Fit for the Hunt in the Coming New Year

By Douglas Gilmer


Much of His chronicled life was spent walking, fishing, or praying outdoors. As a matter of fact, Mark tells us in Chapter 1, verse 13, “and He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals…” Talk about hard core!  Imagine the physical, mental, and spiritual condition Jesus had to have been in to endure trials he faced while alone in the wilderness!Imagine going on the hunt of a lifetime and never achieving your goal of harvesting a trophy animal (or even seeing one) because you could not walk far enough from camp to get where the big animals live? I once read that the average hunter never walks more than one quarter of a mile from his vehicle or from a road.  I do not know how scientific this survey was but I think it is probably pretty close. Where I live in Northern Virginia, my experience is that many hunters using public land do not walk more than that, many no more than 100 yards.

One of the biggest complaints from outfitters about their clients is poor physical fitness. A lack of physical conditioning means a hunter may not be able to walk far enough or get up in a tree stand.  Worse yet, proper physical fitness can mean the difference between getting the big deer out of the woods and up on the wall or having a heart attack.

Have you ever considered how much of Jesus’ ministry on earth was spent outdoors?

In a much broader realm, good physical fitness means you will feel better, sleep sounder, live longer, and be much happier in life and family. Being fit will make a person much more mentally sharp and an overall better hunter. 

There are some myths. First, physical fitness does not mean running marathons. I believe that running a marathon is within the realm of possibility for almost any healthy person but it is not the best indication of overall fitness.

Secondly, fitness is not just for “younger people”. Everyone, no matter their age, can enjoy the benefits of being “in shape”. Furthermore, I have met some incredible athletes who are in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s! Their fitness levels far exceed that of many (or sadly, most) of today’s high school age kids. Interestingly enough, today’s most successful endurance athletes, those who compete in marathons, ultra-marathons, and triathlons, are in their mid to late 30’s and even early 40’s.

Thirdly, it is not too late to get started. You are not too old, too fat, or too out of shape (if Jesus could save Paul who was admittedly the worst of the sinners he can help you get in shape). Finally, the idea that you “don’t have the time” is just an excuse. If you want it bad enough you can do it. I believe that almost anyone can find 3 to 5 hours a week to improve his or her health and overall fitness.

Before starting any exercise program one should visit their doctor for a physical. This is especially true of those who are older, seriously overweight, have high risk factors for heart attacks and or strokes, or have led a very sedentary lifestyle (without exercise) for a long period of time. Let a doctor make the call on potential risks, hidden health problems, and the respective diet and exercise routine that is beneficial to you without the risk of causing further health damage. 

In its most basic terms, physical fitness is about three things: losing weight, increasing cardiovascular endurance, and increasing muscle strength and endurance.

Losing weight is the one thing most people think of when “getting in shape” is mentioned.  When losing weight, the goal is to lose fat. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories. To lose one pound of fat one must burn, or otherwise eliminate, 3500 calories. If the goal is to lose one pound per week then, on average, 500 calories must be eliminated per day over seven days. If the goal is two pounds per week (the maximum for healthy weight loss), then 7000 calories per week or 1000 calories a day must be eliminated. Most anyone can eliminate 500 calories a day from their diet. It’s not hard it just takes a little work. However, just eliminating 500 calories a day is not going to do much for overall fitness: the weight might drop off but cardiovascular and muscular endurance does not improve. 

By combining a 500-calorie a day reduction in food intake with a regular exercise routine, the pounds (fat) will disappear more quickly.Forget about fad diets and diet pills.  Diet pills are dangerous and fad diets are just that, fads. In consultation with a physician or one of the resources I recommend, develop a healthy eating plan and stick with it. Simply eat more protein, fewer carbohydrates (notice I did not say eliminate carbs…they are one’s source of energy!), and reduce daily sugar intake.

When it comes to getting in shape remember: frequency, duration, and intensity (FDI), in that order. These three words should progressively guide any fitness routine. Let’s say the goal is to increase cardiovascular endurance and lose weight with the ultimate goal of being able to run a 5-K (3.2 mile) charity race with your son or daughter. Maybe you have not run (or even walked fast) since your last visit to your local all-u-can eat restaurant when you saw the cook bring a new pan of banana pudding to the buffet. 


Begin an exercise routine by walking one mile (about 20 minutes) maybe every other day. Then progress to walking one mile five days a week (this is frequency). Once you are successfully walking one mile five days a week then increase the distance or time (duration) and begin walking a mile and a half or two miles. Finally, once you have increased frequency and duration, you can begin working on intensity. 

Since having mastered walking 2 miles 5 days a week, begin a little jogging.  Maybe you walk for 10 minutes and jog for 5 or whatever ratio initially feels comfortable. Slowly begin to turn up the intensity until you are able to jog the entire two miles. Work up from here until using the same FDI recipe until you are able to complete 3.2 miles. 


One more myth. You don’t have to run in order to lose weight. You can lose weight by walking. As a matter of fact, you will burn the same number of calories by walking a mile or running a mile. Fat burning is a measure of energy expended, or “work”. Without going into the physics of it all, just know that it takes the same amount of “work” (or energy) to move your body mass over a given distance whether you do it fast or slow. By running, you help to increase cardiovascular endurance and you can run a longer distance in the same amount of time it takes you to walk a given distance (thus burning more calories) but the mile-for-mile benefit is roughly the same. In my experiences, personally and in working with others, a one-mile walk or run (jog) will burn about 100 calories. As your body adapts to exercise and your metabolism changes you will burn more calories more efficiently.

Adding some type of weightlifting routine to your workouts is also a plus. FDI works here as well. For most people, two to three days in the gym.

In its most basic terms, physical fitness is about three things: losing weight, increasing cardiovascular endurance, and increasing muscle strength and endurance.In most cases, lifting weights is enough to gain muscle mass, strength, and endurance. You will be amazed at how much more quickly you will lose pounds (fat) when a weight-training component is added to your workouts. I hesitate to recommend a weight-training program, as I do not know what is right for each of you. However, there are a number of good books on the subject as well as fitness coaches at local gyms that are trained to do just that. For me, I work on the muscle groups I know I will use the most. This means that in terms of conditioning for hunting season I work on the muscle groups that help me climb into tree stands, hold my bow at full-draw for an extended period of time, climb hills with a heavy pack, and drag big game out of the woods.

This does not just mean arms and legs.  I also focus on what is called “core conditioning”. A healthy midsection (abdominals and lower back) is critical to overall fitness.If you know you will be going on a hunt next fall that is going to take you to the mountains of Colorado or Alaska you should begin doing some crossover training combining both cardiovascular and muscle endurance exercises four to six months in advance. Packing in all you need to survive a week in the mountains on your back is not an easy task. Packing out moose meat and antlers will take multiple trips and at 125-150 pounds a quarter, plus antlers, you will be in for quite a workout if you are lucky enough to harvest such a tremendous animal.

Even pulling a large deer out of the woods is not an easy chore. Invest in a good backpack, preferably the one you plan to take on your trip, and one that has an internal frame. Begin adding weight to your pack and wearing it on long hikes or walks around your neighborhood. Start out by carrying about one-tenth of your body weight and slowly increase the weight until you are able to walk 2 or 3 miles (or more) with your pack weighing one-third to one-half your body weight. The area in which in live is home to a large number of military members. I routinely see residents of my neighborhood who are preparing for deployment walking the streets with fully loaded rucksacks in preparation for their upcoming tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. They certainly see the correlation between being in shape and survival.

To maximize your training for weight loss and cardiovascular endurance understanding something called your “target heart rate” (THR) is important. The goal in any exercise program is to increase your rate thereby making your body work harder so that greater benefit can be realized. The most commonly accepted method to calculate your maximum THR is to subtract your age from 220 (226 if you are female). For purposes of exercise, the most benefit will be achieved by elevating your heart rate to 60-80% of your maximum. This range is called your target rate heart rate. At a 60% THR fat burning is taking place. At 80% THR maximum cardiovascular endurance is being increased. You can purchase heart rate monitors for fitness that will tell you when you have reached your THR.

The cheaper way out is to take your pulse. Take your brachial or carotid pulse for at least 20 seconds and multiply that number by 3 or take it for 30 seconds and double it. Elevating your heart rate into the THR range for 20-30 minutes will help you achieve your fitness goals most effectively.

The little things you do each day can help you get in shape and lose weight as well. Mowing the lawn (with a push mower of course), parking further away from the store, and taking the stairs at work rather than the elevator all require you to expend energy and thus burn calories.

Finally, read. There are a number of good books out there on getting in shape and healthy eating. Some of the books out there are very inspirational and motivating. You don’t have to want to run a marathon to read these books.  They are simply great guides to getting in shape and they tell motivational stories about people overcoming odds to do what they once thought was impossible. The Internet is also full of resources.

Bottom line; stop making excuses and start getting in shape. You owe it to yourself, your family, and to God.  Getting fit might just help you fill that empty space on your wall too!


Abs Diet Series: David Zinczenko. The Abs Diet is

not a diet; it is a guide to healthy eating and nutrition. 

Highly recommended.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Working Out with a Partner: Ted Vickey and Aimee Labrecque

Backcountry Bowhunting: Cameron Hanes. In

addition to being a professional hunter, father, and

editor of Eastman’s Outdoor Journal, Cameron Hanes

is also an accomplished endurance athlete. Cameron

provides the incentive, motivation, and methods for

getting in peak physical condition. This book will

help give you the motivation and incentive necessary

to prepare for your next backcountry adventure. 

Whatever method you choose to hunt, this book is a

must read. This website is full of

tips, motivating stories, and products to help you get

in the best shape of your life! This website

is hosted by Dr. David Horton, a serious Christian and

my former P.E. teacher at Liberty University. He is also

author of the book, A Quest for Adventure, available

from the website.

Marathoning for Mortals: by John “The Penguin”

Binghan and Jenny Hadfield. This is one of the best

books on running ever. Another must read.