Preseason Training for Backcountry Hunter Magazine

"The science is solid: For optimal cardiovascular adaptations and strength you will need at least 12-16 weeks to prepare your body for hunting season.  So, whether you end up doing a program, going to a gym, working with a trainer, or creating your own workouts. Start Now! ~ MTNTOUGH Founder, Dustin Diefenderfer

Adventures into the backcountry requires serious preparation but yields excellent rewards. We sat down with Petersens Hunting to discuss preseason training for their spring issue of Backcountry Hunter Magazine.  See the preview below and pick up a copy at your local newsstand for the full article. 

Backcountry Fit story in magazine on table

Hunting the remote areas of North America will challenge both your physical and mental strength like never before.  To be ready for these hunts, it is important to train your body so you don't put yourself in a dangerous situation in the mountains.  By starting early, you can make sure your body and mind are ready to take on the toughest tasks the backcountry will throw at you.

After decades of dedicating myself to the pursuit of mountain hunting, I realized that I hadn't done myself any favors in my training. Countless hunters, just like me, have made mistakes that hinder them instead of helping them in the mountains.  With many a season wasted on poor training and miserable days, I realized that I didn't have to be this way.

I learned from all the mistakes that I made in the past and changed my training regime to fit my lifestyle.  There are three common mistakes that hunters make when they are training that make their season harder, instead of easier.

Too Much Cardio:

This was one of my biggest mistakes. I ran a marathon with my wife-that I didn't train for-and decided that I would conquer running. And conquer it i did. That year we went on to run several 50k ultra-marathons. Over the course of 12 months, we ran 12 marathons.

My endurance was great, but I lost a lot of my strength. I noticed I couldn't handle the stress of hiking under heavy load with my pack on. The season was miserable, my time in the mountains was spent suffering instead of thriving.

Many hunters come to work with us after the mountains crushed them and the first thing I ask them and the first thing I ask them is how they've trained in the past. Usually, their answer comes in some form of "I went to the gym and hit the treadmill; I ran four days a week," or "I just went in and did the StairMaster for an hour every day."

Effective conditioning for the backcountry is about much more than just cardio. Once you put on a 50-pound pack and start climbing in elevation on uneven terrain with lower levels of oxygen for 10 plus miles per day, your body needs so much more than cardio to be able to perform.

The bottom line is: Running, biking or the StairMaster just doesn't translate well to the backcountry. 

Too Much Bodybuilding:

After losing weight and-more importantly-strength from running, I took to the weights. i built my muscle back quickly. I bulked up and was stronger than I had been in a long time.

What I didn't realize, though, was I went too far to the other side of the spectrum. That season, I found my strength was great, but my all-day endurance was lacking. Another season lost to the discomfort caused by incorrect training.

Some of my worst hunts ever have been when I was too big and bulky. Strength is important, but training glamour muscles will make you slow and miserable in the mountains.

What you want to strive for as a mountain athlete is the ideal strength-to-power ration. This means you want to be as strong as possible while staying as lean as possible. Lean muscle mass wins in the backcountry, not bulk.

Following the Wrong Program:

Not many people actually know how to properly train for the demands of the mountains. Most guys end up doing things like bodybuilding to increase strength. Or they focus on cardio, Crossfit, or HIIT workouts. They focus on running to build endurance, but it isn't balanced.

All of these pursuits have one thing in common: Each have huge positives and will put you in great shape, but each will also have inherent weaknesses once in the mountains under heavy load.

This means that someone has worked hard to build up one area of their body and unknowingly put themselves at risk in the backcountry. An ideal training program for the mountains has balance of things like strength, endurance, oxygen adaptation, stamina, heavy pack training, stability and more.

Without that balance, they have more weaknesses than strengths.  

Pick up a copy of the Spring 2021 Backcountry Hunter Magazine at your local newsstand for the full article.
Source: Backcountry Hunter, Spring 2021, Vol 3, No 1