Physical Education For Outdoorsmen

You got your draw, you’ve bought your gear and you’ve taken the time off work — but there’s another facet of preparation you may be neglecting.

It turns out, Western Sportsman can change lives. Last May, a television production company that is taking on a very noble goal this year contacted us. This production company is putting an entire northern British Columbia community on a healthy lifestyle program, aimed at battling sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition habits. Check the show out on CBC now, called Village on a Diet.

Western Sportsman was contacted because one of the participants in the television show cited this magazine as his inspiration for making the change. Simply put, he wanted to participate in outdoor sport, and needed to improve his health to do so.

We are truly humbled that we could, in some small way, inspire an individual to make positive change. (Hats off to our writers and photographers.)

But this made me think more about the sports I, and you, participate in, and their physical demands. Sure — you don’t need to be a marathon runner to go ice fishing, but to tackle sheep and moose hunts, such as the trips frequently documented in this magazine, physical fitness is as important as calibre choice.

(In fact, the unfortunate stereotype of the “slob hunter” is one that truly irks me; uppity urbanites who rarely walk further than their nearest Starbucks and get their sweats on a treadmill have the nerve to criticize Canadians who hike deep into the back forty in search of the most free-range, organic, hormone-free meat you can find? Come on!)

So let’s talk turkey for a moment — how do you get physically prepared for your hunting season? Do you train and prepare for the physical demands of the hunt? If not — although I suspect many of you do — you may wish to consider changing your ways.

Imagine this scenario: you hike to the top of a ridge, sweating and panting. From that vantage point, a prime whitetail is visible, well within shooting range. But you’re too out of breath to take steady aim. The deer bolts before you catch your breath; opportunity lost.

Hey, I’m not here to get uppity on you either. While I consider physical fitness important, I also like french fries. And sometimes, I’m just too tired to go for a run.

But if a Western Sportsman reader is willing to go on national television and admit he needs to change, maybe we can all admit that we can do more to get off the couch and eat healthier.

So, before the hunting season, consider a moderate to strenuous cardio routine. And remember — moderate and strenuous are subjective terms. You know when you’re being challenged, so don’t take it too hard or too easy. This means your first run probably shouldn’t be a half-marathon, and, conversely, if you’re a healthy 35-year-old, walking doesn’t count as cardio, I’m afraid. If your knees are bad, get a bicycle. Otherwise, all you need are running shoes.

The biggest fallacy out there is that we need a gym to work out. Personally, I haven’t been to a gym in years. I actually kind of hate them. You can workout your legs, core and arms easily from home, using nothing more than your own body weight as resistance. (There’s a reason push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups are hard: they work.)

Diet plays a huge part in healthy living as well, and it goes far beyond looking like a Men’s Health magazine cover model. A balanced, healthful diet will give you the power you need to hike up that mountain and pack down that sheep. And while I most certainly do not claim to be a dietician, my simply, 25-cent piece of advice is this: eat au natural. Cut out processed foods and cook from scratch and you’ll be on your way to a healthy life. I’ll leave the details to you. (P.S.: consult your physician before taking on any new exercise or nutrition program.)

OK – so I’m sure you weren’t expecting a health and fitness lecture from Western Sportsman magazine this issue. But remember — this is about getting outdoors and experiencing hunting and fishing to its fullest. And we all want to do that.

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