Hunters and Hiking Fitness Progression

Hiking fitness or Hunting fitness; join me on my journey to get off the couch and be fit for outdoor activities. I love being outdoors but I have found that being fit is the key to get the most from the experience.

One thing I know for sure as likely most of you know too, that the best way to enjoy any physical activity is to be physically fit for it... or you will pay... with pain... shortness of breath... being unable to complete the activity or just plain not enjoying yourself.

I am the first to admit I have not always been in "shape" for the activities that I do, but at least I am not far off and for the most part could at least participate without suffering too much!

Why is Hiking Fitness so Important?

I have always been active. How about you? Are you active, or are you a couch potato?

In my 54 years on this planet I have been to and seen some wonderful sights. Such as hiking to the summit of one of our local mountains, Mount Outram. This of course is not the only hike I have been on, but for me it was very memorable. The views were 360° and because I was on the highest mountain in the range I could see, into the distance seemingly forever.

Mount Outram Summit

Mount Outram Summit in the Cascade Mountains - 8200 Feet

Hiking fitness... if you are considering getting in condition to do some hiking or hunting on foot then I suggest you get in shape. Don't wait... start today!

Feel free to follow along with me as I embark on my own journey to improve my physical hiking fitness.

Start your Hunting Fitness out... SLOW!

Before we learned to walk we first needed to build our muscles through crawling so we could stand. It is important to start your hiking fitness program in small steps so as to prevent injury and get the most enjoyment from it. If you are just starting out don't try to do too much in the beginning. You risk injury and if you do hurt yourself, your hiking fitness program will be a hard one to maintain. It's a good idea to read up on the topic and be prepared.

My wife and I learned this the hard way... She decided we should go for an easy hike... picking one from one of our local hiking books 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia we chose a sunny Sunday and we were off. The first part was fine, strenuous but worth it... the views were fantastic from the summit! After stopping for lunch my wife noted that she was starting to get tired... Oh this is not good, as we were about the mid-point along the 13 kilometer trail.

By the time we reached the parking lot she was exhausted. Plunking herself on the curb, I was instructed to go to the other end of the lot (maybe 500 meters) and bring the vehicle to fetch her. She was sore for almost a week after! To this day she accuses me of trying to kill her on that fateful day... did I mention that SHE picked the trail! Funny how that goes eh?

The point is, that her hiking fitness was lacking we should have chosen something either easier or shorter... ah... hindsight!

Good Footwear

We both own quality Meindl hiking boots, a saving grace when hiking. I usually wear merino wool socks with a silk liner. It is important to wick the moisture away from your feet and have a surface that can slide without causing blisters. The two socks will slide between each other therefor your skin won't blister.

My Journey to Hiking Fitness

Four years ago during the Christmas holidays I decided that it was high time I took being physically fit serious; I was 20 or so pounds over my optimum and really hadn't been all that active for the previous year or two. How was I going to tackle my out-of-shape-body without joining the ranks of so many who, with good intentions, start down the road of being physically fit only to be discouraged or attempting to do too much. You know the end result... quitting!

hiking fitness - staying in shape

I have been an outdoors enthusiast for years, alpine skiing, hiking, walking, hunting, fishing and snowshoeing to name a few.

Life had gotten in the way, or at least I had allowed it. The previous few years I had been guilty of joining the ranks of those on the couch... It was clearly a time for change.

Cardio First

My first step was going to build up my cardio endurance. I decided I would train to run in our local spring run called the Sun Run. The Sun Run is a 10 kilometer run or walk. I followed the Sun Run training program Learn to Run which starts you out walking and adding bits of running.

Here is an excerpt from their website: Session 1 - 34 min.
Warm-up: Walk slow & easy 5 minutes
Run 1 minute. Walk 2 minutes. Do this 8 times.
Cool-down: Walk slow & easy 5 minutes

These sessions build up over 13 weeks until at the end you are able to run or walk the 10K.

I can still remember the first time I ran for the one minute interval... I thought I was going to die!

Anyway... I survived that first session and continued until the end. I followed the program even on the days when I didn't feel like it... I was determined not to drop out!

Did I run the Sun Run Race? No... during the time I was training I decided that I was a fair weather runner... I dislike rain! The weather leading up to the Run had been cold and wet, I wasn't about to subject myself to a cold soaking. However; I did run 10K, I just did it indoors. I know that running on a treadmill is not the same as running outside, quite different as a matter of fact, but I did run for over an hour... which at my speed translates into a 10K run.

That was four years ago, I still run on a regular basis but not 10K. I have found a happy medium that works well for me. I run 3 to 5 days a week for about 30 minutes. So, roughly 5K, plus or minus. I change it up... as an example, yesterday I ran for 40 minutes.

My Dad says now I could run the moose down, lol. I am not so sure about that! But let me tell you it sure makes it a lot easier while I am out moose hunting to be involved in a hiking fitness program.

2012... Changing My Hiking Fitness Program

This year I was hanging out with one of my hunting buddies and he pointedly says something to the effect that "I was out of shape!" WHAT?... Well, he goes on to explain what he means is; that because I work at what is basically a sedentary occupation, I am not getting any strength training. "Oh... you think I'm a weakling?" I asked him incredulously.

"Well... yes!"

Strength Training Begins

How will strength training help my hiking fitness you ask?

Overall fitness is important for hiking... period! Hunting fitness requires a lot of leg use, so does hiking. Some would argue that to be in shape for hiking or hunting all you need to do is develop your quads. I suppose to some degree this is true. But what if you carry a backpack? Or will you be in need of your arms to assist you on those steep accents or descents?

I have a few things working against me here, most importantly is my age. I already find there are many physical activities I cannot do as well as I could as a young man. That stands to reason!

As we age, we lose muscle... naturally. It is important to do some strength training to help keep up the bone mass. Bone mass is one of those things that will keep you going well into your golden years and beyond.

On the coming pages I will share with you my strength training regime as well as my stretching exercises to maintain mobility.

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by Mark Allardyce

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