by BWB Prostaff Matt Breton

I’ve been sugaring this week.  Gathering all that sap in buckets (mine is a small operation) and boiling it down to make delicious maple syrup takes some time and effort that I find well worth it. It is something that looks easy from the outside, but when you get into it there is a lot to pay attention to.  It reminds me of the statement, simple does not mean easy.   In the midst of performing all my carry exercises with 5 gallon pails full of sap, I’ve had time to think about training programs for hunters. 

Being March, the guys and gals headed west really need to get started and the November deer trackers are not too far behind.  I always struggle to find the right level for making exercise recommendations to a broad audience, especially online.  The task is a bit easier with specific guidelines to local clients, but most people want to get away with the bare minimum.  I understand that lives are busy and that time is at a premium, but if you love (and live) to hunt and are serious about your pursuit, you have to train to push yourself to a relatively high level.  This will improve your strength and endurance both physically and mentally.  I’ve decided that trying to boil down the training process to the barest minimum leaves a lot out for everyone; if we were sugaring with that mind set, we simply wouldn’t be making good maple syrup.  The minimalist approach is only going to get you so far, and it likely won’t be far enough.  

So for my hunting friends and neighbors, I’d like to give away the metaphorical maple syrup for training.  Like anything worthwhile it takes time and effort.  It isn’t easy and it wouldn’t be worth as much it if it was.  Not everyone can do it and that is ok.  I still believe that everyone should try to better their physical performance by getting out of the recliner a little more often, but with that small investment, there will only be a small return.

If you really desire something more out of your hunting season, whether that is a better story or a bigger buck, the one big thing entirely within your control is the effort you put into your training.  You can break a training program down into three categories, each with two variables.  As you set out your training plan, this break down essentially creates eight different workouts for you to complete.  These workouts should allow you to fit training into your lifestyle more easily, and give you enough variety to cover all of your bases over a two week training period at four days per week. 

Category : Variables

Mode : Strength/Endurance

Type : Constant /Varied

Duration : Short/Long

The definitions of these variables are specific for our purposes toward hunting performance.  A constant activity is one that is pretty strict and controlled, like a walk on the treadmill or strength training with dumbbells or a barbell in the gym.  Varied activity takes place with a sandbag or outside on uneven terrain.  Long endurance activity would be anything over 90 minutes, while long strength activities would be high repetitions (2 sets of 30+) with a lighter weight.  Short strength would be heavier weight for fewer repetitions (5 sets of 5) and short endurance would be higher intensity cardiovascular training from 15-90 minutes in duration.

When you design your plan, select your strength movements from the classic breakdown of one each of the push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carry and everything else, per session.   

Push: Pushups or Bench Press

Pull: Rows or Pullups

Hinge: Deadlift or Kettlebell Swings

Squat: Back Squat or Lunges

Loaded Carry: Farmer Carry or Suitcase Carry

Everything Else: Log Drag, Get-ups, Yoga, Stretching, Band exercises, etc

Select a variety of endurance activities, but include some hiking in there, preferably with a pack, especially for the long efforts.  Also make an effort to use hills in your training or stairs if you can’t get into any terrain.  Try to progress the effort level over 8-12 weeks leading up to the start of your hunting specific plan.  The harder you work the more benefits you will reap.  You'll read in a lot of places that a 30 minute high intensity workout is all you need, but for the true mountain hunter, I don't think that is enough endurance.  You need to get a lot of time on your feet to be able to go day after day, mile after mile.

I can’t emphasize enough the need to spend some time structuring your plan and then executing it.  If you wait until October and think you’re going to get into good enough shape, you will likely be surprised at how poorly you perform in the woods.  That isn’t anything I want to experience.  If you are overwhelmed, get some help.  Email me or contact a local trainer.  Figure out where you are now and where you want to be.  Lay out your goals and be diligent to achieve them.

Making good maple syrup takes time, effort, commitment and attention to detail.  So does training well.  Start the process now so you can drag out a Grade A buck this fall!

Stay after ‘em!    

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