Fitness for the Extreme Bowhunter
HARDCORE FITNESS FIRST: FITNESS FOR THE EXTREME BOWHUNTERBy Dan Staton Hardcore bowhunting is hard to define. It necessitates disciplined thought and disciplined action. It requires attention to detail, drive, motivation and perhaps a little O.C.D. (obsessive compulsive disorder). If you can relate, then read on how new school bowhunting is making fitness an off-season protocol. My personal philosophy regarding bowhunting is that you've got to get a little lucky. Today's most successful hardcore bowhunters seem to put distance between themselves and the average-Joe hunter by approaching archery as a discipline - not a hobby. This mentality leads me to believe that luck is made. You need luck in your favor when invading the mountains which your quarry calls home with only a stick and string. I have one rule when it comes to hunting with a bow in those same mountains: never let my physical condition prevent me from a hard-earned shot! For example, if that rutty buck crosses yet another steep canyon, I don't give up or give out. Can you say the same? Don't let physical conditioning slip from your off-season protocol. Hardcore bowhunters know that fitness is first! The next five steps will have you in great condition prior to that early fall opener.
1. CALL TO ACTION! If you're not concerned about your physical conditioning then you simply do not hunt out West. If you enjoy sitting in a tree stand for hours on end, then you probably don't need to stress about your heart's strength, your lung capacity, your total body strength, overall endurance and injury resistance. Fitness is not a season; it's a way of life! Your conditioning should be year-round and peak prior to the start of your hunt. Fitness and continuity go hand in hand! This is your call to action!
2. CHOOSE A GREAT PARTNER Choosing a great partner is the opposite of choosing a good partner. Some of my most memorable hunts took place in backcountry with my workout partner/father at my side. We had an advantage in the backcountry after training together. It is common knowledge that your hunting partner can make or break your trip. I would encourage you to look for someone with these comparable skills:
- Similar Fitness Level: You will be frustrated if you train with someone who cannot keep up or, better yet, push you!
- Commitment: A great partner won't sleep in past your 5:00 a.m. workout based cardio. Try five 30 to 60-minute aerobic workouts per week.
3. TRAIN LIKE CRAzY Working out is work! You have to start somewhere, and for some people, you've just got to start!
- Cardio: Forget pedaling a recumbent bike for 30 minutes while reading the newspaper - get serious! The mountains do not host easy cardio travel routes, so incorporate challenging interval-based Cardio. Try five 30 to 60-minutes aerobic workouts per week.
Suggestions for the faint of heart (pun intended): (1) Running or power-hiking 30 minutes, building to 60 minutes. (2) Stair climber for 30 to 60 minutes with a pack (start with 10 pounds and build to trip weight or 5 pounds more). (3) Versa-Climber for 20-40 minutes The end result is more strength and stamina.
- Strength: Start each session with a 10-minute warm-up on a rowing machine. Your goal: core exercises three times a week, upper body and legs twice a week. For all exercises, use medicine balls (6- 20 lbs) and dumbbells (5-25 lbs) depending on your fitness level. Upper body: (1) Pull-ups (2) Ball Push-ups (3) Split DB Curl to Press (4) One-arm/One-leg DB Row maneuvering on a mountain with a loaded pack, your strong core counters the uneven and sometimes unstable surface by giving you a base of power. (1) Prone-Iso Bridge Start on your hands and knees. Lower down to your forearms as you straighten your legs, toes on the floor. Keep your body straight, with your stomach pulled in. Hold for 15 seconds; build to 60 to 90 seconds. GOAL: 3 sets, 30-second rests. Lower body: (1) DB Squats (2) DB Lunges (3) Ball Leg Curls Core: Why a powerful core? Stability translates into injury resistance while negotiating mountainous terrain. For example, if you're maneuvering on a mountain with a loaded pack, your strong core counters the uneven and sometimes unstable surface by giving you a base of power. (1) Prone-Iso Bridge Start on your hands and knees. Lower down to your forearms as you straighten your legs, toes on the floor. Keep your body straight, with your stomach pulled in. Hold for 15 seconds; build to 60 to 90 seconds. GOAL: 3 sets, 30-second (2) Seated Ball Twist Sit in an upright position while keeping your abs tight, holding a ball out in front of you at chest height. Slowly twist side to side from the waist for 60 seconds - do not swing the ball. Works the back, shoulder, and oblique muscles. GOAL: 2 sets, 30-second rest.
4. PLAN YOUR WORK: WORK YOUR PLAN Schedule your workouts in your day planner. Putting workouts as an appointment is mandatory. This may encourage record keeping of your workouts, sets, and reps which aids in identifying strength and stamina gains. You need to be preoccupied with making fitness arrangements just like you would prior to a hunting trip. Be meticulous on every set, rep, and tempo, as well as rest periods. Plan on waking up early for workouts. Over the years I have observed folks who workout in the morning versus the evening. Early bird workouts are accomplished without excuses or time conflicts. I truly believe this to be a mandatory habit created by fellow hardcore bowhunting brethren! One of my favorite quotes is from Aristotle, "It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom."
5. CONTINUITY Continuity could be defined as persistence toward a goal over time. Bowhunting and fitness both require dedication and consistency. In terms of training and bowhunting, I agree with Calvin Coolidge, "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." If you have found more important things to do then shoot your equipment and maintain your conditioning, then you've got to get back on track. The peak of a mountain is a lot easier to summit if you're already half-way to the top. These five steps are the checklist for the serious bowhunter. Simply put, physical conditioning is a must! Look forward to an enjoyable season knowing that fitness was a first.