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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Exercise to Survive Hunting Season

Right in the middle of the hunting season, it might sound strange to worry about getting enough exercise.

For those of us past 50, however, maintaining a conditioning program through fall and winter can be a life-saving tactic.

Even for those who have never had any threatening health problem diagnosed, staying in shape for wading delta mud or hiking Ozark or Ouachita mountainsides is important.

My pattern has been to begin a serious attempt to get in shape before fall arrives and then to slack off once squirrel, deer, ducks and such take over my spare time.

Obviously, a person doing such things daily is unlikely to lose much from his preseason level of conditioning. But most of us get to spend only one or two days outdoors each week.

That means we get weaker and weaker as the season progresses, unless we work to maintain our stamina level on those town-bound days.

Because I have two Labrador retrievers sharing my duplex apartment, I have to walk a minimum of four miles a day just to keep them happy. Frequently, each dog gets at least a mile walk sometime between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sure, I could probably swing a bank loan and buy a portable kennel to hold those hairy beasts. But even then I would want to take them for at least one long walk daily. I hate cleaning up after them. Two or three hours of walking each day not only allows me to avoid that chore but also keeps me ready to wade a swamp or climb a steep hill. In fact, I am still playing softball each Sunday afternoon with a group of energetic 20-something guys and gals. Often, I am the only one with enough energy to want to keep playing until dark.

If I didn't have the dogs to force me to walk daily, I'd likely spend a bit of time playing basketball two or three times a week to keep in shape. That would be even better than walking, of course. Occasionally, I tie a dog to a fence for a time and shoot hoops with some of the neighborhood youngsters when they are playing in the park near my home.

But the walking is enough at my age. Younger hunters, of course, move a lot faster and go a lot further than I do. So they need basketball or jogging or bicycling to stay in shape. But everyone needs some extra exercise to be in shape for tough winter hunting conditions when mornings can be brutally cold and afternoons can be stifling hot in Arkansas' flatlands.

Exceptions may be those whose work requires a lot of exercise. They are lucky. Sitting at a computer terminal as I do 40 hours a week is the opposite of exercise. I have to be grateful to the dogs, even when rain or snow or ice on the street makes me want to stay indoors in the middle of the night.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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