Mountain Training for Flat-Landers

Wapiti16

Member
Joined
May 27, 2020
Messages
97
Interested in hearing suggestions for training for backcountry hunting for those who don't have any elevation change, places to hike, etc.

I live on the Gulf coast at about 6 feet above sea level. Needless to say, not a mountain or significant elevation change in sight (unless you count ant hills). I have spent alot of time out West my whole life, love mountain country, and I'm going on my fifth consecutive year chasing elk. Every year I improve my training more than the last before hitting the mountains.

The best I can do to build mountain endurance without a mountain is running a couple days a week, moderate resistance training 2-3 times a week, with the core of my daily training on the stairmaster, elliptical, incline treadmill, or hiking football stadiums. I experimented a little with weighted box steps last year and plan to incorporate more of that this training season; I also just got a 40-80lb sandbag which I'm looking forward to messing around with.

Any suggestions? Stairs and stadiums get really boring to me but that's about the best replication of elevation I have. I don't do alot of HIIT; I really prefer long, low intensity workouts. I had a lower back injury when I was younger and I pay close attention to protecting it, so I stay away from lifting heavy even though I have alot of overall strength.
 
Last edited:

AK_Skeeter

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
451
Location
Becker Ridge, Alaska
A weighted pack up and down stadium stairs at the local high school or college football field.
Start without a pack and gradually work up the pack weight...
An 80lb pack may be recipe for compressed disc back problems....I know 3 people who now have serious back problems and they packed out too much weight when they were youngsters.

Hiking with your boots to break them in to your feet.

Long distance biking with low gear intervals also may help.
 

AZ_Hunter_2000

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2019
Messages
950
AK_Skeeter is spot on. You may want to incorporate some burst training. I like to sass the wife and then run!

On a more serious note, burst training can help. Think about those situations where you have to close the distance in short order, typically under less than ideal conditions, before the animal takes off. You need to get there quickly and be able to take a shot (which can be hard to do when your heart is pounding).
 

Mighty Mouse

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
904
Location
Oklahoma
I'm in a similar situation. I live at 1200' with no appreciable hills nearby, so preparing for my annual elk hunts at 10,000'+ is a challenge. After stumbling across the two articles linked below, I decided to make weighted step-ups the core of my training regimen last year. For the 2 months prior to my hunt, I did a 15 minute session of 15" step-ups wearing a 70-80 lb backpack 2-3 times per week. On days I wasn't doing step-ups (or resting), I would either run 3 miles or do a whole-body workout consisting of various sandbag/bodyweight movements.

I'm certain the training helped, but high altitude is still high altitude and I felt sluggish/easily winded for the first 1-2 days of hunting. As much as I dislike the idea of not hunting my hardest every day possible, I'm strongly considering factoring an acclimatization day into my next elk hunting trip (i.e., do some easy hiking and spend the first night at the trailhead before heading in/up to hunt in earnest).

 

Brendan

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2013
Messages
3,645
Location
Boston, MA
Stairs, Stadiums, and Hill Running max heart rate HiiT works great. Then once a week (Saturday mornings) for me, I throw a pack on and go for a three hour hike.

I live at Sea Level and spent my entire hunt above 10K last year, as high as 12.5K and didn't miss a beat. I did show up a couple days early to acclimate, (rented an AirBnB and worked remotely) and that helped. Not sure I would want to pack in (at Colorado Elevations) for a backcountry hunt on day 1 coming from the east coast no matter how good shape I was in.
 

texans42

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2013
Messages
1,570
Weighted pack on stairs, rucks and high gear biking.

I use to train with a lot of weight but found 35 lbs, did fine and was enough to also condition ankles and feet and rucks.
 

Newtosavage

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
4,976
Location
In someone's favorite spot
I live at 300' and have no hills anywhere nearby to train on. I know bleachers can be boring, but I find them a lot less boring than flat runs, and about 10x more effective in getting me in hunting shape.
 
OP
W

Wapiti16

Member
Joined
May 27, 2020
Messages
97
Stairs, Stadiums, and Hill Running max heart rate HiiT works great. Then once a week (Saturday mornings) for me, I throw a pack on and go for a three hour hike.

I live at Sea Level and spent my entire hunt above 10K last year, as high as 12.5K and didn't miss a beat. I did show up a couple days early to acclimate, (rented an AirBnB and worked remotely) and that helped. Not sure I would want to pack in (at Colorado Elevations) for a backcountry hunt on day 1 coming from the east coast no matter how good shape I was in.
My family has a cabin in colorado at about 10,000' so I've spent literally my entire life going to from sea level to 10k. Surprisingly enough, I always acclimate very quickly and have very few issues with altitude. I always take the first day easy and pace myself but I'm usually ready to go right out of the gate while other family/friends who come with me need a few days to adjust. Not sure what physiological reasoning stands behind that, but that's just always been how it is. But yes, to be on the safe side I usually spend a few days around the cabin before I take off into the backcountry.
 
OP
W

Wapiti16

Member
Joined
May 27, 2020
Messages
97
I'm in a similar situation. I live at 1200' with no appreciable hills nearby, so preparing for my annual elk hunts at 10,000'+ is a challenge. After stumbling across the two articles linked below, I decided to make weighted step-ups the core of my training regimen last year. For the 2 months prior to my hunt, I did a 15 minute session of 15" step-ups wearing a 70-80 lb backpack 2-3 times per week. On days I wasn't doing step-ups (or resting), I would either run 3 miles or do a whole-body workout consisting of various sandbag/bodyweight movements.

I'm certain the training helped, but high altitude is still high altitude and I felt sluggish/easily winded for the first 1-2 days of hunting. As much as I dislike the idea of not hunting my hardest every day possible, I'm strongly considering factoring an acclimatization day into my next elk hunting trip (i.e., do some easy hiking and spend the first night at the trailhead before heading in/up to hunt in earnest).

Thanks for the references. I was already planning to focus more on step-ups and this just strengthened that. Definitely going to incorporate more days of them and as many useful variations as I can.
 
OP
W

Wapiti16

Member
Joined
May 27, 2020
Messages
97
Curious is there is any benefit at all to rucking with heavy weight on flat ground? There may be times when all I can do is get out in my neighborhood late at night. Am I better off getting in a 30-45 min run, or walking a few miles with a heavy pack on flat ground?
 

bozeman

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2016
Messages
1,424
Location
Alabama
I wear my pack on the local high school bleachers. Keep it around 30-40lbs. Long, steady walks building up time. Currently @ 1:15:00 once/week..........
 

as.ks.ak

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2015
Messages
451
Location
AK
I say just get your cardio right. Unless you can find a pond or lake damn to side hill on to work your stabilizer muscles. Just practice being uncomfortable and getting your mental strength up. Most people don’t quit because they’re out of shape. It’s because they’re mental midgets.

Make sure you get your feet used to the boots you’re going to wear on the hunt above all else. Wrecked feet=wrecked hunt.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

GunsAreFun

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Messages
881
I would encourage stairs...real stairs, not stair master...with loaded pack. Work your way up to 30-50% over your target pack weight. It’s important to exercise the muscles that help you go down hill just like the ones that help you go up. And believe me, once you get up to that 50% extra pack weight and then take everything down to your actual gear for the trip, it feels like your bag is empty.

I essentially did what was stated above except I found the steepest hills in my area and went up and down until I reached 500’ vertical feet gained 4 days a week. I ran a mile 2 days a week and took Fridays off.
 

slvrslngr

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2012
Messages
697
Curious is there is any benefit at all to rucking with heavy weight on flat ground? There may be times when all I can do is get out in my neighborhood late at night. Am I better off getting in a 30-45 min run, or walking a few miles with a heavy pack on flat ground?
Yes, if that’s the workout you can get done, do it. The run is good too, just be sure to keep your heart rate elevated.
 

Sccritterkiller

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
738
Get a plyo box and some DBs and do step ups, you can wear a weighted pack, but I like DBs as it's easier to transition to another movement after step ups..like jump rope singles or burpees. I will do 20 steps ups with 40#DBs front racked and then do 10 burpees or 100 singles..Do three rounds for time. I record my times so I can track progress. What I really like about the steps is I can do them in the garage, not weather/daylight dependant, so it adds some flexibility.
 

Ozarkansas

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2020
Messages
163
I’ve found good sprint and breath control swim workouts help a ton for building lung capacity and rib/abdominal/diaphragm strength. The altitude still sucks, but I can move a lot more air through my lungs so it doesn’t hit me as hard as it would otherwise.

aside from that I’m also a big fan of hill sprints and weighted box step-ups
 

Hootsma

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2014
Messages
200
Location
Memphis, Tennessee
I know you said your leary of lifting weights because of a previous injury and I’m not a doctor and don’t know the details of your injury. With that said, the typical consensus among those who are educated in these things is not to avoid using those previously injured muscles/spine, but to strengthen the back and core muscles which in turn help stabilize the spine.

I’ve been training for a number of years to prep for mountain hunting and I’ve experimented every year changing up my training to see what works best. I’ve started with HITT/boot camp and body weight stuff and evolved from there.

One of the best improvements I’ve noticed over the years is when I incorporated heavy strength training into my regimen. I added squats, deadlifts, bench press, standing overhead press and chin ups (Starting Strength program). This gives me a strong foundation of strength which everything else is built on. But, form is everything when it comes to injury prevention, so you need to video yourself regularly doing these lifts to make sure your form is good, if you decide to go this route.

In addition, I do weighted stair mill working up to 50 lbs for an hour straight and then rucking with up to 50 lbs and 5 miles. I wear a HR monitor and keep my heart rate in zone 2/3 (140-155 bpm) for the duration. I’ll also swap stair mill with weighted inclined treadmill because it works things differently, particularly your calves and feet.

This past hunting season, we were planning on a 12 mile ruck in and out, so a couple of weeks before the season I added a couple 2-3 sessions of 9 mile weighted (50 lbs) rucks to make sure I could handle the excessive mileage. If you don’t plan on any days with this kind of volume while hunting, then I highly recommend you avoid this because it really sucked hiking in the swamps of the Mississippi in 90 degree weather, 90% humidity and swarm of mosquitoes.

I’ve done the super heavy pack training (80+ lbs) and for me it’s not worth it. Too much wear and tear on my body with little added benefit. And with the addition of heavy weight training, it makes it complete unnecessary.

I think this is my final iteration in the evolution of my training methods for mountain hunting. With this setup, I was able to keep up with the two other guys in my hunting party, both of which are younger than me (I’m 49) and both of which live in Colorado at 7,000+’, year around and stay very active in the outdoors year around.
 

peterk123

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2020
Messages
266
Location
Massachusetts
I cannot recommend adding the weighted pack into your workout. I do not know your age, but I am 54 and have started to prepare for my permanent move to Montana. I have a SG 5900 pack that has a bag of rock salt semi-permanently affixed to it. My total pack weight is 47 pounds. I do two to three mile hikes a couple times a week with it. At first, my hip ligaments/muscles or whatever it is near the joint, would freakin torture me after five minutes. We won't even get into the quad discussion on the climbs. After about a month though, I have no pain or discomfort. I guess that part of my aging body finally woke up to the fact that it has to start pulling its weight :)

FWIW, I thoroughly enjoy walking around with the weight on my back. I get a kick out of the weird looks I get. I am in Massachusetts. I have mountain boots, load carrying pack and trekking poles, while everyone I pass has sneakers, store bought spring water in their hands and is talking on their iphone.
 

FlyGuy

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
1,699
Location
The Woodlands, TX
IMO you are very limited and there isn’t much you can do about it other than what you are doing. I’m in the same boat, btw.

I do a lot of CrossFit and that works great for me, as well as Running, Mtn biking, rucking...

The heavy pack stadiums and such that you are doing is a really good one, probably one of the best you can do. But, the Mtns hit different - your feet never land “flat” b/c there are no stairs cut into the hillside. Puts more on your hammies and heals. Going down is different too. No way to really replicate that incline/decline landing unless you can find a really steep hill, and being that you live on the coasts doubt you have one around. Maybe a treadmill with the incline cranked all the way up could help, but I’ve never had access to one that really got very high.

I think those masks are BS, but maybe it works for some. Being in good shape helps. Taking diamox helps. Going a day early helps. All these things and I usually feel pretty good day one, but I do find I have to take frequent breaks on those ascents. We always seem to “get our sea legs back” around day 3.





Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

sahunter06

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2021
Messages
117
Location
GA
Lots of great input. I live near sea level myself and have had no issues with altitude acclimation hunting out west . I typically Hunt from 7500-12,000 feet depending on where I draw. At 50 I still do a 15-20 min warm up on a rowing machine, or rogue power bike to get my heart rate to it’s target. Then I do 4-5 rounds of a 5-7 exercise circuit that I design to maintain my target hr and incorporate heavy compound lifts to exhaust my muscles. Between each exercise I sprint 30 yards as fast as I can for 1 minute or some form of quick aerobic activity ( box hops, kettle ball swings, etc). After 45 minutes of that I’m ready to start my day. Most importantly, take care of your body and don’t over do it. The compound lifts will improve overall strength and core development. Have a consistent nutrition plan and stay hydrated. At the end of the day, as you prepare for your trip, strength and endurance matter, but if your lungs aren’t in condition you won’t make it up that mountain. Best of luck with your training plan.
 
Top