By: Dale J. Buchberger, PT, DC, CSCS, DACBSP
Most avid hunters that I know are not big exercise guys. They like to be outside and they greatly enjoy hunting and fishing, but going for a 4 or 5 mile run doesn’t seem to make it into the conversation. The good news is that you don’t have to become some sort of “cardio-king” in order to improve your fitness for the up and coming hunting seasons. The key to any fitness program is consistency. A few minutes several times per week will make this years hunting season safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable. In 2012, I outlined three different inexpensive and uncomplicated methods to improve your hunting fitness. We will revisit those methods this year.
The easiest workout is the “commercial workout” I spoke of four years ago. So, when you’re lying on the couch watching television, do a series of push-ups and sit-ups during the commercials. If you did 5-10 pushups and 10-15 sit-ups during every commercial break of the average 60 minute drama, that would end up being a good workout. During the course of several months, this little amount of exercise can make a big difference for you when hunting season arrives. If you’ve been doing nothing recently, there’s no point in running. Going overboard right out of the gate will merely create pain and cause you to hurt yourself or burnout quickly. Consider a brisk walk instead. Walk for 9 minutes and slowly jog for one. Do this back-to-back for 30-40 minutes, four times a week, for 6-8 weeks. Slowly begin to lengthen the overall workout, then start increasing the jogging time until you are jogging 5-minutes and walking 5 minutes for the entire 40 minutes.
If you’ve ever walked through the dark woods with a tree stand on your back and a bow and pack in your hands, you know how having strength, stamina and balance is important in the field. Strength training increases your metabolic rate, burning more calories throughout the day and helping to lose weight more quickly. Adults lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20. Strength training will help prevent loss of muscle and strength, and help restore the muscle mass you may have lost. Setting up tree stands or lugging bags of goose decoys across a muddy field are not the most “back-friendly” activities. Strength training helps your back handle those stresses and recover from them more quickly, with less or no pain.
Here are three different workouts that range from no cost to about $200. Any of these workouts can be performed 3-5 days per week.
TRX 15 minute workout three days per week.
Exercise ball 4-5 days per week
Walkout to a pushup
Crossed extension over ball
No equipment workout 5 days per week
Go for a 45-60 minute hike can supplement the workouts listed above. You can scout and get fit at the same time. If it isn’t too close to hunting season, you can do so without fear of spooking game. If you can’t get in the woods, hit the road. It doesn’t matter when, just put on some good shoes, grab some headphones and hit the road. If you’re a hunter, you probably have some form of foul weather gear; so never let the outside conditions stop you. Getting outside and going for a walk is good for the body and the mind. If walking feels too easy, try to pick up the pace and look for a route that has some hills to climb. The third way to get some cardio is to run with your dog. If you hunt with your dog, he’s got to get in shape for the season also. Getting outside and running with your dog is great pre-season preparation for both of you. Plus having your dog with you and watching him work a field takes your mind off the fact that you’re actually exercising.
Getting and staying in shape is a must for improving your hunting performance. It is also a vital step in reducing the chances of injury and fatigue. If you have any questions about your conditioning program or have been hampered by problems in the past, you may benefit by getting assistance. Talk with your physical therapist or chiropractor about ways to customize your conditioning program. Don’t ask your hunting partners for back massages. New training programs should begin with a check-up that includes a doctor’s recommendations. It’s not just a casual suggestion. If you plan on having your hunting rig checked for any preseason issues, check the mirror first. Hunting season starts with a body check.