Real-Life Survival Story: Are You Fit Enough to Survive?

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by Vic Verdier

Editors Note: Have you ever wondered if you are fit enough to survive a natural disaster? An often-overlooked factor in survival is fitness. Your fitness level can mean the difference between life and death in many different SHTF situations.

Guest Contributor Vic Verdier shares his real-life SHTF survival story. Unfortunately, many others did not survive. Vic discusses various reasons why and what they could have done to up their chances of survival. He offers actionable points on how you, too, can up your fitness level and come out as a survivor.

Idyllic vacation quickly turns into SHTF

7:30 am on the day after Christmas 2004. The sun is already up in the blue sky of the Andaman Sea, and some rare tourists are walking on the main beach of Phi Phi island in Thailand. However, most tourists are still sleeping, dealing with the usual hangover from the traditional Christmas party.

The locals are busy preparing the long tail boats they use to cruise around the nearby islands. Westerners like me, who live there, fill and carry the scuba divers’ tanks to explore the underwater reefs today.

In less than an hour, this idyllic landscape will turn into a dramatic nightmare. Many of those tourists will die, crushed, and drowned by the powerful wave of a tsunami coming from the Indian Ocean.

Was there a way to prevent what happened?

We can no more prevent a tsunami than we can an earthquake in California or a hurricane in Florida.

Scientists can predict a tsunami, multimillion-dollar sensors can detect it, information networks can announce it through various media. But there is no way to prevent it from happening. Governments and local administrations can invest in infrastructures to mitigate the potential risks and better inform the general public.

However, individuals can be better prepared to deal with the consequences of natural disasters. The people who tragically died on this island were not different from any other people on this planet. A vast majority of them were young and relatively fit. They most likely didn’t survive for these three reasons:

  • lack of situational awareness
  • lack of appropriate mindset
  • lack of physical skills

Going on vacation doesn’t mean you leave your survival skills behind

When on vacation on a tropical island, the last thing we want to think about is the remote possibility of a tragic event of any kind. If the place is nice and sunny, we quickly feel safe and let our guard down if the locals are friendly and smiling. (No pickpockets, no fire, no mugging, no car crash, and therefore no need to pay attention to any precursor sign, no need to keep our valuables and documents with us at all times, no need to have a look at evacuation routes, fire exits, etc.)

In other words, we quickly become complacent when everything looks like paradise.

From the extensive list of skills necessary to survive (and not only in SHTF), situational awareness is perhaps the one needed the most to stay alive in the first place. Even with the 7 Pillars of Urban Preparedness in place, no amount of food, ammo, or other ability will matter much to someone caught with their head in the clouds in a disaster or attack.

But lack of situational awareness and appropriate mindset were only two of the reasons for the many fatalities that occurred that day in Thailand.

Another culprit was the lack of physical skills

Many people didn’t survive simply because they lacked the physical abilities to deal with what happened to them and around them. 

  • Some were not able to run away and climb a hill or a stairway. For those on the beach who saw the wave coming, the proper action was to sprint and find high ground. Reaching the highest floor of a hotel or one of the nearby hills was one way to avoid the full force of the tsunami.
  • Some were not comfortable in the water. They couldn’t swim across the strong current that the wave and the obstacles created. The event only lasted a few minutes, but the water raised quickly and submerged the lowest part of the island.
  • Some were not able to hold their breath for a few seconds. When the wave hit the hotels and guesthouses near the beach, most of the rooms were submerged very rapidly, but not for very long. Surprise and panic killed a lot of people in their rooms.
  • Some were not able to hold on to fixed objects for more than a few seconds. The current was strong. Being able to hold on to something, or even better, to climb onto something, was a good way to increase the chance of surviving.
  • Some were not able to push away heavy objects. Entrapment was one of the major risks in this event. Many people drowned because they lacked the necessary strength to move away from the objects that the current pushed onto them.

The western world tends to rely heavily on tools

Westerners like to use tools to make our life easier and tools to make it safer. For example, instead of dealing with the weather, we use tools to make it more bearable (A/C, heater, umbrella, raincoat, sunscreen, etc.). We rely on tools (a car or an ATV) instead of walking and running. And rather than swim, we use a canoe or a boat. Tools are fine and make our life more enjoyable most of the time.

But, what happens when we don’t have them? That’s where skills and physical abilities make plenty of sense. Every one of us, regardless of age, gender and race, should be able to do at least the following things:

  • sprint for at least 100 yards/meters to get out of danger (collapsing building, wildfire)
  • climb over a wall or fence at least shoulder high (to escape an angry pit-bull or a group of thugs)
  • carry for at least 10 yards/meters someone approximately 3/4 of your size and body weight (to save someone from an immediate danger)
  • swim at least 100 yards/meters without stopping and float for at least 10 minutes with no aid or support (to get out of a dangerous zone and wait for a rescue vessel)
  • walk 5 miles in an hour (to reach a gas station when you run out of gas and you cannot call for help)
  • hold your breath for one minute while walking/moving slowly (to escape the toxic fumes of a building on fire)
  • crawl for at least 30 yards/meters to seek cover (active shooter situation) or rescue someone (a child hidden under a car, or someone trapped under or inside something)

None of those skills requires superhuman abilities

If you think that any of those abilities are beyond your limits now is the time to put more time and effort into your fitness levels. Being self-sufficient and prepared doesn’t mean relying only on tools. Having the ability to deal with SHTF events to the best of your abilities is also needed. Of course, tools come in handy when you have physical limitations (age, injuries, illness), but they shouldn’t be the first line of defense. 

The only thing you need is the willingness to learn how to improve your fitness skills and then practice what you learn. Try each of those skills, and see which ones you can already perform. Then set up a training program that will help you achieve the ones you can’t yet perform. It might take time. But, every time you train, you will be a little more prepared than the day before and a bit fitter.

Don’t let lack of fitness be the weak link in your survival plan. Get your copy of Bug Out Bootcamp, a 93-page pdf guide to help you in your quest to improve your most needed “skills”: your body and mind.

Are you fit enough to survive SHTF?

What do you feel your current fitness level is? Do you feel like you could use a boost in that area? Maybe you are in top shape and would like to share some of your tips with other readers. Join us in the comments section to talk about the importance of survival fitness.

About the Author

Vic Verdier has been a sports enthusiast since an early age. Following his grandfather’s tracks, a Physical Education Teacher in the French Army, Vic became an officer in the French Navy. Promoted as a second-in-command officer, he had the opportunity to train numerous soldiers in many topics, including Close Quarter Combat, skydiving, long-range weapon shooting, first aid, and explosives.

After ten years, Vic came back to civilian life while keeping his adventurous spirit high. He became one of the world’s top experts in deep mixed-gas technical scuba diving, writing nine books on this topic. Learn more about Vic on his website and check him out on Instagram, where he is very active: @VicVerdierCoaching.


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  • Excellent article. Indeed it’s oft overlooked in preparedness. Some people come for mentoring in preparedness 100% focused in learning how to stockpile, deal with guns and ham radios, these things.

    I get a puzzled look when tell them they should start immediately by working on their fitness and someday soon it will probably be their most prized “asset”, more than all gear combined.

    Gaining/improving fitness can be done for free, with little to no risk, almost anywhere. I get the impression that’s why some people don’t give it proper value.

    And yes, you can practice prepping even when traveling. I’d say especially when traveling. Most people lower their guard entirely when vacationing to “relax”. You can relax and remain aware and vigilant.

  • outstanding article, great to see “physical skills” directly related to real-world events. thanks.

    “walk 5 miles in an hour”

    ? seems a little fast, best I can do is 2.7 on sidewalk and I’m not slow.

    • The average walking pace for a healthy adult is 15 minutes per mile – or 4 mph. If one is jog-walking, one could go a bit faster, probably.

      Your pace/distance might be greater than you think :).

      • I think 15 minute miles are a fast pace for quite a few people. That is a forced march pace. It is also the Wildland firefighter standard pace. I am end up walking fast with a pack on flatland and doing 35 minutes for two miles. You also need a good pair of hiking boots because cheap shoes kill your feet. Mix in other types of exercise like bike riding , body squats , kettlebell etc..

    • I totally agree. A 12 minute mile is a super fast walk. 15 minute miles are pretty fast but much more doable.

    • Agreed. Seems too fast and by the time you get to the gas station you’ll collapse. LOL!

      I consider myself physically fit and on my jogger I find the comfortable walking pace every time is around like you said 2.7 mph.

  • There was a lot of good advice in this article. Also, older folks and those with ailments can still use situational awareness to compensate for the lack of physical fitness. Mental and intellectual fitness can help those who have physical limitations.

  • The movie, Zombieland, told us cardio is #1. I’ve never forgotten, and it’s been a big part of my props for years.

    At 50+ years old, I climbed the tallest mountain in Maine. I have always been a decent swimmer. I regularly walk more than 3 miles, and I do Yoga every day to improve my core strength, balance, and flexibility.

    I think I have a pretty good chance of being able to survive a tsunami using these examples :). Woot!

    Thanks for another great article :).

  • I think overall this is a good article and an area of Prepping that is often overlooked.
    One that is just as important, is the will to survive and thrive in a SHTF scenario.

    There were lots of the initial survivors of that tsunami, went into shock, depression and basically zoned out. So much so, that others had to care for them as they were not able to function.
    Physical fitness may help you survive the initial SHTF, but it is mental toughness that will get you through not only the SHTF but the aftermath and get back to doing what need done in order to survive.

    I suspect a lot of Preppers will do well in the first week or two of a SHTF collapse scenario. But I have great doubts about their ability to persevere for the long term. I expect we will see a lot of Suicides and general carelessness resulting in fatal outcomes, due to depression or related states of mind.

    A will to survive makes all the difference. Many people who just won’t give up, survive, where those who have less injuries, or less severe circumstances that they are in, fail to survive.
    Sometimes that plays a bigger part than physical conditioning. Yet it is often neglected even more than physical conditioning.
    Something to consider.

    • “people who just won’t give up”

      there’s a large component of bullheaded irrationality associated with that. has to be tempered with awareness and competence.

      “There were lots of the initial survivors of that tsunami, went into shock, depression and basically zoned out … I suspect a lot of Preppers will do well in the first week or two of a SHTF collapse scenario. But I have great doubts about their ability to persevere for the long term”

      yep, straight up. tsunami survivors who went into shock did so because they were taken completely and totally and utterly by surprise when they weren’t expecting any problems at all, and had no alternative mental state on which to fall back (when someone is woken up by water crashing into their room and flooding immediately to the ceiling their first thought is not to hold their breath ….). very many preppers/survivalists will encounter a similar kind of shock – “wait, this is not what I thought it would be!” – and will have a similar reaction.

    • -Michael Berge,

      Great comment about having the will to survive and thrive.
      Seen many who only think about surviving and they stop there. There is no what is next beyond just surviving?
      There needs to be a long term goal, a long term plan of improvement. How to make your situation better than the previous day.
      Right now, the gardens are planted, but I can see new growth every day. That gives me a sense of accomplishment.
      Future planning also keeps the mind busy, daily work keeps from falling into depression.
      Working with others to bring in hay, cut, split and stack firewood, gives that sense of community, of connections with others.
      My Amish neighbors work hard. But they also are quick to laugh, make a joke, to smile.

  • Daisy, Thank you for your Prepper Website and Vic, thank you for your article on physical fitness for prepping.
    I like to consider these things, as much as possible, in developing my workout plan. What is the shortest way to reach my goal? Is it fun? Is it easy to do? Is it free. Does it not take any effort. An example for me would be walking at a flea market looking for prepper supplies. I read that a good nights sleep helps to lose weight. I like to start slow to see how I am reacting to the workout.

    • “What is the shortest way to reach my goal?”

      start now and don’t stop.

      “Is it fun? Is it easy to do?”

      not for a long time. if you find a workout you enjoy then that can help, but don’t expect it.

      “Is it free.”

      it doesn’t have to cost much money. it will cost time.

      “An example for me would be walking at a flea market looking for prepper supplies”

      walk wherever whenever you can. take up a regular walk that you can measure and time. buy some simple weights and lift at home, doesn’t have to be much at first. write down and keep track of your progress.

      “I read that a good nights sleep helps to lose weight”

      it does, so long as you then get up and get to work.

      “I like to start slow to see how I am reacting to the workout”

      you’ll feel bad, then good, then bad, then good, then bad, then good. just do it.

  • I have no argument with trying to maintain the best possible physical fitness given whatever a person’s unique circumstances might be. These days some of the most serious threats to one’s physical fitness are coming from the poorly tested and increasing mandatory Covid-19 (plus possible mutants on the horizon) vaccines.

    I’m seeing that some airlines are considering banning such vaccinated people as passengers because of a trend of high altitudes aggravating the blood clot issue. I haven’t been able to get a list of which airlines are considering this.

    I’m also seeing where HR departments in US energy companies are being told to plan on replacing most of their so-vaccinated employees within three years. Again, the details are as yet sketchy.

    The wide variety of deadly side effects is being frequently covered on and while the hopelessly discredited MSM ignores or demeans this for the most part.

    As we learn that the mRNA vaccines can mess with one’s DNA not only in the body part taking the jab but throughout the rest of a person as well, the threat to one’s life and even descendants (if any) is overwhelming in comparison to running to one’s root cellar in Tornado Alley when a twister is spotted.

    One parallel between such twister damage and vaccine body destruction is that with the twister there’s nobody to sue for damages. With a destructive vaccine, the manufacturers have bullied country after country into granting legal lawsuit exemptions — although at least in the US that exemption apparently does not extend to hospitals or medical staff who administer such vaccines. I’ve not seen a discussion yet as to whether employers that mandate such deadly vaccines might also be legally liable for such horrendous financial damages.

    Other kinds of threats to one’s physical fitness come from the mainstream medical cartel that has a cut,burn, or poison history of treating all kinds of ailments (largely by suppressing symptoms instead of determining and repairing original causes). I know of multiple people who have caught Covid-19 but were successfully treated in various Central American countries with methods the corrupt FDA and FTC treat as criminal inside US jurisdiction.

    So could one kind of prepping include stocking up on a supply of ivermectin, eg., plus the knowledge of how to use it in the event that one has an unfortunate encounter with the current or successor varieties of the WuFlu lab-created bio-warfare disease? Could such a stockpile be just as important to one’s physical fitness as stocking up on clean water plus the ability to purify more?


    • Excellent advice Lewis. Some states prohibit doctors from writing Hydroxychloroquin for those with Covid. A great way around that is going to which is an online telemed service and for $59 you’ll have a doctor’s visit and then you’ll be given a prescription if you give them Covid symptoms. The prescription can be filled at Walmart. Their pharmacy charges too much. Insurance is not accepted. Order early so you’ll be ready if you catch Covid. You’ll have peace of mind. Blessings to all.

      • I’m fortunate to have a doctor that will prescribe ivermectin. I take it as a preventative. To figure proper dosage I used the published formula .2mg of ivermectin for each kilo of body weight. I started by taken the resulting dosage on day one, then on day three, and then once every two weeks afterwards. It wasn’t cheap! But using GoodRx discounts softened the expense quite a bit. I also have found pharmacies to be stingy with the amount and I find I only get one or two refills before having to go through my doc again.

  • Yes, I tell my family and friends not only to have weapons, food, clothing, etc., but they also need to be physically fit.

    You will be doing a lot of physical activity when the SHTF. Running, walking, hiking, carrying heavy loads, and lots of it possibly in inclement weather. etc.

  • I know many armchair commandos who are over-equipped but undertrained. Lack of experience leads to the delusion of competence.

    • -Last Stand,

      Very well said.

      Or, they have thousands of hours of experience of watching YouTube videos and that some how makes them experts in everything from survival skills, to mad SEAL Team Six operators.

  • I have a multitude of physical ailments, some of which are dependent on medications to keep me ambulatory, and some of them keep me alive. I do everything I can to prepare physically for all sorts of situations. I do several types of exercises and training regimens and have some alternatives to prescription medications.

    So, I can handle many different situations and pull through. However, I know that there are certain things, that if they occur and I am not already in a location that provides the protection I need, I simply will not survive.

    Because of this, one of my primary Basic Human Needs preps is to maintain a strong relationship with God. God knows I will go out kicking and screaming, trying to stay here, and that is what God expects and wants me to do. If it is my time, God will take me, no matter what I do.

    Because I have made a point of staying in good graces with God, I will have a place, when the time comes. This is all one of my preps. A very important one. I will not give up, but when the time does come, I want to be ready to be judged and found favorable.

    Just my opinion.

  • Great article! All of the best equipment money can buy won’t help if you’re a couch potato with your nose stuck in a screen. I’m not sure I can do the mile or the wall, but I’ve been practicing tai chi and yoga for over one year and they’ve helped immensely. I’m coming back from back problems; it’s been a long, slow journey but exercise has helped. So I exercise.

    One thing not mentioned however, is the importance of staying calm. It’s natural to freak in the face of danger but it’s not helpful. Keeping your head and taking correct action is very important! Keep your wits about you and live.

  • Im disabled so in a situation like a tsunami it’s unlikely i would survive if i had to reply on my physical abilities. In many ways, by being prepped, i have reduced the reliance i might have on my physical health. I am prepped with heaters, ways to stay cool, appropriate foods, medical supplies and a big thing is trying to become medically independent. If you have to take medication for a condition, look into ways to heal it or lessen it so if meds become unavailable then you won’t just die. Sometimes just being strong enough to stay alive without medical care for a period of time is the fittest you can be. Dependence on modern medicine is a huge impairment. Learn about herbal and homeopathic medicine. Push yourself to be the fittest you can be. Learn about fasting and losing weight safely without vigorous impossible exercise. Just reducing excess body fat can mean the difference between life and death.

  • Great comments. There are some fast evolving disasters, such as tsunamis that require top physical conditioning. Responding to even slower evolving disasters, such as power blackouts, are also best handled when you have at least some positive level of physical conditioning. The Colonial Pipeline shutdown, for example, showed us that, without gas for our cars, we might be walking instead of riding.
    During a power blackout, as another example, water tank pumps will have no electricity to fill empty water tanks. That might necessitate hauling water in buckets from wells, lakes or streams to homes. City dwellers who live on upper floors of apartments will have walk their stairs instead of taking their elevators. Those in poor physical shape will be more likely to suffer problems such as heart attacks and strokes. With uncertain transportation and overcrowded hospitals, their poor physical conditioning could be fatal.

  • Great article and comments…. thanks and kudos to all!

    Since my fitness level on a scale of 1-10 is about a three and a half for various reasons, in addition to continuing to try to improve that I am relying on my situational awareness, my problem solving skills and most of all my faith in God. Mental health is also hugely important… If you’re depressed or fearful to the point of being paralyzed, physical fitness and material preps won’t do you any good.

    Most of all, I’m relying on my natural stubbornness to keep going. If you tell me I “can’t”, or I ” shouldn’t because”, my reaction is “F you! Watch me!”

    Sometimes having a “bad attitude” is a good thing.

  • Love it. I’m not going to quibble over the stated walking pace because the point is to be able to walk a good ways at need. The ability to walk has saved my butt on a number of occasions, regardless of the pace.

    I can tell you too, that dropping some excess weight (if you have any) will drastically improve your ability to do everything on the list including holding your breath. Learning to use less food will help in survival situations also. As a bonus, the process of becoming fit can teach a person quite a bit about their own body, its limits, and how best to use it. It certainly has for me.

  • It’s difficult to say, but you’ll need a lot of strength and stamina for the basic physical tasks involved in survival. In order to be well-prepared for any unpredictable circumstances that may arise when society collapses, it makes sense to start by developing your workout routine. You might want to take on the “daily mileage” task where you walk a certain number of miles every day or practice one of our old school exercises like ten push ups, then ten sit ups. Practice what you intend to actually do in an emergency situation.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

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