Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
One oft-overlooked factor in survival is fitness. How many preppers do you know who rest on laurels of athletic prowess back in their 20s? Whose idea of exercise is getting up to go to the refrigerator, lobbing a crumpled can to the garbage can? Who talks the talk, but never walks 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 lightning 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 anyway. 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.
Need some guidance on getting in shape? Get our Bug Out Boot Camp book. A personal trainer and nutrition expert put together this 93-page book just for preppers, to guide us through the best, science-based information about nutrition, weight loss, fitness, sleep, and mindset and help you reach your goals.
There is not one prep greater than your own body and mind. That sounds like a broad, sweeping statement, but it’s 100% true. If you aren’t fit – both physically and mentally – all your preps may very well be worthless.
If you are not physically fit, you know it, even if you don’t want to admit it out loud. Fitness is the key to emergency preparedness. But it’s HARD. Most people don’t have any idea about how to reach their health goals.
It’s time to get fit and healthy. Don’t be the weak link in your family’s survival plan! Get the book here: Bug Out Boot Camp
Thank you, I needed this.
So very true Daisy. I see videos of supposed preppers but their body looks as though they would have trouble walking to the car let alone trekking for miles through the woods.
Walking is great exercise. People overlook the benefits of walking and want to jump into a hardcore exercise routine and get burnt out because they are not seeing the results they want as fast as they think they should.
It is a misnomer when people say they want to lose weight. What they mean is they want to lose fat. Losing weight is easy. You can cut your hair off and you would have lost weight but it would not have made a noticeable difference in your body composition. You also want to do your best to not lose muscle mass. It would be of no use if the weight you lost was muscle and you became even more weak and flabby.
If a person is interested in getting into shape then yes, they need to walk 30-45 minutes per day. They should get their heart rate up in a fat burning zone. They need to find their max heart rate. To do so subtract your age from 220 if you are male and from 226 if you are female. Optimal fat burning occurs from 50-70% max heart rate. An example would be a 35 year old female would have a max heart rate of 191. To find the range multiply 191 by .5 and .7 and your range would be about 96 – 134. This is why walking is a great fat burning tool. You may not burn as many calories but what you do burn is mostly fat.
The following link has some useful information people might find helpful.
Getting your body to the point where you are not out of breath hiking with a pack and can do the physical work necessary to live for a living is not easy. There are no get in shape quick plans. You are wasting your money buying supplements and diet pills. You have to want to do it. You have to make the time to be physically active. You have to stop going to the drive through and learn to prepare meals at home. If you are reading this you probably already do.
The best food advice I have is to eat real food. During my body transformation journey I have so far lost 7.5″ from my waist. I have changed my body fat % from 42 to 33. I have approximately of 160lbs of lean body mass. I currently weigh 239lbs. My starting point was 271 and only 157lbs of lean body mass. So I have gained about 3lbs of lean body mass while burning about 35lbs of fat. I eat real food which means I eat a mix of fats, proteins and carbs. Tonights meal was roasted butternut squash with butter and maple syrup, roasted brussel sprouts tossed in olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and chicken marinated in olive oil, thyme, rosemary, kosher salt and pepper. Deprivation does not work. You can’t walk around hungry all the time. You will cave and stuff some cake in your mouth that a co-worker brought to the office or grab supper from a sack. Your prepper mindset should kick in and you should have a healthy snack in your pocket or glove compartment so you can quell your hunger until you get to where you control the portion and what went into your meal.
The next is to watch portions. Do this by measuring actual quantities you consume and record them in a food diary. There are free online food diaries and databases to give you calorie contents of most any food you can think of. Once you have kept your portions under control for a few weeks you will have shrunk your stomach. Once you successfully shrink your stomach you need to learn to listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or are you mistaking thirst for hunger? Let’s say you are really hungry at dinner. You wolf down your plate of food and you are still hungry. Instead of instantly going for seconds, drink a glass of water and wait 30 minutes. If your hunger subsides, you were not really hungry but your stomach had yet to send your brain the signal to stop eating. If after your wait you are still hungry, eat a half portion. It is not easy
You need to eat low starch vegetables. Lettuces, greens, spinach, chard, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, peppers and onions just to name a few. These have the ability to fill you up without adding tons of calories. A fair warning though, they also clean you out :)Stay away from corn unless you grew it yourself and know the seed was non-GMO or find packaged corn that is non-GMO. Even getting corn from a friend or farmers market can be iffy due to the proliferation of GM seed. Keep apples, bananas, oranges, nuts, on hand for quick snacks. Use real peanut butter. It has one, maybe two ingredients. Peanuts and salt. Most commercial crap has refined sugar added to it. Get your sweets from nature. Honey, maple syrup, raw sugar if you can find it. Fat is your friend if you use good fats. Cold pressed olive oil, homemade lard from pigs you raised cause the commercial stuff is crap because of the additives to extend shelf life, butter, and fatty foods like pistachios and avocados. Any meat you grow is great but be careful of what you buy in the store. Learn where your meat comes from and what those animals ate and where injected with. Same goes for dairy.
Like Daisy has said before, we are not bears. We can’t live off of our stored fat. A fit healthy person will survive much longer than an out of shape person. For one, the healthy person being chased doesn’t have to out run the chaser, just out run the out of shape person. Also getting in shape is important because it will allow many people to get off of high blood pressure and type II diabetes medicines. If the SHTF you won’t be getting these meds and no matter what your food stores look like you will not live if you can’t live w/o those meds.
Huuwah! good write up
How about moving to a neighborhood with a high walk score, ditching the car completely, and making walking your primary mode of transportation?
Forget walking for exercise. Walking can be your “new car”.
Please re-post this every fall when i start slowing down, it starts getting dark early, and holiday pumpkin rolls are on my mind!!!
I live NYC, no car, walk or take subway. Using the subway involves a lot of exhausting stair-climbing. Many people live in 100 year old tenement buildings with no elevators. I lived for years in a 4 story walk-up, carrying groceries and laundry up 4 flights of stairs. I’ve had friends from Colorado visit me, bragging about the mountain climbing and hiking they do, only to collapse in exhaustion after living a day in an ordinary NYCer’s life. When i lived in the suburbs i marveled at how physically easy suburban life is compared to city life.
Don’t forget about age. Most people are surprised about my age, and never guess that I have bum knees (genetic..thanks grandma!) but the reality is that wear and tear on the body occurs. My husband has been doing the same work for almost his entire life, but he cannot keep up as he used to. We eat well, and he is very active, but that was then and this is now. Just Saying.
I agree with your points, Daisy. A lot of people always take their health and their physical fitness for granted. Walking is a great exercise to keep you in good shape. You really don’t have to go to the gym and sign up for a membership just to be physically fit. You could at least walk or jog 30 mins to an hour per day. To be physically fit takes a lot of motivation and consistency. I take my dogs with me for a long walk, or do treadmill on rainy days.
Stairs are another great way to get in shape. I moved into a third floor walk-up two years ago and can now go from the top floor to basement level, check the mail and back to my apartment in about five minutes, give or take, and barely be breathing hard.
You also don’t need to be worried about the weather. If you don’t have safe stairs at home, you might have them at work or in a public building near home. And you can always play the theme from “Rocky”for inspiration.
Footwear is important. If starting out, begin with what are called “trail runners”. These are running shoes that are designed for off road running. They are lightweight enough to be comfortable yet are durable enough for more rugged terrain. Eventually, you will want to consider hiking shoes/boots which are heavier but provide more ankle support for carrying heavier loads like a backpack. Be sure to break in your shoes before you will really need them.
The COVID era made me extremely sedentary. As a result, I have multiple aches throughout my body. I purchased your Bug Out Bootcamp e-book and started implementing it last week. Don’t feel better quite yet, but I’ll get there.