What you need to know about prepper physical fitness
When it comes to prepper equipment, the absolute most important tool every prepper owns is the one between their ears! However, that soft, squishy grey matter is very fragile, and MUST be protected at all times! Fortunately, we have a self propelled, self repairing protective cover for our brain.
Capable of great feats, our bodies are very adaptable to many different situations and environments. The bounds of human endurance have been pushed beyond measure. For example, the name Aron Ralston may not be familiar with you. But I’m pretty sure his story is. The movie 127 Hours starting James Franco is based upon his story.
Google the name Colin Armstrong (of the SAS) and read his (and his team’s) story of endurance. It is an amazing story. The book Bravo Two Zero is based upon his story. (It’s a good read!)
Despite our body’s ability to adapt and persevere in times of danger and turmoil, we must still take care of it. And unfortunately, that is something that so many preppers do not do. Too many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle. It has become so bad that according to the CDC, 1 out of 3 Americans are now considered obese. Not just overweight, but obese!
It should go without saying that all the gear and supplies in the world won’t be of much good if you are so out of shape and overweight that you cannot use them.
Why preppers need to be in shape
So many preppers plan for a long-term, grid down scenario and do not realize just how hard and strenuous on their bodies it would be. At the beginning of this year, I took a part-time job as a mail carrier. There were days that I walked 16 to 18 miles in weather conditions that were less than ideal…ie cold, icy, and rainy. I did this while carrying a mail sack that was probably 25 to 30 pounds.
I’m here to tell you, it was an eye opening experience for me. I thought I was in ok shape, but I learned I have a ways to go. The first few days I came home completely exhausted and went straight to bed. My feet would be killing me! My arms and shoulders ached. But after a few days my body was beginning to adapt. And I was happy that I was pushing myself physically.
After a month or so, I had to quit. Not because of the physical exertion, but because it was interfering with my full-time job. (And because there is a lot of micromanagement that I did not care for.)
In some ways, I hated leaving that job. I actually appreciated the way I had to push my body. And while I try to stay physically active and in decent shape, I learned that is NOT the same thing as working a physically demanding job all day long. So if you think you are going to grab your bug out bag, and take off on foot during a SHTF event, think again! The same thing goes for suddenly having to live “off-grid”. Planting crops and chopping wood all day is HARD work, even with modern tools and equipment. In a long-term, grid down situation, you may not have those luxuries.
Intense physical labor in hard enough, but finding yourself fighting in a life or death situation is even harder! Combat is the most intense, rigorous thing that you put your body through. Whether it is a gun fight, or hand to hand combat, the physical and mental stamina needed is so much more than most people realize. Even in dangerous situations that are not TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It), being fit and in shape can and will save your life.
Now this is not to say that you need to be able to run marathons to be physically ready for the challenges of a SHTF scenario. The fact is, there are different types of physical fitness. And being fit in just one area will most likely not be enough.
Components Of Physical Fitness
- Cardiovascular endurance is the ability to take in and deliver oxygen to the working muscles to produce energy to sustain activity.
- Anaerobic power is the ability to make short, intense bursts of maximal effort, which underlies the ability to run short distances and up stairs.
- Muscular strength refers to the muscles’ ability to generate maximal force; it is necessary for performance in control and restraint situations.
- Muscular endurance refers to the muscles’ ability to sustain sub-maximal force, which is necessary for lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying.
- Flexibility, the ability to use the available range of motion at a given joint or structure, is challenged in common tasks such as bending over as well as much less frequent ones, for instance a foot pursuit.
- Body composition, the ratio of fat to lean tissue, is associated with physical performance as well as health.
Each of these can and will play a role in your survival during a SHTF event. There might be a time you have to make a quick retreat to a safer area. Other times you might have a long, physically demanding job that requires muscular endurance more so than muscular strength. (Chopping wood for example.) So you should pay attention and work on each of these components.
According to an article in the US News and World Report, Americans spend around $60 BILLION a year on losing weight and getting in shape. That amount of money is staggering! But the fact is, you can drop some weight and get yourself into better shape than you are now without spending a dime! (In fact you might save a little money.) All it requires is just a few changes on your part, and a bit of patience.
You need to burn about 3500 calories more than you take in to drop a pound of weight. So if you reduce your caloric intake by about 500 calories a day, you can drop about a pound a week. To give you a reference point, 500 calories is roughly equal to 2 slices of pepperoni pizza. So reducing 500 calories a day is actually easier than you might think. As I said, a few simple changes and you can easily cut the 500 calories without too much effort.
For example, I get up 30 minutes early 5 to 6 days a week and take my dogs for a walk. We only walk for about 25 minutes or so, but that is usually a little over a mile for me, and burns a 120 to 150 calories or so. I also do this before I eat breakfast, which according to multiple studies, will help me metabolize around 200 more calories throughout the day.
I also do not eat anything after about 7 pm. Studies have found that people who snack after 7pm usually add another 250 to 300 calories to their daily intake. And because the body does not need as much energy while it sleeps, this food is often stored as fat and not burned for energy.
I would also recommend getting to bed a bit earlier. Multiple studies have shown that folks who sleep less than the recommended 7 or so hours a night tend to consume up to 300 more calories the next day.
About 30 minutes before each meal, drink 12 to 16 oz of water. Doing so will help you to feel more full, and those who do typically consume around 150-200 calories less a day. For that matter, ditch sugary sodas and stick with just water! A 12 oz can of Coke has 140 calories and almost no nutritional value, so skip it. That goes for diet sodas too, which can be just as bad for you if not worse! Studies have found that folks who drink diet soda actually consume 90-200 more calories a day than those who drank regular soda.
Skip the elevator at work, and take the stairs. Doing this several times a day can drop another 50 to 100 calories, depending upon how often you go up and down them.
And finally, reduce the amount of sugary and salty snacks you eat. Notice I said reduce! An occasional donut or small bag of Cheetos is not going to kill you. And it can help reduce some cravings. But you have to cut back. Replace some of those snacks with things like apples or bananas. Most convenience stores now sell fresh fruit. So grab an apple as opposed to a blueberry muffin!
By following several of these calorie reducing tips, you could easily drop 20 or more pounds in a year. You just have to stick with it.
But along with diet, you need some exercise!
If you have the money, a gym membership would certainly help. (Assuming you actually go.) But money and/or time might be a reason that makes going to the gym much more difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do some little things to help improve your physical well being. So for those of you who don’t have the luxury if going to a gym (and are also pressed for time), here are some hints and tips to help get your exercise in every day!
I’m sure you have heard the adage about 30 minutes of exercise a day. This is absolutely true. Researchers recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise in each week. (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.) However, this can change with a few different variables.
For example, do you REALLY do 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 to 7 days a week? Or are you more of a hit and miss type of person? Are you trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, or are you trying to lose weight? Are you eating healthy a majority of the time? Or do you have cheat days more often than you want to admit? Do you walk for 30 minutes a day? Or are you actually working up a sweat?
I know that life,work, family, etc have a way of consuming all of your time. And you might not think you have 30 minutes to spare. But in reality, you can find 30 minutes a day, and it does not have to be all at once.
For me, I mentioned getting up 30 minutes early, and taking my dogs for a walk. That early morning walk helps give me energy, and I find that I drink less coffee. Like I said, I also burn around 120 to 150 calories, and my pooches LOVE it!
Yes, there are days that I miss. So when that happens, I do some of the following to try and make up the difference:
- I sneak in a 15 to 20 minute workout on my lunch hour. Something as easy as walking around the building can add up! I have always managed to find a co-worker or two who want to join me to help themselves get fit as well!
- If you enjoy watching TV in the evenings, get up and exercise during the commercials. Walk in place, do jumping jacks, etc. Over the course of a 30 minute sitcom you can get in 8 to 9 minutes of exercise.
- Buy a lightweight pair of dumbbells and incorporate them into your exercises. A University of Pittsburgh study concluded that swinging 1- to 3-pound hand weights while walking, or performing a similar exercise, burns between 3% and 155% more calories than comparable exercise performed without hand weights. The results will depend on the size of the weights and how far you swing them in each stride. (If you have high blood pressure, consult your doctor first.)
- Try doing simple exercises while sitting at your desk. To give you some ideas of these exercises, click this link.
- Skip the elevator at work. If you work in a high rise, then take the stairs up and down for three or four floors and then take the elevator. I never use the elevator at work.
- When the need to use the bathroom hits me at work, I don’t use the closest one. I walk up/down a flight of stairs to a bathroom further away, then walk back.
- Instead of rushing to get the parking spot closest to the entrance, park further away and walk. Do this at work, the mall, the grocery store, etc. Those extra steps really add up! And if possible, carry the grocery bags instead of using the shopping cart in the parking lot.
- Buying a pedometer is an easy way to keep track of how much exercise you do. This particular one ($15) also tracks your sleep and your caloric intake. All of these are important in tracking your fitness goals.
Physical fitness and health are so easily overlooked by many preppers. But in reality, your physical and mental well-being IS the reason you prep. As mentioned before, all the gear, equipment, and even skills will be of little use to you if you are too ill or out of shape to reasonably use them.
Will the above tips and hints make you physically ready for the challenges of a serious SHTF event? By themselves no. But being in better shape than you are now will certainly help you. Much more so than being overweight and out of shape! Even if you never find yourself in a SHTF event, being healthy and in shape will improve the quality of your life, and will allow you to live longer. So in reality, this is the first prep you should undertake!
If you have other prepper fitness training or health tips, please leave them in the comments section below.
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