Many articles have been written here about the best way to get in shape and stay in shape to be ready for a major societal disruption up to and including TEOTWAWKI. None of them that I have ready have really taken into account the societal challenges and day to day retreat and retreat area conditions extant during a disruption. Sorry, but no matter how much you may enjoy it, and I am an endorphin junkie myself, you won’t be running even one mile per day, let alone eight or ten miles per. Any running will be a flat out mad dash– lungs bursting and heart racing sprint– to safety. You won’t be in running shoes, shorts, or sweats. It won’t be on a track, and if that sprint is more than 200 yards, you’re dead. How much adrenalin you can pump into your muscles in a few seconds will be paramount rather than how many miles you can run at a ten minute per mile pace. Therefore, let’s look at a realistic training regimen for post-TEOTWAWKI.
First, what is the philosophy behind creating a training program to prepare you? Bruce Lee, among many, said to train how you intend to fight. No one trains to run long distances by spending all of the time in the weight room at a local gym. Your training must be based on the conditions you will encounter or expect to encounter during a disruption. Then, your exercises must be chosen to duplicate as closely as possible these conditions. By way of explanation, I exercise strenuously four or five days per week throughout the entire year to stay in the best shape I can. My program includes martial arts, resistance with weights, biking, running, and walking. Every year I travel from my home at 5,000 feet elevation to mountain areas at 8,000 to 10,000 feet elevations to hunt for three or four weeks. In addition to weapons– bow, muzzleloader or rifle– I carry a 20-30 pound pack and wear clothes suitable to the season and location. In spite of all I do during the year, it takes up to three days, now that I am nearing 70 years of age, to get in the proper shape for this activity– not just a 15 or 20 mile trek every day. This is hiking up and down mountainous terrain for as long as I want to pursue game and, hopefully, retrieving said game. Why does it take any time to get in shape for this? Because each type of strenuous physical activity stresses different muscles, in different ways, at different intensities. If you don’t believe me, try one of the programs I list below. You will have a whole bunch of muscles you didn’t know you had that are really sore no matter what shape you think you are in. You have to determine what will be the primary activity you will be engaged in to determine how to best train for it. I will discuss getting real about a training regimen for two of the situations most of us will encounter during a disruption– bugging out on foot or on a bicycle and survival at your retreat.
If your plans depend on travel by foot or bicycle for any significant distance, running marathons will be very little help. This training is usually in running shoes and shorts, or sweats, over basically even ground, like roads, though some people do some training in the mountains. Extended travel on any roads at this time is definitely not conducive to longevity. You will, or should, spend significant time traveling cross country, since you may be required to do so for safety. To begin your training, don the clothes you will need to keep you warm during winter travel, especially good hiking boots. Pack your pack(s) with everything you plan on taking and weigh them. Then, add 25 percent weight equivalent for all the stuff you’ll think of at the last minute. Either pick up whatever weapons and ammunition you plan on carrying or its weight equivalent. Now, head out through fields, woods, hills, or whatever broken country you have in the area, and hike steadily at a three mile per hour pace for three to four hours, not counting a ten minute rest each hour. When you can do 10-12 miles per day for six days straight, you are ready for bugging out. Three miles per hour may not seem very fast or get you very far each day; but with a 60-80 pound load, including clothing and not including weaponry, over broken terrain for an entire week, it is getting real about what may be necessary. Remember, things will not be as they are now. For bike travel, work up to 15 to 20 miles per day– five walking and dragging the bike cross country and 10-15 on the road. Don’t forget the trailer if you plan to use one. Detours, delays, hiding, and weather must all be factored in to calculations. Ninety miles on foot and 150 miles by bike in a week are realistic estimated distances. Thinking you can carry more than one week of food, fuel, and clothing is not getting real about preparations. There won’t be any motels, restaurants, or laundromats available. You may be able to do more, but what about the weaker members of your group. It is best to plan for the worst possible scenario. Once you can do this, you won’t need to train more than three times per week to maintain your conditioning. Oh, don’t worry about cardiovascular training; it will take care of itself. There is one other major consideration for this regimen and the following ones also. There is no time off. This means no matter what the weather, if it is a training day, you do the training. Rain, snow, cold, wind, bad day at work, even feeling a little tuckered out is no excuse; none of that makes any difference. It certainly won’t when it all hits the fan. This is about getting real about training for survival and not some 10k race if the weather is nice. It’s also good conditioning for patrols after you reach your retreat.
Assuming you are not at your off-grid retreat and not planning to hike there, how do you train so you’ll be ready when you are living there on a permanent basis. It may not actually be permanent, but you have to plan for that eventuality. No one is able to predict how long any disruption may last, and you have to be ready for whatever comes down the pike. It doesn’t matter how you have prepared your retreat for off-grid living, I have three words for the primary feature of your life there. HARD-PHYSICAL-LABOR. Any aides requiring fuel will have to be used sparingly. First, because of the uncertainty of how long conditions will last, your limited supplies of fuel will require managing. Second, OPSEC. All powered equipment, even electrical, make recognizable noises. The following are exercises that are inexpensive, or relatively so, and attempt to duplicate what will likely be at least a major part of any off-grid scenario.
For the first one, go to the nearest lumber yard that has them and purchase the heaviest railroad tie you can find. The same length ties can vary in weight by as much as 30 pounds. An eight foot length is minimum; 10 or 12 feet is even better. Also pick up, if you don’t already have, a pair of good heavy weight leather gloves. Place the tie on the ground wherever you have room. Stand at one end, bend your knees with your back straight, and work your fingers underneath. Stand up with the tie, curl it up to your shoulder, work your hands around, and press it over your head. Move forward, working up the tie until it is vertical. Reverse the motions until it is back on the ground. Repeat until your muscles turn to jello. When you can do this continuously for 1/2 hour, add five knee bends, curls, and presses to each rep. Perform the routine at least five times per week, until living at your retreat when all extra exercise programs will become unnecessary.
The second routine requires more money and space, but it is still cheaper than any gym membership. Purchase a contractor’s wheel barrow, rake, shovel, gloves, and 20 tons of ½” minus gravel. Have the gravel dumped in a single pile. Shovel the gravel into the wheel barrow and move it, one wheel barrow load at a time, up to 50 yards away to a new separate pile. Approximately 25-30 shovels full will be a good load. Be sure to keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Rake up every rock from the first pile. Work six days per week, 1-2 hours per day, until the entire pile has been moved. Move it all back. Repeat until all the gravel is gone. I don’t know where it goes either; it just seems to disappear. If you have enough property, and don’t have a need for gravel, digging a hole 10’x10’x4′, moving the dirt to a new location, and burying the hole will accomplish the same thing. While neither of these is very glamorous or entertaining, each attempts to approximate the physical conditions and psychological atmosphere of day to day life at a retreat.
Survival during a serious societal disruption will not be pretty, and will not be pretty for quite some time. It will be boring, repetitive, dirty, and physically demanding. Much of it can be very dangerous to perform when not tired, let alone when it is necessary to work while exhausted due to unexpected circumstances. It won’t be physically demanding in the way that running marathons or bench pressing 200 lbs is. It will be long periods of hard physical labor engaging every muscle of your body. It may be even more taxing mentally. Your survival will be dependent on it, so you can’t take a day off if you don’t feel well. You can’t vary your work out to keep yourself fresh or allow your body to recover from something particularly strenuous. Working from sunup to sundown will be the norm, just as it was before all of the labor-saving devices of the 20th century appeared. I have probably set the training standards for each of the programs higher than is necessary, but I feel the routines are much better than any I have read in the blog at being able to prepare you physically for what may be on the horizon. If you don’t get real about the way things will be after it hits the fan and train for those conditions now, you won’t be ready to deal with them if or when they occur.