Guest post by Shawn Stafford
Unfortunately I am not made of money otherwise I would probably be off hunting somewhere rather than taking this time to write an article. Regardless, I do still manage quite a bit of hunting and maintain a good level of physical fitness over the course of the year. For those who are hesitant or have managed to keep putting off raising the bar for your fitness level there are quite a few options to kick start a new healthy habit with very minimal financial investment. Or if you are like me and find it more convenient (and thereby more likely to happen) to work out at home or supplement your gym workouts there is hope if you are on a budget.
First and foremost we can all go for a run (or walk depending on your goals/abilities)! All you have to do is open the front door. That doesn’t cost a dime. Depending on where you live there is a road or sidewalk that you have access to, right? Don’t forget about your local school track. Even better yet maybe you have access to a park or state/national forest. If you want to step it up a notch utilize the bleachers at your local football field to get your “climbing” in. The weather outside doesn’t look very appealing? Do you think mother nature will take it easy on you during hunting season? Use inclimate weather to help prepare yourself for some of the mental rigors of hunting and get out there anyway.
To take it a step further, get an old pack frame and load it up with some weight. I managed to end up with four free packs without even trying. One was my brothers old Boy Scout pack that I found when rummaging around my parents garage and three others were given to me by a co-worker that he used “back in the day” when he found out I was an elk hunter. Mind you, these are not the latest and greatest and certainly not my hunting pack, but they definitely get the job done and per the focus of this article they were free! If you are not as fortunate as I was you can still find a cheap, suitable pack on Ebay or for sale locally. Regarding weight, just look around. Fill old milk jugs with water, sandbags, or use old duffle bags filled with rocks. Use your imagination and load it up.
Another very important but often overlooked activity for physical improvements is stretching. It doesn’t cost anything and can be done anywhere. The benefits are numerous and stretching is just as important for a beginner as it is to a seasoned veteran. Technically, by simply doing the aforementioned activities you would be moderately to well prepared for many different hunting situations.
Don’t worry, if you want to step it up a few more notches, you still can. Sand can quickly become your friend (or enemy depending on how grueling your workouts are!). A quick Google search located 43# of sand for $3.29 at my local Walmart. If you live in a very rural setting perhaps you can even go out back to the creek and grab some. If you live in desert or coastal areas you basically would have an unlimited supply! Of course you’ll need something to put the sand in and another internet search shows that a pack of five polypropylene sand bags costs as little as $6.95. You may even be able to find them cheaper or ask around and see if anyone has any they don’t need anymore. For the record though, these do allow small amounts of sand to leak through since they are woven. You may want to stick them in a canvas bag or duct tape them if you plan to use them inside. Now the fun can begin. There are tons of exercises that can be done in your living room or yard. Squats, deadlifts, lunges, various presses, the list goes on and on. The cool thing about sandbags as opposed to structured weights is they tend to require gripping or holding them in ways that you are more likely to experience in the field. How often do elk quarters come with dumbbell grips or barbells? I will admit that I splurged and bought what are often times referred to as tactical sandbags. This way I could more easily vary my weight and they have the added benefit of having handles which gives them a little more versatility in my opinion. Both options can be very effective for pushing yourself to that next level of fitness.
Still not satisfied? Want to strengthen that upper body and core? It doesn’t get much better than good ole pushups. Once again, free of charge! More upper body you say? Bench dips, all you need is a sturdy bench or chair and away you go. More core? Bring on the forearm plank, side plank, and all the other plank variations. Legs? Find an old milk crate, bench, or other sturdy platform and do steps up (with or without weight) until they feel like Jello. Now what if you want to do a full body exercise to top off the session? Farmer carries are hard to beat and all you need to do is grab two of those five gallon buckets in the corner of the garage and fill them up with sand or whatever else you can find. Pick up, walk, repeat. It’s as easy and cheap as that.
If you consistently execute some or all of the previous exercises you are either in shape, in better shape, or less intimidated to go to the gym now that you’ve built up those muscles and gained some very important strength. There are still more cheap options if you so desire. I am currently in the market for a tractor tire to do flips with. I inquired to my brother who told me he thinks there is one laying back in the holler, but I haven’t made it over to check it out yet. I also have a farmer that I work with who is going to check and see what he has laying around that he has to mow around in the summer and might be able to solve my problem. For those who don’t live in an agricultural center you may need to go to your local tire shop and ask them if they have any since they’ll have to dispose of them somehow anyway. To go with flipping the tires an equal and opposite exercise mimics chopping wood by utilizing a sled hammer on the edge of the tires alternating sides.
So there you have some very inexpensive options to improve your overall fitness and prepare you for the rigors of back country hunting. The most important thing is to get started and stick with it.