No Elevation, No Problem: Mountain Hunting Fitness Tips for Flatlanders

You’re passionate about hunting in the mountains, but there’s one problem – if you’re like me, you live in a place that’s as flat as a pancake. You don’t have access to those picturesque hillside hikes or even stair machines at the gym. This was the issue I encountered when moving out of Gallatin Valley and up into the far north-central reaches of Montana. Does this mean I’m out of the game regarding mountain fitness? Not at all.

The Mountain Hunter’s Dilemma

You know it, and I know it. Mountain hunting is a unique challenge. Among the multitude of demands between hunt-planning, training with your bow or rifle, and developing extreme patience and mental fortitude, there is also an immense need for physical fitness. If, like me, you don’t have daily access to elevation gain for those uphill treks, you might wonder how to prepare for those punishing climbs through nasty terrain while shouldering a weighted pack.

When the stair machines and elevated hikes aren’t available, it’s time to think outside the box, or in this case, outside the mountain.

The Dreaded Burpee

Oh yes, we’ve all heard of them, and we’ve all probably cursed them too. Burpees are the exercise everyone loves to hate. But here’s the deal: they’re brutal, efficient, don’t cost you a dime, and can be done practically anywhere.

The Science

Burpees are a full-body workout. They engage your chest, arms, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core. When carrying a weighted pack on uneven mountain terrain, these are the muscles you need. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, burpees are also incredibly effective at increasing cardiovascular fitness and burning calories.

The Challenge

Aim for a goal of 100 burpees in under five minutes. It’s a challenging target, but it will utilize all the muscles we’ve discussed, improve your cardiovascular fitness and help you develop the mental toughness you’ll need for mountain hunting.

If you’re new to burpees, don’t fret. Start by incorporating them into your routine at a pace that suits you. To build up to that magic number of 100, you can take one of two approaches:

  • Time: Begin by timing how long it takes to complete 100 burpees. Don’t be discouraged if it’s significantly over five minutes; we all start somewhere. Your goal is to reduce that time by 10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds, as appropriate, each week, depending on your fitness level. Gradual progress is key here.
  • Reps: Alternatively, you can see how many burpees you can do in five minutes. If it’s 20 or 30, that’s perfectly fine. Your mission is to add 3-5 burpees every week until you reach that coveted century mark.

Up the Ante

If you’re looking to amplify the challenge and boost your functional strength further, consider these options:

  • Weight Vest: Strap on a weight vest to add resistance to your burpees. Start with a light load and gradually increase it as you get stronger.
  • Kettlebells or Dumbbells: Hold a kettlebell or dumbbells during your burpees. This not only engages your muscles further but also enhances balance and stability.
  • Jumping Over Objects: When performing the jump portion of the burpee, incorporate an obstacle like a weight bench or step. This adds an agility element to your workout and further engages those leg muscles.

Remember, the challenge isn’t just about completing 100 burpees in record time; it’s about pushing your boundaries, embracing the discomfort, and developing the physical and mental resilience needed for those grueling mountain treks. So, are you up for it? Your journey to mountain fitness starts with that first burpee.

Spin Cycling: Not Just for Soccer Moms

Now, let’s talk about an exercise that will earn me some eye-rolls – spin cycling. It’s often associated with pumpkin spice latte-swilling soccer moms from the city, and I get it; I was skeptical, too. But, after my personal trainer invited me to a class years ago, and I walked out, literally able to wring out my shirt from the sweat, I was sold. For many of us, the immediate reaction is, “I can’t afford it.” But let’s dispel the myth – you don’t need an expensive Peloton bike or an overpriced membership to an LA-style spin class.

The Gear

All you need is an inexpensive spin bike (they can be found for between $160-$300). For the best experience and to gain the most benefit, you’ll want to swap out the basket pedals for some clip-in pedals with cleats and grab a pair of indoor riding shoes. For everything altogether, you’re looking between $250-$450, depending on how frugal you’re feeling. Then, the world of spin cycling is yours to explore. You can bring the spin studio to your living room with plenty of free online classes on YouTube or a Peloton Digital Membership as low as $12.99 per month.

The Benefits

While spin cycling might not transport you to the altitude of the mountains, it provides an outstanding simulation of the cardiovascular demands you’ll encounter in the wild. But there’s more to it than just cardio. Spin cycling, when executed with proper form, also targets crucial muscle groups, including the glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings. It’s like a full lower-body workout, mimicking the muscles you engage while carrying a weighted pack through challenging terrain.

As you cycle, the ability to increase or decrease the resistance on the bike mirrors the experience of traversing varying inclines. Crank up the resistance, and it’s akin to shouldering a heavier load in your pack or tackling a steeper ascent. Lower it, and you’re emulating a more level trail. This adaptability makes spin cycling a versatile and effective training method for mountain hunting.

That same 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also supports the effectiveness of spin cycling in improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s a low-impact exercise that’s gentle on the joints, yet it torches calories and builds endurance.

Reaching the Summit

Mountain hunting isn’t limited to those with daily access to elevation gain. With the right mindset and training, you can bridge the gap between flat terrain and mountain peaks. Embrace the burpee’s simplicity and efficiency. Marvel at how spin cycling, often underestimated, can be your secret weapon. Train smart and stay dedicated, and soon, you’ll be conquering those ranges and pursuing game through the gnarliest territory, regardless of where you call home.

Your journey to mastering mountain fitness might not follow the traditional path, but it’s no less rewarding. Prepare, train, and when hunting season arrives, you’ll be more than ready to tackle the wild, wherever it may be. So, fellow flatlander, are you up for the challenge? Your extraordinary adventure awaits, and it starts with the first rep.

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