Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Heath Benefits of Hunting

Health Benefits of Hunting.
Not to mention climbing, hiking, swimming, and camping

Confession one: I'm fat. However, I am no where near as fat as I used to be, and for that I am grateful to God, and hunting. Yes, hunting.

I was very fit when I met my wife. Confession two: I had been fat before that too. I got in shape. I met my wife. (see how that worked?) My wife is now, and has always been, pretty fit. She can eat anything, have a kid, and be slim again three weeks later. Other women must hate her. No one has ever said anything though. Neither did she ever say anything as the fit man she met at a frat party where there was too much drinking and stupidity going on steadily put on weight. The truth is I decided (pretty much that evening) that I was "off the market" permanently. Dating her and having her offer me her left-over-half-a-bacon-cheese-burgers over and over pretty much put an end to the whole fitness thing. Besides, I was too busy learning what a real college education looked like (My wife is a Mount Holyoke alum... Literature...) and I was quite frankly going through a bit of a transformation. My grades shot up through the stratosphere as I worked to be worthy of this woman who was dating me.

But the truth is, once I knew that I loved her, and wanted to marry her, (and I knew this after around a week knowing her) I simply lost all motivation to be in shape. I mean, why bother? My motivations for getting into shape back in college were obviously not related to my health. Thank God I met my wonderful wife, and did not instead travel down the path I thought I wanted to travel down as a concupiscent 21 year old. Looking back I can see how God prevented me from falling into serious sin at key times, and for that I am grateful to His providence. I did enough harm to others without doing any more...  (Thank God too for His mercy)

I have been married for almost 15 years now, and for 14 of those years I have been.... well... fat.

Last year something started to change in me though. Knowledge that 40 was coming up was one motivator. I have three kids and my lovely wife stays home and home-schools them. We have a mortgage and bills so there is a lot of weight on my shoulders, financially and otherwise. The reality is, if I die or stop functioning as well, despite making sure I have good insurance, there is a lot of suffering 4 people who depend on me to fulfill a certain role would have to go through. Last year I started looking in the mirror and having thoughts like that. My appearance? To be honest, I had no reason any longer to care. But when I considered the important stuff, when I looked at my reflection I thought: "not good." I knew that I was not as energetic as I used to be. I knew I had to keep on my toes at work, keep doing a good job, for decades into the future. Retirement quite frankly is not something I can afford ever to think about. My choice. Not whining. Glad we made it. But there it is.

Those realizations, and my doctor's scoldings, were still not enough though. Then I discovered this guy. Reading about a dude who climbed Everest in his early twenties, joined the SAS (the British version of our SEALS), and then became head of the world wide scouting movement not to mention a "survivalist" might have demotivated a younger me. Not so now. Watching his show and reading his books fired me up. I did not need to climb Everest. I knew that. But I needed an "Everest." I needed something, something challenging and real and physical and manly, to get me up off the couch and down to the cellar where the weights are. And I had to get a handle on my eating.

As a child I spent 4 years living in England, so I could really relate to Grylls' childhood experiences. The fact that he had three boys, and wasn't afraid to talk about Christ and his faith, was powerful too. I decided I wasn't above adopting a celebrity role model, and did so. He was about my age and in incredible shape and climbing mountains and rappelling and traversing streams. Why not me? Why not fulfill my childhood dream of going hunting, fishing, hiking, and wilderness camping? It was finally time to get serious. If this guy could kill a deer with his bare hands and eat the eyeballs and kidneys raw, I could get one with a bow and field-dress it and cook venison tacos. I mean... common!

I also was spending time on facebook and watching my friends' running and weight loss successes, and I found this highly motivating.  Everyone now is a runner. It is unbelievable. I tried that. I even did 5k. But you know what? Running is for a certain type of person, and it's not me. I know it's all the rage, but I have to lift things, climb, hike, and shoot stuff. For me, if there is no danger at all it just isn't.... I dunno... doing anything. If I'm running I want it to be away from a boar or something else interesting and dangerous.

I knew all this was coming to a head when I went shopping for camos this summer, but I bought big ones anyway. I had "sort of" resolved to get in shape before. Why would this time be any different? But it was different. Training for hunting season had become my motivation. Being able to safely use that climbing tree stand (and not look like a camo ensconced walrus in heat while using it) was my motivation. Being outside with the bow and killing difficult quarry had become my motivation. Finally, after years of being pretty significantly overweight, I have managed to drop thirty pounds with the help of Weight Watchers. I have been lifting and doing squats for the exact purpose of being able to get up the tree without breaking a sweat, and it is amazing to see the work paying off. Now, I am quickly approaching my goal weight.

Venison instead of beef is another part of the reason I have been so successful. Do the points. You can have almost two venison burgers to one beef burger. The stuff is healthy and better for you. I know that the science is somewhat inconclusive, but for me, grass-fed and organic is superior to the modern "farm" raised alternative any day.  That is for another blog entry however.

What concerns me here is health, and the health benefits of the outdoors. Hiking, camping, hunting: these are not just pass times, they are core parts of what it means to be a human being. Every time we engage in one of these activities we are getting in touch with our roots. We are tapping something primal. Our adrenaline runs so much when we see a buck or kill a deer often get a case of the shakes. All of this has had a cumulative effect on me. The best runners know this too. The fact  is we homo-sapiens run distances well. We can't catch a deer. But we can chase it for a day or more and keep it running away until it overheats and just stops. Then we can throw spears and rocks at it at close range and get a feast. That's how our ancestors did it. Running, at it's core, is about killing, or not being killed. My running friends just remove the fun parts. Hunting and the outdoors are the fun parts.

The fact is hunting, hiking, climbing, camping... these are the things that have motivated me more than anything else to be in shape, and I bet they can motivate other guys too. Let's get out there and hunt, fish, hike, camp, and enjoy and preserve the outdoors. Let's be men and stop apologizing for it. Why not?

(yes... I know women enjoy hunting too... so if the last two sentences annoyed you read this)

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