I have recently been introduced to survivalism, preparedness, and TEOTWAWKI – The End Of The World As We Know It. It was my father who first got me interested in the subject (although I had stumbled upon a survivalism web site years ago when web searching, of all things, how to cook and eat giant salamander – more on that later, possibly). I have, over the past couple months, picked up lots of cool skills. For example, I can now cook food that didn’t come in a box! That is a big deal.
I have also learned to shoot the paper that the target is on (most of the time) and I have begun taming the deer that live in the nearby woods. It pays to plan ahead.
That said, I realized that I do have one thing going for me that, sadly, most Americans don’t. From 2007 to 2011 I worked at an athletic club. During my time there, I learned everything from the correct way to pick up a treadmill with one hand and vacuum under it (yes, that IS possible) to how to make a positively sinful chocolate ganache that is also low-calorie, and, with a little stretching of the truth, you can even claim it is healthy. All of which, mind you, is my very elaborate introduction to my survival advice: fitness
I know that working out is hard. It can be boring. Probably, if you are anything like me, you are literally thinking “I don’t wanna!” Well, you don’t have to be a muscle man to be fit. Me? I’m 5’9″, and weigh around 145 pounds and, BTW, I’m a girl. That said, I’m more than halfway to my goal of 50 consecutive, standard push-ups! When I started working toward my goal I could do… yes, I’ll admit it: 3. Three push-ups. That lands right up there in the healthy range for a toddler. So what did I do? What should you do?
1) Start Small.
No matter what your goal is (and having a goal is a great idea) you need to start small. Do something easy. Put 1 less teaspoon sugar in your coffee or tea. Stop buttering your toast. Circle your couch once before you sit on it. I’m not kidding. The little stuff makes a big difference.
I started by not putting sugar in my tea. I lost 5 pounds in less than a month. That is literally the only thing I changed that month. Not kidding. Of course, I was a 3 teaspoons of sugar girl, so it made a big difference. I cut out butter on my toast – which sucked because toast is so dry without butter. I ended up not even eating toast. Suddenly, 10 pounds of body weight was gone.
I used to eat a lot of toast.
Choose a specific plate, or bowl, to be yours. You can label it if you want. Put all the food you want on it once per meal, and then leave a little on the plate when you “finish” eating.
You care about your health, right? Eat three meals a day. No more, no less. If you skip a meal you teach your body that you are literally starving to death. Then, anything you eat gets magically turned into fat. Fat, technically, is like canned goods for your body. Unfortunately, your body has lost its can opener, which means before it figures out how to use all that fat, it is going to eat (not joking) your muscles to stay alive. So, no skipping meals.
Start switching foods you only kind of like (or foods you like) that are bad for you with good foods. Anything you eat that contains sugar can be replaced by a fruit. Fruits are awesome. Guess what? Fruit is a natural food. That makes it healthy.
Replace any carbohydrates you eat with vegetables. My favorite vegetables are potatoes, because they are also a carbohydrate! (Wait a minute…)
Onions are yummy if you cook them. Garlic is good, too. There are all sorts of health benefits for onions and garlic, but I like them for the taste. Celery is one of the few foods that burns more calories to eat than it contains.
One more tip for starting small: eat meat. I know animals are cute and most of them are furry and they generally have eyes that stare at you (what else would they use them for?) but – meat is the ultimate food. It contains protein, which makes muscles and bones, and, yes, it even feeds your brain. You brain is pretty much the most important part of your body. You will die without it.
Protein is most easily accessed by eating meat. Yes, you can find protein in other places, like legumes (beans) gluten (wheat) and, tofu (soy) but get this: meat is the only source of complete protein.
Beans, grains, and nuts contain partial proteins. Think of it as puzzle pieces. If you get all of the pieces, maybe your body can flip them around and put them together. Possibly. If you only get some, though, your body just throws it away. Meat has complete proteins. The full puzzle, already put together. Unless you carefully pair incomplete proteins, they are nutritionally incomplete, and your body cannot utilize them. Fortunately, meat is delicious.
Oh, and in case I forget to bring this up later: quit eating so many grains. I know bread is awesome. I love carbohydrates too, but they will make you fat. We use grains to fatten livestock like cows, sheep, chickens, and all those other tasty animals. It works just the same when we eat it. Unless you want to get fat (which, I suppose, is one way of preparing for food shortages…) you should stop eating grains. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables which taste good and contain vitamins. If you’re anything like me, you will be much happier getting vitamins from food than taking them in pills.
2) No Slacking Off
You need to make a commitment to yourself, to your health, and to your body. That means no slacking off when you “don’t feel like it”. (Okay, fine, you can skip working out Sundays.) Make your health choices into a habit. Every morning, every evening, or every whenever-you-have-time-during-the day, you need to get in a little something extra.
I started out with a few push-ups, crunches, a little jump-roping and a whole lot of asking myself why I was doing this. I have skipped a total of 5 days. (That is approximately one out of every ten days, and then an extra because honestly I just didn’t feel like it today so I am writing about it instead. That counts, right?)
Even if you don’t have time to do your full routine, do something.
I mentioned rope jumping before. This is important. Jump ropes are cheap, and people give them to thrift stores regularly. Buy one, now. The ideal jump rope is long enough that you can stand on it and the handles will come up to your arm pits. If it is a little long you can tie knots in the end. If it is a little short, well, that’s harder but you can deal with it.
Jump ropes take up little space (about as much space as one shoe) and you can use them almost anywhere. I bring mine along when I travel, and get out of the car to jump every time we stop for gas. You can jump indoors (unless you have annoying neighbors who complain about the noise) or on pavement, or on grass. You can jump any time. There are also jump rope tricks. I watched little kids do a major jump rope performance that involved flips in the air, multiple people per rope, multiple ropes per person, jumping rope while doing push-ups and, of course, gratuitous amounts of 1980s era rock music. For the first time in my life, I was jealous of third graders. So, jump ropes are a great investment in your health, and if you keep at it you can astound people will your abilities. (There is probably a way to convert your jump rope into a weapon for TEOTWAWKI, too, but I haven’t learned that yet.)
By the way – you don’t have to do an “exercise” to work out. Anything that uses your muscles counts as strength training. That means when you haul wood, or carry things upstairs, you can count it as your workout. Anything that works your heart and lungs is aerobics. So, running, walking the dog, etc.
Plus, you can always do a little of what my dad calls “Rambo Skills.” This is anything that you can picture needing to do in a survival situation. So, like, climbing trees (presumably to survey the land) or punching a punching bag or karate (or pseudo karate).
Practice presenting the pistol from several different positions. You know, those guys in the cowboy movies make it look easy, but it’s tough. That gun gets heavy fast.
Use an unloaded gun that you’ve disabled. [JWR Adds: Do you own a Glock? Then buy a training barrel. That is very inexpensive insurance for 100% safe practice. You can also buy a special dry fire training trigger from Southwest Shooting Authority. These eliminate the need to cycle the slide each time between dry fire presses. The same company also does some great grip reduction work.]
Pick a target with a safe backstop. Practice drawing from the holster, bringing the gun up, and lining up the sights.
Just like the push-ups, you need to train your body. You are working on coordination, yes, but you are also training your muscles for strength and endurance. The goal is that you will be able to automatically bring your gun up (through kinesthetic memory) to aim at the target you are looking at. Look. Raise the gun. Aimed.
Practice this with open sights, and with a scope. Yes, you can do this with a scope. The magnification doesn’t change how you hold the gun, it just changes how far you can see when you hold the gun.
My dad can bring it up and have it aimed exactly. I can’t, yet, but if I practice enough, just like with the push-ups, I can.
Plus, just from the little practice I’ve done, I know it works your deltoids (shoulder. Ladies! You want this) and pectorals (chest. Men! This is for you) and that one along the side of your ribs that I can never remember the name of (everyone wants to work that muscle).
BTW – look at your target, not your gun. Move the gun so that the sights line up with the target without shifting your gaze. You need to be able to trust your aim, and aim quickly. That 6-point buck isn’t gonna wait all day. Neither are the zombies. Just saying.
3) Build On It
I started with 3 push-ups. I did some crunches and jump roping too, but push-ups were my weakness, so that’s what I focused on. On Day One I did three standard push-ups. Then I collapsed on the floor for a while, and then I did a couple one-knee push-ups, a few both-knee push-ups.
Now, Day Forty-Two, I can do 30 standard push-ups consecutively! That means no breaks.
Add a little more each week or so, and you can reach your goal too.
A bit of advice about building up: your body doesn’t understand math. This is pretty cool, actually.
You know those light bulbs that are 50, 100, and 150 watts? When you go from low-level to middle, it seems like a quite perceptible difference, but when you go from middle to high, it’s like “Meh, so what?” Ever wonder why that is? This is why: Your body sees 50 watts. Okay. So far so good. Then, you see 100 watts and that is twice as much! Then 150 watts is only half-again as much, which seems marginal.
When you up your reps (repetitions) you need to factor this in. Going from 4 push-ups to 5 push-ups is going to seem the same, to your body, as going from 20 push-ups to 25 push-ups. Both times you are increasing by the same percentage. Your brain knows that 1 more push-up is much different from 5 more push-ups, but you muscles don’t! Remember that.
Once you decide that your workout is easy enough to amp it up a little (when you start to feel bored while counting your reps) take the time to do a little math. Pick a percentage that feels safe (like 10%) and figure out how many reps that is. The next time you are working out, add that many. Re-do your math calculation each time you increase your reps. That way you can trick your body into doing more for you.
Oh, and if push-ups are too boring, then stand up between each one. This is what Uncle Sam does to train Navy Seals. It works, too. Stand up nice and tall, then get down on the ground. Flat on the ground. Then get up, and stand up nice and tall. I wanna hear your back crack.
4) Find Yourself Some Awesome Music
Because, believe me, if you listen to fun stuff when you work out, you feel happier, and less bored. The optimum music choice is between 100 and 150 beats per minute. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees is 100 beats. It is also the theme song for CPR so it should definitely be on your workout tunes list.
5) Don’t Let Go
I’ll admit it, sometimes I just don’t want to work out. I figure, I can do 30 push-ups, so I deserve a break, right? Wrong. If I let myself skip a day, or two days, or maybe, you know, like, just a week… next thing you know I’ll be back down to three push-ups. It’s tempting to slack off, but you have to be tough on yourself. Someday this work is gonna pay off. Trust me.