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Article by: Laura Ehlen
Are you worried your competition training is going to get in the way of your hunting or hiking season or vice versa? Juggling multiple goals or priorities can be tricky, but here are ways to be smart about approaching each one. I am a bodybuilder who is attempting to get my pro card so I can compete as a professional athlete in the figure division while still being able to balance my life with the things I love most, the outdoors. Hunting and backpacking has been a big part of my life and it is not something I want to sacrifice.
In the past, I found myself choosing one goal over the other because I did not know how to balance the two things I am passionate about—hunting and fitness. My time in the woods, hunting and hiking, was important to me because it was how I refreshed my mind, body, and supply myself food. Fitness was important to me because it challenged me in a different way than being able to put food on the table—it kept me healthy and feeling good in my own skin. When I first started bodybuilding, my time in the woods became limited because I thought I needed to be in the gym lifting OR had to eat every 3.5 hours and was worried I wouldn’t have the energy to hike for hours each day. Then I knew that whenever I am in the backcountry, I had a hard time slowing down to eat or hydrate—let alone rest. I knew in order to keep both of these activities in my life, I needed to find a balance.
Despite there being some aspects of training that can be shared with my outdoor adventures, there are some issues that can complicate balancing these two goals. One obstacle is that the closer you get to a competition, the less energy you have to do even just daily tasks. You get tired easier, you are very hungry, your mental state can be very fragile and cause mood swings, and your body is very tender because your body fat is low so there is less cushion if you will. The mood swings could be problematic for hunting partners OR decision making and, for some, low body fat can make it be painful to even just walk around a lot. These two problems can cause you to make bad decisions in the backcountry because you aren’t necessarily making the right decision due to a lack of clarity or brain fog. The second obstacle is that although hunting can cause weight loss, part of that weight loss can be muscle. You spend a lot of time building muscle, years even, and to lose it can be counterproductive for bodybuilding. One way to minimize muscle loss is to increase protein intake during hunting trips as well as carbs to help fuel the muscles you have so that your body doesn’t become catabolic. Another option is to take shorter hunting or hiking trips where you can rest for a few days between hunts instead of being out for multiple weeks on end. This allows the body to recover between trips and get good fresh foods in the body to restore macro and micronutrient levels. There are supplements to aid with this but whole foods are what our bodies function most optimally on in the long run and we all know that when we get out of the backcountry we crave a good fresh meal.
How could I combine these two activities and still be successful at both? I started by thinking about what I can accomplish in the woods that might help me with my fitness and physique for my competitions. By thinking about what kind of training I can accomplish while I am hunting, I came up with 3 strategies to help set myself up for a more successful season.
In addition to my whole food meals, I typically take a few supplements into the woods with me. These products just help me sustain energy and aid in recovery while still out hunting. The three products I would recommend are the following:
Energy booster that is long lasting—caffeine.
BCAA’s to help with recovery and hydration.
Protein powder for a quick absorption energy source that doesn’t have a crash like sugar.
Laura Ehlen is a certified trainer and nutritionist part time to being a figure competitor and Wildlife Biologist. She handles many one on one clients for Built4TheHunt and spends her hunting seasons in the backcountry chasing elk and mule deer across the Northwest. You can find and follow Laura on her instagram (@adventurer.lady) as she preps for an upcoming figure competition before the seasons get underway.