The Hunting Athlete
It seems like practically every day another hunting article is written regarding the hunting athlete lifestyle. Professional bow hunter Cameron Hanes a.k.a “Beast Mode” is someone I have great respect for in regard to this concept. He was really the first person to practice what he preaches in regards to combining extreme fitness with hunting in order to increase his success as a bow hunter, especially in the rugged back country. His daily routine of lift, run and shoot is legendary. Cameron does this intense regime seven days a week 365 days a year while working a full time job. His endurance style training is what really sets him apart from others and is designed to constantly push the body past its comfort zone. This mentality or philosophy of train hard hunt easy breaks with the current belief held by many hunters that to kill an animal does not require one to be in exceptional physical condition. I am constantly amazed by the amount of jealousy and hate that occasionally arises on Cameron’s comment thread the moment he posts a picture of himself running a mountain or lifting weights. Ironically the anger of a few hunters is not entirely different from the hostility we often encounter from anti-hunters when we post a picture of an animal we harvested.
I have personally had hunters tell me that to sit in a stand or blind all day does not require them to work out or be in optimal shape. This point is valid yet it doesn’t address why a hunter wouldn’t want to improve his or her overall health and hunt more effectively. Let’s be honest, hunting and every aspect of it from pre-season scouting to actually dragging out an animal is very hard work. Many hunters stop hunting altogether because of health problems or simply from a lack of energy to do it at all. The very thing that hunters love most can be taken away by merely being out of shape. Suddenly the bow or rifle goes back in its case and deep into the far reaches of the closet along with everything else hunting related. This scenario happens to many hunters each year and this trend will continue until hunters realize that hunting is no different than any other physical endeavor in terms of energy expended. As the old saying goes “you get out of life only what you are willing to put into it.” Hunting is a lifestyle and like any consistent routine if the body is out of sync, overweight or slowed down by advancing age the results in the field will most likely show.
My own father’s hunting ability has been limited due to his diabetes which was brought on by being overweight years ago. He lost the weight and has kept it off but the effects of the disease have certainly taken a toll on his overall physical health and his capacity to hunt as much as he would like. When my dad was younger he was strong and in great shape. Unfortunately, like all of us he couldn’t escape father time and as the years have gone by it has become more and more difficult for him to hunt as he once did. Thanks to the internet and affordable gyms on almost every corner there is really no longer an excuse for anyone to not be reasonably fit. The information is out there, all one has to do is research, create a simple plan, work hard, keep a positive outlook and follow through on a consistent basis. Additionally, I highly recommend having a motivated workout partner with the same goals. This will help to keep you accountable and on course. The thought process should be to treat training and eating right as a way of life instead of as a pre-season get into shape quick mentality. Although there is nothing wrong with getting ready right before hunting season I honestly believe that to be the best hunter/predator possible takes a year-round effort.
I must admit that I have an obsessive personality regarding activities I enjoy doing and working out is at the top of the list directly below bow hunting. I have been a gym nut since I was in high school when I first discovered weights. As I went on to play college football at Missouri State University the intensity of my training only increased. That was over twenty years ago but my training is just as extreme now as it was back then. My routine at the gym each week is straight forward and involves working the entire body. I am typically in and out of the gym within an hour and sometimes less if I accomplish what I intended to do. Any more time than that can lead to overtraining which stumps muscle growth along with strength. My approach has always been quality over quantity and to hit it hard then get the hell out to recover. Along with training I can’t stress enough the importance of rest along with eating properly. There has to be equal importance on training, rest and nutrition. If just one of these components is out of balance the other two will suffer, it is as simple as that. I have never thought of my routine as something I have to do, it is something I enjoy. There is nothing more fulfilling than pushing the body past its limit every day in order to be in optimal condition, especially as hunting season draws near. Whether hunting is just an occasional hobby or a devout lifestyle incorporating a fitness and nutritional program will help immensely in all areas of life.
My weekly hunting workout:
Monday: Back & biceps followed by 20 minutes of high intensity cardio
Tuesday: Legs & calves followed by 15 minutes of moderate cardio
Wednesday: Chest & triceps followed by 20 minutes of moderate cardio
Thursday: Shoulders & calves followed by 20 minutes of high intensity cardio
Friday: Off day in gym/shoot bow for an hour or longer
Saturday: 20 minutes of high intensity cardio/the following Saturday no cardio
Sunday: Off day in gym/shoot bow for an hour or longer
Regarding cardio I prefer the elliptical machine because it works both the upper and lower body compared to the stationary bike or stair climber. However, these machines are still better than doing nothing at all. I must stress that the crucial element in doing cardio is to get the heart rate up in order to speed up the metabolism which in turn burns more calories. This is accomplished by doing shorter periods of cardio at a higher intensity. Once again I must stress quality over quantity. Just going through the motions doesn’t cut it; one must put their body through something to see results and real change. As far as advice on nutrition my eating plan involves four to five small meals per day along with supplements. I avoid too many carbs, sugar, salt, processed foods and I limit my alcohol consumption. This plan works for me and everyone is different. The secret is to find what works for you.