Your 12 Week Plan to Get in Shape for Elk Hunting Season

Vollmer

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Archery elk openers in most western states occur around September 1. In my home state of Utah, the hunt opens on the third Saturday of August – meaning that when this article posts, opening day is only 83 days away…
The scream of an angry bull elk blasted from the timber just ahead. Ahead and above, that is. In typical elk fashion the elk were climbing steeply from their nighttime feeding grounds toward a bedding area high on the north slope of a timbered ridge. Lungs heaving, I attempted to keep up. As I toiled upward - lured by regular screams from the herd bull - my legs began to burn, my lungs screamed for oxygen, and sweat trickled into my eyes. My pack started out weighing 32 pounds but now feels like about 100 pounds. My ultra-lite hunting boots seemed to have morphed into heavy winter pack boots, every scrambling and hurried step requiring tremendous energy. Finally the elk slowed, moseying casually into their bedding area. Nibbling on browse, they nosed around several well-worn beds before settling in and chewing their cud. The bull was growing sleepy too, making one last circle around his cows before choosing a spot to rest. As he headed my way I tightened my fingers on the bowstring…
Elk hunting (or indeed any rough-country hunt where drastic elevation changes are a routine part of the hunt) requires a different kind of planning and conditioning than your usual whitetail hunt. The most common problem out-of-state hunters experience is not being in good enough physical condition to handle constant up-and-down foot travel at high elevation - especially when carrying a pack. The result is a physically exhausted hunter who is unable to perform. Hours and days of precious hunting time are wasted due to need for rest and recovery. Here’s a twelve-week plan that will prep you for the high country.
There are two main components to physical prep for rough-country hunting: cardiovascular and muscular. Plan on exercising thirty to forty-five minutes per weekday, alternating between cardio and muscular workouts. Be sure to stretch and warm up gradually before workouts and cool off gradually afterwards.
Week One: Start out easy on yourself to lower risk of hurting joints or tendons.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Go for a brisk 45-minute walk, preferably including up and down terrain.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Spend 30 minutes climbing up and down the local bleacher stairs (or a nice steep hill). Take regular short rests.

Week Two: Step it up a little.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Add short stints of jogging to your walk.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: same 30-minute routine, just cut down on rest time.

Week Three: Start getting focused.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Begin pushing yourself, walking less and jogging more.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Same 30-minute routine, add three squats and three lunges (don’t use weights) alternately during short rest periods.

Week Four: You should be feeling much stronger by now, and hurting less. Remain careful to avoid injury.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Try to jog the majority of your 45 minutes.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Try to spend the entire 30 minutes climbing your stairs or hillside, alternating between five squats and five lunges every few minutes. Only rest at the ten and twenty minute marks.

Week Five: By now you should be enjoying your workouts.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Warm up, then alternate two minute sprints with walking to catch your breath. 45 minutes.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Wear a pack with 20 pounds of weight in it during your routine. Rest when needed.

Week Six: You should be feeling like a bonafide athlete.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Back to jogging, but pick up the pace a bit.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Try to get through your routine – hiking with pack and five crunches/lunges every five minutes – without stopping to rest.

Week Seven: Halfway there!
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Back to sprinting/walking. Push yourself.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Add five pounds to your pack (total 25), same routine.

Week Eight: Second amendment week.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Trade the jogging in for a smooth relaxed 45 min run. (Faster than jogging, but not a sprint)
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Same routine as week seven, but carry your bow or rifle (empty of course) or object of similar weight/balance).

Week Nine: Hang in there.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Sprinting and walking. Keep pushing.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Add five pounds – you’re up to 30 pounds plus your rifle/bow. Stay strong and focused.

Week Ten: Home stretch – only three weeks till the hunt.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: More smooth relaxed running. Keep it strong.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Same routine, add another five pounds. You’re up to thirty five now, approximately the weight of a three day bivy pack. Keep up the squats and lunges, they will prep you for big tough steps when climbing, and crouching while stalking.

Week Eleven: Better be packing…
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Back to walking and sprinting, you should be traveling well.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Yep, you guessed it – add another five. You should be really strong by now, muscles bulging in your legs that you never knew you had.

Week Twelve: Congratulations! You’re probably in better shape than me now.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Running, just keep it strong and relaxed.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Keep it up. No additional weight this week, just stay strong.

Next week – Have a great hunt!
Note: At ten thousand feet you will be able to walk approximately the same distance that you can run at elevations of less than 1,500 feet.
I’m not a fan of hi-tech running shoes with built-in cushioning. I prefer a superlight pair of barefoot running shoes or moccasins. (Incidentally these are great for warm weather elk hunting.)
Safety: It’s very important to maintain your safety level when exercising. The above regimen is simply a guideline that should be suitable for an average person 15 to 50 years old. If you are older or experience swelling or excessive pain, tone down the exercising. Consult your doctor if you have any health issues or concerns that might prohibit strenuous activity.
 


MSA

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Is there a 12 week plan to get in shape for surf fishing? If i catch something big, theres a good chance of pictures happening of me without a shirt which wont be good if i still look like a 240lb clear bag of cottage cheese.

I have an addiction and my dealers name is Ron, he likes to dress up like a clown, and pedal his smack to little kids by throwing in free toys with every deal.
 
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KDM

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I train how I hunt. I put my pack on my back with about 25-50 lbs depending on the stage of the game, grab my rifle, and start hiking the hills. When elk season arrives, I'll be ready to run up and down the mtns with all the gear I'll need. I HOPE!!! LOL!
 

LOV2HNT

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Elk hunting is work as soon as you get out of the truck and it don't get any easier, but nothing in life worth having comes easy. Whether you follow the work out plan above or not, you won't enjoy your hunt if you spend most of the time hunched over trying to catch your breath. I know that fist hand as my first elk hunt I thought I was in shape but the mountains handed me my ass. Like KDM said...train like you hunt and they have been getting better, but it's tough to train for the elevation. Lots and lots of cardio!!!
 


KDM

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True Stuff LOV2HNT. Walking or more like hopping up and down the hills in the Sheyenne River Valley with a heavy pack is the best cardio workout I know of. Last time I was in the Mtns I didn't see a single treadmill LOL!!. However, I did see beautiful and rugged terrain in vast abundance. To me it's a safety thing. If I did get hurt out there, I have a much better chance of handling it if I'm in shape vs. being a gelatinous jiggle blob of huffing and puffing mush.
 

huntorride365

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I'll be in shape when it gets here; not really sure it helps that much. You just get to the top of the mountain a little faster-but just as tired.
 

KDM

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I think it really adds to the enjoyment of the hunt when you get to where you want to be if you're not sweating profusely, breathing so hard you think you're going die, have blurry vision, and feel like you're going to throw up. I kind of weird that way. LOL!!!
 

Petras

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lol being out of shape is why i haven't gone on another elk hunt since the last one.... i told myself that i can't even apply for a montana tag again unless i get down to a certain weight.... that weight was 70 pounds less than my starting weight (probably should have made the goal 120, but hey, i'd like to go elk hunting again sometime before i die). i'm down 37 pounds in less than 3 months thanks to the program that i'm on, and i haven't really started exercising yet... it is a great feeling being able to do things with ease when you could barely do them 3 months ago. not to mention the fact that my wife can shop for clothes for me in normal stores now lol.
 

aron

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Being in shape definitely allows you to enjoy the hunt more and better your chances of success. You might get to the top of the hill either way but if you're in shape, you will recover much quicker and continue to move forward. As KDM mentioned, safety is a big improvement when in shape.

Try going up a hill with a 30-40lb pack on and than shoot your bow. Pretty tough to do when out of shape and can't even hold yourself up. Doesn't seem how much you train and get in shape, those hills still SUCK...
 


lionslayer25

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To prep for guiding season I just fill a backpack with 30-40 lbs of traps and rebar stakes and hike the tundra all of June and half of July. Once sheep season is upon us, we have to do a food drop at our high camp a week before hunting. My job is to run up the 6700 ft elevation and cut trail through the brush to secure the food. After that run, I find out very quickly if I am prepped properly for the coming season or not. I don't know if you can train for packing meat out though. It'll kick your butt whether you are ready for it or not.
 

ItemB

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lol being out of shape is why i haven't gone on another elk hunt since the last one.... i told myself that i can't even apply for a montana tag again unless i get down to a certain weight.... that weight was 70 pounds less than my starting weight (probably should have made the goal 120, but hey, i'd like to go elk hunting again sometime before i die).
i'm down 37 pounds in less than 3 months thanks to the program that i'm on
, and i haven't really started exercising yet... it is a great feeling being able to do things with ease when you could barely do them 3 months ago. not to mention the fact that my wife can shop for clothes for me in normal stores now lol.

Care to share the program your on I need to lose a couple/thirty lbs.
 

Petras

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ItemB it's actually a meal replacement program, i'll pm you the name of it and if your interested in it you can order through me if you'd like.... not gonna lie, it's not cheap, but if you figure out how much you spend on food and compare it to the cost of each "meal" with this program it is kinda a wash in the end...
 

spyder250

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I run 2-3 miles every day and thought that would be good enough for elk hunting in the badlands. Wrong.....way wrong, if you are planning on an elk hunt, make sure that you are best friends with a stair stepper or just go up and down stairs constantly for a month or two prior. No joke.
 

DarkWhiskey

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So being 280 lbs of rompin stompin woman desire , I find myself sucking the pine needles off the mountain floor for about the whole week of elk hunting. But in great shape (well better shape) for deer season. Going to get training now or soon instead of waiting till the week before the hunt. We all know I wont start till September but sure looks good in print. :;:muahaha
 


MathewsZman

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As said in numerous posts , train both uphill and down . I have guided 32 Black Hills elk hunts and over half of those flatlanders had trouble because they only worried about uphill .
 

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