Hunt like an athlete sounds a hell of lot better than hunt like a lackadaisical slug. Fit for the mountains, injury resistant, and conditioned to excel at the sport of hunting. A true predator will take the woods prepared unlike a non-athletic couch potato. So, to hunt like an athlete I believe you have to train like an athlete. Stop, I didn’t say you had to run ultra-marathons, shoot twice a day everyday, nor did I say you had to be extremist. I’m saying there’s a new age of athletes taking to the field ready to conquer new ground and tame the mountains. Athletes train for their sport year round and they are smart about it. The following is a formula or template for hunting athletes to utilize. The template is rooted in sports periodization, meaning the training should be organized and planned in advance of hunting season. It should consider the athlete’s potential, his/her performance needed for the hunt, and calendar of competition. It has to be simple, suggestive, and above all flexible as its content can be modified to meet the athletes’ rate of progress. Here is how to organize your training into three primary phases.
The first phase is the off-season or transition period. Hunting season winds down, daylight hours dwindle, and instead of hibernation its time to get your cross-train on. General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is a term we use to define physical competency in an array of physical skills. Skills such as endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, speed, power, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. Improving your GPP is the root of cross-training. Make yourself a well-rounded athlete this time of year by keeping your 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 you’re ready to run a marathon, gravitate towards a strength bias workout or even powerlifting. Conversely, if you’re crushing the workouts with weights, 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 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.
The preparation or pre-season phase is the longest phase and has the most specificity towards our sport. Most guys/gals out West will have mountains and hills to tackle during their hunt so the main focus for this phase is to build our mountain conditioning so it peaks come early fall. We hunt with a pack on our back, a weapon in hand, and boots on our feet. These three items will be important training gear 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 meaning you have to do a couple of cross-training bouts a week and slowly add hiking with weight and shooting your weapon. The beginning of preparation phase is around April or May and will only yield a handful of miles under the boot, but 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 pre-season conditioning is to get the necessary cross-training workouts in during the week while you’re on a work schedule, 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. Once hunting season arrives, we don’t want to lose out on over a half of year’s training so we need to cover the competition or in-season training phase.
In-season training is really about maintenance. We’re not trying to get stronger, we’re not increasing our endurance, and 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 minute window of time. 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.
Athletes do the workouts that are necessary for improvement in performance. I hope your motivation to train stems from performance ambition as well, not for improvement in appearance or aesthetics alone. Hunters want to stay in shape year round for health reasons, for injury prevention reasons, and because it bolsters their chances of 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 the eye. To be the predator you want to be, you have to train like an athlete.