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Never too early to get fit for fall hunting

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Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan once remarked that he normally doesn't eat a burger, a bratwurst AND a steak in the same meal, but on the Fourth of July, he just wouldn't feel like an American if he didn't. I know I did my part to keep the beef, pork and odds-n-ends-in-a-casing industries going over the holiday weekend, and I'm confident you did too. After all, it is an election year and heaven forbid any of us be lumped into that "unpatriotic" category.

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I'm also pretty sure as a result of your food-and-fireworks binge that like me, you're wondering how it is possible to gain eight pounds over a three-day-weekend. And even if you didn't overeat (which means you're probably an Al Qaeda operative), now is a great time to start thinking about upcoming fall activities and getting in shape for hunting.

Walk it off

The best way to start shedding a few pounds from a sedentary spring and summer of sitting in the boat is by taking a walk. Walking is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get active. The exercise provided by just a half-hour of walking can burn up to 100 calories, increase metabolism and prepare muscles for more strenuous activities. If you don't get out much or don't have the time to take a walk in the morning or after work, there are other ways to get your steps in.

Try parking farther away from your workplace and walking to the door. Walk to the store for that item you forgot. Drink your coffee on break while walking around your office building or through a nearby park. Get creative and think of other ways to get an extra mile out of your day. Putting a few more steps in now will definitely help when you're chasing roosters on the prairie or lugging your tree stand into the woods. This fall, you will be able to focus on the deer in your scope instead of trying to catch your breath, thanks to some regular pre-season walking.

Weighty matters

Weight training is also a good way to get in shape for upcoming hunting seasons. Stronger leg, core and arm muscles help overcome steep climbs and fatigue and are proven factors in helping with both bow and gun control while in the field. Before you begin any weight training program, you should consult your personal physician to find out what exercises are right for you.

Bowhunters need strong arms and backs for control in the stand. Work on shoulders, lats, biceps, triceps and forearms to perform smooth and more stable draws when a deer comes into view. The same goes for rifle hunters. Stronger arm, shoulder and chest muscles provide more stability when shooting off-hand.

For those walking through hilly terrain, strong legs and abs help overcome the challenges the land presents. Working on calf, hamstring and quadricep muscles in the gym will keep legs in shape for the rigors that big game hunting can present. Sit-ups, crunches and other exercises that build stomach muscles help increase body stability. Many hunters are surprised at how bad their midsections hurt after a day of bending and twisting. Find a program that is right for you; it is a guarantee that you will feel better in the field with a couple months of strength training under your belt.

Other activities

If you can't fit walking in every day and being a gym rat isn't your idea of enjoyable exercise, find a fun way to get active - jogging, bicycling, swimming or playing basketball - the health benefits alone are worth it. Don't overdo it and work into it gradually. Rushing into an activity can cause soreness and result in a reduced desire to stay active.

A similar trap befalls some outdoorsmen each year. Hunters who have neglected to prepare themselves for the hunt often experience fatigue and even serious health problems when they enter the field. Monitor your physical health well in advance, eat properly and try to exercise daily to prevent soreness, fatigue and health problems this fall.

By beginning a workout plan now - be it a simple walk each evening with your dog, or a serious weight-training program - you will be ready for your best hunting season ever...in our outdoors.

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