Winning the Men’s Masters division and Overall Train To Hunt 2019 Challenge required some creativity in my training. I'm going to share one of my fitness secrets that helped me achieve this win.
As a guide we never know what to expect from one day to the next. No two days are the same, from the hunt itself, the weather, the places we will hike to, or the places we have to pack animals out of. What deep canyon are we going to kill an animal in and what will it take to hike out?
Over the years of hunting and guiding, I've realized and preached a very important philosophy:
“We should do our absolute best to take care of and prepare our body for the hunt ahead. In doing so, we improve our physical abilities, decreasing the limitations that would keep us from the places we could potentially go. Ultimately, improving our opportunities for successful experiences.”
I get great thrill and excitement from packing a very heavy pack, loaded with fresh meat, maybe the cape and head too! Pushing my mind and body to the limit or past it. It comes down to grit and heart. I have great satisfaction when I can say, “I Earned It”. Getting to that place takes committed preparation.
Throughout the year I work consistently on my fitness and nutrition so that I can perform on the mountain to the best of my ability, not just for myself and the outfitter I work for, but for my clients as well. I never want my physical body to hinder me from performing my job at a top level or creating the ultimate experience for my clients.
My year of training prior to the season is a conglomerate of everything from CrossFit to bodyweight to failure workouts, and from kettlebell workouts to mountain runs with a heavy pack. One common thread as I perform any of these workouts is that they are applicable to a “Functional Training Attitude”, (Steven Dahn, Elevation Fitness Training). I picture myself on the mountain hunting or competing in a Train to Hunt competition, and ask myself, “Is this a motion or movement I would find myself doing out in the field”.
As I have grown older and my back tends to feel it more than when I was in my 30’s, keeping a strong core is essential when hauling a heavy pack on the mountain and protecting the health of my back. I’m going to share one Functional workout that has been extremely beneficial for me over the years.
When discussing good core workouts, I’ve learned many people tend to concentrate on the abdominal (Rector Abdominis) or lower back (Erector Spinae) workouts. But, what they often fail to consider, is that while those are great for forward and backward movements, lateral and twisting movements that help with side to side balance are just as important. The Internal and External Obliques, along with the Transverse Abdominis, are muscles that essentially control twisting and side to side stability. When carrying a heavy pack the weight is shifted side to side causing a firing of the opposing side muscle.
My go-to workout for strengthening the obliques is a “walking farmers carry”. This workout can be done in many places; on a track, at the beach, on an evening walk, or up and down the stairs at your house. I grab a heavy weight or kettlebell in one hand that runs down my side, and I place my opposite hand on my waist just above the Iliac crest (a.k.a. hip bone). Be sure not to extend your free arm to your side for balance or compensating for the weight (this would be considered cheating your reps). Keep your free hand on your waist so you can feel the engagement of the muscles. All of the core muscles should be working to keep your balance. I usually prefer this workout on a track with a 60lb kettlebell, switching sides every 200 yards for a total of 400-600 yards. I recommend starting with a comfortable weight that you can carry for a 100 yards at a time. The farmers carry, unlike standing in place doing side crunches with a kettlebell, is different because walking engages more of a whole body motion, an example of a “Functional Training”. Incorporating this workout will help you create a complete, well balanced, strong core.
Carrying thousands of pounds of meat (no exageration) throughout the course of the year definitely puts a toll on the body. I'm doing everything I can to extend the working life of the one body God gave me! I hope this core fitness tip helps you earn more success on the mountain in 2020. May your pack be heavy and your core strong for the long haul out!