Hunt like an athlete sounds a hell of a lot better than hunt like a couch potato. An athlete is fit for the mountains and conditioned to excel at the sport of hunting. The essence of hunting is becoming a formidable predator. A predator enters the woods prepared for any and all eventuality and gladly welcomes adversity. In order to hunt like an athlete, you have to train like an athlete. Stop. I didn’t say you had to run ultra-marathons, shoot everyday, nor did I say you had to be an extremist. But there is definitely a rising tide of new age hunters taking to the field fit to conquer new ground and tame the mountains. An athlete trains in all areas of fitness throughout the year and above all, possesses mental toughness. Athletes test their physical and mental capacity often, and thrive when competing against the ravages of Mother Nature. Whether you’re young, old, wealthy, poor, weak or strong, Mother Nature does not discriminate.
The succeeding template is for hunting athletes like you and me. Training should be organized and planned in advance of hunting season. Basically, you’re going to move through a few phases of training in order to peak when hunting season arrives. Our program takes into consideration our potential, performance needs, and the calendar of competition. It is simple, suggestive, and flexible as it can be modified to meet our rate of progress. To hunt like an athlete, organize your training into three primary phases.
Hunting season winds down, daylight hours dwindle, and instead of hibernation its time to start cross-training. General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is a term we use to define physical competency in an array of physical skills, such as endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, speed, power, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. Improving your GPP is the root of cross-training. Making yourself a well-rounded athlete is accomplished by keeping workouts on shuffle mode. Designate time to several facets of fitness. For example, start the week off with a run, next a weight training circuit, and finish the week by swimming laps. Mix and match, keep the body guessing and avoid training the things at which you excel in. If long distance running comes easy, gravitate towards a strength bias workout or a mixture. Conversely, if a preponderance of your time is spent lifting iron, steer the other direction and hit the stamina and endurance side. Ideally you’re working at minimizing your weaknesses.
This phase can last around 2-4 months depending on your circumstance. Most hunters do the bulk of their hunting in the fall and so that’s probably what we’re training towards. After we’ve built a great physical base through cross-training, it’s time to get a little more specific in the longer second phase.
This is the longest phase with the most specificity towards our sport. Most folks out West will have mountains and hills to tackle during their hunt so the main objective is to build mountain conditioning. We hunt with a pack on our back, a weapon in hand, and boots on our feet. These will be important training items for the next 3-5 months. We can plan our work by converting the months into weeks so the mileage and hiking frequency builds steadily each week.
Most preparation phases have a 12-20 week window, so we structure each week by performing a couple of cross-training bouts during the work week and slowly add hiking with weight and shooting. The beginning of the preparation phase is around April or May and will only yield a handful of miles under the boot. Come July and August we’re loaded down with a 40lb pack and hiking/walking upwards of 10 miles a week plus doping in the weapon. The key to preseason conditioning is to get necessary cross-training workouts in during the normal work week, and save the weekends for scouting/training with a pack and weapon. Hopefully you’re getting some overnight camps in, working through old and new equipment, and scouting out your targets for the fall.
Three snapshots of the Preparation Phase:
Week 1: 3 Cross-Training Workouts, 1 Three Mile Hike with 20lb Pack, 1 Shooting Session
Week 12: 2 Cross-Training Workouts, 2 Four Mile Hikes with 30lb Pack, 2 Shooting Sessions
Week 20: 1 Cross-Train Workout, 3 Four Mile Hikes with 40lb Pack, Daily Shooting
In season training is really about maintenance. We’re not trying to get stronger or increase our endurance. Our workout frequency is probably at half or less. In order to get the most bang for our buck, we typically train total body workouts at high intensity inside a 20 minutes. This is when circuit training is at the forefront. We look to do workouts under the gun of a stopwatch and compete against each other during the workout. These workouts should be quick and dirty blasting your entire body, tapping your muscles and cardio system in one shot. You may be gone days or weeks at a time during the in season phase. That’s ok because it’s time to perform. This is what you’ve been training for all year.
Two in season workout examples:
Athletes do workouts that are necessary for improvement in performance. I hope your motivation to train stems from performance ambition, not for improvement in appearance or aesthetics alone. Hunters want to stay in shape year round for health reasons, injury prevention, and longevity in the field. We need to be able to accomplish a lot of work in a short amount of time, be able to pack out our harvest no matter the distance, and be able to cover ground in a blink of an eye. To be the predator you want to be, you have to train like an athlete. A mountain athlete may never sign the big contract, perform in front of thousands of people, or be seen on an ESPN highlight reel. However, our stage is intimate with Mother Nature, the roaring bugles across the canyon. That’s our payday and we tame the mountains with an intelligent athletic approach.