Vail Daily column: Step out of your comfort zone |

Vail Daily column: Step out of your comfort zone

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

My fondest memories from childhood involve hunting. I received my first firearm at the ripe age of 8 years old. It was a Crosman pump action BB gun. My dad even handmade a camouflage cotton case that protected the beauty when he presented it to me on my birthday. The first few years I hunted, I came along without a firearm to learn the ropes. The hunts were always tame. We never hiked in too far or stayed out too long. When I officially started hunting with a firearm, I was 11 years old, and I remember getting buried up to my waist in a swamp as my dad drug me through the woods.


Last week I harvested a nice buck several miles back in the wilderness. Typically, I hunt with a companion, but this year’s timing and busyness didn’t allow for schedules to line up.

Now, I am not advocating navigating the wilderness alone in the high Rockies. I hunt this area every year and understand the terrain and risks involved; I decided to hunt alone anyway.

Support Local Journalism

After I had the deer on the ground, I searched through my pack, and realized I had left my game bags at home. Game bags are large canvas covers that protect your meat from predators, dirt and bugs in the event you need to hang your kill in a tree; multiple hiking trips are sometimes necessary for successful transportation out of the woods.

The distance I was from the truck and the unseasonal warm temperatures demanded that I act fast to get the animal out of the woods quickly to ensure the meat didn’t spoil. Ultimately I had to bury the steaks inside my day pack, strap the hind quarters on the outside of the pack and carry the front quarters in my arms.


For five miles through unforgiving rugged terrain, I hiked with all of my gear plus the animal. I finally gave in to exhaustion and decided to hang two quarters with two miles to go. I just couldn’t go on. I figured I could get back up and out within a few hours and hopefully the vultures wouldn’t react too quickly. At the end of the day, my wife came back up with me for the second trip and the meat was successfully rescued without much fuss. Late that evening, heat exhaustion and severe dehydration set in as a consequence. I was so sick for the next 48 hours. I don’t remember being that sick in years — it was awful. Valuable lessons learned for future excursions.

Hunting has taught me that valuable life lessons are realized at the expense of your own personal comfort. For years I have been trying to master the art of comfort in the woods. I have invested more time and resources than I care to mention, all in the name of finding an easier and more comfortable way to navigate nature.

Gear has certainly come along away. Modern footwear, tents, sleeping bags and clothing have made backcountry adventures more palatable.


It dawned on me during the hunt last week though; despite my attempts to make things more comfortable, hunting alone without a horse, a guide, ATV or other luxurious comforts on public land is downright uncomfortable. You don’t get much sleep. You’re up early and out late in the evening. It can be bone-chilling cold. Your feet hurt despite the best footwear. The equipment is heavy.

By the way, the animals don’t hang out in the open in a beautiful flat meadow with a light, gorgeous stream running through it. The animals hang out in the nastiest, most unforgiving terrain around. If you want to get the prize, you have to go in after it. You sometimes walk several miles in a day. Hunting is all about suffering.


The current mainstream fitness industry is synonymous with my quest for hunting comfort. We have world class facilities, spas and fancy machines. You can sit behind a desk all day at work, and then go to the gym and sit some more on a fancy machine, move the pin on the weight stack, pick a weight that is comfortable and push the handles while you watch Fox News. We wrap it up with a few corrective exercises our chiropractor gave us, and then get a massage while putting cucumbers on our eyes.

We have tried to minimize exercise that is innately distressing and, frankly ought to be uncomfortable. Real fitness acquisition isn’t a palatable notion folks. We are fat, dysfunctional and unwell. The wellness industry continues to grow at the same rate of our waistlines and tries to make things easier in the midst of it all.

Everybody loves the idea of fitness. Who doesn’t want to be in their best physical shape? It is rare the person who rises to the occasion and practices the principles required for serious fitness, though.

I’m not suggesting that we need to go to the extremes of the “no pain, no gain” mentality and experience heat exhaustion as we haul an animal out of the woods.

I am advising we stop making excuses and realize that life changes and fitness realization is uncomfortable. You’re going to get tired and sore. You’re going to have to get up early and sweat a little. You might have to go back up the hill a second time to get the harvest so to speak.

Wouldn’t you rather have the real, non-GMO, grass-fed, earned version that is acquired from honest hard work? Or do you want to keep moving the pin on the weight stack as you watch the news, which doesn’t require hard work? Enjoy the cucumbers.

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.

Support Local Journalism