Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
I’m certainly not getting any younger and when I look into the mirror every morning, I wonder who that wrinkled, double chinned face staring back at me belongs too.
For someone that’s relatively active, aging isn’t easy.
Just a few short years ago, I could cruise through the woods hunting all day. I could jog around town; cut and split a couple of loads of firewood; and be none the worse for wear. What a difference mid 40’s is from mid 30’s. Sure, I can still do most of those things, my pride won’t let me quit, but the sore heels, aching knees and a bum rotator cuff remind me that I’m not a kid anymore – so quit acting like it! Right?
The easy thing for me to do at age 46 would be to sit back, lay on the couch and watch more television, eat chips and toss back a few cold ones or sodas. But, if I want to continue to be able to get out and hunt, climb treestands and hopefully drag a big buck from the woods each fall, I have to stay active; and for me, that means exercise.
The majority of my job is behind a desk or behind a steering wheel. Couple that with my love of sweets and some inherited health concerns and that adds up to a recipe for potential disaster or at the very minimum, buying larger clothes each year as my waistline grows.
Deer hunting, at least the way most of us do it, isn’t the most physically demanding of hobbies, but if we take a little better care of ourselves, not only will it make our hunting adventures more enjoyable, but our overall quality of life better.
I probably tend to overdo my exercise routine due to the fact that I can’t stay away from donuts and ice cream, but you don’t have to live in the gym to be active.
I follow a couple of extreme athletes on social media that are hardcore mountain hunters. These guys look like they’re chiseled from stone and could just as easily be on the cover of Sports Illustrated as opposed to Outdoor Life. But like I said, these guys are extreme.
They run and hike the Rockies chasing Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats and Mule Deer at high elevations where being in tip top physical shape benefits them. I’m not suggesting that we as Midwest deer hunters have to look like we’re ready to run a marathon or bench press 300-pounds, but a little exercise can go a long way in making our hunting trips a better experience.
Just like starting anything new, it’s never easy and beginning an exercise regime is probably one of the toughest things to stick with.
If your middle aged or older, you’re gonna be sore, you’ll have some aches and pains and you’re body will try to talk you out of it each and every time. But, if you can manage to fight through it for 3 or 4 weeks, it’ll become a habit and you’ll start to feel better.
Your hunting exercise routine doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. In fact, easier is better. The more simple your program, the more likely it is that you’ll stick with it.
For me, I like to walk or ride a bike. Not only does it lessen the pounding on my joints, but it helps keep the old ticker in shape. I’m not a race walker, but I realize I have to pick them up and put them down enough to work up a sweat in order to get a benefit out of walking or biking. A good rule of thumb for me is that if I can still carry on a conversation, but my breathing is getting more rapid, then I know my heart is working and I’m getting into that cardio zone.
I try to get a least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in 3 or 4 times a week. If your knees can take it, jogging is great too, but my running days are over and I don’t want to risk a knee injury that would put me out of the game altogether. If your knees are already causing you issues, try swimming. You’d be surprised at how much cardio swimming a few laps can give you – and your knees will thank you.
f you’re a hunter, you’ll need a little more than just cardiovascular exercise.
A bit of strength training will go a long way in helping you hang treestands and haul your prize from the woods. Again, you don’t need to do tons of weight lifting and look like the Incredible Hulk, just enough to keep your muscles fit and in working order. Studies have shown how much strength we lose as we age and that even as little as being inactive for two weeks has been shown to cause us to lose muscle mass and overall strength.
There are loads of workouts available online, in magazines or your doctor can point you in the right direction. Our local YMCA can set you up with a fitness plan and even tailor it to your goals. The main thing is, regardless if you’re wanting to get into hunting shape or just to shed a few pounds and maybe add a few years to your life is to just get out there and do it.
Get off the couch, off you butt and move. When you wrap your hands around that big buck’s antlers and start a long drag up the hill and out of the woods this fall, you’ll be thankful for those summer time walks and push ups.
- David Hewitt