Hunting Health

22 Jan

Iowa Man Dies of Exhaustion During Western Hunt” would be the headline if my Idaho hunting trip started tomorrow.

Daniel Keith Johnson, 34, of Swisher, IA was found dead 100 yards from his vehicle in Idaho last Sunday. A spokesperson for the National Forestry Service said that there doesn’t seem to be any foul play involved. “When we found Mr. Johnson’s body the gear he had with him suggested that he had planned to be out in the wilderness for 7 to 10 days. We were confused when we found his body so close to his vehicle. But after further investigation we realized he was just fat and out of shape.”

I’m not gonna lie, I’m in horrible shape, I’m overweight, and my diet… well, I’m the human dumpster. One day while playing with my daughter I actually had to sit down to catch my breath. It’s embarrassing. I’m only 34 for christ-sakes. I used to be really good about getting to the gym at least 3 days a week, bust as recently as this fall my activity level began to slack. I have always been a healthy eater, and when I say “healthy” I actually mean “consumption of mass quantities”. It’s my 3rd favorite thing to do. So when I stopped working out and my eating habits didn’t change, I pulled the proverbial rip-chord. Hell, it was just last year when I was in the best shape of my life.  The fall has been long and slow.


There are days when this is what I feel like.

This is the most recent picture of me.


Like I have mentioned on the Wired To Hunt podcast and in previous blogs, I have specific hunting related goals for 2015. One of them being to get back in shape. The reason being and as some of you already know, I have a western hunt planned for September of this year. So the focus of my workouts over the next 9 months will be geared towards what it will take to make that trip easier. I did a good job of physically preparing myself for my last DIY trip to Nebraska, but this trip will different. The two huge differences will be altitude and steeper inclines.

Here is my plan of attack:

Legs Legs Legs

“Legs feed the wolf”

Until recently, I haven’t paid as much attention to my legs as I needed to. I was that typical d-bag in the gym who sat at the bench for an hour and only worked the “glamour muscles”. I lived by the motto that if your pecs stuck out past your gut and your shoulders stuck out past your love-handles, then you could get away with looking like you were in shape. My legs were small, weak, and my entire body was out of proportion. When I made the decision to go to Nebraska I knew that I needed to build my leg strength and stamina. I added a leg routine to my workout regimen and from what I could tell it seemed to work. But I didn’t have to fight any altitude.


Working out my legs twice a week will help me come September.

Working out my legs twice a week will help me come September.


Years ago when I visited Colorado I attempted to climb a 14er (14,000 foot peak) on two separate occasions. Both times resulting in having to turn around because of altitude sickness. My entire body was burning and I wasn’t even caring a pack. This summer I visited western Washington and was somewhere around 5,500 to 6,400 feet above seal level. Although I didn’t get sick, my legs were burning and I was gasping for breath. It was only a 6 mile round trip hike, but I had to stop every 300 yards to rest. That can’t happen this September. I need to be mobile at all times and be able to push myself when needed. I don’t want fatigue be the reason I fail.

The days of pushing the heaviest weights possible is over. I don’t need mass anymore. I need muscle conditioning and that means lower weights and more reps. My workouts need to emulate what I will be doing in the field. This means that I will be spending a lot of time on the stair-stepper, in the squat rack, on the leg press, and dead lifts. These exercises not only focus on the legs but also the core as well while doing agility drills to improve balance (much needed). My weekly shot-term goal is to do a leg workout at least twice, typically Mondays and Fridays. The end goal is to have highly conditioned strong legs that will allow me to hike all day long while having the agility on the uneven terrain.


(sigh) I am not looking forward to this at all. Cardio has always been my downfall over the years and every year it gets harder and harder. Because of my 90 year old knees I will not be able to spend long periods of time on the the treadmill. Instead, my treadmill time will be spent doing 1-2 minutes sprints on an incline trying to get my heart-rate to its peak. I will also be doing a variety step drills. These low impact high intensity drills really get the heart rate through the roof. On top of that I plan to take less breaks in between my weightlifting sets.


Unlike my Nebraska trip, I will be fighting thinner air and steeper inclines.

Unlike my Nebraska trip, I will be fighting thinner air and steeper inclines.


There’s no way to simulate the thinner air and higher altitude here is Iowa. But there are some things I am going to try to improve my lung function. I have done some research, and although there are mixed reviews, I think I might give an Elevation Mask a try. I know it won’t change the oxygen levels that I breath but it might strengthen my pulmonary muscles. Still need to do a little more research on this product. But nothing beats busting you ass training.


Until the beginning of this week I was on a seafood diet… if I saw it, I ate it. Get it?

My diet has always been crap. Sugar, fat, carbs, and eating until I was past full. Growing up my mom used to call me her little garbage disposal because there were very rarely leftovers between my brother and I. Over the years I have always stayed somewhat active but over the last 6 months I got fat because of my horrible diet and my slowing metabolism.

So why does any of this matter? Because I need to lose weight, and about 30 pounds of it. The more weight I loose over the next 9 months is more weight I don’t have to carry with me in the field. The plan in addition with increased workouts is to really watch my “crap intake”. Less junk food and more health foods like vegetables. In my opinion diet will play a bigger part that I think. Eat good, feel good.


In conclusion, I feel that if I stay true to my training and diet and bust my ass in the gym, I will not only have an easier time handling the terrain but I will also be able to enjoy myself that much more.

Right now I am in the information gathering part of planning my trip. This will be my first hunting trip in higher elevations. If you have any tips, advice, or gear I need to look in to please send me a comment below. I’ll take anything I can get.

Thanks for reading and pleas spread the word,
Dan (DFW)

6 Responses to “Hunting Health”

  1. Mark January 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I’m an avid cyclist and hunter in Wisconsin. Cycling is a great low impact way to get cardio exercise and build leg strength. A quality bike is very affordable and can also be used for commuting, running errands, transportation etc.. As far as making your hunt easier out west – I like the k.i.s.s method – keep it simple stupid. Don’t pack anything up the mountain unless you’re certain that it will get used. I’ve hunted elk out of a tent in CO above 10,000′ – best lesson I can pass on is use the inside of your sleeping bag at night to dry out socks/clothes if they need drying out – your body heat will dry them out.

    • Dan Johnson January 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks for the tips, Mark. I can tell you right now that bikes and myself don’t get along. 🙂

  2. Wes January 22, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    My knees are also problematic so I enjoy the elliptical. I can’t stand swinging my arms like a moron so I just use my legs and watch a Netflix show. I lost 40 lbs sticking to a 1200 calorie diet and two hours of elliptical throughout the day (some morning, some at night). In a little under two months I was done. Check out, they have specific plans for any goal. Jim Stopani has the shortcut to shred and it’s no joke. It’s a plan where you do 90 seconds of cardio directly between weight lifting sets with zero rest. Lift/cardio/lift. Anyway good luck and keep us posted, would love to see how you progress!

    • Dan Johnson January 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

      Thanks for reading Wes. I’ll have to check that out and will for sure keep everyone posted.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. The Wired To Hunt Podcast – Episode #40: The Post-Season Lull – What To Do? ‹ Wired To Hunt - January 22, 2015

    […] – Interested in hearing more about Dan’s thoughts on staying healthy and how that helps hunting, check out his most recent blog – “Hunting Health” […]

  2. The Wired To Hunt Podcast – Episode #40: The Post-Season Lull – What To Do? | Wired To Hunt - February 9, 2015

    […] – Interested in hearing more about Dan’s thoughts on staying healthy and how that helps hunting, check out his most recent blog – “Hunting Health” […]

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