I consider myself to be in good shape and for chasing whitetails, I am

That said, my eyes were opened when I hiked the Beast Course at last month’s Beast Mode Archery Challenge BMAC Games held at Tyrol Basin Ski Resort in Wisconsin. With a moderate 30-35 pounds on my back, I began to experience what steep angles, side hill trails and loose dirt can do over a 4-mile hike. The immediate result was all kinds of ideas on how to switch up my training. The unexpected benefit was feeling like Superman when I got back to Missouri. Here is how targeted overloading for elk season can get you REALLY #FitToHunt.

What I was doing

For the six weeks leading up to the BMAC event, I utilized our Extreme Strutter DIY and primarily rucked. I did not compete at the BMAC games (volunteered) but was preparing for my #RuckToEndAlz fundraiser that supports the Alzheimer’s Association. I did that fundraiser about a week before I left for the event in Wisconsin which was a 5-mile ruck with a 40-pound pack. I have an older hand-me-down hunting pack and the hardest part of those 5 miles was the pressure on my neck and upper back. The legs were fine; fine for hiking in Missouri on paved sidewalks with very little elevation. At BMAC I used Coach Brian Austin’s Initial Ascent pack and the “hard” was flip-flopped. The weight felt like nothing but the challenge was in my legs due to the elevation and conditions of the trail designed to mimic what a hunter will experience out west.

It kicked my ass in many ways, but when I returned to Missouri, my first ruck was insanely easy even though I hiked a well-known trail that has some decent climbs. This is when the light bulb went off regarding targeted overload being the cherry on top for our client’s western hunts!

Coach Brian only trains with a HEAVY pack 8-10 times per year.

What I typically see

Sometimes, we have to save clients from themselves. There is a fine line between training hard enough to be ready for backcountry experiences and overtraining to the point of injury or burnout. The last thing we want is for you to show up on day one of your hunt with legs that are beaten to hell. We also work REALLY hard to dispel the myth of no days off. You need recovery. You also need de-load weeks where you are still exercising but reduce the volume and intensity. For those who will listen, they will find that when they want to go hard, they perform better.

For example, I see a lot of hunters loading up their packs and doing all of their rucks with 60-80 pounds, and while I appreciate their grit, you are only going to pack out once. Coach Austin stated, “Most of my training hikes are between 30-40 pounds. I only do 60-80 (an elk hindquarter) maybe 10 times per year.”

Other no no’s I see are training with masks that claim to mimic thin air and running with weighted vests or packs. It looks great on social but you are likely doing damage vs. adequately preparing for the West.

Knowing when and how to overload is the trick!

Calculated Overload

I used to run half-marathons and there was a specific blueprint I followed.

  • Speed work: Track or short distance at a 5K pace
  • Tempo run: Moderate distance at half-marathon pace
  • Long run: Long distance and a slow pace; 60-120 seconds slower than half-marathon pace

When combined, I was able to create the conditioning to push back my anaerobic threshold (the wall you hit when you are completely exhausted) and extend the time I could run at a half-marathon pace. My half-marathon pace also was faster due to the speed work.

You likely aren’t running up the mountain with a bow, but you can adopt similar philosophies by incorporating various types of rucks including:

  • Heavy Pack Out: 1-2 miles performed a few times per month (the weight of a hindquarter)
  • Long distance: 5-10 miles with 20-30 pounds (the weight of your day pack) once a week
  • Speed ruck: 2-3 miles with 20-30 pounds one to two times a week where you pick up the pace

The speed workout will help you in getting positioned for a shot or to beat a bull to a specific point. The long-distance will give you the confidence you need and the belief that you can cover a lot of ground multiple days in a row. The Heavy Pack is your overload. It is done sparingly and with intention.

The same can be said for your strength training. You need to train hard doing things that will give you the specific muscular strength and endurance needed for your hunt like our Flatlander to Backcountry or Backcountry DIY programs. You also need to recover so muscles are allowed to repair and grow. Combining three rucks with three strength sessions while allowing yourself a day to rest and recover will catapult you into September ready to go!

There is no single recipe for preparing for the backcountry but there are some solid strategies and tactics you can deploy to truly be ready on day one of your hunt. Use overload to your advantage but use it wisely. When utilized correctly, it may be the tactic that gives you the opportunity to be sitting behind some extremely large antlers this Fall.

What are some of your favorite overload tactics? Leave a comment below and Stay #FitToHunt