Dialing in your fitness now to be ready for fall
Hunting season is wrapped up unless you are lucky enough to be chasing Coues deer down south. This means it’s officially time to start planning this year's hunts. Just like you, I’m psyched for application season. This time of year brings new promises for the coming fall and high hopes to draw those unique tags we apply for year after year. As much as I love diving deep into Insider and planning for the season, I also love dialing in my fitness now so I’m ready when it’s time to chase bugles in September. This past season I killed a bull over six miles from the truck on a solo hunt and, even though I felt like I put in the work last offseason, I realized there is still room to improve.
Everyone has their own program to get into shape for hunting. For me, it’s simple: run and ruck. Starting now, I like to build a solid foundation with running. I have a decent background in running and know that it is very easy to overdo it early. The key for me, now, is keeping it simple. I like to run a few times each week — whether on the treadmill or outside — at a relatively easy pace so I can get my lungs and joints used to a little work after taking it easy in December. After January, I start to transition into some low weight, high rep type of workouts mixed in with my running. I also add a bit more speed, distance and elevation to my runs. The goal for me every year is to be in good enough shape come summer to hit the hills hard with a weighted pack at least once per week. With a house full of kids, it’s hard to find time for the gym, so everything I do is in the garage or on the trails out the front door. By the time archery season hits this fall, I should be running multiple times per week, rucking once up and down the hill and hitting the stair stepper — aka YETI cooler — once per week. From now until hunting season, I’ll rely on one shoe for everything other than rucking and that is the Lone Peak 6 from Altra. It’s my all-time favorite shoe!
Deep dive on Altra shoes
Altra is best known for their zero drop shoes and roomy toe boxes. Zero drop refers to the difference between the back of the shoe where your heel sits and the front of the shoe or heel-to-toe. In many running shoes from brands like Nike, Brooks, New Balance, etc., you will find the majority of their shoes do not have zero heel-to-toe drop. Shoe companies measure heel-to-toe drop in millimeters and it is not uncommon to see these in the 10mm plus range. That means when you put the shoe on, your heal is 10mm higher than the front of your foot. Weird, right? Every shoe in the Altra line up has a zero millimeter heal-to-toe drop so when you put these shoes on, your foot will sit in the shoe just like it would if you were walking barefoot. A higher heel-to-toe drop is not necessarily a bad thing and, in many cases, people need that for various reasons. All I will say is I have a history of calf problems and in the years since switching to Altra and their zero drop shoes, they are virtually gone.
Aside from the zero drop that Altra provides, I love the toe box. When we run or are on our feet in general, our feet swell. The front of the shoe, or toe box, is noticeably larger in Altras leaving just enough space to account for that swelling. When I first started wearing Altras, I was a bit nervous about this because I thought that more space was bad and my foot would move all over the place, but that’s not an issue. Altra has a great lacing system and, if you have any extra movement at all, you can also get fancy and lock that heel in and have nothing to worry about.
I have been running in the Lone Peaks since the 2.0 came out (Altra just launched version 7 which is coming to the GOHUNT Gear Shop soon). At that time, I was running and rucking a lot as I trained for a specialty school in the Army. Since then, I ran road races, did Army PT, ran all sorts of trails, put miles on the treadmill and ran a 100K trail race all in different versions of these shoes. I’ve even hunted in these, chasing antelope with my bow. The Lone Peak has the perfect mix of cushion and tread to be a do-it-all shoe. Some people may say the tread is too aggressive for runs on the treadmill and road, but that is not my experience. It really is the do-it-all shoe. As I transition out of my “running” month come February, I will start to mix in some low weight, high rep exercises and the Lone Peak will be my gym shoe, too. It should be noted that the Lone Peak is very flexible with a GOHUNT Stiffness Scale Rating a Flex 1 (see stiffness scale explaination here) so some may not like it for heavy lifting or crossfit type of work in the gym.
Altra offers a whole bunch of other great shoes that you can find in the Gear Shop. If you’re looking for a trail runner with more cushion, the Olympus is for you. With a 33mm stack height (amount of shoe between your foot and the ground), you’re getting maximum cushion. I have run in these a fair amount, too, and they’re a great shoe for longer runs or runs where there are a lot of rocks or other small obstacles that make the ground uneven and can hurt your feet. If you’re looking for something a bit more minimal, check out the Superior 5. I’ve always thought of this shoe as the Lone Peak with less cushion. It’s got great tread and is ultra light, but has just a little less padding. Aside from these, GOHUNT sells some high top “boot” style shoes that are great for hiking and several GTX (GORE-TEX) shoes as well.
In the Army we had the corny saying, “Train as you fight.” This basically meant we trained in all the same gear we would use while deployed. I take the same approach to hunting. A lot of the gear I used in the fall, I use all year while training, too. I like to hunt in Darn Tough socks that can be found in the Gear Shop. Many people overlook socks; however, a bad pair of socks can ruin a hunt fast. Take the time to figure out what works best for you and use them a bunch before the season just like you would a pair of boots. I try to run outside as much as I can throughout the year in Montana and that means I have to do some layering. Depending on the weather, I throw on a Chinook Merino Hoody from Stone Glacier or even a Heavyweight Hoody from Sitka to keep the wind at bay.
From hats and trekking poles to my pack and hydration system, I could go on and on about the gear I use both while training and hunting. At the end of the day, I enjoy getting more use out of all my gear when working out versus just using it during hunting season. When you start to think outside the box, there is a ton you can do with your hunting gear that does not involve being stuck in a gym.