By Dan Staton MS, PES
Fitness & Archery Editor

I’ve heard from sheep guides that a mentally tough client is worth their weight in gold.  You know, the client that can withstand the day-in and day-out grind of hiking, trekking, being cold, being wet, and staying motivated when hunting conditions go bad.  A person that has an unwavering desire to be successful, that can sacrifice comfort in order to accomplish the task at hand is someone I strive to be.  Mental toughness has always had a role in most of my adventures with a bow and I think there’s a few ways to increase our capacity to deal with the uncertainties of our outdoor pursuits.  Perhaps we can shed some light on gaining more room for our mental prowess by way of fitness.  That’s right, training for more strength and conditioning can encourage more discipline, aid in our ability to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and this alone will transfer over to the realm of mentally tough outdoor adventure.

The late John Woodin used to preach to all of his players that you must “Discipline yourself, so others won’t have to.”  The art of discipline really boils down to planning and execution.  Figuring out what really matters to you and the price-tag to accomplish it.  If it’s that big herd bull bugling at his harem in late September, we’ll have some concerns to address.  That bull lives and thrives at or above six thousand ft. for most of the year, he has to survive harsh winters, predators, and tracks up and down ridges just to get to food and water.  You buy your groceries in town at less than two thousand feet, you drive to work, and haven’t broke a sweat in months.  How are you going to compete with that?  You have to sacrifice sleeping in, get to the gym, prepare a meal versus pulling up to the drive-thru.  Schedule workouts in your daily planner, get a training partner, cook your own food, these are the samples of how disciplining yourself at home will aid you in the mountains.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Workout bouts need intensity to maximize benefits.  I’m sorry but cookie cutter elliptical training probably won’t test your limits.  Don’t get me wrong, something is definitely better than nothing, but the theme of this piece is a mental advantage.  When training, intensity is my number one goal. It’s not how much I sweat, or high my heart rate got, but how much work did I accomplish in the least amount of time.  Workouts that entail large workloads under the gun of a stop-watch often leaving me laying on the ground post workout.  Muscles screaming, lactic acid flowing, and a puddle of sweat insures that I gave a maximum effort and pressed on even when my body begged for mercy.  Not only do these type of workouts sear away calories and fat like burning gasoline, but they get your mind adapted to uncomfortable situations.  To me, uncomfortable happens all the time when hunting. Waking up two hours before light, sitting in a rigid tree-stand from dawn to dusk, or fighting off fatigue mid-week of your ten day hunt. The examples are endless, but the outdoor community can relate to the obstacles we face on our adventures.

In Closing
In order to enhance mental potency one may look no further than how they conduct their current lifestyle.  Do you look for the highroad?  Can you find a way each day to challenge your mental capacity, can you recall doing something everyday that you don’t want to do, but knowingly do so anyways in the name of mental development?  I call this the hard routine. The Hard Routine: No room for selfishness, indulgence, compromise, or distraction.  In any rigorous endeavor, the bedrock for success lies in the mind set of the individual.  Total commitment that of Alexander the Great and his men as they burnt down their own vessels in their enemy’s harbor.  The only way home meant a march across land through the enemy: victory or death.  My personal hunting adventures imitate some of life’s best curve balls; challenging my inner most toughness, what I’m made of, and testing my mental toughness.  Understanding that mental toughness is born of adversity; that it will atrophy if not consistently engaged; and that it carries over to everything you do.  Deny thyself daily and push through a handful of things each day that you don’t want to do.  This will aid in your ability to develop mental toughness for the outdoors and insure that you are able to maximize your time in the great outdoors.