Hunting for good health

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The month of November always reminds me of hunting with my Dad.  As a child, I would go out with him into the woods and sit with him, trying desperately to be quiet.  As an adult, I haven’t done much hunting.  But lately, walking in the woods is something I find I truly love.  I have burned out on my regular exercise routine of walking the treadmill, doing the elliptical machine and trying to run.  My joints don’t like running much and I get so bored with machines.  I have been trying to find outdoor activities that keep me moving and fit.  I have been riding bike for about five years now but my new love this fall is hiking.

We live in such a beautiful area.  We are truly blessed with amazing views, lovely hills and abundant wildlife.  If you are a hunter, you have likely enjoyed the outdoors for years.  Maybe you didn’t even consider it as a workout.   November is the time to check tree stands, to open up new trails and to prepare for the season.  As you begin the hunt, consider ways you can change your normal hunting routine into an opportunity to improve your health with more exercise. Perhaps the pounds have been sneaking up on you and your doctor has encouraged you to do more physical activity.  Or maybe, you want to get a workout in your busy schedule and want to stay out of the gym.  Of course, with all exercise regimens, consult first with your physician with your decision to do more physical activity. Below are 5 things to consider when hunting for good health.

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Safety 1st  I always take my smart phone with me.  I usually hike alone with my dog and I worry about twisting an ankle.  Having my phone with me gives me peace of mind.  Always have permission to hike on the land you are walking.  Wear the appropriate gear with blaze orange or other bright colors during hunting season.  A good pair of hiking shoes or hunting boots are important to wear when going over a variety of terrain.  Bring water if it is a hot day.  You should check for ticks when you get home.

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Make it count!  If you want to be intentional with including more physical activity into your schedule, it helps to know how much you are doing.  It is easy to download the “MapMyFitness” app onto your smart phone.  Go to the Android play store or the Apple Itunes store and look for “MapMyFitness”.   There are many fitness apps out there that will keep track of your physical activity via smart phone GPS.  Pick one you like and use it.  I turn mine on when I start and hit “slide to finish” when I am done with my hike.  You can actually get very specific with your activity.  My app allows me to designate my hiking into certain categories; such as cross-country hiking, general rock climbing, hiking with no pack, light pack, medium pack or heavy pack, trekking and hills.  These apps are great because they will give you information such as distance, time, pace, calories and elevation gain.  I also have a FitBit Charge with HR monitor.  I like to see my total steps and my heart rate readings so I can see how effective my hike is.  But it is not necessary to have any gadgets.  You can easily use just a watch, setting a time goal to do something and increase that goal every time you go out.

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2 Feet over 4 wheels It is easy to settle into a lifestyle where we chose 4 wheels over 2 feet.  But consider how much more activity you would get if you walked up the hill to your deer stand instead of taking the four wheeler.  Park the truck at the entrance of the field road and walk the road up into the valley.  Find ways you can walk with your supplies and throw them into a backpack instead.  Challenge yourself to walk more each time you go out into the woods.  If you keep track with an app, it is easy to push yourself to do just a little more each time.  Take your dog with you as they likely need the exercise too and they enjoy being off leash.  It is great fun to watch them delight in sniffing out new smells and enjoying the outdoors.

Choose the challenging path At this time of year, many farmers have taken the crops off the fields.  The tractors have knocked down the grass and weeds.  Start out on those easy, flat field roads but increase your activity by climbing the hills, following the fence lines and hiking alongside the corn fields.  If you have a heart rate monitor, push yourself to get into your target cardio range.  It is easy to get your heart rate in the cardio range when hiking the hills of Western Wisconsin.  Perhaps with your first hike, do just a few small hills.  But as you start doing more activity, challenge yourself to do steeper hills and to increase the number of hills you tackle.  If you are an active gym user or an avid runner, you will be surprised with the intensity you can achieve with your hiking workouts.20151104_112458

A variety of benefits Simple hiking has some amazing benefits.  It’s like yoga, as it integrates strength, endurance and balance training.  When you go over uneven terrain and climb hills, your body engages in proprioception.  This is how your body is aware of exactly where each limb is in every second, because your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints send thousands of impulses back to your brain to be processed.  Hiking can help your body get stronger and improve your aerobic capabilities.  If you take longer hikes, you develop endurance and improve balance.  You will find hiking on the soft earth of the field roads and walking over hay fields is easy on the joints.  If you find yourself hiking along a side hill for awhile, you may notice this can be hard on your joints as you are bearing your weight unevenly.  Look for opportunities to balance the side hills by changing direction often. Stop when you have done too much.  Take your time.  The nice thing, no one is usually watching you or hearing you gasp for breath as you climb a steep hill!  But it won’t take long and you will be able to go further and tackle bigger hills and longer hikes.

There is something truly special about being outside in nature.  The exposure to the sunshine will get your vitamin D levels up.  Breathing the fresh air is great for your lungs.  Don’t let the cold weather stop you.  Just add a few more layers and consider snow shoes when winter comes and the snow flies.  Getting a good workout doesn’t have to happen in the gym.  You don’t need any fancy gadgets or specific clothes.  There is an abundance of places to hike in Richland County.  Choosing 2 feet over 4 wheels will always be best for your health.  You will get leaner and more in shape and soon your freezer will be filled with venison.  Taking intentional steps to increase your activity while hunting this season will pay off with great rewards.  Enjoy the hunt for good health!

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