Whether back country elk or midwestern whitetail, it is game on for every man, woman and child who has the passion and drive to pursue these amazing creatures. You have put in countless hours throughout the off-season to be ready for one moment but unlike a race or 3D shoot, your season is more than just a day. Balancing time between the gym and the field can be hard. Here are some tips that will help you maintain your strength and conditioning so you can perform at your best all season long.
“Athletes train for strength to improve performance, not interfere with it.” -Practical Programming for Strength Training (3d ed. Aasgaard 2013).
The concept for competitive athletes is simple. Preserve as much ability as possible to perform on game day. Some of you may hunt two or three times a week while others may only get in the field for one to two longer trips per year. With only seven days in a week in combination with work and family obligations, this means you are going to have to streamline the workouts that got you to the dance and focus on maintenance. If you trained five to six days per week in preparation for the season you may need to reduce that down to two. You have built the conditioning. Your goal now is to preserve what you built and focus on punching a tag.
What type of quarry do you pursue?
What do you hunt? Whitetail hunters typically do not face the same challenges those who pursue elk or mule deer face, but duck hunters have an entirely different set of physical, mental and terrain variables to contend with. And those folks chasing sheep in places like Alaska? That is the ultra-marathon of the hunting world. The intensity of your program both in- and pre-season will depend on what you need your body to do and how you wish it to perform.
Simplify your training
In general, the more packed your scheduled becomes with hunting excursions on top of other life responsibilities, the simpler your workouts should become. You cannot fit in all things the way they were before you hit the mountain or the woods every weekend. In fact, now is the time to let your training shine and see how well your program translates to the field. If you were accustomed to long rucks, focus on shorter bouts of cardio at higher intensities to maintain your conditioning. For strength training, get back to the basics. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and planks built the foundation. Focus on the primary movers that give you the most bang for your buck. If time is REALLY limited, consider concepts like Tabata workouts that combine both strength and aerobic conditioning in one session!
The right mix of products
Nutrition in-season is just as important if not more than pre-season. You will be pushing your body in ways no gym can replicate, in some cases for months at a time. Early mornings and late nights mean less sleep and your body’s ability to recover for the next hunt becomes an issue. You do not need to get fancy with supplementation, but you do need to get focused. Keep it simple but targeted.
My go-to products focus on filling nutritional gaps and helping reduce inflammation
I never enter the field without Pack Out Bars and my personal favorite, Strawberry Pomegranate Hydrate & Recover; you pick your own favorite flavor!
Remember, you are focusing on simple, efficient workouts that will maintain strength. Now is not the time to be trying new or different modalities. I am a BIG fan of simple circuits that I can pound out in 30 minutes or less. Here is one of my favorites:
- 1 Arm DB Row-10 reps
- Squat (back, body weight or goblet)-10 reps
- Push-Up-10 reps
- Birdog-10 reps
- Front Plank-30 seconds
- Bridge- 30 seconds
*Repeat 3-5 rounds
*Scale reps up or down as desired
*Adjust exercises as needed
Need a finisher? Try this for one to two rounds:
- Standing Slam Ball 20 seconds
- Kettlebell Swing 20 seconds
- Row Machine 10 calorie burn (as quickly as you can burn them)
Remember, your fitness journey does not end because season is here….it just looks a little different. Follow these concepts, punch your tag then get back after it in the off-season!
Jeremy Koerber is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and founder of Fit To Hunt, a company that helps outdoorsmen and women prepare for their outdoor adventures.