Injury prevention for peak hunting prowess
1. Stretching during the week
Frequent stretching throughout the week will prepare your body for the hikes to come. This will aid in your body’s ability to overcome obstacles like deadfall timber and rock-filled terrain — especially with a pack on. Constant stretching over time will shorten recovery times as well as decrease your odds to becoming injured. I have added hip mobility stretches as well as yoga to my personal fitness regimen in order to prevent future injuries in nasty hunting areas.
A healthy diet will also be key to maintaining physical longevity. I’m not saying you must have a perfect diet per say — hell, I like to have a couple of adult beverages and dessert just as much as the next guy. However, I like to make sure that I constantly get my fruits and veggies with my daily intake. Along with monitoring what I eat I also like to supplement my diet with vitamins, such as: zinc (for immune system health), fish oil (for heart health) and glucosamine (for joint health).
3. Water intake
This is quite simple: drink water. In the summer months, I will try to drink about 1.25 gallons a day. In the winter months, I will do my best to get 1 gallon. How much you should drink will also be dictated on how strenuous your occupation is. I work in the aviation field so I’m constantly on my feet climbing up and down on airframes, which makes my consumption higher than most. Whereas, if you have an occupation that requires desk work, your consumption will be slightly less. The day before a big hike be sure to hydrate, priming the system for the next day’s events. Adding 32 oz of high-quality H2O while driving to your location is also something I try to implement. After a hike, prior to laying down for rest — whether in my tent or at home — consuming water will rejuvenate your body, rid toxins and prevent cramping the next day.
4. Pre-hike warmup
This often gets overlooked at the trailhead. Prior to lacing your boots, throwing your pack on and going for a hike, make sure to limber up. Doing some air squats, lunges or jumping jacks to warm up the engine prior to heading up the hill gets everything ready for work. Pulled muscles commonly occur from muscles being exerted while "cold." Now, I know it may seem like common sense, but don’t over do it; doing enough movements to begin a small amount of sweat is plenty.
5. Supplementation during the hike
There are many options as far as brands in this area for supplements to replenish lost vitamins and electrolytes. The benefits of these drinks have been scientifically proven to help in preventing cramps, pushing vitamins to exhausted muscles and helping with mental focus and recovery. One thing to stay away from are items with high amounts of caffeine, especially while hiking. Some caffeine will give you a bump in energy, but too much caffeine will make you have the "jitters," causing your already raised hiking heart rate to rise even more. Do some research on which best fits your needs and add one of these drink mixes into your pack next time — your body will thank you!
6. Stretching before bed
Just as you should stretch during the week, stretching after a short workout or a long day in the mountains is critical. Stretching your tired muscles will help your body push oxygen back into your muscles, aiding in pushing out lactic acids (lactic acid buildup in muscle fibers is what makes a muscle sore). Stretching out these acids are going to make your muscles less sore the next day, which is pivotal when there will be plenty of hiking when you wake up.
Give these quick tips a try next time you throw your pack on. Be sure to stay consistent to see the most benefits!
Stay safe and hunt hard!