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Get Fit for Hunting and Fishing in 2017

You just read the title of this blog and I know what you’re thinking (or voicing aloud): “Come on, Greg, really? Hunters and anglers need to be physically fit?” After all, we are mainly just sitting in blinds and boats, right?

Au contraire.

Consider those long walks early in the morning, tromping through dense woods, back loaded with gear while fighting the elements to get to a deer or turkey hunting blind.

Your blogger, Greg Wagner, nears completion of a 1.5 mile walk to get to his late firearm deer hunting season stand in southeastern Nebraska. Photo by Rob Schutte.

And, consider those long hot days in the sun, the endless miles of rocky shoreline and the countless casts for and catches of your favorite game fish.

We traverse over uneven terrain or through tall grass.

Pheasant hunting in Nebraska can mean making your way through tall grass or thick cover in search of roosters. Photo by Mark Davis.

We battle the wind, rain, snow, sleet, ice, heat and humidity. We wade against the currents of rivers and streams and the wave action of reservoirs and lakes.

A freshwater drum is landed by your blogger while wade-fishing the current of the Elkhorn River near Waterloo, NE. Photo by Zach Wagner.

We all have to walk a ways typically wearing multiple layers of clothing while carrying heavy gear, especially in the winter for ice fishing or late season deer hunting.

Wearing many layers of clothing and carrying his firearm along with a fully loaded backpack, Steve Wagner of Gretna, NE makes his one-mile trek to his firearm deer hunting blind in eastern Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

We have to climb, lean, bend over, lie prone, squat, kneel, sit, stand, crawl and pull on heavy equipment and animals.

Toting much gear, ice angler and fisheries biologist, Daryl Bauer, is shown kneeling and fishing a drilled hole on the frozen surface of Valentine National Wildlife Refuge’s Pelican Lake. Photo courtesy of Daryl Bauer/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

You see what I mean.

I know that hunting and fishing may not have the consistent cardiovascular intensity of something like long-distance running, soccer or hockey, but it is hardly less tiring.

When we hunters and anglers take to the woods and waters on many weekends throughout the year in order to experience life in its most exciting and primitive form, it does mean a workout. It does mean intense physical exertion! So, it sure makes sense that those of us who hunt and fish need to be taking care of our bodies all year long with diet, stretching, exercise and good sleep.

There are other reasons for hunters and anglers to be fit, too.

Overall Health Benefits

According to physicians at the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, bolster your immune system and strengthen your bones and muscles. But if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised and you have health issues or concerns, they stress it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise or wellness program. Most likely, a thorough, complete physical examination will be required.

Getting the Keys to Wellness

Getting the keys to a successful wellness plan is major benefit to your entire lifestyle and could end up prolonging or saving your life! Consistently follow an exercise routine and mix in a healthy diet, little motivation and a lot of commitment. The toughest part is just getting started. Coming up with a productive, well-rounded workout routine can be overwhelming. Should you lift weights, do crossfit or aerobics, jog, bike, hike, swim, or hire a personal trainer at a health club? Should you be in a yoga or pilates class? There is no right or wrong ­answer because everyone is different, and most important, anything is better than nothing. Remember to start slowly and then gradually increase your workouts.

The Safety Factor

Hunters and anglers who lack a certain level of physical fitness are putting themselves and even others at risk every time they go hunting or fishing. The simple fact that both hunting and fishing involve weapons (firearms and fillet knives), rural or remote areas, and changeable weather, guarantees a certain level of innate risk. Add a low level of physical fitness into the mix and you have a potential recipe for a disaster!

Go Further

It stands to reason that being in good physical condition will get you further in distance when hunting and fishing. By being able to walk more and cover rougher terrain or shoreline without rest breaks, you increase your odds for success. Covering more territory inevitably leads to more opportunities.

Build Balance and Stability

The stronger your muscles, the sturdier they are and the better balance they provide when under stress. If you’ve ever walked through the dark woods with a treestand on your back and a bow and pack in your hands, you know how having strength, stamina and balance are all necessary in the field.

Retain More Muscle

Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic indicates that adults lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20. Exercise helps prevent this loss of muscle and strength, and assists in rebuilding what you may have lost.

Lose Weight

A regular exercise routine increases your metabolic rate causing your body to burn more calories throughout the day and enabling you to lose weight more effectively. Weight loss gives you more energy and lets you move more efficiently and quietly by not having to breath as hard.

Reduce, Help Eliminate Low Back Pain

Lugging bags of Canada goose decoys across a muddy field or a large, tiered tackle box along a reservoir or river bank are not the most “back-friendly” outdoor activities. A consistent exercise program coupled with a basic stretching regimen will certainly help your back handle those stresses and recover from them more quickly, with less or no pain.

Improve Flexibility

Better flexibility through stretching improves your performance in any physical activities and decreases your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. Stretching not only lets your muscles work to their maximum extension but also increases overall blood flow.

Eat Better, Get More Energy

Proper nutrition and the timing of what you eat can do wonders to make you feel alert and powerful. Nutrition essentials come down to monitoring quantities and eating a variety of wholesome foods that support your health. Want to go beyond the basics? Talk to your doctor or a dietitian for personalized dietary advice that takes into account your health status, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes. Wild game meat should be included in a dietary plan as it is lean protein with low fat content.

Healthy offerings at the Wagner abode — grilled asparagus, sweet corn, pineapple and venison steaks. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Exercise for Good Sleep

Exercise may be the best prescription for good sleep. Scientists at Northwestern University say sleep problems affect millions of adults, who could likely improve their quality of sleep, vitality, and mood with frequent exercise. Their research indicated that cardio workouts especially helped adults to get their optimal seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

Being fit is a way to greatly improve yourself as a hunter or an angler, but it will certainly benefit all aspects of your life as well!

If you hunt or fish, ask yourself: How fit am I?

As part of his wellness plan, your blogger walks about 50 minutes nearly every day, year-round. Here he is walking on the Big Papio Recreational Trail just west of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Omaha Office. Photo by Katie Stacey/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media sites, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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