I was hiking in the backcountry the other day and I was reminded of a very important lesson: Train for the unforeseen.
You see, I was in the mountains of Northern New Mexico and it had recently snowed. There was about 3 feet of snow on the ground and hiking in those conditions involved significantly more effort than it would have had it not snowed. The elevation was already making things more difficult, but the snow made it hard… very hard.
For anyone who has been hunting for very long, you know all too well that things happen to make the hunt more difficult. A storm rolls in making the ground very muddy or covered in snow. The temperature drops making it more difficult to do that most basic things. Your hunting partner gets injured and you have to carry some of his or her gear, making your load much heavier. You never know, but Murphy’s law is always there and when something can go wrong, it will. You need to train for this.
For many, training for hunting is done at lower elevations since many do not live on the side of a mountain. Even for those (like me) who live at a higher elevation, going after big game involves going higher still. Just because you are in shape at a lower elevation, doesn’t mean that hiking at 8000 ft is going to be easy. You need get into good enough shape that you can hike through the hills in the higher elevations and do so effectively. Here are a few ways to do this:
1. Do HIIT Cardio
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, a form of cardio in which you do a period of “sprinting” (going as fast as you can) followed by a period of “active rest” (still doing the same exercise, but doing it slowly so that your heart rate and breathing can recover) and repeating the process for 15-20 minutes. Sprinting sets usually last between 30 seconds to 1 minute and active rest periods last between 1-2 minutes, depending on your fitness level. HIIT cardio simulates the hard work followed by short rests that hunters grow accustomed to so it makes sense that a hunter should train this way.
2. Lift weights using supersets and minimal rest
Utilizing higher reps and shorter rest periods while incorporating supersets (doing two different lifts with no rest in between, only resting after completing a set for both exercises) will help train your muscles to build endurance over strength. It doesn’t matter if you can bench 350 lbs if you can’t hike 350 yards. Focus on endurance more than strength/mass if you want to have endurance in the backcountry.
3. Pre-exhaust your muscles prior to doing cardio
Pre-exhaustion is a technique used to force your muscles past what is normal for the sake of increasing performance. To pre-exhaust a muscle group, such as legs, you would perform compound moves (like squats, leg press, or lunges) with high rep, short rest sets and then move directly to the cardio you would do. An example of this would be 4 sets of 15-20 reps of squats with 30 seconds rest between each set. Then you would move directly to lunges, again doing 4 sets of 15-20 reps with the same amount of rest in between. Then you would go directly to the stair master and do your cardio workout.
These techniques will force your body to improve its cardiovascular functioning, allowing you to be in better physical condition and better able to tackle the difficult terrain and whatever nature tries to throw your way.Don’t be caught off guard! Train your body for the unforeseen so that no matter what happens, you’ll be ready.