By Keith Wood
The Myth: "If you live near sea level, getting in shape for a mountain hunt is impossible."
Well, if you don’t mind looking like Darth Vader you can try this “Elevation Training Mask.”
Personally, I get enough strange looks at my gym without wearing a gas mask. Can you imagine what that thing would smell like after a week or two on the stairclimber?
Since I live in Florida and I like to hunt in the Rockies, I’ve struggled with this question for years. So, without investing in one of the high-dollar “sleep tents” (see Jackson, Michael), I want to know: Can I get in mountain-shape at home?
The Expert Deferral: Since I spent more time in the bar in college than in the science building, I reached out to Tracy and Lannie Barnes for some advice. The Barnes twins are both olympic biathletes and accomplished mountain hunters. Here’s what they had to say:
“Obviously, the better shape you are in the better you'll feel, but altitude effects everyone, regardless of shape. We all "suck wind" as we get higher and higher up in the mountains. So, depending upon the type of hunt you are doing and what you want to accomplish you will want to adjust your exercise accordingly. The hills will get steeper and the air thinner, so doing fitness on hills or stairs will help to build your leg strength and cardiovascular fitness. Also, the more muscle mass you have, the more oxygen you'll need to deliver to the muscles for them to operate. Building big muscles in the legs isn't actually more beneficial because you won't have the oxygen to supply all those muscles and everything else in your body at the same time- think lean instead of bulk.”
“One of the biggest things we think about is hydration. You'll need to start several days before the trip drinking down lots of liquids so that you are hydrated. After your arrival you'll have to be good about staying hydrated. It's usually really dry at all these high places, so drinking plenty of water is a must. Once at altitude, your body will be making adjustments and your metabolism will likely increase to account for these adjustments- it's important to make sure you're getting the fuel to get your body up those hills.”
“The last thing to consider is that you'll also have to adjust how you climb those hills the first couple of days. If you can arrive a few days early and lay low to help your body acclimate without dragging it over miles of canyons and mountains, then your body will be able to make the adjustment quicker. If not, then just start out slow, get up a bit earlier to give yourself time to get where you have to get to.”
The Conclusion: It can be done, if you get your can in gear.