By: Rebecca Francis
Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to stay fit. It can vary from wanting to lose weight, to toning muscles, to just being healthy. For me it is a two-fold reason. The first is simple…to hunt. I hunt year round and I know from personal experience that the hunt is much more enjoyable when I am in shape versus lagging behind and unable to catch my breath. Nearly all of my hunts entail hiking, backpacking, and some sort of physical activity that requires me to be physically fit. Therefore, it is necessary to integrate multiple forms of exercises to prepare for the hunt. My second reason for exercising, is because I just want to feel good. This is a pure reward for the hard work. Exercising releases endorphins that provide a healthy and natural way to just be happy, reduce stress, and enjoy life.
So why cross train? I’ll never forget nearing the top of a ridge on a high country mule deer backpacking hunt and looking down at a friend that was struggling to make it to the top. He was a marathon runner and what I considered to be in tip top shape. I had a great deal of respect for him and his physical fitness practices. But as I watched him struggle up the ridge with a large pack on, I wondered why he was having such a hard time when he was in much better shape than me. When he reached the top he expressed that while he can run forever, he was deeply regretting not preparing himself to haul a big pack and hike in steep terrain. He made the mistake of assuming that because he was in great shape, he would be physically ready to do a high country backpacking hunt.
I am runner as well, and participate in many races each year. But I also know from experience how important it is to prepare your body for the type of hunt you are planning for. This is especially true for sheep, goat, and any other high country hunts. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you can run, if you don’t take the necessary steps to strengthen the other areas of your body, you will inevitably get injured or be miserable with sore muscles. I cross train year round simply to prevent those issues. The main reason I participate in races, is so I always have a goal I am working towards. It provides me a deadline to shoot for and it forces me to improve my performance and overall fitness.
My normal training routine is;
- Monday Run 6 – 8 miles at normal pace, lift weights, abs/core.
- Tuesday Interval runs at speed pace, P90X workout.
- Wednesday Run 6 – 8 miles at normal pace, lift weights abs/core.
- Thursday Hill climb or ride bike, P90X workout
- Friday Interval runs at speed pace, lift weights, abs/core
- Saturday Run 10 or more miles.
- Sunday Rest
*After every workout I drink a protein drink.
In addition to my normal workouts, when I know I will be hunting at high altitude I make every effort to spend some time training at higher altitudes. This will help prevent the effects of altitude sickness, which I have seen many people suffer from. Almost every person I have guided on a high country mule deer hunt has spent the first couple of days with headaches and/or throwing up. This takes all the enjoyment and appreciation out of the experience. I live at 7000 feet elevation so I have a good start, but I hunt deer at 11,000 feet elevation. Luckily the Uinta mountains are in my backyard, so I can spend some time hiking and getting ready before the hunt.
I also participate in bike races and triathlons. In the spring I will integrate more bike riding and swimming for those races and then phase out of those activities and focus more on the hiking with packs in the summer and fall. Every summer I hike three to four big peaks for preparation. These are mostly just day hikes and I try to complete the hike as quickly as possible. Some of the peaks I have hiked for training are Mt. Timpanogos, Mt. Borah, Mt. Loafer, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baldy, Tetons, Gannett Peak, and Lone Peak.
These routines have worked for me because I try to focus on every part of my body throughout the week. When I head for the mountains to hunt I can wear a pack and hike hard with little or no problems. I have been exercising regularly for over 20 years, and I have grown to love it. In fact, I can’t live without it. There are still days that I have to talk myself into working out, but I just have to remind myself of the reward and I’m good to go.
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