Preparing Your Body and Your Mind, by H.F.

So you are a prepper?  You might be just getting started or you might be stockpiled for armageddon.  Regardless of what stage you are at, most preppers compile lists of equipment they foresee needing and as sources such as point out, prepping is not just about stuff, but rather skills too.  Skills and gear will undoubtedly be vital in any unfortunate circumstances mankind might face.  However, a seriously overlooked aspect of being prepared (and an inexpensive one) is fitness; overall wellness and physical/mental fitness.  If you are not able to use your gear and skills due to being weak or sick, then it is likely that you have built an impressive stockpile for someone else to use.  America has an obesity crisis and our society has become overall weak and dependent.  There is no room for this in a survival situation.  People will have to carry their own weight (and sometimes others’ too), conserve resources, and let go of numerous comforts.  Note: I am not a doctor and assume no responsibility for illness, injury, buff abs, losing lottery tickets or anything else that someone might try to blame on me.  I am merely sharing some of my life’s experience.

The key to living healthy is balance.  Being healthy is a lifestyle that will not only improve your daily life and longevity, but will also increase your ability to survive.  First, a proper and nutritious diet is a must.  Your body needs healthy meals to ensure you have fuel to function, work, and exercise and to keep your body at a healthy weight.  You do not need to carry unnecessary weight in a survival situation but remember balance; no fad, starvation diets or unhealthy supplements that dehydrate you.  Eat the recommended amount of calories from good sources and ensure you are exercising.  There are countless sources of information on this but according to WebMD, you should get this number of calories:




Moderately Active




















Remember, you have to eat fat and carbs as well.  You can become very ill or even die due to proteinosis if you never consume fat, which is vital to many bodily functions.  Many people have heard about a survival situation where there are only rabbits to eat and you would eventually die because wild rabbits have no fat unless you consume the bone marrow.  Be sure to stay properly hydrated, especially when in hot, humid climates or when working or exercising hard.  The easiest way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is 1. you are not thirsty and 2. your urine is pretty clear.  That thirst concept might force some laughs but if you are truly thirsty, you do not just need water; you are dehydrated!  You typically cannot drink too much water.  With a balanced diet, there is little fear of water intoxication, i.e. dying from drinking too much water and washing out all of your body’s sodium.  With that said, it might be beneficial to store some Gatorade/Powerade and Pedialyte to replenish the electrolytes for cases of intense physical exertion or illness (vomiting/diarrhea). 

| Resting might be one of the more difficult aspects of a fitness program but make sure you rest while you can.  Sleep is important and allows your body to recover from hard physical activity.  If you are not well rested, your workouts will be less productive and focused.  Also, if you are working out, your body needs time to recover so allow it to heal.  It is hard for many when they have set goals and committed to a fitness regimen to embrace rest, but if you do not, you will likely injure yourself and have further setbacks. 

General wellness also includes staying on top of medical issues.  Do not put off dealing with check-ups and procedures because your quality/length of life might be altered, not to mention your survivability.  Some issues, such as Type II diabetes, might be controlled through diet and exercise and this might be helpful if there is a shortage of insulin or medical treatment.  Do not forget about your teeth either because hygiene will likely suffer with limited supplies of water and dental care products.  Dental issues can range from horribly uncomfortable to fatal if neglected. 

Physical fitness cannot be stressed enough for survival because a grid-down, chaotic world will involve a level of physical exertion that our culture is no longer accustomed to doing.  Simply put, when the SHTF, life will become more physical.  Manual labor, cardiovascular-based transportation, moving heavy weights, and even engaging in physical confrontations will be daily life.  Do you remember doing an activity as a child that was so easy, but now leaves you sore the next day, like raking leaves?  That is because we do not perform such work anymore, but a survival world is much different so start getting fit now.  You will not wait until doomsday is here to get supplies or training and I seriously doubt you will get four months to prepare your body when the SHTF.

I remember studying karate as a child and watching obese people learn the skills to advance through the ranks, but they were easily winded in the simplest, minimal contact movements or sparring matches.  They were on the right track by learning the skills to defend themselves, but would stand little chance in a real physical confrontation due to being out of shape.  I have been in numerous unarmed situations as an adult who was in very good shape and found myself completely exhausted at the end and my life did not depend on winning nor were my attackers giving it everything they had.  Self-defense preparation is a must, but to be truly effective, you must be fit.   In addition to getting in shape, make sure your self defense training safely embraces contact sparring, ground defense, and scenarios to better prepare yourself for the real thing.  Self defense is a big business so make sure that you are training for a fight and not just earning belts and certificates.

Getting from point A to B might be a rude awakening for many in a doomsday world.  Most people only walk, run, hike, swim, or bike for leisure/exercise and it is not usually done for extreme distances or in harsh conditions.  Preppers have their bug-out bags and plans, but have they walked ten plus miles per day with their gear on with little sleep, scarce food, harsh weather, rough terrain, and in a hostile environment?  Probably not in most cases.  That gear is not that heavy standing in your living room, but walk fifteen plus miles through the aforementioned conditions and away from your former life and see how heavy it gets.  Do not underestimate how much heavier water-logged gear is either.  If you have never ran a mud run type race such as the Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder, ask someone who has.  Your light shoes, clothes, and body can quickly absorb mud and water making running, climbing, and negotiating obstacles much more challenging.   

So why not prepare for life and survival at no cost?  No need to live in the gym or become a marathon runner, unless you want to.  Remember that health is about balance; if you only run, that hike with all of your gear, physical confrontations, or moving heavy objects might disappoint you.  By the same token, if your only focus is packing on freakish muscle with no cardiovascular exercise, your endurance and speed will be sacrificed. Though many pieces of exercise equipment are useful, you do not have to have anything other than a decent pair of running shoes to be fit.  I recommend some dumbbells, a kettlebell, and a pull up bar, but what you use is completely up to you and your goals.  To be fit, you need muscular/cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, speed, agility, and flexibility training.  Do not skip the flexibility portion because it drastically decreases your risk of injury and increases your blood flow.  A combination of weights, calisthenics, variable cardio, and flexibility exercises are best.  There are many programs such as Crossfit and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that embrace these concepts with the goal to increase overall fitness and work capacity.  Also look into kettlebell programs; they are very effective and efficient.  Below is a sample cross training program:

  • Sunday – rest
  • Monday – a HIIT weights program or Spartacus and sprints
  • Tuesday –  30 minute interval run and pull ups
  • Wednesday – Calisthenics (dips, abs. push ups, pull ups, etc.) and bike ride
  • Thursday – Distance jog
  • Friday – Weights
  • Saturday – Ruck march and chin ups

This can be modified and is just a sample. Again, do not forget to stretch and you know your level of fitness so do not over do it.  Challenge yourself but do so safely.  Also, be aware that working out to be fit and for vanity are not the same thing.  You can be skinny and weak; you can have huge muscles, but be unable to pull your own body weight or perform work for extended periods of time. 

Your workouts do not have to be intense and dreadful.  Put that bug-out bag on and go hiking.  Add some land navigation, tactical movements, first aid scenarios, or whatever field craft training to keep it interesting, maximize training opportunities, and get in shape.  For those who have never “rucked” a long distance, be sure to educate yourself on footwear and taking care of your feet.  I suggest reading Get Selected by Joseph Martin or talking to an infantry soldier.  Wood chopping/splitting is a tremendous workout and builds not only muscle, but a good supply of fuel too.  Shooting can even be tiring.  Anyone that has done extensive firearms training can attest to the fact that a normal firearm gets very heavy after a while.  If you train the way you will fight (and you should), shooting can be taxing.  Make sure you are safely practicing shooting while moving, from different positions, behind cover, and transitioning to other weapons.  You might be surprised to find soreness and bruising from a simple day at the range.  Also, practice shooting and reloading one handed and with each hand because you might be wounded/injured and survival is at stake. 

So you are ripped like Sly Stallone in Rambo II and you have the endurance of a triathlete, but how tough is your mind?  Mental conditioning is frequently overlooked but is crucial to being prepared.  First, be firm in your faith.  No matter what you believe, the afterlife is there no matter the state of our world.  Decide what you can live with in a chaotic world.  Otherwise decent people will do the unthinkable and you must decide now, not when the time comes, that you will survive and defend yourself.  Your faith might be all you have when face disaster, illness, or whatever else this world can throw at you. 

Second, your mind will tell you that you are exhausted long before your body actually is.  When I was in training some years ago, we were at the mercy of our instructors and training ceased when they decided it did.  We would go for runs and have no problem maintaining the pace for whatever distance until they would slow us down to a walk when approaching our barracks.  Just when we thought we were finished, the run would resume and it defeated us mentally.  During the same training, we would frequently be required to perform push ups.  When the order was given, you never knew how many you would have to do so in essence, ten push ups were as hard as 100 because the mind is defeated.  The same guys that were struggling at fifteen could have easily dropped down and knocked out fifty if they would have known the limits.  One way to address this is to train for time instead of repetition or distance in regard to calisthenics or running.  It is often more beneficial to do one minute of push ups (resting when needed in the up position) rather than say thirty.  I am not saying numbered repetitions or set distances do not have their place, but five sets of twenty-five push ups is probably less effective than five one minute sessions, even if you rest.  Another effective way to improve fitness and mental toughness is through body weight muscle failure exercises and this means exactly what it says; perform the exercise until you physically cannot, not just until you are tired and want to stop.  Naturally, this must be done with care to avoid overtraining and injury.  The discipline it takes to maintain a fit body will lead to a healthy mind and the survivor’s mindset can be the difference between life and death.

Lastly, any survival situation will be stressful.  One must learn to manage stress now to not only improve overall health, but to increase your chances of survival.  Diet and exercise typically fight stress, but have you ever seen a person who has a highly stressful life and cannot shed belly fat despite an intense fitness plan and sensible diet?  That is likely attributed to stress and its by-product cortisol.  Stress causes stored fat and clogged arteries in otherwise healthy people so take time to manage it.  A tool to prepare you mentally against stress when the SHTF is rehearsal and repetition, muscle memory as many people call it.  When you are in danger or in some other high-stress environment, your body enters fight or flight mode.  When this occurs, you will find that your pupils dilate, you cannot grab things as easily, breathing increases, and a host of other things.  This is why you must practice so that when it is real, the training takes over.  You do not want to hesitate when it counts!  Applying a tourniquet in a climate controlled classroom on your friend who is laughing at your mistakes is different then when you are in tired, hungry, and in hostile/harsh conditions when someone’s life is in the balance.

Educate yourself about all aspects of wellness from good, balanced sources that emphasize vitality and avoid drastic, gimmicky trends.  There are numerous great works available to strengthen your mind as well and  I recommend reading On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman, A More Elite Soldier: Pursuing a Life of Purpose by Chuck Holton, and works about Prisoners of War or Medal of Honor recipients. 

In conclusion, being prepared requires planning, skill, and having the necessities to survive.  Being fit and healthy, both mentally and physically are no less important.  Those  trees will not cut themselves down and fall into neat little stacks on their own.  The bag and all of the items you thoughtfully placed in it will not bear the burden of its own weight to get you to safety.  Seeds will not till the ground for you.  TEOTWAWKI will be a rough, physical, and stressful place.  Make sure that you truly prepared.