Hunter Fitness within a Sedentary Lifestyle
While, before my little darlings, I was at the gym most days during the week, and regularly doing early morning pack walks, at the moment, I live, by most standards, a sedentary lifestyle. My day job involves writing policy, procedure and making sure they are implemented through metrics and reviews. I.e. I sit at a desk nearly eight hours a day.
When I get home, I help my partner with my two little girls (2.2, 7 months) and at around 7-8, I have a chance to, well, update and work on this site. So, sitting down again.
That’s my week.
Weekends, I dedicate one day to being with the kids and Sunday, fun day; I try to get to a range.
That’s a sedentary lifestyle, at best.
So then, when I can find time actually to get out, I put on a pack, and go walking for a couple of hours each day, up and down hills, sometimes from dawn to dusk.
Logically, and obviously – that kills me. I need some hunter fitness.
Maximising Time Spent Outdoors
No one would argue that being fit is going to improve your experience hunting.
Carrying a pack, regardless of the weight, through the bush, up and down inclines and the general activity associated with hunting requires some level of fitness if you don’t want to end up having to stop every five minutes to catch your breath.
So, given my personal situation, it made sense to get to the gym and try and build up a bit of a base level of fitness. Yes, you can do this at home, but I find heading out somewhere means a more productive time. Each to their own.
Luckily, a block away, I have the YMCA Mt Albert.
Sports Specific Training
While it would be easy just to head to the gym and like most males rotate between Bicep Curls and Bench Press (ironically, two of my worst lifts), I have always been aware of the necessity of focusing and customising your training to your goals. In my case, hunter fitness.
My goals being the ability to haul a potentially heavy pack (full of meat) around the uneven ground for several hours at a time. Also, to have the strength and flexibility not to injure me while in oddball positions stalking or waiting for animals. Hunter fitness requires something more than show muscles.
There is a trend at the moment, unsurprisingly from the US, where the realms of Crossfit and Hunting seem to be crossing over. Cameron Haynes would be the prime example of this – essentially, sponsored athletes whose chosen sport is, hunting! There is even the Train to Hunt Challenge, which really, is a Tough Mudder with bows!
Now, I don’t plan on going that far. To be fair, at the moment I don’t have the time or resources to do so. However, it is fair to say that there is a decent amount of Hunting related fitness training being discussed and designed at the moment.
So, the goal was initially, with a limited amount of time to do so, develop a decent base level of fitness again so that when I did head out I didn’t have such a shock to the system.
Time to make the barbell your friend.
First port of call was to develop a decent base of strength to work on.
Many trainers will suggest to develop a core strength program and get some basic lifting under your belt before you start getting too specialised or fancy with your training. In my case, that equated to three months of the Stronglifts 5 x 5 protocol. This is a great system for those getting into lifting in the gym – get over yourself and commit to some basics. Squats (every day is legs day!), Deadlift and Bench. There isn’t a simpler way to develop strength than those three.
A note here – if you haven’t lifted at all before. I would strongly encourage a session or two with someone who can coach you on the proper technique for these lifts. Proper technique and form mean more weight, more strength and less potential for injury. There is no reason you should injure yourself while lifting the weight. Sure – your muscles will hurt, and you will be tired – but you shouldn’t be ‘tweaking’ anything. That means, simply, that you are doing something wrong.
I have always found Mark Bells videos, especially the stuff with Chris Duffen to be really good, not only from a lifting standpoint but from making sure you don’t injure yourself either. Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention to become a powerlifter – but those guys understand from a physiological standpoint, how to set yourself up correctly so that you don’t collapse your back and create some issues.
So, being able to squat a lot is to totally useless to a hunter (or tramper, or mountain climber) if you can’t get up a hill without having a heart attack.
So, having formed a decent strength base, it’s now time to increase the endurance levels up around that strength.
There are plenty of theories on this as well – I have been reading Scott Johnston’s “Training For The New Alpinism” as I had is suggest that many of the principles he discussed were equally applicable to hiking and hunting training as well.
Essentially, we are looking to target the different ‘energy system levels’ of the body. Now, before you turn away with all this ‘woo-woo’ energy talk – they are essentially talking about the different muscle systems, and the energy sources the body uses to power these muscles. Adenosine Triphosphate or, ATP is the fuel and depending if it is a short or long term, the body uses different mechanisms to create that ATP.
Think, short-term burn, midterm burn, long-term burn. Lifting a heavy-weight is short-term – lift heavy, stop, rest. This is what creatine helps with. Midterm is Glucose (carbs) and long-term, Oxidative – which is essentially Fat and Protein. Long story short, we want to start training the body to be more efficient at converting Fat to ATP to fuel our hikes. This, I am sure is a butcher job of summarising things. Read more about the ATP system over here.
So, to target that mid-range (long range will be hit by the upcoming pack walks) I am essentially messing around with some hill sprints, and HITT/Tabata in the gym. Essentially, bursts of work with short rest periods and rinse and repeat until I cant breathe any more.
Firstly – the gym. I still wanted to lift heavy (20 reps of light weight just seems wrong to me) – so I get the volume through low reps but high sets.
For example – last night’s workout was –
- Clean – 15 sets of 2 reps
- Pull-Ups – 15 sets of 2 reps
- Bench Press – 10 sets of 2 reps
- Deadlift – 20 sets 1 rep
All done with heavy weights (by my standard) and 30 second rest period between sets.
This was followed (for shits and giggles) with a Tabata Session on the rower – 20 seconds max effort, 10 seconds rest, 8 rounds.
This resulted in jelly legs and muscles sorer than I have had for a little while.
Doing this, also reminded me how much I miss chalk, as I dropped the barbell on my shins in around the 12 set of cleans. Looking forward to getting the Dryhands in to use in the gym.
The Long Haul
I need to get back into my rucking – putting on a heavy pack and heading up a hill. Luckily, I have some packs coming that will happily carry a good load, and alternatively, I can put the little one in the MacPac and haul her up a hill as a bit of daddy/girl time!
I am planning on heading out in January for a trip. Between the new family, work and setting up a new business (you are looking at it folks), I simply can’t get out as much as I would like too. However, I have a couple of days in January to head out and have a poke around in the forest.
I want to ensure that my hunter fitness levels are not what let me down. So, a bit of time spent now will make things a lot more pleasant in the bush.
Now. I am not a PT, rather just someone doing some reading and experimenting on the internet. If there is someone out there in Auckland who better understands all this, and would like to help me put together a real plan – please get in touch.
I am sure there are others reading here that would also like to know what you have to say on the subject of Hutner Fitness!