Expect The Unexpected – Training Principles for the Hunter Athlete

In the inaugural issue, we broadly covered the concept of the hunter athlete and how the demands of mountain, wilderness and backcountry hunting require a uniquely diverse spectrum of physical capabilities.

Mountain and wilderness hunting is without question one of the toughest objectives to train for when compared to other sports and activities. Football players, CrossFitters, runners, and triathletes all essentially KNOW what they’re in for on any given day and can therefore plan and train accordingly. This is not to suggest these sports are predictable per se, just that the physiological and neuromuscular demands are fairly well defined. Linemen and receivers have defined “jobs” on the field, CrossFitters are highly trained in variable “gym fitness” and runners and triathletes tend to focus primarily on the cardiovascular system. In all of these cases, the specificity of the task allows for specific programming and even in the case of CrossFit where the whole basis of the programming is “varied” and “functional”, the movements and exercises draw from a fairly standard pool of options.

However, both short and extended forays into the mountains or wilderness require a truly broad base of physical fitness unlike any other sport on the planet. An early morning hike turns into a four hour pack out, an overnight bivy becomes a three day cat and mouse game chasing the bull of a lifetime and that “easily” reachable saddle in the mountains evolves into a scramble up an impossibly loose shale slope after spotting the ram that was invisible from camp. The hunter athlete must train to be adaptable to unforeseen circumstances and an unpredictable environment.

As Sitka Prostaffer Matt Jurad mentions in the Pro Insight column this month, one must be careful selecting a training program when looking to prepare for a serious wilderness hunt, especially if it’s to be an extended backpack hunt. The fitness industry is unparalleled in its “bullshit quotient” and the majority of programs available to today’s hunter will do little more than train you to be moderately fit in primarily linear movements. On top of this, unless you’re lucky enough to work in a field that requires you to work outdoors in unpredictable terrain you have to find a way to fit your training in around family, work and the rest of the planning and preparation involved in serious backcountry hunts.

Long story short, it can be a daunting task to choose, build and execute on an appropriate and realistic program. In this month’s Mountain Fitness column we intend to lay out the basic underlying principles we feel are essential in building and following through on a training program tailored for the hunter athlete. In the coming months we will cover the specifics within each of these concepts but before we dive into the minutiae of energy systems, “functional” training principles and neuroscience it is integral the basic foundation is laid.

One must step out of the trees in order to see the vast forest before them.

Training Principles For The Mountain Athlete:

  1. Train the mind (psychological fitness will always support physical fitness).
  2. Train with purpose and meaning. Objectives and enjoyment must balance, this includes the rest of your life and is usually the deciding factor between a flash in the pan program and one you follow consistently.
  3. Structure and function should be assessed in advance of program design. The primarily sedentary world we now live in has profound effects on our bodies and training capabilities, ignore this at your own risk.
  4. Goals must be realistic and incremental (there is no secret sauce).
  5. Specificity is paramount. No amount of gym training can replace time in the field.
  6. Comfort is an illusion. All energy systems should be trained, this is often neglected because it hurts but so does a two day pack out.
  7. Power to weight ratio is the key to thriving in the wilderness . The engine must be carried: the chassis, suspension and tires are just as integral.
  8. Transferability must be at the core of all programming. The mountains are unpredictable, train accordingly.
  9. Train movements not muscles. The human body is a system not a compilation of isolated muscles and organs, train it as such.
  10. Train for sub-optimal conditions (see principle #1, Mother Nature can be a real bitch).

Adam Janke
Editor in Chief

Matt Thompson
Assistant Editor

Posted by JOMH Editor

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