Survival Fitness and Health- Part 2, by JBH

This article is about physical fitness, because I believe it is most important for those who want to survive some of the potentially devastating and even not so devastating situations that one can encounter today. I’m not an athlete but have been involved in fitness training for decades and done quite a bit of research as well. As an introduction to the concept of fitness, I identified its components– muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and body composition.

This essay series is for informational purposes only. Fitness concepts are discussed that the reader may find informative, however the reader is advised to visit their health care provider and obtain medical clearance prior to embarking on any exercise program. The author is not a health care professional and assumes no responsibility for injuries or detrimental health effects the reader may sustain from performing any fitness regimen.

Muscular Strength (continued)

In Part 1, we went over the the benefits of muscular strength and benefits of exercise versus labor activities and then began revealing resources for exercises to strengthen. We will pick up there, with more resources for strengthening exercises.

For Those Who Lift Weights

For those who want to lift weights, research the Stronglifts 5×5 program. It’s an incredibly simple and sound way to build strength, and it is also an old system that has been used at least 50 years or more. You will need to do some cardiovascular training and stretching to round this out.

For most of my adult life I did workouts similar to the Stronglifts system and the Convict Conditioning system. I would do the Stronglifts type workouts when I was in port in the Navy and work similar to the Convict Conditioning system at sea on submarines when we did not have weights. In both cases, I was not acquainted with either specific system, however, particularly with regard to progression. I was much more haphazard in my approach, although I was doing many of the same exercises. I wish I had known about the systems and not just the exercises, as I likely would have progressed further.

Another Resource For Weight Strengthening

The book Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline is another resource for weight strengthening. Pavel outlines an even simpler weight training program with perhaps a few holes. The nice thing about Pavel’s system is that it requires less equipment than 5×5.

Introductions to the World of Kettle Bell Training

The books Simple & Sinister and Enter the Kettle Bell by Pavel Tsatsouline are great introductions to the huge world of kettle bell training. I like Pavel’s writing because he is a minimalist. In Power to the People and Simple & Sinister, there are only two major exercises each that manage to do a fair job of exercising your whole body in a relatively brief period of time. I think if you have more time, you can do a bit better. But if you have limited time, I do not believe you can do much better.

Pavel Tsatsouline

Remember that the best system is the one that you will do and that exercises the whole body. Time is precious and Pavel acknowledges that. Pavel Tsatsouline was a Russian Spetsnaz trainer who decided to come to America and make some money with his knowledge in the U.S. fitness world. In my opinion, he is a bit of a Russian Joe Weider with some of the accompanying nonsense, but he has some very good stuff to say.

He comes at training a little differently than many other writers. One of his themes that is worth repeating is to “practice” strength movements, not “work out” or “train”. It’s a subtlety of words but an important one. He emphasizes perfect performance of a skill over extreme effort or excursion. If you view each movement as a skill to be mastered with all of its subtleties rather than a simple exercise to make you tired, you get further, faster, safer. I have heard the same principle over and over said in different ways, but I don’t think I ever truly bought into it, until I started thinking in terms of “practice” over working out or training.

Kettle Bells, A New World To Me

Kettle bells are a relatively new world to me, and to a lesser degree to the American exercise world. It is actually a quite old form of exercise in other parts of the world. I am experimenting with them myself, and I am not disappointed. It is very useful to me right now, as it provides variety and in my opinion is equal to the other two forms above. I can throw the kettle bell in the trunk of my car and effectively have my own personal gym in the hotels where I stay.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular fitness relates to the ability of your body to transport oxygen to all your tissues, do work, and transport waste away. It can be achieved in many ways, such as walking, running, swimming, biking, rowing, et cetera. Calisthenics and weight lifting are also useful but need to be approached differently if one wants to optimize for aerobic capacity over strength.

Aerobic and Anaerobic

When doing cardiovascular activities, depending on duration and intensity, your body will cycle between aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis. Aerobic means that the body is using oxygen to process glucose in the blood stream, and anaerobic means the glucose is being processed without oxygen. Aerobic glycolysis is much more efficient and produces far fewer waste products.

The Trick With Cardiovascular Training

The trick with cardiovascular training is to know which system you want to exercise and the implications of each. Many times when people think they are training “aerobically”, they are not. They are often on the line between aerobic and anaerobic and are not necessarily getting where they want to go.

Low intensity cardiovascular training takes a lot of time, but by some estimates it produces better long-term results. A very successful track coach, the late Arthur Lydiard, theorized that actual human aerobic capacity was nearly never fully optimized in any trainee and could almost always be improved. He also theorized that anaerobic capacity had severe limitations that reached near full (and quite significant) capacity within a relatively short amount of time.

Trained Athletes At Low Intensity Levels

In his system, he would therefore train his athletes at very low intensity levels for very long times to build up a high level of “base” fitness. Then prior to competition he’d shift them to high intensity training to improve their anaerobic capacity. (I might call it “tolerance”, personally, prior to big races.) As an example, Lydiard’s most famous trainee, Peter Snell, an 800 and 1500 meter runner, would go on upwards of 20 miles slow training runs for most of his training cycle and then do high intensity speed work for a relatively short time and then tear up the competition.

Practical Modern Application of Anaerobic Training

In contrast, consider one of the most practical modern applications of anaerobic training. The German Army in WWII needed to get recruits up to relatively high performance levels in a relatively short time and get them onto the battle field. They found that they could get reasonable endurance in short amounts of time through high intensity interval training (HIIT before it was called HIIT) with rests in between that provided some aerobic conditioning but in reality was quickly maximizing anaerobic capacity. The soldiers were not at their genetic potential, but they reached high enough potential in a short amount of time.

Arguments in Fitness Circles– Train Hard or Easy?

These examples illustrate the practicalities behind one of the arguments in fitness circles. Do you train hard for short periods or easy for long periods particularly to achieve cardiovascular fitness? The answer is, what do you want to do and how long do you have to do it? If you have the time, it is likely better to train easily for long periods of time with occasional short high intensity periods. However if your training time is limited, shorter, high intensity intervals might yield better results.

Low Intensity For Short Times

Low intensity for short times will actually yield some benefit. High intensity for long periods will break you down eventually and fundamentally will not benefit you in the long run.

Best Cardiovascular Exercise

What is the best cardiovascular exercise? Without question, the answer is: the one you will consistently do. Pick one. Do it. Better yet, pick two and do them both alternately. Do them after your strength training or on the off days. Unless you are trying to fully optimize your genetic potential, 30 minutes will yield good results with diminishing returns after that. More will make you better but only to a point.

Heavy Cardiovascular Training Will Negatively Impact Strength Training

Heavy cardiovascular training will negatively impact heavy strength training and vice versa. One of the most difficult things in fitness is finding the balance between both. Your body only has limited recovery capability, and you only get stronger from what you can recover from.

Best Cardiovascular Exercise For Survival

What is the best cardiovascular exercise from a survival perspective? In my opinion, it’s walking, preferably with a back pack. For a pretty strong goal, one might try to work up to a standard of 12 miles in three hours. Do moderate for a half hour to one hour walks religiously, frequently with a pack, and then once or twice a month try a harder longer walk until you get there. Running will get to a higher conditioning level; however, unless you like to run, walking is quite sufficient at a fast pace and is usually a safer exercise.

I will address specific intensity recommendations later. Intensity is a very important subject and deserves its own discussion.


Flexibility is the most neglected element in fitness. When you are young, you can often get away with neglecting it. As you get older inflexible portions of your body will create mechanical imbalances, which eventually cause you pain and suffering. I know.

Protects You From Injury

Flexibility in conjunction with strength also protects you from injury. Should you trip, slip, fall, or tangle up with an attacker, good flexibility may prevent a torn muscle, ligament, or tendon.

Back Pain

Particularly vulnerable and overlooked are the hips. If the various ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the hips and hamstrings tighten up, you are likely going to experience a lot of lower back pain. Much lower back pain has nothing to do with your spine. It is in your tight hips and hip flexors.

Let It Come Naturally

You cannot force flexibility. You have to let it come naturally. Forcing will cause more damage than good. You do not have to have extreme flexibility either. There is some science that would indicate that excessive flexibility can have detrimental effects. Most people have inadequate flexibility, and if you take it easy with some basic stretches you will likely not have an issue with excessive flexibility.

Prior To Stretching

It is typically not a good idea to stretch cold muscles. I recommend walking around a bit and doing some light activity prior to stretching. It is also good to stretch after strength or cardiovascular training.

Stretching Program

Stretch every day, maybe twice. Convict Conditioning 2, referenced previously, has a great, simple stretching program. Here is another one that is quite sound. There are many more to be found with a Google search. Just remember the hips.

Body Composition

Put simply, body composition is how much fat you are carrying compared to muscle. It is a touchy subject, as we are a nation and increasingly a world getting fatter and fatter day-by-day and yet we glorify the hard muscular body type.

What Have Fat?

Why do we have fat anyway? It does not move our limbs like muscles. It does not filter our blood like the liver or kidneys. What good is it?

Fat is our body’s emergency energy storage. It is a battery that can come into play should our calorie expenditure outstrip our calorie intake and keep us functioning for lengthy periods of time in a calorie deficit.

Tomorrow, we will dig much deeper into the concept of body fat and its role in fitness and health.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part two of a five part entry for Round 78 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value).

Round 78 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Do it! 2 survive…
    In feed lots before slaughter animals are confined and over fed.
    Here, we think physical work and weak mind are synonymous ~ all the while being over fed non-nutritious filler food from the grocer, the media and benevolent overseers.
    Any similarities are strictly coincidental. Nothing to see here – keep your head down and keep eating.

  2. Besides being a competitive runner at 70+, one of my goals the past few years has been to learn to be able to pretty much keep moving all day long with housework and yard work, sorting etc., because I believe that sitting around reading, talking on the phone or watching TV will be a thing of the past and we must all be prepared to do a lot more physical work than we are used to. We also hang the clothes outside and do the dishes by hand. We do not want to go into physical “shock” if it all goes down, plus we feel better and sleep better. We clean the screens, polish all the furniture, clean the window sills so that we will be ready for whatever is coming.

  3. The 5 x 5 fitness app is really good in my opinion. Simple workout, slow progression. I have been following it for a few weeks and enjoy it. I do need to add more cardio, after a 20 year career in the Army and now 16 years out I really don’t enjoy running like I use to.

    1. I don’t run at all anymore although sometimes I consider taking it up again.

      I do not think it is necessary if you do not like it. I recommend walking as it is one of the most basic and useful human activities. And one of the most important for survival in normal or emergency times.

  4. I’m walking enough to be getting blisters on the balls of my feet, which shuts down most activity until it heals and this puts me right back where I started. any advice on how to avoid this?

    1. 1. You might need to back off a little and let your feet adapt. In any of this stuff do not push too hard to fast. I cover that in parts 3 and 4. A basic principle is you cannot get stronger when you are injured. At least not at the activity you that injured you.

      2. You might need different shoes/boots and/or insoles.

      3. I have used sock liners for hiking that reduce the friction. I would discuss this with someone at a good show store.

      4. Possibly all the above.

    2. Blisters are caused by friction between your feet and shoes. Your shoes don’t fit properly,get properly fit(remember the old metal shoe sizing machine?),you can even have different sized feet,get both measured. Til your feet harden you can reduce friction by layering socks-a thin,dress type sock under a heavier work/athletic sock can do wonders(common trick for forced marches(20 mi with full pack) in USMC),if you get a “hot spot”/preblister cut moleskin to cushion and prevent it getting worse and foot powder to keep feet dry . Good luck

    3. In the 25th Infantry stationed at Hawaii, with wet feet and long road march miles, 6 to 12/day, I developed blisters.

      An infantry trick to allow your feet to recover to and toughen up was to first put on ankle-high nylons. Then put your boot socks over that.

      Another tip was to really tighten up my boot laces. Some footgear just flat does not fit well and the rubbing with every step will never cease the blistering effect.

      Hope those two tips help. God Bless

  5. I’m walking enough to get blisters on the balls of my feet, which shuts me down until they can heal and puts me right back where I started. any advice on how to avoid this?

    1. Perhaps a little more specifics.

      If whatever your walking regimen is right now is giving you blisters, I would consider cutting it in half for a week perhaps after the current blisters heal. The next week, if your feet feel good, increase by perhaps 10%. The next 10% more and so forth. If you need to back off more to begin with, do it. Just don’t quit.

      Also you can try inserting rest days to allow for recovery. Or light days.

      Slow steady patience wins the fitness race. This applies to all aspects of it.

      And as I said before, check your footwear.

      I should also ask. Do you have diabetes or anything that compromises wound healing? If so, you need to speak to your doctor. Wounds on diabetics can be quite dangerous if not treated properly.

      1. I keep hitting post and then thinking more of your question.

        If your feet are not well adapted to walking and you are walking up and down hills, particularly on trails, you may want to spends more time on flat smooth surfaces for a while and introduce the rougher up and down hill surfaces slowly. I find that down hills can be particularly brutal when not ready for them.

        Some people also lose some or all of the pad on the ball of there foot as they get older putting pretty much bone on skin and causing issues. This can be overcome with good insoles, typically gel. If you think this applies to you, this is another case where you should probably speak with a doctor.

  6. won’t quit, gotta lose weight, down 79 and 43 more to go. got back on my bike today, 7 miles and no blister stress at all, think I’ll split my walk time into walking and biking now. also the blisters appeared after wearing the same socks for 16 hours and then walking 4 miles in summer heat, gotta remember change socks twice a day.

Comments are closed.