Vail Daily column: Get ready for hunting season |

Vail Daily column: Get ready for hunting season

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Summer is almost over and you don’t like it. This upsetting news frustrates you that our summer season is just too short here in the mountains. Summer’s end is exciting for me because it gives birth to my favorite time of year.

What are the top reasons why the autumn reigns supreme? The fall brings out the best weather. Who doesn’t love 70 degree days with the sun glowing and harvest colors abounding? Football season. Anticipation of ski season. The fall culinary flavors are in a different class altogether. The fall months are exceptional because it’s the only time of year to pursue large game animals to stock away meat for the winter. I’m sure glad that this is at the forefront of my mind. We only have four to six weeks before archery and muzzle loading season. Now is the time to start thinking about specific physical preparation for the fall hunt.

When structuring a fitness program, you must consider the physical demands of the sport or activity. Simply, there are two definitions you should familiarize yourself with when planning a fitness program. General physical preparation and specific physical preparation are two concepts that are critical for the success or failure of a fitness program.

General physical preparation

GPP, or general physical preparation, is the practice of physical activities that increase fitness that isn’t necessarily related to the end goal. For example, squatting a heavy weight will generally make your legs stronger. However, squatting heavy weights doesn’t necessarily and specifically carry over to increasing hiking performance in the pursuit of hunting wild game. A great example of general physical preparation is the execution of CrossFit. The overwhelming tenet of CrossFit is to maximize fitness by increasing the capacity of a wide range of general fitness qualities that you may need when encountering in an unknown situation. Practicing CrossFit doesn’t specifically target any one element of fitness.

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Specific physical preparation

SPP, or specific physical preparation precisely addresses the exact needs required for successful execution in a specific sport. For example, riding a bike will specifically address the fitness needs of an athlete attempting the Triple Bypass cycling adventure that takes place each summer in July.

For the real hunter, hiking with a heavy pack on your back is as specific as it gets when developing fitness for enduring a hunt. I say real hunter because I make no apologies for what I’m about to say; riding ATVs and horses into the backcountry to hunt is unacceptable. Unless you’re a disabled hunter, pay respect to the animal you will kill and level the playing field, OK? A lack of fitness because you’re coming here from out of state isn’t an excuse either.

Before I discuss the details for preparation, here is a small, but monumentally important caveat. General physical preparation should always be the foundation for specific physical preparation and readiness. Sport specific training is overly abused and shortsighted in our athletic landscape. Why are we trying to squat heavy weights on one leg while standing on a Bosu ball, mimicking a ski turn, when we don’t even have the competency to squat on the ground with two legs in the first place?

Be good before you’re fancy. Develop overall fitness before specifically addressing your sport or activity. Assuming you’re generally fit, it’s time to start hiking the road, and then mountainous terrain with a backpack.


First things first. Plan how many days you will hunt, where you will hunt and how many miles you will walk. Piece together all of the requisite gear and sustenance needed for your hunt. Lay it all out, put it into your pack and weigh the package. You need to know all of this ahead of time in order to ramp up the training intensity accordingly.

For example, let’s assume your pack will ultimately weigh 50 pounds, and you plan to walk 15 miles per day during a three-day hunt. For the above example, start hiking during Week 1 with a 40-pound pack for 12 miles. Start on flat ground walking your way around town, your neighborhood, etc. During the first four weeks, add two miles to the distance each week. During the fourth week, you will have built up to 18 miles. During the fifth week, add 10 pounds to the pack bringing your pack weight up to 50 pounds. During the sixth and last week of preparation, add another 10 pounds to the pack; you will be hiking 18 miles with a 60-pound pack. Make sure the last two training hikes are on the trail to adjust for the terrain you will be hunting on. During training, hike only one day per week.

You will end your training on an 18 mile hike with a 60-pound pack. This is three miles farther than the stated plan during each day of the hunt. At the end of training, the pack is 10 pounds heavier than what the pack will weigh during the hunt.

This is called the strength reserve. You always want to be over prepared than the alternative. You never know what can happen in the wild, or how far you will have to go to locate the prize. You will cherish the extra fitness in a pinch.

Also, notice the linear training progression in distance and load. There aren’t any hard rules when training in a linear fashion so adjust the load and mileage accordingly. The above is merely an example for a generally fit individual who plans on covering a reasonable distance during the hunt.

Lastly, I’ve experienced hard hunts before while only being generally prepared. It’s always been a suffer fest hauling an animal when I’ve failed to be specifically prepared ahead of time. Loaded hiking ahead of time will create such a specific stimulus so you don’t suffer during the hunt. Why not enjoy the experience instead of holding on for survival? Good luck out there!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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