Uncharted Supply Co. founder & CEO Christian Schauf dives deep into his survival-centered hunting philosophy.
Whether it’s CrossFit, Jiu Jitsu, triathlons, rucking, or a million other derivatives, fitness has become more than a part of life, it’s become an identity. And the outdoor space isn’t excluded; membership-based training plans and programs are everywhere, promising the key to closing the distance on that trophy of a lifetime.
While there’s benefits to all, I personally find rigid training plans difficult to adhere to with a busy and varied life like my own. And while all of these plans provide value, I think they all miss the mark on the most important aspects of true durability and endurance in wild places.
Over the years, I’ve hunted, hiked, and competed with a wide variety of guides, friends, and strangers. I’ve had a front row seat to what differentiates the successful and unsuccessful, those enjoying their time and those struggling. Here are some golden rules I think are easy to follow and key to being the person you want to be in the mountains, or as we like to say at Uncharted Supply Co. — “Be hard to kill”.
Diversity of Environment
Most of us, myself included, have gym memberships. We probably show up at the same time each day, take our pre-workout, grab a fresh towel, and head over to some clean equipment in a temperature-controlled environment with our favorite podcast or playlist in our ears. When we’re done, we go to the steam room, spray a little eucalyptus in the air, and finish with a nice shower.
It’s nice, but it’s not helpful.
The wild, and the animals that live there, are hardly ever predictable. Go time will likely come at a less-than-ideal moment. Chances are the weather sucks, or maybe you just ate 1,200 calories of Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki and were ready for a mid-day nap when an unexpected bugle snapped you into game time.
So why not train to perform during the unexpected? Raining? Good. Go run and have more experience with footing and the shoes or boots you’d wear. Hungover? Get out there and push yourself to work through brain fog and a headache. Throw sandbags around instead of solid weights to better simulate that elk hind quarter you hope to carry back to your truck in the fall. Do it freezing. Do it when it’s blazing hot. Confuse your body so the unexpected becomes expected. And get familiar with your gear, so you’re ready to perform no matter the conditions.
Diversity in Training
Everyone likes to bench press when they’re good at benching. Endurance types like to go for long runs. No matter who you are, you’re better at some things than others. But the best equipped among us are well balanced, and that requires improving your weaknesses while keeping your strengths in tip-top shape. From a training perspective, this has meant that due to my lack of specificity, I’m not really the best at anything—but there are also no sports or endeavors where I can’t hold my own. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and my weakest link is a lot stronger than most.
What’s this look like in application? I rotate between heavy (70-80 pounds) rucks, 20-30 pound weight-vest runs, and long distance runs or bike rides on the weekend (no extra weight). At the gym, I rotate between the basics (bench, squat, pull-ups), mobility, and flexibility (weighted walking lunges with super wide stances, for example), and all-out effort—like pushing a Prowler sled with roughly 150 pounds of weight at maximum effort. I have a loose plan, hitting different body parts each day but also allowing flexibility if I’m working through an injury, etc.
But wait, there’s more… I also make everything I can physical—shoveling snow, carrying groceries, choosing stairs over an escalator. It ALL ADDS UP. As a mentor once told me “Motion is lotion.” And since that day, I’ve looked at life like a gym.
Diversity in Training Partner
I’ve learned from training with others. Whether new lifts or just a speed check on if I was actually as in shape as I thought I was — training with people stronger and faster than you can be humiliating, but is also the quickest way to improve yourself. My buddy Billy Demong is a gold medalist in Nordic Combined—he’s a cardio machine.
Will I ever beat him? No. In fact, I look like the fat rhino in Jumanji when we get on road bikes together, but simply TRYING to hang with him has made me stronger than I ever could have been otherwise. My buddy Daimon is a big cross fitter. He does lifts I would never knew existed without his influence. He’s exposed weaknesses that I can then work on by myself. The list goes on and on.
Make it Hard on Your Mind
I was on a moose hunt a few years back, deep in the Yukon. My guide was 26 years old and incredible. From fixing horse tack to finding animals, he was an amazing guide. But one day, the weather changed, things turned to ice and snow—the horses began falling and slipping, visibility was zero, and he lost it. He went from in control to freaking out about too many things at once.
I remember him standing there, early in the morning, already worried about things that could happen that night. At that point, I became the guide, because frankly, I’d been here before. I focused him on one step at a time, and through that, we made it through our day and back to camp. For all the hunting he’d done, and for how capable and tough he was, he lost his mind in that moment, and it overwhelmed him.
Yes, some of this comes from experience, but there are also things you can do to increase your learning. Create challenges for yourself—try to find your way home without GPS when you’ve crushed yourself on a long run. See if you can warm yourself without the use of a hand warmer or fire. See how long you can operate in an uncomfortably cold or hot or wet state. As Norman Schwarzkopf famously said, “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Test yourself when you actually have an out, so you’re more prepared when you don’t have one.
Stick to your training plan, be an animal, but don’t forget that most of life happens outside of a gym. My thought? You should train for that.