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Get fit! Part four prepare for hard huting: don't let your body limit your hunting success.

WHETHER YOU'RE A flatlander plowing through a field of high grass, or a mountain hunter traversing a boulder-strewn slope at 10,000 feet, you have been out of breath at one time or another in the field. Just how out of breath you get depends on your level of cardiovascular fitness.

Also referred to as aerobic fitness, cardiovascular fitness basically governs how efficiently your body can breathe in oxygen and transfer it into your bloodstream and the working muscles. Your existing level of cardiovascular fitness is determined by genetics, current exercise habits, body weight, and smoking. Smoking can cut your cardiovascular capability in half.

External factors that increase cardiovascular demands even further include high altitudes, and added resistance, such as carrying a 50-pound backpack or dragging a 150-pound deer. A regular cardiovascular fitness regimen not only will enhance your hunting experience, but may lengthen and enhance your life.

You can't hunt longer if you don't live longer. If you're going to invest time and money in a high country hunting experience, why predispose yourself to failure or serious injury by starting out in bad shape? Most hunting guides have stories of clients who, due to poor conditioning, couldn't "hack it" in the field.

To begin an effective cardiovascular program, you must establish certain Parameters--frequency, intensity, duration, and modality--for safe and effective workouts.

1. Frequency This is the easiest to address. Cardiovascular workouts should be done a minimum of three times a week and a maximum of six. Frequency might hinge on your drive and commitment, but it also depends on...

2. Intensity. This one refers to how hard you work during each exercise session. This can be determined by monitoring the speedometer of your body, your heart. Taking your pulse during each exercise session by palpating your wrist or neck is one way, although it is not very accurate, even when done by medical or fitness professionals. If you do try to take your own pulse do not use your thumb, because it has its own pulse. If you take your pulse at your neck, do not press hard. That can alter blood flow to the brain and make you dizzy.

The most accurate portable monitoring methods are the personal monitors you can buy at sporting goods stores for about $50. They use EKG technology. You simply wear the transmitter around your chest and a receiver around your wrist.

If you don't want to go high tech you can use the "talk test' The theory is that if you are engaged in exercise; your body temperature is elevated; and you're sweating; but you can still carry on a conversation, you are at about 6070 percent of your target heart rate.

This is considered a good training zone. Use the "Karvonen" formula to calculate your suggested target heart rate. First subtract your age from 220, and then multiply the remainder by 60 percent if you're in poor shape, by 85 percent if you're in good shape. For example, if you're a 40-year-old man in poor shape, subtract 40 from 220 to get 180, and then multiply by .60 to get a recommended training heart rate of 108 beats per minute. If you're in good shape, you would multiply 180 by .85 to get a training heart rate of 153 beats per minute. Individuals with extremely good cardiovascular fitness often can exceed 90 percent for awhile.

3. Duration. This refers to the length of time you maintain each exercise session. A deconditioned individual initially may be challenged to last 10 minutes, even at a low intensity; The idea is to slowly add time while your body adapts to the newly imposed demands. Moderately to well-conditioned individuals can comfortably handle three to six sessions a week for a duration of 30 to 60 minutes. A good minimum goal to work toward would be three, 30-minute sessions per week at 70-85 percent of your target heart rate. That brings us to...

4. Modality Available exercise modalities for improved cardiovascular fitness include walking, jogging, cycling, stair climbing, jogging on an elliptical machine or treadmill, rowing, swimming, and jumping rope. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is a sustained rhythmical exercise that you can maintain for a minimum of 5 minutes. Lifting weights, while important, is not cardiovascular exercise.

The best exercise is one you can and will do. If you have orthopedic problems in your back or lower extremities, you probably should opt for a low impact exercise like cycling versus jogging. The same is true if you're overweight. Swimming is a good low-impact activity; although it can be limited in its effectiveness, because most people who can swim for over 30 minutes have such efficient stroke technique that their heart rate is not elevated enough for a training effect. If you are partial to water, try running in a lap pool (3 to 4 feet deep) for a half hour or longer. You get the benefit of water resistance plus minimal impact on your joints.

If you choose to walk/jog on a treadmill, either at home or in a club, be cautious. With the incline at a significant angle, most people hang onto the handles with both hands. This is not the way to use the treadmill. Rather, lean into the angle and pump your arms, which is, after all, how you climb a hill. Also, using a treadmill at an incline can tighten your hip flexors, hamstrings, and calf muscles, which can cause back pain if you do not stretch properly after each workout.

Elliptical machines have long moving lever arms that allow you to simulate running without ever picking up your feet, which gives running benefits without impact trauma. Stair climbing machines, or climbing stairs in your apartment building, is a good exercise to elevate your heart rate and develop some of the larger lower body muscles you use when hiking. However, use caution going down stairs; impact trauma could be severe.

Cycling outdoors or on a stationary bike is good, but because the bike supports your weight, you may have a hard time raising your heart rate to an effective level. Bikes that offer resistance through electronic or mechanical means can rectify this and get you huffing and puffing. Group cycling (SPIN) classes are very popular in most fitness centers and offer a highly motivational, high intensity, non-impact workout to participants. Most facilities also have recumbent bikes, which you ride in a reclining position. These are easier on the back than normal upright bicycles.

Jumping rope and rowing machines give a good aerobic workout if you're physically capable of doing them. Of course, the simplest exercises are walking or jogging through your neighborhood or a local park. What is the best exercise? Again, it is what you will and can do.

If you have access to a fitness center or own good home equipment, I would suggest a "Cross-Training" regimen that emphasizes doing different activities to minimize overuse injuries and prevent boredom. Here is an example of a good Cross-Training week:

* MONDAY = Cycling

* TUESDAY = Weight Training (See Jan/Feb Bowhunter for workout)

* WEDNESDAY = Running in a pool

* THURSDAY = Weight Training

* FRIDAY = Stair or elliptical machine

* SATURDAY = Walk/jog outdoors

* SUNDAY = Rest

If you train at home, consider a workout like the following:

* MONDAY = Walk/jog

* TUESDAY = Weight Training (See Jan/Feb Bowhunter for workout)

* WEDNESDAY = Walk/jog

* THURSDAY = Weight Training

* FRIDAY = Bicycle around neighborhood

* SATURDAY = Walk/jog outdoors

* SUNDAY = Rest

Every cardiovascular workout should include a warm-up and cool-down period. The warm-up phase, as the name implies, is a low-intensity preliminary activity that prepares your body for the harder work ahead. You can do calisthenics or walk slowly, or start at a light resistance on your chosen machine and gradually add speed or resistance.

The cool-down portion obviously is the opposite and should be promptly followed by some post-workout stretching. Notice I have made no mention of pre-workout stretching. That's because "cold" muscles don't stretch! They pull! But after exercising, when your body temperature is elevated, your muscles are the most pliant and receptive to stretching.

The stretching regimen should include stretches for hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. When stretching, do not use bouncing or ballistic movements. Stretch with slow deliberate movements and hold each stretch for a 15 to 30-second count. Stretch each muscle group two or three times or until you feel adequately loose. You risk orthopedic and overuse injuries if you avoid this very important part of the workout.

Proper footwear for most of these activities would be running, walking, or cross-training shoes. Other gym shoes do not provide enough cushioning to handle repetitive impact trauma. The last and most important thing to do before starting your program, especially if you have been sedentary or have a family history of cardiovascular disease, is to get clearance from your physician. After the doctor gives the green light, seek out a Certified Personal Trainer for more guidelines and hands-on instruction. Hard work in the off-season will lead to hard hunting -- and better results -- during the season.

The author, an outdoorsman and former competitive power lifter and bodybuilder, hails from Huntley, Illinois.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you buy cardiovascular exercise equipment for the home, seek out retailers who specialize in home exercise equipment only. Look for a 3-5 year warranty on your product, and take the time to try it out in the store.

NOTE: The author and Bowhunter Magazine assume no responsibility or liability for injury sustained through information provided in this article. Consult a physician before undertaking any exercise program, particularly if you are experiencing pain.
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Author:Andersen, Chris
Date:May 1, 2003
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