Over the last few years my elk hunting “training” has shifted away from lifting weights and towards outdoor sports. I live in Montana, and, even without covid, it’s tough to spend time inside a gym when you can get to the mountains. Regardless of where you live, enjoy the outdoors this summer. The next few paragraphs cover my thoughts on September fitness and longevity as a hunter. Thank you for reading.
Here’s why mountain biking remains my top choice as a workout: You’re so focused on not shattering your collarbone that you hardly notice you’re exercising. Also, it’s good for your quads and balance both of which play a huge role during elk season. Road biking works too. Riding a bike is low impact compared to running, and running is for Trump-Dog or J-Biddy anyways (whichever you prefer Iowa Slam remains a non-partisan organization).
Off-trail hiking perfectly replicates a day of hunting. Even if you’re in the Midwest, moderate exercise outdoors will prepare the body and mind to handle September conditions. Stay smart; don’t get carried away and develop an overuse injury. I recently had a friend ask me if I wanted to go on a 5 am hike with him. I had to say, “No friend, I can’t because I am avoiding overuse injuries.” A good rule of thumb to follow: any activity happening at 5 am has potential to lead to overuse. It’s science.
Take Care of Your Back
I’ve packed out elk each of the last three years and felt like a young Benjamin Button afterwards or maybe an old Benjamin… I’m not sure, but I didn’t feel good. Try to pawn some of that pain onto a hunting partner. I’m taking my brother (or pack mule) with me this year to share the load. Wear boots with good ankle support. Buy trekking poles if you can do it without anybody noticing. They’ll provide relief for your knees. Don’t get caught up in trying to “one-trip it” or anything crazy. Consider the long-run and don’t take chances with your joint health.
Stay active. Do a variety of workouts. Focus on flexibility, stability and endurance. On weekend climbing trips I carry the heavy stuff. When I don’t have time to get out, I’ll do body weight exercises at the park: push-ups, pull-ups, air squats and lunges. Keep it simple. Have fun.