Elk Country Fitness and Nutrition

I love this quote from Cameron Hanes: “Every day you spend in inactivity, you are getting weaker. Every day that the elk moves through the high country, it is getting stronger. The longer you wait, the wider the gap grows.”

A few years back as I sat on the edge of a large and steep canyon, I witnessed a small herd of elk get bumped by another hunter. I was simply amazed to see how quickly these elk ran down the huge canyon and up the other side to reach a safety zone. Elk have gained my respect as some of the toughest animals in North America. Often times my wife will ask me, “Do you really have to exercise every day?” To that, I smile and say, “The elk don’t take a day off.”

I subscribe to the theory that you shouldn’t start getting into elk shape a few weeks or months before hunting season. And, to be consistently successful on DIY, OTC elk hunts, fitness needs to be a year round commitment and should include a variety of exercises that will simulate the actual hunt.

I’ve subscribed to this theory for many years but never really did a lot with weights prior to this past year. Most of my workouts in prior years included good things like mountain biking, hiking with a pack, and body weight exercises for lifting. But in the last 6 months, I decided to change things up a bit. Not long after the 2011 hunting season, I switched jobs and one of my co-workers introduced me to lifting again. As we went to the gym for the first couple of weeks, I noticed that he and others would lift heavy weight with low reps and would rest a lot in between sets. They also neglected leg and core exercises, focusing mainly on making their arms look huge. I think at the time, I weighed about 162 lbs and had a respectable 9% body fat. This peaked my curiosity and I started doing a lot of research on lifting and nutrition.

From what I read, I was able to come up with a workout that combines a lot of lifting with plyometric exercises (think P90X) that would focus mostly on the muscle groups that would help me chase elk. I also incorporated a nutrition plan that cut out or cut back on foods that are bad for the body and started eating more of the things that were good for my body. I’ve listed some of my favorite healthy foods below. As a general rule, my goal is to eat fewer calories than I burn in a day and stay away from sugar, anything made with white flower, and avoid fast food!! There are a lot of cool smart phone apps to help you track your daily calories. My favorite for the iphone is called “lose it

My Top 5 Healthy foods by Category

Regular Weekly Workouts

I exercise 6 days/week with Sunday being a day of rest. My regular workouts consist of lifting for one-hour session on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday and Friday are chest, legs and back days and Wednesday is shoulder, arms, and biceps. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are a combination of mountain biking, Hiking with a hunting pack, and trail running.

On my lifting days, I get just as good of cardio workout as I do on my non-lifting days. I typically like to alternate a combo of chest exercises with a combo of Leg exercises. In one lifting session, I will rotate 8 stations with 3 lifts at each station. I will do 2 sets of each lift except for bench and squat. They get 3 Sets. Confused yet? Let me explain more about the chart below. 10 reps means, select a weight you can do 10 reps but struggle to get 9 and 10 on your last set. Some exercises are rep based, others are timed – do as many as you can in 30 seconds etc. The last is Max or burn out where you do as many as you can.

Monday and Friday Workout -Chest/Legs/Back

(sample of 4 of the 8 stations)

The main goal behind this program for me is to move continually doing exercises at a high intensity with a short rest between exercises. From what I have read, this type of intensity kicks in what is called the “after burner effect” which really cranks up your metabolism. When I first started this work out, I was so sore I could barely move. But I have been consistent for 6 months and it is really making a difference.

There are countless articles and books written about lifting weights and nutrition and I am no expert. I just want to be a better elk hunter and this exercise and nutrition plan has been working for me. Since I started my new elk fitness routine, I have put on 10 lbs of muscle and dropped my body fat %. I think this will help me when I’m chasing elk up and down steep canyons and hauling elk quarters this fall.

Let me end with another Cameron Hanes quote that resonates well with me, “Do you just want to go elk hunting, or do you want to bring one back? If you desire the latter, there is no substitute for hard work. The bigger your goal, the harder the work required to get there.”

Good Luck!