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Aug 4, 2022·edited Aug 4, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

I have been grooving on your write ups and I really enjoy what I perceive as a thread that connects them - an exploration of mindfulness, introspection and self-improvement. It really does help me (and frankly of all of us), to consider what you are writing about and then figure out how that fits into our ethos, hunting or otherwise.

I don't care what drove you to do this, I am just really glad that you are hanging it out there. Reading your posts is triggering a lot of contemplative thinking on my part and that can only lead to good things.

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Thank you so much! It's a joy to be doing this again. I know the audience is small, but it's the audience I want to have a conversation with. Thanks for being part of it!

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Aug 3, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

Hey vanity can't be all that bad if it keeps you healthy, right?

We call what your friend Jim has "old man muscles". Conditioned from decades of doing the same thing repeatedly. Walking 18 miles in a day behind the dog is a piece of cake if you have done a couple of thousand times.

I once went pheasant hunting in the Grasslands with a novice hunter who was also a marathoner. He pulled up lame with a groin pull by lunch and limped back to the parking lot. In retrospect, I should have done a different hunt, but I incorrectly figured that he could hang with me and dogs if he trained for marathons. Evidently pushing across uneven ground through thick knee high grass, deep sucky mud with mats of tules. chest high star thistle and those overhead thickets of anise-like vegetation all while holding a 6 1/2 pound rail of steel out in front you was different than his training regimen.

Chukar hunting is the pursuit I need to train for at home. I don't do enough of it during the hunting season and I am absolutely wiped out after the first day of going hard after them. Turns out several thousand feet of elevation gain AND loss on very steep ground unstable rocky ground while holding a shotgun isn't something for which I am conditioned. I haven't hit upon a training regiment yet that will help me with that - maybe stepping up onto an unstable dining room chair while holding a shotgun a thousand times?

I try and take a break or a short easy hunt day with the dogs every fourth day when we do our couple of weeks in the prairie. You wouldn't think that the prairie would be that hard to hunt, but by day three of pheasant and grouse hunting, the dogs have abraded a lot of skin off their noses and they are starting to lose a little weight. Hell, even I have usually lost a notch on the belt buckle by day three.

Nothing wrong with prep work that may extend the quality of your life. Regardless, we have to keep moving, even if it is painful. I have learned, the hard way, that recovery of muscles and tendons is way harder than maintenance.

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Your friend's experience is similar to excellent trap/skeet/clays shooters who don't do well wingshooting. You are good at what you train at, and the extent to which it helps you in similar pursuits varies.

I think elevation is the only thing that helps with chukars, and driving into the mountains is EXPENSIVE. (That said, my last couple drives yielded hundreds of dollars worth of surprise morels, so who's complaining? )

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Aug 3, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

Old man muscles! I once shook hands with an 80-year old carpenter. He didn't look like a gym rat, but when he shook my hand, he cracked every one of my fingers in that vise-like grip as if they were bread sticks. 60 years in the trades using hand tools and his muscles were very efficient and powerful.

I recognize that genetics can play a big part in conditioning too, particularly as you age. So does too much screen time, Big Gulps of soda pop, pancakes and everything automated or wireless. I remember, even as a kid, scoffing at the TV remote control - I thought "are people really that lazy that they can't get up out of the seat to change the channel?". American consumption has increased on all fronts, while our physical activity has decreased. The outcome has always been predictable.

The other thing that actually helps is practicing normal exercise routines with weights. It supercharges the routine. I remember when I used to to do intervals up and down the street between telephone poles - carrying as much as I could possibly hold while walking, sprinting between poles as fast I could, flipping large tractor tires from pole to pole, etc. and combinations thereof. I wasn't going to run a marathon, or probably do a day of chukar hunting without some discomfort. But challenging my body and muscle memory with constantly changing routines that put my pulse on high really cranked up my adaptability to doing different types of hunting and seemed to lessen the pain a little.

Fast forward to now - recent bouts with a torn hamstring, torn rotator cuff, Covid and then pneumonia with me not doing a very good job of dialing back the intake has turned me into a human cheese puff. I finally started to get back some kind of workout routine last week. Sigh. Tell Sisyphus not to wait up, I'll catch him at the top of the mountain.

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Did anything good come of your downtime? A month later I can very clearly see the benefits I got from what otherwise felt like a setback.

I think the thing that saves me on diet is we just don't have a lot of sugary things or snack foods in the house, and never bread unless we need it for a photo shoot, or a particular thing Hank's cooking. I have zero willpower around those things, but if they're not here, I do fine.

It also helps (a LOT) that I quit drinking a couple years ago. Alcohol, like bread and sugar, defeated all attempts at moderation.

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Aug 3, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

My head got screwed on a little straighter with my Covid vacation, I think. I saw my future on that current pre-Covid path and didn't like it. Nothing like reckoning and internal scrutiny to force changes. Radical moves were subsequently made to change my path, including merging my company with another local company and becoming an employee for the first time in almost 30 years. The goal is to delegate all my admin and lower level work to staff, chew through my backlog and then get myself to a regular 40-hour work week. I will likely be able to do 4 tens standing on my head, after a decade of high stress 60-80 hour weeks, sometimes a month or more without a break. That could mean 3 day weekends, or Wednesdays off during hunting season for midweek refuge visits. I could string together a 4 day weekend if I organize it right. Thank goodness my employer is super understanding and willing to flex with me as long as I maintain my billability and keep the contracts rolling in.

I had a weird flu in my early 30's and my immune system attacked my pancreas and almost caused it to crap out completely. Prior to that event, I was reasonably fit and mostly ate meat and greens with a little fresh fruit and drank straight up booze - the result of growing up a redneck kid in the sticks who ate a lot of game and always worked on the "garden" (more like a small farm!). Even stranger was the period right after that happened. I started starving to death - dropped 70 pounds in 2 months, even while consuming gigantic servings of sugary things for the first time in my life. The lack of insulin meant that my body wasn't able to access the blood sugar and my body's natural reaction was to drive me to crave high calorie sugary things, so I was consuming large volumes of sugar and literally pissing it out and the body was consuming my muscle in absence of being able to process blood sugar. I was lucky to not have died from that little episode.

So I basically have had diabetes for 20-odd years with a sort tweener type - my endocrinologist calls it Type 1.5 - not really the Type 2 but not completely Type 1 either.

Anyway it got to the point where I had to inject long acting insulin to keep my blood sugar normal. My diet hasn't really had to change, because I mostly ate low carb things anyway - meat, greens, some booze, little fruit. But damn if the insulin didn't change the way I converted everything I ate into a little extra fat. Which means I have been on a roller coaster for a long time modulating my intake, exercise and body fat.

I mostly have kept everything under control, probably because I WANT to hunt, as well as the possibility that my assiduousness is underpinned by borderline OCD issues with recording and analyzing health statistics. Then came the injuries, Covid, etc. Since about 2020, my life and health have been what I call "shit show status quo". And now I am staring at the biggest figurative hill of my life - getting my body back into shape again.

Holy crap the first week was horrible! My poor shape combined with being a bit older makes recovery from workouts quite challenging. I'll grind through it incrementally - I know this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. What keeps me going is visualizing running behind the Labs in MT, ND and northern CA this fall and winter and doing so pain free and without lag. I might not make that goal, but stating my intent and commitment is my first step toward achieving improvment and possibly contentment.

The other thing that came out of my Covid vacation was a new desire to learn how to play golf. One of summer league bowling teammates has been bugging me since the spring to give it a whack. He loaned me a set of old set of clubs a couple of weeks ago and so I have been struggling with that. The combination of what Covid did to me, picking up golf and merging my company has positioned me for a potential remake of my life. Golfing in particular appears to be very humbling and seems to have many parallels for two of my other pastimes - bowling and autocross racing. Those pursuits are more about the mind and less about the body and hand-eye coordination once you have reached expert level. Same goes for shotgunning, whether at the range or out in the field IMHO. My performance is almost always commensurate with my mental state and attitude in almost all of my physical activities.

Sorry for the long arc there. Lot to unpack to say this - my downtime was a life changer for me. Upon the forced reflection, I didn't like what I saw and I certainly was unhappy with future casting that. I came out of the downtime wanting to be a better man, husband, consultant, hunter, bowler, etc. I am convinced that I can show improvement in all desired categories if I can transform my mental game. Intent, commitment, contentment. I will gladly apply all my new lessons I am learning to my upland bird and waterfowl hunting this fall!

I just finished reading a great book by former LPGA pro and current instructor Dodie Mazzuca titled "Golf Sutras". She ties golfing together with Yoga teachings in the book. Both are totally foreign to me, but I was amazed at how she flowed seamleslly back and forth between the two. And the parallels between those topics and hunting were amazing. At least to me.

I am very much looking forward to the feedback loop of exercise and calming my stormy mind. Hopefully I will live long enough to make the desired improvements, because I think it might very well take 20+ years for me to do it right!

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Just remember to be kind to yourself in your process! You don't have to be perfect every day, and in fact the more you try to be, the harder it gets. Slow changes with occasional lapses DO make a difference; doing something that feels excruciating all the time makes your mind rebel.

And ... I used to keep a very detailed fitness spreadsheet. Tossed it. Just started one again but it's mellower - just a quick way to see if I'm doing each of my three exercise routines (core, tai chi, cardio) at least 4x/week. I'm constantly teetering on the sharp ridge between OCD tendencies that are beneficial and those that are out of control. It's a fine line!

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Aug 4, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

The beauty of changing the regimen and mixing up movements and exercises frequently is that it makes almost impossible to track. The goal then becomes to just challenge myself a little bit in that moment. Otherwise, like you, I perseverate on the metrics, which ultimately does me no good.

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Aug 3, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

Nice piece...good reminder that it is time to get my butt moving for the upcoming deer season. Thanks

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Aug 2, 2022Liked by Holly Heyser

Excellent writing! I'm struggling with fitness issues in my life as well. For years and years, I worked very physically: trail building, canoe tripping, butchery, arborist work, riparian restoration, farming... etc., etc. Nowadays I'm finding myself cooking (and eating) and doing work on the computer more than anything. My foraging, hunting, and recreational canoeing/hiking/whatnot just don't quite provide me with enough exercise to keep me at that fitness level that work used to. I've got a trip to Alberta to meet up with some of the From the Wild guys coming up and I'm terrified about embarrassing myself while hiking up mountains or whatever we'll be doing. For the first time in my life I'm going to have to start working out, which is weird and intimidating for some reason. To start though, it's all going to be about fast marches uphill so I don't embarrass myself in October. We'll have to see where it goes from there!

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Good luck! And in case you've never done a marathon, here's a tip: You do not need your prep to be as big as the event. No one does a 26.2 mile run in prep for a marathon - my longest was 22 miles, and my routine long runs, every other week, capped out at 18. You count on general fitness and stamina to get you over the hump on race day, and it does, because you've trained yourself to periodically add four miles.

I actually attempted two marathons, but on the first, I was having some problems (never diagnosed, which was stressful) with my lungs, and the problems appeared on race day and I finally had to give up at mile 18 when I couldn't even walk anymore, much less run. I rode the "sag wagon" to the finish line with all the other people who couldn't make it (utterly demoralizing). One of them was a guy who pushed himself to do the marathon after breaking his neck the previous year. That was hella admirable. BUT, the longest run he did in preparation was 8 miles, which was insane and made failure inevitable.

What I did with Jim last year was the equivalent of that - super insufficient hill-walking in prep.

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Aug 2, 2022Liked by Hank Shaw, Holly Heyser

Holly, you should have been a motivational speaker!

At 69 years old I spend more time thinking about my physical abilities of the past and not the future.

I retired at 66 years of age and a bucket list goal was to lean how to fly fish better, backpack into the Golden trout wilderness and catch trout.

Recently I realized that I'm running out of time to work on my bucket list and needed motivation.

I purchased a tee shirt from Kuiu with a quote printed on the shirt that simply says," Don't Wait".I've also purchased decals of a Golden Trout, hiking boots, a fly fisherman and a backpack which I've placed on a garage cabinet that I must pass frequently for personal motivation.

Now after a month of Covid and its after effects, ( Yes I'm vac'ed and boosted) I've got to start the greatest physical comeback of my life in order to prepare for GTW next summer!

Thank you for such a great article when I personally needed it the most!

One more thing, ya gotta love those Acorn Woodpeckerd!

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Yay! Do what you can! And when you have to cross something off your list, don't look back - double down on what you CAN do.

The greatest lesson I've learned from my pain-prevention routine is that you don't have to do a lot of reps or a lot of weight - you just have to activate some muscles regularly.

I too was set back for a month by a cold that turned into bronchitis (tested negative for covid but who knows), so I know how it feels - came out of it just in time to have a chance at prepping for my September hunt.

Please please please lemme know how you're doing on that goal! I'm rooting for you :-)

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