If you take an avid runner and an avid hunter and put them in a relationship, this question must arise: what happens in the fall?
Fall is a prime time for both parties. The runner is probably training for or running in at least one long-distance race, and the hunter leaves town most weekends in pursuit of everything from grouse to bear.
Where is that middle ground?
Robin Hood, my hunting boyfriend, has participated in some of the races I’ve run, and I still fully support hunters doing the running thing. But lately, I’ve started to appreciate the other side of the coin, because it turns out…hunting is excellent cross-training.
Here’s why, in terms of physical cross-training and mental:
1) Cardio. You get a respectable cardiovascular workout — I love those rolling hills of northern New Mexico — but you’re walking, which doesn’t pound your legs as much as running. At least, hopefully you’re walking, and not fleeing from an angry animal.
2) Strength training. Last weekend, Robin Hood split our gear fairly evenly into two backpacks. Granted, my backpack didn’t make me tip over backwards, but after a morning of hiking over hill and dale, I was feeling that burn. And it’s not just upper body work — guess who carries around her waist the in-case-of-emergency gun and ammo, not to mention the GPS? Yup, the girlfriend!
3) Coordination. Also known as walking quietly. Also known as (for me, anyway) reversing a lifelong habit of generally crashing around. It’s tough! Effective hunting requires balance; agility; the ability to maintain quiet, even breathing (even when climbing a long, steep hill); and a stronger core than I ever realized. It’s basically wilderness yoga.
4) Tolerance of the elements. Heat? Check. Extreme cold? Check. Wind? Snow? Rain? Sweat in the eyes? Hunting exposes you to them all. If you’ve sat in a tree stand or in a blind for hours at a time wearing approximately seven layers of clothing, trusting that you’ll get the feeling back in your toes eventually, guess what? You can handle any kind of weather a footrace will throw at you.
1) Patience. You don’t give up on a hunting trip if ten minutes go by without spotting anything. You also don’t rush recklessly through the woods trying to make things happen faster than they should. Not so different from running — you can’t judge a marathon by the first mile, and you learn to pace yourself.
2) Persistence. Hunting is not as easy as it looks on TV. You aren’t successful every time. Sometimes, there is in fact a long time between successes. Some hunting trips are downright wretched. Sound familiar, runners? Just because you have one less-than-awesome experience doesn’t mean you bag the rest of the season. You make adjustments — you tweak your training, or you move to a different hunting spot — and you try again.
3) Perspective. Hunting is not the be-all-end-all of existence. Neither is running. Last weekend, Robin Hood and I were bear hunting. We saw not a single bear. However, we did see three flocks of turkeys, several grouse (grouses?), scores of chipmunks, and absolutely gorgeous scenery. We stopped at a cool little general store and ate Klondike bars while sipping coffee, which turned out to be delicious. All in all, really not a bad weekend. How often do we runners have trouble finding that silver lining when a run doesn’t go exactly as planned?
4) Reinforcement of a major commandment of both runners and hunters: Thou shalt suck it up. Sleep-deprived? Cold? Hot? Hungry? In a bad mood? Uncertain because of past experiences? Wind blowing in a disadvantageous direction? Rarely are conditions picture-perfect for a run or a hunt. But the thing that makes runners and hunters so cool is this: we do it anyway.
Whether you’re hunting for fast times or big game, good luck this season!