By: Clint Wirick
The snake around my running shoe is symbolic of the hatred I used to have for running. My whole life (I’m 37 currently) I despised it. Basketball was about the only way anyone could get me to run, even then I liked to cherry-pick. So when I finally realized running would get me into the shape I wanted to be in at my advancing age, it was a mental gnashing of teeth to say the least.
It started when colleagues of mine began running their mouth about their half marathon running (pun intended). They were crazy to run just for running sakes, right? The thing is, they looked like they were in great shape and when hunting seasons rolled around they were getting into the backcountry and producing harvested animals consistently. So finally I had a reason to run – run to hunt. I wanted the mobility and success in the field I saw others getting out of running. Meanwhile, my pants were getting tighter and my cousin said I was getting a “dad bod” which added to my motivation.
IN THE BEGINNING
And so began my love-hate, instead of just hate, relationship with running. In the beginning, I used what I had, some tennis shoes, gym shorts, and an old t-shirt. I ran on the lonely dirt road behind the house so no one would see this guy on the verge of passing out. Initially, my runs had as much walking as running in them. I didn’t get very far before gassing out and walking. The important thing was I kept going out.
Then I started to see little wins as time went on. For me, the wins weren’t in distances but more based on getting to an objective. I would think to myself “if I can make it to where the two dirt roads cross I’ve accomplished something”. Pretty soon that road crossing became easier. Next, I thought, “if I could make it to the end of the dirt road I’m accomplishing even more”. Pretty soon that became easier too. Before I knew it I was turning around and making it halfway back, then all the way home without stopping to walk.
The little wins became cumulative and added up to much bigger wins. Soon my runs were being measured in miles instead of yards. Physically there were incremental wins as well. The misery became discomfort and the discomfort turned into physically tired but in a way that felt good. Although during a run I was uncomfortable and tired, my body liked it and I wanted more. The endorphins released when exercising became addictive. I began to even look fit and lose that dad bod.
Then there were the mental wins. I had confidence that when scouting season started I would be ready. I didn’t dread the first hike up the mountain anymore. Now when I looked at a mountainside instead of questioning my ability to get up it I analyzed what route I would take. The mental confidence was just as good or better than the physical wins!
MY UNLIKELY FAVORITE PIECE OF HUNTING GEAR
My running shoes became my favorite piece of hunting gear; yep you heard right, running shoes (Altra’s for me), not a backpack or gun. My running shoes have added the most to my hunting experience over the last couple of years. I’ve acquired a lot of new gear that is supposed to make me a better hunter but running has undoubtedly been my biggest change that has made hunting more enjoyable and successful for me. I felt better, hiked further, recovered quicker, pushed harder, knew I could continue through discomfort and took more time to enjoy what was around me rather than dwell on the physical strain backpack hunting can sometimes be.
I’ll offer some advice, and take this advice for what it’s worth coming from a guy who hated running until recently. Biting off more than you can chew will be your worst enemy. Don’t go out and try to run 5 miles if you can’t run 5 miles, that’s just setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. You’ll be miserable and quit right there. Instead, pick a comfortable distance or a selected amount of time that pushes you physically but not to your breaking point. Set yourself up for success. Here are 3 tips that got me started.
1. Begin with a 30 minute routine of running and walking. Also, move at a steady comfortable pace. You’re not trying to show off to anyone so no need to be Flash Gordon. You’re slowly building up your strength, endurance, lung capacity and heart to maintain the body at an increased pace efficiently.
2. PLAN! Have three days and times set aside that you can run. If you know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, YOU WILL. If you say I’ll do it when I have time, YOU WON’T.
3. In the beginning, wait 3-4 weeks until your body has adapted before you begin increasing time/distance in small increments. Then, as the body adapts to the repetition start building on those small wins like I was able to.
To me it’s all about planning, doing, and repeating. Don’t measure yourself against others. Be you, and do as much as you can for it will give you some confidence this hunting season.