Of the myriad of preparedness topics, one that is often shunned is that of prepper fitness. It is easy to see why. Fitness is hard work and with busy lives that border on frantic, we barely have time to go to work, do our chores, spend time with our families, then crash as our head hits the pillow each night. Physical fitness? What’s that? And why is that important?
In the latest think piece from contributor Richard Broome, we ask that question within the context of a disruptive event and SHTF. Going beyond that, we ask a few questions in our quest to establish a baseline of fitness.
All you have to do is hike ten miles with a twenty or thirty pack on your back to realize that fitness is indeed an important part of prepping. This article is going to make you ponder, no doubt, but beyond that it just might trigger some positive action to set you on the path of prepper fitness, or, what Richard has call “PrepperFit”.
Enjoy this latest think piece and note the special bonus at the end. Richard is giving away an autographed copy of his book Good Crazy, to one Backdoor Survival reader. You are not going to want to miss it.
“If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind.” ― Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
I have been out of town for the last week spending time with my wife, my four children and their spouses, and four grandchildren at a resort in Florida. I know. I know. Seriously? Florida in July? Yet…it was a great family time renewing our connections before we scattered all over the country at the end of the vacation and tended to our very busy lives. We will not be together again until my youngest son gets married during the holidays this winter.
As I spent time sitting in the shade of a large umbrella, watching my family splash about in a pool, I took note of the other people at the resort and was taken aback some by the fairly rotund people around me. Montana’s lifestyle requires a certain level of fitness. Admittedly there are plenty of people in Montana who could stand to lose a pound or two or more (and, I reluctantly, but honestly must count me in this group). Most Montanans I know here like to hunt, fish, hike, bike, ski and have the physical fitness level to do this.
So, back to that pool in Florida. As we age, it is clear to me that with our intense lifestyles and demanding careers, many of us are not as fit or lean as we would like. Small wonder. Exercise falls to the bottom of the priority list when all you can do is just cope with each stressful, hectic day.
For me, retired from both the military and the business world, and now teaching at a university, I do have more time each day to try to stay fit. I walk at least a couple of miles every morning with my golden retriever, Molly, and then go to the gym on most days to lift weights and generally workout. But, admittedly, I am very far from that peak level of fitness I had at age eighteen as a high school athlete.
I went into the Army about that age feeling very confident about my physical abilities. No problem, I thought. However, pretty early in boot camp they required us to learn to do the things we were expected to be able to do as soldiers.
The first time we were told to drop to the ground with our rifles cradled in our arms, and then low crawl on our stomachs using only our arms and legs (no getting up on our knees, hands or elbows and crawling like a baby) and move for 50 yards as fast as we could go. I was shocked at the effort this took. It was exhausting.
The drill sergeants did help us though. Every time we tried to rise up and crawl on our knees and elbows, (which would expose us to enemy fire if we ever got that high off of the ground) they kicked us in our rumps to encourage us to learn how to do the low crawl correctly. The second time they had to kick you in the rump, they were also nice enough to have you start over at the beginning of the 50 yards, so you could be really sure you understood how to do it right. It was an early, painful, but necessary lesson as we went through the rites of passage from civilian to soldier.
It got better. As a former football player, a big guy at 6’4”, I was assigned the job of carrying my platoon’s machine gun. Just try walking twelve hours in 100-degree Texas heat carrying a heavy machine gun with its belts of ammunition also draped around your neck. Your shoulders ache. Your arms become rubber.
On the move, there was no place to put the machine gun down. Every time the platoon finally stopped to take a quick break and drink some water out of our canteens, I was grateful to rest the machine gun on the ground for a few moments. By the end of the day, I was so spent I could barely move.
But at the end of the day and getting ready to settle in for the night, the drill sergeants then told me to dig a foxhole that I could shoot the machine gun from. I also had to fill up several sand bags with dirt to surround the foxhole. I could not stop until the drill sergeants were satisfied I had built a good fighting position. I thought I was in great physical shape, but was staggering with exhaustion when I finally finished all of this. It was a level of physical stress and endurance I had never imagined.
So, as we begin to have a conversation on Backdoor Survival about what standards we need to have as preppers, it occurred to me while sitting comfortably in the shade by the pool at that very nice resort in Florida looking at some less than physically fit people, that while preppers may well be ready with the material items they need to gather, will our bodies fail us?
On the long plane ride back from Florida to Montana, I was on one of those airlines that had a TV embedded in the seat back facing you. There are moments when you have read as much as you possibly can, so you are grateful for anything that is on TV on an airplane to help pass the time. I know I was.
I flipped channels until I came across the CrossFit games. Men and women competitors were doing feats of strength and endurance such as picking up a 50 pound bag, running the length of a football field with it, then dropping it and running back to fetch another 50 pound bag until they had several bags moved from one end of the football field to the other. They were doing this as fast as they could to win the event. This struck me as a pretty tough challenge that required peak fitness.
So, in that vein, here are some challenging PrepperFit questions:
–Can you walk for twelve hours carrying a rifle, ammunition, food and water hunting for game, then shoot something and carry a heavy load of meat back for several miles to your shelter?
–If the SHTF and we are all surviving, do you think you could carry in each hand a 2-½ gallon can down to a stream three miles away, fill it with water and then carry it back?
–How long during a day can you chop, split, carry and stack firewood?
–Can you build enough of a woodpile over time to keep from freezing during the winter?
–If you had to run and hide, how much can you carry? How fast can you move?
And…how do you even prepare for something like this without your neighbors thinking you have gone completely bonkers?
Here is the bottom line. My guess is for every 1000 people who read this article about prepper fitness on Backdoor Survival, maybe 25 of you have this level of fitness now and 975 don’t. Just a guess and I am definitely in the 975. I also believe that most of us in the 975 are doing as well as we can, but have no real hope of ever getting into the top 25. Something keeps getting in the way. It is called “Life.” We are who we are. We live how we live. We do what we can do. There is a term for people like us. The term is: “Normal.”
Given my suspicion that most of us will likely be physically challenged if the SHTF, how do you prepare for a sudden increased level of physical demand? I think the most honest approach is to know that you are going to be, as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says, behind before you are out front.
I was able to get through my first weeks of Army boot camp because I had a baseline of high school athletic physical fitness to start with. I was sore and tired each day and would fall into my bunk as soon as our drill instructors turned the lights out in our barracks. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and was always startled when the bugle sounded reveille early the next morning and the drill instructors ran through the barracks yelling at us to get out of our racks. Each day I just kept on, keeping on until my muscles grew stronger and my endurance improved. This experience made a deep impression on me.
If the SHTF I do not feel life will be much different than this for most of us. But…for all of us, the key factor is going to be where you start from on the fitness scale and it cannot be grossly obese and seriously out of physical condition. You may die from the physical shock no matter how materially well prepared you are. As well, if you think a good lunch is a bag of Cheetos chased down by a can of Mountain Dew, I am going to suggest you rethink this lifestyle too.
In short, at whatever age or state of life you are presently in, a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and routine exercise needs to be a baseline for all preppers. There is no way around this.
So, as our starting point to developing a PrepperFit standard, suspecting most of us will only be moderately physically ready for the SHTF moment, here are some questions for all of you.
If asked for your opinion today, before the SHTF, what would your answers be to the following questions?
–How far should a prepper be able to walk in a day right now?
–How far should a prepper be able to swim?
–How far should a prepper be able to carry 30 pounds of dead weight in each hand?
–How far should a pepper be able to carry a 150-pound person on their back?
–How much weight should a prepper be able to lift over their head?
–What other PrepperFit physical standards would you add?
But, most important, how far behind do you think you are right now, before you will be able to get out front?
Richard Earl Broome – Copyright. All Rights Reserved – July 27, 2015
Richard Earl Broome is a contributing author and friend to Backdoor Survival. He has lived an extraordinary life rising from an Army private to an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of their National Security Council staff.
He is considered a national expert on the subjects of preparedness, disaster recovery and survival. He is a frequent contributor of articles about the many threats facing our society, appearing frequently on shows to discuss issues such as pandemics, ISIS, and the cyber threat and how we need to meet the new threat realities facing all of us.
Now living in a small community in Montana, he is a member of the faculty at Montana State University where he teaches leadership. For more about Richard, visit the About Richard page.
The Final Word
On more than one occasion I ask myself why I post articles on the less popular aspects of prepping fitness, for example. After all, traffic, or eyeballs in website-speak, attract advertising which is how most site owners support their efforts. So if a topic is not popular or even uncomfortable, my answer is the same one I used way back when during my years on the corporate world.
“If no one asks the tough questions then nothing will get resolved and this meeting is a waste.”
So there you have it. As proponents of preparedness, we must both ask and answer the tough questions as they relate to our personal situation. And for now, that is all I am going to say about that.
For additional reading, visit Prepper Preparedness: Personal Fitness and Health.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!