Getting in "Elk Shape"

Back when I turned 30 I went to my doctor – a new doctor I had not seen before – for a routine physical. I’ll never forget the moment he said, “Tom, you seem to have gained some weight recently.” Not sure how he knew this, I tried to explain it away by telling him that I usually gain a little winter weight, but quickly shed it once summer comes around, which was the truth…up to age 30.

Stan takes a moment to locate a mid-day bull

Then he told me that males begin to experience age-related changes around age 30. Your metabolism slows, your eyesight begins to decline, among other depressing truths. To compound matters, physical activity tends to wane as careers and families become heavy priorities that eat up every waking hour.

If you’re like me, you enjoy food and lots of it. Experts frequently talk about “emotional eating” but rarely do I hear anyone talk about eating for the pure enjoyment of flavorful food! For me, this is my weakness and slowly I gained weight like the ticker chart of bullish stock – ups and downs annually but steadily climbing over several years. Not really the sort of dividends I was after.

Grab a pencil…I’m about to share with you an incredible formula for losing weight and getting in shape. You’re going to love this because it will not require reading a thick book, listening to CDs, counting calories, or joining some expensive program. Nope, this is drop-dead simple, it works for everyone at any age, and best of all it is FREE!


Eat less, move more, every day.

It’s really that simple. I don’t care how much you eat, when you eat, where you eat – if you simply reduce the intake and exercise regularly, you will lose weight. And if you replace poor quality food with high-octane food, you will see faster results and feel better at the same time.

My partner Stan with the business end of a 9th-day bull. Are you prepared to make multiple trips with 80-100# loads after 5-10 long days of hunting?

With archery elk seasons just a few weeks away, there’s still time shed some pounds and get your lungs and muscles tuned up for the hunt. The following is a simple routine I’ve used to get my body back in “elk shape”, which I define as getting your body tuned up for the rigors of all things elk hunting under the hot sun of late August (Oregon) and September. Going day after day on little sleep, biking countless miles of dusty logging roads, hiking in and out of clear-cuts, and traversing dozens of steep, fern-choked drainages will suck the life out of you if you’re not physically and mentally prepared. Top it off with a successful hunt and the demands intensify exponentially as you must deal with expedient meat care and transport out of the field.

I’ll go over my meals first because your body needs food to perform. And as you exercise more, your body needs high quality fuel to draw upon, starting with breakfast every single day. Next, I’ll share my typical workout routine. I have an office job so it’s not always easy to drop everything to workout. To be successful, you must prioritize your workouts and block time on your calendar to ensure you hold yourself accountable.
Before we begin, I suppose I should add the “see your doctor before starting any exercise program” disclaimer here because we’re all different and only you and your doctor can determine which work-out routine is best considering your age, health, and physical condition. I’m not a dietician either but common sense is nearly all you need here.

A Daily Meal Guideline – What I Eat and Why

Here’s the general approach I take with regard to my daily meals. Again, this is more about eating LESS, not eating exactly what I eat. It’s proven that 4-6 small meals throughout the day are better for your metabolism than 2-3 big meals. Healthy snacks serve to fill the gaps and keep your main meal portions under control. I dropped 15 pounds in a few short weeks following this general plan and by exercising a few days per week, 30-40 minutes each session.

  • Breakfast – You need to eat breakfast everyday as it plays a role in getting your metabolism ramped up, not to mention your body needs fuel in the morning for optimum performance throughout the day. I like to start each day with protein. I have low cholesterol and low blood pressure so I will eat a hardboiled egg or two on a regular basis, or I have low-fat yogurt mixed with about a 1/3 cup of granola. I like fresh fruit so a banana or some blue berries go down the hatch as well.
  • Snack – A handful or almonds or peanuts or an apple or another piece of fruit or baggy of carrot sticks/veggies.
  • Lunch – 1/2 sandwich consisting of lunchmeat, mustard, and whole grain bread. I don’t eat big lunches anymore and I use my post-lunch exercise routine as a forcing function to keep my meals lighter. One workout spent burping up a large spicy chicken lunch special from the local teriyaki joint is all it takes to get my point.
  • Snack – more nuts or I keep my mouth busy with sunflower seeds.
  • Dinner – Grilled chicken, salmon, halibut, elk, deer, etc, steamed veggies (eat as much as you want), and another side. My wife and I try to create balanced dinners because it’s the last meal of the day. Plus, we want to role model sitting down as a family each evening to share a hearty home-cooked meal for our kids.
  • Snack (optional) – I stay up late just about every night so every once in a while, I’ll have a light snack around 9:30 or so. Many experts ban eating after 7PM or something like that. Well, I’m more of a realist and believe that getting in shape doesn’t have to be miserable. Snacking on carrot sticks or some popcorn aren’t going to hurt you.

What’s In A Workout?

As I mentioned, I work in a typical cubicle office environment and I tend to spend many hours per day sitting in front of my computers. Finding time to work out is always a challenge given the number of meetings and constant state of change that occurs throughout a given day or week. Therefore, I keep my workouts simple, accessible, and doable. And I try to work my whole body over the course of each week. The main thing to remember is you don’t need a gym membership to get in shape. You simply need to be resourceful.

For example, my office building is five stories high and like all buildings there are multiple sets of stairs that connect the ground floor to the roof. One day I discovered one of these stairwells in a lonely corner of the building, away from much, if any, human activity. Perfect.

I run (10) sets 3 days per week. I alternate sets of doubles (two stairs at a time) and singles to mix it up but that is not important. Walking alone will burn calories like a California wildfire. You can also add a pack and some weight or carry a couple 5# dumbbells to work your shoulders and arms.

I also like to hammer out 20 elevated push-ups after every third set. This gives my legs a short rest while engaging my upper body in a vigorous burn, all the while keeping my heart rate up.

Not that it matters but I can complete this workout in about 18 minutes. I state this only to point out that you can do a lot with very little, and in small blocks of time. You just need to get up and do it!

On the opposite days I like to do a 7K route from my office down to the beach and back. It’s a nice run through the woods and I don’t really push it too hard. It keeps my muscles loose and provides some good cardio stamina over time. If you don’t like to run, you can ride a bike but be sure you’re riding some hills or varied terrain to actually get a workout.

On one weekend day each week I put on a pack loaded up with anywhere between 50-70# of dumbbells (wrapped in towels) and get into the woods. This is my fun workout because I’m out hiking with a pack on; setting up or checking trailcams, scouting, and otherwise not thinking about working out. I’m just covering ground and working my body in the same manner that elk season does.

If you do have access to a gym, that’s even better. I happen to have an on-site gym at my office so occasionally I will work in some upper body workouts after doing the stairs. It gets busy so I don’t use it often. Instead I do push-ups, sit-ups, and a variety of dumbbell workouts at home in the evenings.

Parting Thoughts

Each person must decide how much work they need to do in order to get tuned up for hunting season. And remember, even if you’re already at an appropriate size and weight for your age, that doesn’t mean your body is ready for the challenge of getting an elk or other big game critter out of the woods.

Eat less, move more, everyday. With each meal, eat less and with each day find a way to exercise even if it’s a dozen push-ups, sit-ups, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. Just move more; it adds up! Use my routine as a simple example and design a program that’s right for you. Before you know it you’ll be losing weight and feeling great!

I’ll leave you with a quote from a doctor I once interviewed for a project at work. He said, “If you could bottle up the health benefits of 30 minutes of daily exercise, it would cost a lot!”


About the Author

Tom Ryle

Tom Ryle

Tom Ryle's passion for bowhunting has fueled adventures spanning the United States, Canada, and South Africa. He is an official measurer for the Pope and Young Club, NMLRA, NW Big Game Inc., and Oregon Shed Hunters.