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Prepper Conditioning: Total Body Fitness for When the SHTF

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 Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Sam Thift. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


A violent mob a tad over 1,000 strong is blocking all outbound traffic on a major freeway leading out of downtown, your car is stuck in the snarled traffic and night is approaching. What are you going to do?

You were just about to pull into work on a Monday morning when an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) leaves your car sitting in the middle of the street on a downtown city block. How are you going to move?

Record breaking 100-year flooding is quickly rushing towards your neighborhood, and you have heard the bridge to safety is already under 3 feet of water. Where are you going to go?

Civil unrest, the breakdown of society, perhaps Martial Law, or the absence of the Rule of Law, are all possible consequences of any number of doomsday scenarios, or even breaking points themselves. Solar flares or tactically deployed strategic nuclear weapons can emit an EMP capable of destroying on-board computers and sensitive electronics in vehicles manufactured after 1980, while damaging the power grid and basically returning modern technology to the peak era of horse and buggies, the butter churn, and the quill pen. Major natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, and wildfires can be severe, quick, and unannounced, potentially forcing you into an immediate need to evacuate, sometimes without the luxury of vehicles, boats, or other modern modes of transportation.

What is your current level of prepper conditioning?

Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, swarmed by an angry mob can reduce a city to foot traffic, and potentially put you in direct physical danger. Think about Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas, Milwaukee, or Reginald Denny, the truck driver during the 1992 L.A. Riots, whose beating was caught by a news helicopter:

Fight-or-Flight instincts right? We are all familiar with that clever little quip. Are you capable of fighting back? Against multiple aggressors? For a sustained period of time? If not, are you capable of the flight option? Can you escape those aggressors? Could you outrun them in a sprint, through an urban environment, and continue to lose them over a sustained longer distance? What if you do initially outrun the aggressors, but are eventually caught and then forced to defend yourself? Fighting fresh sucks enough, try fighting when you are already fatigued. It is important to consider your level of prepper conditioning before you are facing a disaster.

Many of us have our everyday carry (EDC) gear, whether on our person or in a small easily accessible bag of some sorts, at all times. Others have a get home bag (GHB) or bug out bag (BOB) loaded with tools, gear, emergency food supplies, and even defensive items, either in our vehicle, at work, or otherwise ready to grab and go at a moment’s notice. Have you ever shouldered that pack and walked any distance? Even if you know a route to get home without consulting your Google maps or in-dash navigation, have you ever actually walked it? How far is it? What type of footwear do you have on? Dress shoes, high heels, flats, sandals, all not good choices for long walks. Have you done so in inclement weather? What if your planned route is impassable (consider the angry mob presence, or flooded roads/trails)? How heavy is that pack again?

Paratus 3 Day Operator's Pack Military Style MOLLE Compatible Tactical Backpack Bug Out Bag

Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack Military Style MOLLE Compatible Tactical Backpack Bug Out Bag

Sheriffs offices, fire departments, and other emergency management professionals do their best to warn residents of impending danger from natural disasters, and will assist in pre-planned evacuations often designed to allow ample time for you and your family to be removed from your residence safely. However the timing of natural disasters is not always so convenient and officials may not be available to help you, individually. You may have to load up your valuables and find a road out, but without the knowledge to move forward, a safe route may not be possible in your family car. Can you hike out of your neighborhood on foot? Are you a strong enough swimmer to tread water for extended periods of time, or even swim across a pond or lake to escape the danger? If you have small children with you, are you capable of carrying them to safety as well? Can you push a heavy object out of your way, lift an item off yourself or a loved one, pull yourself over an obstacle, or negotiate a series of uneven, loose, or otherwise treacherous terrain to find safety on solid ground?

What do all of these have in common?

How long do you expect to survive a SHTF event?

All of these scenarios are examples of easy ways your ability to survival the initial blow of shit hitting that proverbial fan will depend upon your physical ability and conditioning. If you have ever been in a fight, even in training, sparring, bag drills, or other controlled environments, you know how quickly you can fatigue. If you have not, just find a large pillow or something else soft to punch, and hit it as furiously as possible – as if your life depended on beating that pillow – for about 30 seconds, then assess your heart rate, breathing, and perspiration. They are probably all up quite a bit. Rest for 10 seconds then do it again for a minute. Then sprint out your door to the end of the block, and do it again for another 45 seconds. Rest for 5 seconds and go ALL OUT for a final 10 second surge. Then run a lap around your neighborhood and reassess yourself when you get back home. Go inside for a glass of water, you earned it – then defend yourself against that last attacking pillow for another 30 seconds. Get the point?

Fatigue from fighting is very real, and very quick. If you are not big on hand-to-hand combat, but have read a couple of books, or seen a movie or two, or practiced kata or other sequenced movements such as are commonly trained in karate and taekwondo, then you may not know how your body will actually stand up to the massive expenditure of energy required in a fight. Need somewhere to start? Look for a local gym and sign up for a free test class in Krav Maga. Condition yourself.

If you have ever been in a fight, even in training, sparring, bag drills, or other controlled environments, you know how quickly you can fatigue.

If your prepping relies heavily on the use of EDC, GHB, or BOB gear, you should not only be intimately familiar with every piece of gear you carry or plan on carrying, but you should be even more familiar with what it feels like to actually carry that gear. As the crow flies, I work 10 miles from home. My regular commute covers 15 miles. Pending any alterations in safe passage following an incident, I expect my trip home could range upwards of 20-30 miles. At 6’4” and about 225 lbs with a GHB weighing in around 24 lbs dry, I have a little room for 3 liters of water while keeping my ruck right around 30 lbs. With a little intimate road time, proper footwear, a series of blister/heal cycles and rubbing my shoulders raw from straps, I know what pace I can move at and how long I can move like that. Toss in variables of being loaded with an unplanned item, or extra gear I happen upon, and I also know that I can double upon that coupon and keep going. How do I know that? Walking around the neighborhood, simple day hikes on the weekend, or a good backpacking trip are all good places to start. Or jump straight up for a good sense of what added stresses could feel like on your psyche and your body, and look at completing a GoRuck event (Google it, it is worth every dime). Condition yourself.

Not sure what will be required of you before, during, after a natural disaster? Ask anyone who has lived through an earthquake, wildfire, tornado, or flooding. Look at the Cajun Navy in Baton Rouge, LA. Think they have it easy in their boats? I guarantee they end their day plum tired from the physicality required to help their neighbors. Strangers even. If you cannot push yourself off the floor, could you push a standard home office bookshelf off yourself? If you cannot perform a single pullup, could you pull yourself up and over a large item like a refrigerator blocking the doorway out to safety? Say your kid, spouse, or loved one is unconscious or otherwise unable to walk to safety themselves, can you carry them – even if for just a short distance to get out of the house? Could you drag them even? Can you hike out from danger, run away from danger, swim to safety, or simply walk down the road, for miles, until you find refuge? No, you do not need to go to the gym, eat protein bars and post-workout shakes. Try some simple body-weight exercises. Pushups, pullups, squats, planks. YouTube any one of those, find progression exercises for them if you cannot do them strictly now, and work your way towards them.

Take care of your conditioning now before life takes care of it for you

Get up and move, if even a little. Go for a walk, swim at the rec center, ride a bike, anything. You have a busy schedule. Work. Family. Life. A daily set of push ups, pull-ups, squats, and planks can be done in as little as 5 minutes. You have spent far more time than that just reading this little 1600 word article. You probably spent more time than that navigating the internet to find this article. You may even spend ten times that amount scrolling through Facebook feeds, or news articles, or simply sitting on the couch watching glimpses of your favorite programming between chunks of commercials and advertising. That’s fine. Just slip off the couch and do 10 push ups during a commercial break. Even once a day. How long does it take to walk around the block? Twenty minutes? Take the dog. Can you run a couple of miles? That doesn’t really take too long either? Be like Nike…Just Do It. Swim at the pool? It takes longer to drive there, rinse off afterwards, and drive home than it does to actually swim even just 500 meters. Condition yourself.

BodyWeightExercise

No, you do not need to go to the gym, eat protein bars and post-workout shakes. Try some simple body-weight exercises. Pushups, pull-ups, squats, planks.

Surviving is just the first step to survival. If you struggle with the basic physical abilities to easily get through some of the things I have discussed above, what good will the 2 years of food, hundreds of gallons of water, or thousands of rounds of ammunition do for you when the shit hits the fan? That stockpile will just be a jackpot for someone more conditioned for a survival situation than you. Someone like me who comes along later to find the money you spent, thinking you were prepared, when a few simple daily efforts could have made a far bigger difference in your life.

Get through step one first. Survive the events of the day. Then start to consider.

Are you free of addictive substances, habits, or vices? Quitting smoking is hard enough today, without other stresses, and with the assistance of any gum, patches, or other tricks to take the edge off. I know. I have done it. I cannot even imagine how weak-minded I would be a few weeks after SHTF to come across someone trading a pack of cigarettes…I probably would have sold the farm for it if I hadn’t already quit. Many prepper philosophies out there advocate for even non-users to stock up on alcohol, tobacco, and coffee to be used as trade items later on. The thought being that these little trinkets will have substantial value in bartering systems when regular supplies have long disappeared or been consumed by former smokers, drinkers, and coffee addicts. If you make it that far after the SHTF but cannot turn down a smoke, a drink, or a cup of Joe, you are just begging to be taken advantage of.

Is your body accustomed to the diet you plan on sustaining yourself with post-SHTF? Yeah, bust out the beef stew or chicken with salsa MRE, throw it in the nifty heater and lean it against a rock or something, and you’ll be a member of the “these are actually pretty good” crowd. Now eat them every day for two weeks. How has your stomach felt? How are your bowel movements? Are you paying attention to calorie intake versus expenditure? During the crucible for the Marine Corps, you are given just 2 MREs over a 54 hour period when you cover 48 miles with 45 lbs of gear, navigate 36 “warrior stations” and 29 “team building exercises” all on 6 hours of sleep. I had food left over afterwards and don’t remember going number two at all, but made it just fine. If you eat three MREs per day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you’ll “survive” alright, but your guts will hate you.

Can you perform the daily physical duties and manual labor required in your long-term survival plan? If you currently work on a farm or ranch, in most construction trades, oil field operations, logging, or other physically intense professions, you probably do not need much of this information at all. If you do not work in one of the above, or a closely related field, go spend a day with a family member, friend, or neighbor who does work in one of those fields and tell me how you feel the next morning. Manual labor is real. If you think the post-apocalyptic world is ripe with clerical positions, business analytics, or private consulting firms, think again. Your air-conditioned office, break rooms, water coolers, hour-long lunches, and paid vacation and sick leave are all gone. If you want to get by now, it will all be on your shoulders. Day in and day out. If you cannot weed a garden all day, you will starve. If you cannot walk the countryside gathering wild edibles all day, you will starve. If you cannot climb to the top of a ridge, check a trap line, or take down some big game and carry it home, you will starve. If you cannot gather firewood, build or reinforce a shelter, haul water, move gear – over and over – or potentially even engage in defensive postures, struggles, or all out battles, where does that land you in your new world?

Condition yourself early and often. Move. Eat right. Live right. Easiest, cheapest, most sustainable preps out there. I appreciate any and all feedback and dialogue! Know a little about anything in any of these areas, share it, talk about it, and get the thought trains rolling. Disagree with me, let me know why. Look for more to come on my conditioned prepping, from SHTFit. I am totally open to your ideas, I may even flat-out admit it and incorporate your thoughts into my own conditioning approaches. In the end, we should all make sure we are Fit for when the Shit Hits.

  • Huples

    Of all the preps other than possibly food this is the most vital. It’s rare I read any reticle (especially my own!) and agree vigorously with everything. This is a great article and I’ve printed it out to retread when I slack off.

    I used to be fit. 80km average running each and every week for 15 years. Ran for Canada. Blah, blah. Life got changed and for six years I’ve done frack all really physical. Weight got higher and higher. Last few months I walk the stairs at work up and down (9 storey building and I have to move around all of it all night). It hurt a lot and still does at times but it’s working. I’ve started running a bit again. No point having stuff and being a fat blob in shtf.

    Thanks for this encouragement

    • Sam Thift

      Glad you found some encouragement in my thoughts, Huples!

      Backstory, I was in the exact same boat! I am a former U.S. Marine (2001-2006). After getting out my physical activity levels dropped, but smoking, eating, and beer habits continued in a now sedentary office environment. I went from around 215 lbs when I exited the military, to a peak of about 260 lbs, but generally averaged around 245 lbs for most of the past decade. That is a very soft 245 lbs, considering my muscle mass deteriorated and was traded out for fat.

      About 16 months ago I found GoRuck, went to their 5k event and enjoyed the community enough I signed up for the “Light” event last June. It killed me! So slowly over the past year I have cut out nearly all sugars: sodas, fruit juices, everything (I do still have a cookie, glass of sweat tea, or something periodically). I started being mindful of what I was putting in my body, and signed up for a Krav Maga class at a local gym. Then slowly added simple bodyweight exercises, low rep pushups (I could only muster about 10-11 legit pushups), situps, squats, and a group of planks. Then earlier this year I added in a little light swimming once or twice a week, a mile or two jog in the neighborhood, maybe a 20-30 minute spin on a stationary bike, and a 1.5 mile boots and utes run around a nearby lake.

      Even these simple little things, moving a little, pushing a little, and being aware of what I eat, and I have dropped back down to military weight, strengthened my core, DRASTICALLY improved my stamina and endurance, and just overall regained some of my confidence. I have done a few more “Light” events through GoRuck (4-5 hours, 8-10 miles, with a 20# ruck and some team weight to share), and have even challenged myself with a couple “Tough” events (10-12 hours, 15-20 miles, with a 30# ruck, and various team weight items). It is a veteran special forces owned and operated company that produces gear and holds a whole set of different events all over the country, every weekend! Check them out…GREAT place to find some of the motivation and support to get back on track, start out in the right direction, or just flat out train for that bug-out plan of yours!

      Thanks again, glad you found something positive in it.