My basic philosophy for maintaining a healthy and active life is what I call “Tripod Training”. The three legs of the tripod represent 1) eating as healthy as possible, 2) implementing an appropriate exercise program and 3) incorporating high quality supplementation into your diet as nutritional insurance or for enhanced performance.
First, establishing healthy eating habits is paramount. Highly processed foods today are generally loaded with fillers, void of nutrients, and have had the fiber removed for longer shelf life. I loathe “Nutritional Nazi’s” as much as the next guy but their heart is in the right place. Thankfully, concerned individuals have forced the food industry to step out of the shadows and make substantial labeling changes that inform the consumer exactly what is in every product. Readers of The Journal of Mountain Hunting are detail oriented people. You have to be. You cannot be a successful back country hunter without having a mind for detail. I coached athletes for thirty years of my life and along the way did a fair amount of counseling in regards to healthy dietary habits. A simple jingle I used for those individuals who needed to watch their weight was EAT LEAN, GREEN and LESS!
That little phrase, however simplistic, sticks.
We hunters have a huge advantage here with our freezers full of lean game meats that are filled with grass fed omega 3 fatty acids. That alone is a reason to hunt and fish!
I grew up in northern Minnesota and iceberg lettuce was about a green as it got. Well, times have changed and today organically grown produce is far more accessible and affordable than ever before. Dark leafy greens are nutritional power houses as well as being a great source of fiber. So whether it’s spinach, kale, broccoli, swiss chard or any other dark green vegetable, find something green that agrees with your palate and make eating it a habit.
Did you know that the average plate size today is 27% larger than it was 30 years ago? At the risk of hurting your feelings we have for all intents and purposes become slobs! We just eat too much. Are there times when chowing down like it’s your last meal are appropriate? Sure. I always follow the advice of the famous writer Oscar Wilde who said, “Everything in moderation including moderation”. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so when the event calls for it, go for it. But this should be the exception, not the rule. There are of course some folks whose metabolism allows them to eat anything and everything. Maybe that’s you, probably not.
The second leg of the tripod is appropriate exercise. The only thing that has become more confusing and faddy than nutrition today is which exercise program is best for you. The biggest question is one I do not have the space to address specifically in this article but you must ask yourself, what are your personal shortcomings when it comes to your fitness? Do you possess great lung capacity but lack strength to carry a heavy pack? Are you strong as an ox but run out of gas quickly? Maybe you are strong and in great cardio shape but keep getting injured due to a lack of flexibility. I think we should look at fitness a bit like what trout fishermen call “Matching the Hatch”. Ask yourself, “what do you lack physically” and “what are your needs “? For example, I have a good friend and outfitter from Montana who had a client come in from out East on a bear hunt. This hunter had literally run the Boston Marathon two weeks prior to the hunt but when this hunter put on a pack and started humping it up and down the mountains he couldn’t handle it! He just could not understand how his obviously high cardiovascular conditioning would not allow him to strap on a pack and go vertical.
The last leg or the “Tri” of my tripod analogy is supplementation! It’s estimated that over 80% of the population now consumes some form of a dietary supplement on a daily basis. I think it’s noteworthy that Canadians and Americans are among the most nutritionally educated populace on the planet yet neither country is in the top ten when it comes to rankings for health and longevity! What’s that all about? Well, as you can imagine there are many variables, not the least of which are overeating and a general lack of exercise, but let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon.
Most people are aware that the foods they purchase at the local grocery store are inferior to what they used to eat as a kid or perhaps to products purchased at, let’s say, a “Farmers Market”. Who can make the claim that a tomato from a chain grocery store tastes remotely close to a homegrown tomato? Nobody is really even arguing the point. Research appears to indicate that the lack of vitamins, trace minerals, and associated nutrients (due to depleted soils and premature harvesting practices) is a primary factor in many health problems including obesity. The theory prevailing theory posits that when a body is properly nourished the natural response will be a “trigger mechanism” that tells us we’ve had enough, and the desire to continue to eat will diminish. Conversely, when the foods lack sufficient nutrients this natural shut off mechanism is not activated and therefore we continue to eat in pursuit of those precious nutrients that signal satiety (feeling full) and cease the feeding frenzy! I refer to this oxymoronically as “malnutrition induced obesity”. I don’t believe everything I read, but I firmly believe, and the research fully supports the fact that everyone can significantly boost their health and improve their overall quality of life by incorporating some high quality supplements. For those who think you can get everything you need from the foods you eat I have one question. Why do deer, that eat grasses and forage primarily, when given a diet supplemented with vitamins and minerals, immediately begin to grow massive racks and drop healthier fawns with much lower mortality? Now I could have given you some examples using little white lab rats but I thought this audience might enjoy an anecdote that hits a little closer to home.
If I were to add two more legs to my Tripod it would be adequate rest and stress reduction practices. Lack of adequate sleep and the negative influence of too much stress play a huge role in long term health. But that’s a blog post for another time.
Until then…Hunt Long and Hunt Strong!
Founder of Wilderness Athlete