We consider having a high fitness level to be an absolutely essential part of the Wild Yukon team. Mountain hunting can be very physically demanding with many variables. If you prepare yourself physically for the challenges ahead, you’ve set yourself up for success by taking care of one of the variables you can affect. We can’t control the weather and visibility or where the game is, necessarily. We can ensure we’ve got the fitness to climb as many mountain blocks as necessary to find that ram and that capacity for a long pack out with full packs.
People often ask me what we do for training in the off-season. Mountain hunting requires a high level of cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and endurance, so our team works on all of these things in the off-season. As the season gets closer, we ramp up the trekking with a heavier pack. If you’ve got a mountain hunt planned for the season, you’ve got to be prepared to trek over steep and rugged terrain for days on end, and the following off-season training principles that we follow will get you there.
HIIT and Tabata workouts
These are great off-season full-body workouts that are time efficient and allow you to train functionally for the mountains with minimal equipment required. Both HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and Tabatas are interval-style work-outs that will give you a great cardio and strength workout. HIIT workouts are interval sessions that last between 30–90 seconds that blast the heart rate repeatedly with short rest sessions in between exercises. Tabata workouts are similar (always 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest, for eight sets) and fun to mix with shorter work and recovery intervals and higher repetitions. Doing these types of workouts 3x’s per week will help you build a strong foundation for the mountains.
Sample HIIT Workout
HIIT 9×3 – Workout description
A mid-week HIIT workout, this session consists of 9 exercises with 45-second work intervals and 15-second recovery, which we’ll repeat three x’s each. We target the whole body with longer work sessions and shorter rests, keeping the heart rate up.
Mat, water, light to medium dumbbells
Warmup: Easy 3–5 minutes of light walking, jacks, squats etc.
|Mountain Climbers||45sec/15 sec||Increase tempo|
|Squat jumps||45sec/15 sec||Low impact or Increased plyo|
|Plank – (shoulder tap)||45sec/15 sec||On knees or toes|
|Alt. Reverse Lunge||45sec/15 sec||Add plyo|
|Push press shoulder press||45sec/15 sec||Increase weight|
|Reverse curl crunch||45sec/15 sec||Bring head/shoulders off the ground|
|Broad jumps||45sec/15 sec||Increase plyo|
|Push-ups||45sec/15 sec||On knees or toes|
|Bicycle crunches 1-2-3||45sec/15 sec||Change tempo|
Endurance workouts are a cornerstone of mountain hunting fitness and an area that often gets forgotten. Trekking in the mountains requires maintaining a steady heart rate for hours on end. Incorporating regular endurance running, hiking, biking, or paddling sessions is crucial to building this endurance base. I recommend adding a couple of sessions during the week, alternating between your HIIT workouts and then a more extended session on the weekend.
Begin with 30 minutes of steady-state running or 60 minutes of cycling. Each week, increase the previous week’s longest session by 20%. Build up to 2-hour runs or 4-hour rides.
If you want to run a marathon successfully, you’ve got to spend a lot of time doing long-run sessions. It works the same for mountain hunting – if you want to be ready to hike in the mountains with a pack for multiple hours/days, it just makes sense you’ve got to spend time training your body specifically to do that. As your training progresses, this requires building a progressive plan with distance, elevation, and pack weight.
Begin with a 30lb pack for men or 20lb for women. Load up your pack with weight (preferably something without hard corners) and select a route that will take you 45 minutes. If your fitness is minimal, choose something less challenging. If you’re ready for a challenge, find a hilly route. This kind of training is the perfect opportunity to break in your new boots. Each week, extend the distance and slowly increase the weight. Don’t worry about carrying a very heavy pack, but rather focus on getting the mileage under your legs and avoiding injury.
A quick way to maintain some of this fitness in the off-season is to build yourself a bench step and add some step-up workouts with a light pack. Adding a ruck session to the end of your HIIT workout once or twice per week will make the transition to the mountains that much easier.
My wife and I have created a Fitness/Nutrition/Mindset program called the Power Hunter Fitness program. The program is based on the principles I described above and includes three weekly exercise videos to follow along with us, a meal plan and some motivational videos and tips from me. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find us at https://phf.powerhunterfitness.com/the-program.
Whether you follow along with us or not, here are my top five tips for fitness training in the off-season:
- Find a plan or make yourself a fitness plan and schedule it into your day – make it non-negotiable.
- Get out of bed in the morning – morning exercisers are proven to be more adherent. Shut off the late-night Netflix and set yourself a sleep schedule that allows you to get enough rest and get your workout done early.
- Create yourself an accountability system – include your family, a friend or a co-worker in your plans. Tell the world: whatever you need to make yourself accountable.
- Mix it up and keep it fun – hunting can provide many obstacles and challenges, so vary your fitness routine and challenge the muscles in many different ways.
- Set yourself a goal – post that picture of a beauty ram on your phone screen, sign-up for a half marathon or mountain bike race, whatever it takes!