per day.

Upon completing this they must petition to the senior monks to complete the remaining 900 days, but their bid to continue comes with a warning! This is because in the first 100 days, withdrawal from the challenge is permitted, but from day 101 onwards a monk is no longer allowed to withdraw!"

To summarise, preparing and training for an event is the ultimate process of self-improvement and self-discovery through self-discipline. It's essentially committing to something and pushing yourself past your comfort zone.

The NYC Bear Crawl Marathon Stats

  • Estimated Distance Travelled: 26.2 miles

  • Estimated Duration: 17-20 hours

  • Estimated Calories Burned: 15,000

Training For A Bear Crawl Marathon

The past 12 months have seen Lévesque endure a number of intense training sessions, from a 10 hour bear crawl that saw him slog through 13 miles of field-repeats, to his hands turning into two large blisters due to the impact of the exercise. But despite all of that, it's not his phsycial ability that he talks about when it comes to the hardship of training.

"It's going in, setting time aside and just doing it - a lot of the time my training relies on my mental strength: there will be some days where I'll wake up and be like 'I don't want to train' and so I don't. Because my mind isn't there."

And, whilst it's important to listen to both your body and your mind, it's also important to keep yourself accountable.

"I do have to transition my mind some days, into saying 'I can do it' - you have to convince yourself and really amp yourself up.

I listen to church music, it just helps amp me up, like, 'God's with me, I've got this today'.

So you know it's all mental - it's just getting your mind right every day, every week and just getting out there and repeating it. Over the past 11 months or so I've just been trying to stay as consistent with it as possible. Even my sleep schedule has changed - I wake around 3pm each day just to switch things up."

The Diet During The Bear Crawl Marathon

Sometimes, when you’re a little bit peckish, a frozen cube of cocoa butter and honey will do. Right? Now, imagine eating that snack every mile and a half, on repeat. If, for some strange reason, that doesn't entice you, it's probably because you're not going to be spending the next 24 hours bear crawling 26.2 miles.

Devon revealed that he'll be burning approximately 15,000 calories on race day - that is, in visual format, around 5 Christmas dinners...

To make up those calories, Devon has worked with a Dietician to help find a way to get healthy fats into his body, so that he can sustain his energy during the challenge.

"We basically melt down coconut butter and honey, and then we put them in ice trays, and freeze them and then I eat those every mile and a half!"

Devon Lévesque: The NYC Bear Crawl Marathon Route

"My biggest test comes right at the end of the race - at Central Park."

Having opted for an atypical route so that those he loved, and those who loved his mission could walk beside him in support, Devon's marathon bear crawl starts at the south-most end of Brooklyn and finishes in Central Park South - a feat of fitness which he predicts will take him anywhere between 17-20 hours to complete.

And, if bear crawling 26.2 miles wasn't quite enough, the 27-year old also has to conquer a number of hills with varying elevation... right at the end of his challenge. "That last section is going to be tough, but it'll also be kind of cool because a lot of supporters will be there. Hopefully, that support will take me through the finish line."

. . .

It's a team effort

Despite being the only one physically enduring the extreme marathon, this is far from being a solo mission.

A team event in all its glory, Devon will be surrounded 24/7 by 25 people, better known as his support system. Hand picked from 400+ requests, this elite team embodies competitive spirit, skill and understanding: from his mother who will be carefully taping his hands every three miles, to his sister and his college room mate.

Doctors who have helped Devon through his training will be on-hand should he need them, as will a dietician and his performance/mental coach. But most importantly, Lévesque will be surrounded by a group of friends that he's previously played sport with - a group of individuals who all have, and understand, the 4th quarter mentality.

"It's hard to explain to those who have never played sport before, but the 4th quarter in a game is when you need to get in the zone, no matter what the circumstance. These 25 people that I've picked know exactly when I need to get in the zone, and when they need to shut up. They also know when I need to be smacked on the head with a 'Come on Devon, you got this' kind of mentality."

How To Bear Crawl

From first glance, the bear crawl looks like a relatively simple exercise to master. But there’s more to it than meets the eye, and, done incorrectly may lead to injury and a reduced level of performance.

With a tendency to be incorporated in short bursts within HIIT and group training classes, form and technique of the bear crawl exercise can frequently be overlooked – with the main goal in these classes being that of maximal physical exertion over a short period of time.

So, how do you bear crawl? What muscles are targeted with bear crawls? And more importantly, how do you avoid injury and progress with the bear crawl exercise? Read on.

The Body

The bear crawl is typically considered a full body movement, and a great alternative to mountain climbers and burpees – posing a unique challenge for our key muscles in the body, including:

  • Deltoids (shoulders)

  • Hamstrings

  • Chest & Back

  • Glutes

  • Quads

  • Calves

  • Core

Alongside placing a significant demand on the skeletal muscles – the bear crawl also places increased stress on the tendons and ligaments, such as the Achilles and wrists. The bear crawl creates a significant aerobic demand, increasing heart rate and challenging your bodies cardiovascular system, while simultaneously testing your strength and ability to maintain a stable posture.

4 Steps To Bear Crawl

  1. To begin the movement, start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine (don't arch your back).

  2. Brace/engage your core and maintain a neutral spine before lifting your knees off the ground by around 3-4 inches.

  3. Now you're in the start position, we can begin the crawl. Move forward using your opposite hand to foot, for example; lift your right arm, and your left foot off the ground simultaneously - moving them forwards, before alternating to the opposite hand and foot.

  4. Throughout the movement, ensure your torso stays straight with minimal twisting and continue to look in your direction of travel, without over-stretching your spine to look upwards.

Technique Tips:

  • Keep your core engaged and prevent your hips from raising above your shoulders (this becomes much more difficult when fatigued)

  • Take control of your breathing and keep a steady pace.

  • Take regular rests if performing the bear crawl for lengthly periods.

Progressing The Bear Crawl Exercise

With your bear crawl technique in check, you’ll soon want to increase the challenge of this exercise – but by placing more load on the body, we need to be able to avoid injury.

Mobility and flexibility is a key part of completing the bear crawl safely, and preparing the body for more enduring bear crawl workouts, through the means of developing strength and mobility, will help avoid any setbacks.

Alongside the abnormal load placed on your wrists, your hips and hip flexors will be working non-stop throughout the exercise – be sure to check out our hip mobility exercises here.

How To Increase The Difficulty Of The Bear Crawl:

  • Increase the 'work' time during the bear crawl.

  • Bear crawl a further distance.

  • Increase resistance by placing resistance bands around both forearms, or just above the knees.

  • Add to your total moving mass, by wearing a weight vest.

An incredible feat of fitness that will not only change the lives of numerous veterans, but will bring light to a subject that is too often kept in the dark.


Devon Lévesque
Follow Devon Lévesque