Endurance

By Matt Breton

You’ve decided to train for your upcoming hunting season.  You know you’ll be tackling the big woods for a week, maybe ten days.  Your trip may be in New England or out West.  The two differ only slightly in terms of scale and intensity; the training can be similar with a few minor adjustments.  Ideally you will have six months or longer to train, but some gains can be made in as few as four weeks.  In the same way that you think about bucks, bulls and rams year round, you need to train to chase them year round.  We’ll address a year-long plan at a later date.  Something is better than nothing for now.  Let’s get started.

      First we need a clearly defined goal to design our program around.  Look at your anticipated hunting terrain, technique and plan to get a sense of what you will need to be able to do.  We want to develop the capacity to woods-walk all day, up and down mountains and do this on consecutive days.  I know I rarely walk less than 5 miles a day in the woods and can get beyond 10 with some regularity.  We’ll assume an average of 6 miles per day for a 6 day hunting week, so I would want to be prepared for 36 miles on foot.  For single day events like a marathon, typical training prepares you for about 75% of the race, and leaves the rest of it up to an overall improved capacity from the cumulative results of training over time (week after week).  We’ll follow the same model for our multi-day hunting event.  Let’s plan on reaching a training goal of 27 miles a week.  

     We also need to know where we are at now.  It is important to be honest with yourself here.  We can generally make a safe training progression of about 10-20% of our capacity per week.  If you are currently walking three days per week for 2 miles, we see there is quite a gap between what we want to do and what we are currently doing.  Any progress will be beneficial here, it is important that you don’t get discouraged by the disparity.  Let the reality hit you in the face and use that as motivation to focus on your preparation. 

Cardiovascular endurance develops with repeated efforts at a challenging level.  These benefits accumulate over time as your heart, lungs, energy, and nervous systems improve their efficiency.  Bones and muscles will also adapt to these gradual demands by getting stronger.  Too much too soon can cause problems as these changes take time.  For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.  Shoot for 30 minutes, five days per week.  This is a great place to start!

     Once you’ve got this down, or if you are already doing it, we can begin to build your endurance up to the level we need for the woods.  What follows is a beginner’s eight week base training plan for cardiovascular exercise that assumes you can perform the above basic recommendations.  Your intensity matters because if it is easy it is not going to benefit you nearly as much.  For a challenge perform some of these miles running or put a weighted pack on to walk or hike with.  If you only have four weeks until your hunt, do the first four weeks of the program.  If figuring out your mileage based on the chart below isn’t going to work, simply add a zero after the stated miles and walk for that many minutes (4 miles on the chart below, walk for 40 minutes instead).  You don’t have to do them in any particular order, just get it all done each and every week.  If your legs begin to get sore, switch to a bike for a day or two per week and multiply the mileage (or time) by 3.

     This is a great time to build a foundation for continued training through the year to ramp up to being in Big Woods shape!  Performing these miles on the road or a treadmill now will be of benefit, as later on we’ll get into more woods-specific shape.  In general, gym based training doesn’t do as much for you as getting around the woods, but with many months to go, this is an excellent and realistic place to start.  After building a little endurance, we’ll add strength training to the training in the next installment of the Big Woods Fitness Series #3: Mountain Legs.

     **As always, check with your physician before beginning any exercise plan** The numbers below look easy to accomplish, but you need to make sure to put your time in.  Discipline and dedication to the training are important.  These mental skills will also benefit you in the woods this fall. 

Starting Plan:  Add a zero to the mileage list if going by time.  If biking, multiply the number by 3 for the mileage. If you would like to ask Matt a question or send him a comment please email him at nwsjoutdoorathlete@gmail.com.

   

Week

Day 1

Day  2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Total

1

2

3

3

3

5

16

2

3

3

3

3

5

17

3

3

3

3

4

5

18

4

3

3

3

4

6

19

5

3

3

4

4

6

20

6

3

3

4

5

7

22

7

3

4

5

5

8

25

8

4

4

5

6

8

27