We are continuing the first point– “Be Fit”– of six points that will be presented and detailed that, if implemented in your own life, will greatly increase your chances of success, both in surviving TEOTWAWKI and in breaking the stereotype of the “kooky prepper.”
As far as flexibility goes, you should do a full stretch routine, both after your warm-up and after your cool-down. Stretches should be held for 10-20 seconds without any bouncing, and while stretching you should feel some discomfort but not pain as your muscles loosen up. Failure to stretch properly could result in injuries or cramps during PT and cramps or stiffness overnight and the following day. Be especially wary of sudden cramping of the calf muscle while swimming with fins, as this could get you into trouble during an open-water swim.
Everything I’ve covered so far will appear more or less normal and healthy in the eye of the public. However, you also need to work on agility– your ability to move quickly with balance and coordination. In BUD/S and at the Team, we practiced this mostly through the use of four different obstacle courses on three Naval bases. Obstacle courses are hallmarks of militaries and militias, so unless you have the property and money to build your own obstacle course out of the sight of nosy neighbors and uppity passersby, you will probably have to make use of playgrounds, skate parks, rocks, trees, and other public amenities for your obstacles. Parkour, or Free Running, is a sport in which common structures are negotiated as obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. I would suggest developing your own “obstacle course” based upon the resources available in your community and training on it in normal athletic clothes. If anybody ever asks what you’re doing, tell them it’s Parkour and it’s popular in Europe.
Also, if you plan on ever bugging out with your BOB/GOOD kit, then you should add ruck humping to your PT regimen. You can do this as a trail hike with a weighted civilian backpack (at least 50lbs) to avoid any undesirable attention. I only own Army ALICE rucksacks, and I like to carry a weighted prop to simulate a rifle when I do a ruck hump (as we did in the Navy), so I wait until after dark and walk the perimeter of a local golf course where nobody sees me.
While one of Richard Mercinko’s 10 Commandments of SpecWar states, “The more thou sweatest in training, the less thou bleedest in war,” you don’t need to go crazy with PT. One to three hours a day is fine. Be sure to take a break on Sunday and even Saturday, if you like. Your body needs time to recover.
In addition to exercise, diet is very important to your overall fitness and health. Most people know which foods are healthy to eat and which foods are not, so I’m not going to delve into the basics here. However, there are two aspects of nutrition that are frequently overlooked– proper portion sizes and the avoidance of dangerous food additives. Portion size is fairly easy to control; just use a salad plate, or envision how much food might fit on one, and eat that amount at each mealtime rather than what would fit on a full-size dinner plate. My wife tells of a thin old man who said that the key to his health is that he has always left the table just slightly hungry. So don’t over-indulge yourself, and eat less if you’re exercising less.
Avoiding dangerous food additives is a real hassle and is especially difficult to do if you aren’t buying your own groceries. Try not to eat foods that contain sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, or any dyes (especially Red #40). Also, never ingest aspartame, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K), or monosodium glutamate (MSG). These chemicals are known to have deleterious health effects in many people and cause damage to the eyes, nervous system, reproductive system, and more. They are found in most commercially-smoked meats, candies, artificial sweeteners, soup bases, and brightly-colored foods. Always check the list of ingredients on the food label, because many products that you would think are healthy are most definitely not; yet, there are also plenty of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients that are completely harmless. Anytime I come across a questionable ingredient, I look it up in the Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, which lists FDA health concerns associated with each substance.
As a prepared individual, you should have a natural desire to understand the workings of the world around you. This includes maintaining constant situational awareness by scanning your environment for possible threats and opportunities, studying the current political climate and any news relevant to your particular region or situation, and researching the Bible, law, world and national history, our founding documents, military tactics, homesteading, and wilderness survival (to name only a few subjects). You should also familiarize yourself with the correct nomenclature and terminology to use for preparedness gear items and activities as well as the use of proper grammar in general, especially for when you’re speaking to non-preppers or posting on the Internet. Remember that you’re a representative of the prepper community! As old Biff Tannen once stated, “It’s leave, you idiot! Make like a tree and leave! You sound like a fool when you say it wrong!” So don’t call magazines “clips”, cartridges “bullets”, or semi-automatics “assault weapons”; you should also learn the reasons why. Furthermore, it would behoove you to conduct your own research into controversial topics, especially so-called “conspiracy theories”, and seek to learn the truth of such matters. The chances are that if a subject is controversial, it’s because only a portion of the population knows and is willing to accept the truth. However, if you don’t want to appear to the mindless masses as a kook, then only attempt to share your findings if you can prove the information beyond a shadow of a doubt, and don’t spend all of your time researching. (Actually, they’ll still think you’re a kook.) It’s easy to get carried away, even to the point of obsession, when you start digging deep into the conspiracies of the powers that be, but balance your time with other interests and especially with physical activity.
A favorite story of mine that my mother tells is that when I was about two years old she placed me outside in a playpen beneath the beech tree, went back inside, and headed upstairs to exercise on the NordicTrack. Partway through her workout, she heard, “Hi Mom!” and became somewhat alarmed when she looked out the window and saw me hanging with one hand from a branch on the beech tree that was level with the second story window and waving to her with the other hand. She raced downstairs and coaxed me back down to the ground; I descended fine on my own. Some skills come naturally to us, but most need to be learned. I believe that a major part of what makes preppers appear kooky to the general public is the lack of expertise in essential skills, as well as engagement in prepping activities that really serve no practical purpose. Some basic skills that every survivalist should be proficient in are:
- knife sharpening,
- shelter building,
- land navigation,
- knot tying,
- radio use and etiquette,
- proper care and storage of gear and consumables, and
- dressing oneself appropriately for any given situation, as well as maintaining a professional and attractive appearance.
The best way to learn and practice many skills is to join an organization that is qualified to teach you the skills properly. When I was in the Boy Scouts in the late 1990’s, they did a great job of this. Anymore, I’m not so sure, but I believe some troops still have a lot to offer their members. If you join the military for one of the many combatant positions offered, you are almost guaranteed to learn a great deal of survival and fighting skills. It would be best to try out for one of the special operations groups, as they receive better training than the regular military regarding the fields you will likely be most interested in. If you don’t care to get paid to learn and practice skills, then you can pay to learn them at the many private civilian schools across the U.S., or you can try teaching yourself. The following are details of the skills I believe to be basic essentials:
Maintaining your appearance and demeanor actually is a skill, and many preppers do not possess it. Your personal standards should be similar to those of military and law enforcement personnel. As noted already, preppers need to keep themselves in excellent physical shape. Being overweight is a sign that you don’t have respect for yourself, and you will not easily earn the respect of others while in that condition. Keep your hair short (men only) and neat, and refrain from getting tattoos and piercings (earrings are acceptable for women). Your clothing should be clean, fit you properly, and be appropriate for both everyday activities and for use during adverse conditions. Camouflage should be avoided during Rule of Law, in favor of solid natural colors, as the general public associates camo clothing with kookiness. Please do not wear clothing that has skulls and other symbols of death printed on it; the last thing the prepper community needs is to give the public and the media reasons to associate us (essentially the already-demonized militia) with the glamorization of violence and death. I personally avoid wearing clothing with any sort of print most of the time. When interacting with others, think before you speak; also, do not use slang or foul language. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and any sort of drugs– illegal or not. As a survivalist, others should be able to look up to you as a leader in times of trial, and that won’t happen if you look and act like a punk.
You should be skilled at knife sharpening. Using whetstones or a diamond rod, a very dull old edge can be turned into a good working edge in about 5-10 minutes, and a fresher edge can be honed razor sharp in one or two minutes. The use of gimmicky (and oftentimes expensive) sharpening kits may seem novel to some people, but such devices really mark the prepper as unwilling or unable to learn and master a basic survival skill. Kit sharpeners are also difficult to fit into a BOB load-out. I prefer diamond rods, as they do not wear out and I use them almost exclusively to sharpen my own knives, which are all as sharp as can be. Upon mastering this skill, you can sharpen knives for your friends and family (especially their dull kitchen knives that all clank against each other in the utensil drawer) to demonstrate that survivalists are handy to have around. In addition to keeping your blades sharp, keep them clean. Residues on the steel can cause corrosion, collect dust and bacteria, and hinder your ability to cut. They are also an indicator that you don’t care for your gear. Clean your knife with dish detergent, Goo Gone, or lighter fluid whenever necessary, and take care not to dull the edge in the process.
This is a skill that most people are able to perform under normal circumstances, despite knowing little about it. You should be able to gather and process a variety of flammable materials and identify the materials as tinder, kindling, and fuel. In a natural environment, you would gather such items as dry grass and weed stems, pine needles, fur and feathers, or you could process dry wood into very fine shavings, to use as tinder– the part of your fire that you actually light. The burning tinder is used to ignite kindling, which consists either of sticks up to the size of the width of your fingers or, even better, a dry log processed into finger-width pieces. (Sticks often hold moisture inside the bark, whereas the inner wood of a seasoned log tends to be very dry.) The kindling is used to ignite fuel– logs measuring about wrist-width and larger. In an urban or suburban environment, a multitude of materials could be substituted for those listed above, such as lint, paper, greasy food wrappers, or clothing for tinder; cardboard, wood stakes from construction sites, and fence pickets for kindling; and furniture legs, fence posts, and pallets could be used for fuel. Items, such as candles, petroleum jelly, and flammable liquids other than gasoline (which has explosive tendencies), may be readily available in civilized areas to assist your fire starting. My favorite method of fire construction is the log cabin build; this is done by stacking the kindling like Lincoln Logs and filling the center of the “cabin” with tinder, but sometimes a teepee build is easier, depending on the materials you’ve been able to gather. If you don’t want to spend the time and energy cutting up larger logs, you can just feed them lengthwise into the fire as time passes. As a survivalist, you should be able to start a fire in most environments and weather conditions, a lifeless sandy desert and portions of the Earth’s snow-covered poles being notable exceptions.
I won’t go into great depth discussing knot tying, as it’s very difficult to instruct how to tie knots without visual examples, but you should be able to tie basic knots, including the:
You should understand the purpose of each knot and know how to use it to serve your needs. In BUD/S we had to prove we could tie the aforementioned knots underwater on breath hold, first at nine feet in the pool and later at 50 feet in the dive tower. This was for the purpose of being able to tie detonation cord while rigging underwater demolitions, which we eventually did in the surf off San Clemente Island. You can try tying knots underwater if you like, but you should definitely be able to tie the basic knots without looking, so you’ll be able to tie them in the dark when necessary. I find this particularly important when setting up hammocks and shelters at nighttime, when flashlights would give away my position. The use of multiple overhand knots is an unacceptable substitute for correct knot tying technique; each knot you tie should be attractive (a pretty knot is a proper knot), secure, and easy to loosen when its job is complete. I like to incorporate a slipknot into most knots I tie so that when I’m ready to undo them, I can simply pull the running end rather than pulling out the Leatherman. This is as simple as passing the running end of your line back through the last loop before tightening the knot. The more knots you can properly tie the better; this is one skill set that you can use to impress survivalism-naysayers on a regular basis.
I learned how to swim mostly on my own. I failed every stroke in swim lessons when I was little, yet I spent a significant portion of each summer swimming at the local pool. Then, when I was older, I went on to swim and free-dive alone in nearby rivers and at the beach (mostly around jetties in the ocean and beneath bridges in the bay along the coast of New Jersey). I joined the high school swim team during my senior year and competed in breaststroke and freestyle (for whatever reason competitive swimming doesn’t include sidestroke). Later, in the Navy, I swam up to 5-1/2 nautical miles in the ocean (about 6-1/3 statute miles) using the sidestroke with fins. During college, I trained and life-guarded for two summers at an outdoor pool, where I performed one rescue. Swimming is a skill that everyone should possess. The ability to swim properly and quickly will keep you out of trouble around the water, and it may even enable you to save another person’s life, earning you-– the survivalist-– the admiration and gratitude of your unprepared community. If you need to learn to swim, you can be trained as a Boy Scout at summer camp or through adult swim lessons at most public pools and gyms. However, to learn the “combat sidestroke”, you’ll probably have to figure it out on your own, unless you know a veteran who can teach you properly (this video may also help).
Tomorrow, we’ll continue the list of basic, essential skills in the “Acquire Skills” section of this five-part article.