By Mark Rackay
I spend so much of my time preparing for my hunts that precious little else gets done. Gear, guns, clothes, flights, food, guide and a plethora of arrangements and reservations all must be made. Most of this planning I start two days before the trip. Why wait until the last minute?
My wife accuses me of “not planning ahead and waiting until the last minute’” but she understands nothing about the abstract reasoning that goes into a hunting trip, and I plan on telling her so the first chance I get.
Something you should take seriously, before heading to the high country is your physical conditioning. After all, your body is going to put up with all the punishments and abuses of the hunt. It would be wise to do a little work and make sure your body is up to the task.
A good start would be a visit with the family sawbones. Make sure you don’t have any medical condition that could cause you problems. Most conditions now days are treatable with medications and best to have a good supply of any needed prescriptions when you take the trip.
Hiking around in the high country, in search of game, takes a real toll on your body. Things you don’t do normally, like trip over deadfalls, cross icy streams, or climb up steep mountains, put your body in a screaming mode of pain, especially when you get a few more years in the rearview mirror.
I have seen many people show up in Colorado for their “big trip” who have done nothing to get their body in shape. These people live back east, where altitude is measured in single digits. These folks get lightheaded on their roof, imagine what it will be like when they reach camp at 8000 feet.
I suggest an exercise program, to get your body ready for the physical exertions and abuse you are going to encounter. This regime is something anyone can do because it requires no exercise equipment, and you start at your home. There goes the “I don’t have time to go to the gym excuse.”
Start each session with a low intensity warm-up, such as walking or marching in place, followed by stretching of the major muscle groups.
Cardio is most important, especially when you consider the altitude of your hunt. You should do your cardio workout at least 3 times a week but 5 times is better.
Start your cardio workout by walking briskly, elevating your heart rate and respiration. You can ride a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical machine instead of walking, if you prefer, but maintain the increased heart rate for at least 20 minutes, gradually increasing the time, as you are able.
You can add some resistance by walking with your gear, such as a backpack with weight and wearing your boots you plan on wearing for the trip. As an aside, break in your boots before you go on the trip and never on the trip itself, unless you want blisters and sore feet.
Next is to build some strength to your lower extremities. Those legs are going to be carrying you and your gear around in the high country. Marching with high knees and step-ups on a high stool will help prepare you for the climbing. You can also do lunges and squats to build leg strength.
Another option for those with access to a treadmill is to add incline to it. Most machines can set up for a 12-to-15-degree incline that you can use during your cardio workout. If there are hills around your neighborhood, go outside and start climbing briskly. (This is the particular exercise I concentrate on at home.)
You can add strength training for your arms and shoulders. For these, it is hard to beat the good old-fashioned push-ups. Work up to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps and you will be on your way.
Lastly, do not forget your core. A strong core will help protect your back and body. The core is the foundation for your body and a strong core is the secret.
Start out with isometric abdominals, not sit-ups. When you do the “crunch”, bend your knees to protect your back. You can also do a reverse sit-up by starting out in a seated position. With your knees bent, slowly lower your shoulders to the floor.
Planks are also a good exercise for your core. Start in a partial plank on your knees if needed. Remember, good form is important or else you could injure your back.
This particular workout is not useful for just hunters, but for anyone who hikes, backpacks, fishes or otherwise enjoys the outdoors.
This workout is something that can be done at home, without special equipment, sort of a “no excuse” workout. Motivation is the key, and sticking to the plan, for a successful result.
Getting in shape for the trip is not something you can do at the last minute, my preferred method of preparedness. This regime is something we all should consider all year long. That is foresight and planning ahead; and to think my wife says I don’t have any.
Mark Rackay is a columnist for several newspapers and has been a feature writer for numerous sporting magazines. A world-class saltwater angler and an avid hunter promoting ethical and fair chase hunting and fishing, he travels the world in search of adventure. Feel free to contact him on his personal email for questions, comments or story ideas. email@example.com