I could sum up my process of achieving physical fitness in one word, variety. When elk hunting, you will be subjecting your body to a multitude of challenges. This is why I don't rely on any one exercise to prepare for the hunt.
Throughout the spring and summer, I will do something physical everyday. This could include any of the following: mountain biking, lifting, running, hiking with a weighted pack, abs and stationary biking. The bottom line is to do something everyday. Everyone complains of not having enough time in the day, as do I with a wife, two boys and a full time job piled onto the time commitment bowhunting requires. But, not too many guys could convince me they don't have a half an hour to an hour to exercise, at some point during the day. I routinely sacrifice sleep to exercise, getting up at 3:30 a.m. to go on a 20-mile mountain bike excursion before work at 7:00 a.m.
During the summer, I compete in a number of "Extreme Races." These are 6-mile runs in the mountains of Oregon -crossing creeks, through snow, mud and the like. They're called "Scramble" and that's what I had to do to finish 9th out of 162 runners in the last one I participated in. While it isn't an atypical hunting activity, it is excellent exercise, and provides a much needed break from an often monotonous routine of lifting and running without an immediate goal.
My regular workouts break down like such; I try to do cardiovascular exercise 4 or 5 times a week, for 45 minutes or more per session. Whether it's long distance running, hill work or an intense "Spin" class (stationary bike) at the local gym, I try to push my body to its limit and beyond each and every time. Your body will reach new levels and become stronger, to accommodate the stress you put on it. If you do not continually push yourself, your gains will hit a plateau and stay there.
Weight training is invaluable -providing your goal is overall hunting prowess. When hitting the weights, keep in mind that for the most part, everything you do in the woods starts and ends with your legs. Big biceps will not make an ounce of difference, if your objective is to get an arrow into the vitals of a trophy bull. But strong legs might. Please do not interpret my comment about big biceps to mean I do not do any upper body, as I believe in total body conditioning. One day I will concentrate on squats and lunges, with curls following this grueling leg workout. The next lift session will include chest, shoulders and back. I can do all of the weight training at home with a surprisingly small amount of equipment.
Exercise can be time consuming and hard to get up for all of the time. This might require you to get creative with your workouts. Running on the road can be very boring, which is why I enter local road races throughout the summer months. It is amazing what simply getting the competitive juices flowing can do for enhancing your workout regimen. In fact, at one point this past summer, I found myself lining up for a half-marathon, 13.1 miles. This is a distance I had never run before. Nonetheless, I ended up finishing 12th overall and 2nd in my age group, but more importantly, my body endured a great challenge.
This wide variety of exercise gets me in "close to adequate" elk hunting condition. On more than one instance in my hunting career, if not for the fact that I was in perhaps above average physical shape, I would not have successfully arrowed my quarry.
Now we come to the most important pre-season question. Do you just want to go elk hunting, or do you want to bring one back? If you desire the latter, there is no substitute for hard work. The bigger your goal, the harder the work required to get there.
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