One oft-overlooked factor in survival is fitness. How many preppers do you know who rest on laurels of athletic prowess back in their twenties? Whose idea of exercise is getting up to go to the refrigerator, lobbing a crumpled can to the garbage can? Who talk the talk, but never walk the walk, especially if it consists of walking that walk in inclement weather?
In many different survival situations, your personal fitness level can mean the difference between life and death. We’ve already talked about maintaining and achieving a healthy body weight – now let’s talk about being fit.
A prepper’s forte is playing “what if” so let’s play that game right now and look at some examples where being able to move quickly for a long time, possibly in adverse conditions, would be vital.
- Bug out. Perhaps martial law has been instituted, house-to-house searches are occurring, and vehicle checkpoints are everywhere, so you and your family have no choice but to set out on foot, through the backcountry. With a 40-pound bug out bag strapped to your back. Carrying a toddler. Over mountains.
- Car crash. Maybe you are returning home after a visit with family. You are, of course, on the most isolated road known to man, in the middle of the night, when your vehicle goes into a skid, takes out the railing and tumbles down a mountain. Miraculously, you survive, but then you realize that no one can see your car. You have no choice but to wiggle out through the window, climb that darned mountain, and walk for help.
- Kidnapped. Somehow, you’ve been kidnapped and taken to a cabin someplace deep in the forest. Through a stroke of luck, you escape the cabin, and begin to hie off through the woods, but your kidnappers aren’t far behind. In this situation, the person in the best physical condition wins. Whoever can run for the longest, wins.
- EMP. An EMP strike or solar flare has taken out the grid, as well as all the vehicles. If you want to get anyplace other than where you are, it is most likely that you will have to walk. If, for example, you’re at work, you are going to have to trek your way home to be with your family. Whatever the distance, whatever the terrain, you better start walking now.
These examples, of course, are what happens immediately, when you must escape something. What about those long days after the initial disaster, ones of plowing fields, chopping wood, and lugging water?
As a prepper, your personal health and fitness level can be your most valuable asset. Just as important as tools, weapons and plans, your ability to simply move your body for a long time without stopping can be the difference between life and death.
And it all starts with walking.
Of course, there are many components to fitness and eventually we will talk about all of those. But the best place to start is to lace up your sneakers and walk.
(This is where I tell you, as I am legally bound to do, that you should seek the advice of your physician before starting this or any other exercise program.)
When people start a walking program, they tend to make one of two mistakes.
1.) They push themselves way too hard and end up getting so sore on the very first day that they are virtually crippled from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
2.) They don’t push themselves hard enough and stop the second they begin to feel out of breath.
Your starting point depends on your current fitness level, of course, but that can be hard to judge if you have been moving from sitting on your rear at your desk at the office over to sit on your rear on the sofa at your house. So I generally recommend that you start with 30 minutes.
If you are truly sedentary, don’t kill yourself by trying to set a rapid pace for your 30 minute walk. You should walk at a very comfortable pace for at least 5 minutes to warm up your body. Then, speed up to the point that speaking is possible but not super-easy. Your heart rate should be elevated enough that your speech is limited to short bursts of words, not Shakespearean monologues. If you get to the point that you can only gasp out a word at a time, you are pushing yourself too hard, and you need to slow down.
If you need to slow down, that doesn’t mean stop! Keep going, just at a slow, easy pace. This is you, building your endurance. Unless you are having the symptoms of an actual heart attack (extreme shortness of breath, faintness, dizziness, pain down one arm, etc) keep moving at a slow pace as you catch your breath.
About 5 minutes before your walk is over, drop back your pace a little to cool down.
As you become more fit, you can make things more difficult and more akin to survival situations. You can add hills, obstacles, increase your speed, carry a loaded pack, or walk for longer to add to the challenge.
Some things that help:
- A dog. My dog would walk FOR-E-VER! Walking a dog is a great way to keep motivated and will result in not only a healthier you, but a healthier and better-behaved pet too.
- A buddy. A walking buddy will help you maintain a pace. As well, we are much less likely to cancel our walk if a friend is going to be let down when we don’t show up.
- Tunes. My Ipod full of headbanging rock is my favorite piece of workout equipment. I opt for music with a beat that mimics the pace I want to keep. I like energetic, heavy driving music to keep me motivated. Make a playlist of whatever inspires you to move quickly. Sometimes I’ll walk a little further just because there is a really great song on. I save the Ipod for walks, making it a special treat.
Safety note: I recommend only using one headphone. Whether you are in the city or out in the woods, like me, wearing two headphones and making yourself deaf is the equivalent of wearing a “Prey” t-shirt. It’s important to always be aware of your surroundings.
Remember that you can have all of the preps in the world, but if you can’t walk far enough to get to them, they will do you no good whatsoever. In fact, they’ll feed the next guy, you know, the one who’s out there pounding the pavement every day! He is in shape enough to get to them.
Your physical stamina can mean the difference between life and death, not only for you, but for those who depend on you. Just get out there and walk and within a month, you will see that your 30 minute walk takes you a lot further than it did when you began.
And a word about excuses. Okay, a few words, because there are oh-so-many excuses.
Unless I am going to be struck by lightening or die of hypothermia because I’ve gotten soaked in sub-zero temperatures, I walk. There are many days that I look out the window at the gray skies and think, oh, man, I don’t want to walk today! But I do it any way. Why?
Because, if you are a prepper, you are training for life. You are training for events that happen at the most inopportune times. Rarely does a disaster conveniently time itself on a sunny day of moderate temperatures. Nope, if you have to hike away from a car accident, it likely happened because of ice or rain on the roads. You will be hiking away from it through the pouring rain. If a crime has been perpetrated on you, and you must flee, are you going to take your chance when it presents itself, or will you say, “Yeah, it’s raining, dude. I’m just gonna hang out with this serial killer until it clears up.”
You aren’t made of sugar. You aren’t going to melt. Just walk.
And yes, you do have time. Unless you are moving from the moment you get up in the morning until the moment you go to bed, you can find 30 minutes to go for a walk. Trust me, after you get used to it, your body will crave it and you’ll feel so much better! If you really truly are that busy, break your walk up into two 15 minute walks, or even 3 ten minute walks. There really are very few days that you can’t take 30 minutes from your day to do something wonderful and potentially life-saving.
You’re sick? Are you really, truly sick? If you are, you’re right. You should stay home, tucked under the covers. But if you have a bit of a headache, low energy, some female problems, or just general lethargy, you may be surprised at how much better you feel after a bit of exercise and fresh air. Exercise is nature’s anti-depressant and sometimes those minor aches and pains are related to mood more than they are actual physical maladies.
You don’t have to start with a Marine Corp Mud Run. You see all those big buff dudes running down the road in fatigues, carrying an 80 lb. pack? Let ‘em run! You, my friend, are just going to walk today. You are going to get started and you are going to find your own path to fitness. This isn’t about comparing yourself to those who are more fit or more strong than you. Everyone is not capable of doing what an Ironman Triathlete does, but just about everyone is capable of more than they are doing right now. If you challenge yourself, you might just be amazed at what you can do once you’ve built a base of fitness.
Today. Right now. If it’s the middle of the night when you’re reading this, then you can wait until tomorrow. But remember that the sooner you start, the sooner you are ready to face survival challenges head on. You, keeling over from a heart attack while you bug out, will be one less thing that you (and those with you) have to worry about.
Getting into better shape is something you will never regret. Even if you never need to be more fit because of a survival situation, you still get all the health and well-being benefits from doing it. Your body and those who love you will thank you!
“I got fit and I never even had to escape from a deranged stalker! What a waste of time!” said no one, ever.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, where this article first appeared, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org