Let me start with this statement: You should be in good cardio condition to survive the acronyms, and I can help you get there. Like the guy that sells Men’s clothing say’s … “I guarantee it!”
Why is it important? Because life ain’t a video game! Anyone that visits this site more than once, I would hope, has enough knowledge to know you won’t be playing this game sitting on the couch. And while it would be nice to think of all our fellow men as “good people” … we know when the going gets tough: the un-prepared and desperate folks, and bad guys, will get going.
Even if you live in the perfect dream come true enclave in the Great American Redoubt, you still have to protect it, and you still have to hunt/gather/plant/harvest food and water. If you have a retreat, but don’t live there – you have to get there – and don’t assume you’ll be able to drive. If you live in a big city, suburb or small town – sooner or later, you gotta leave the house. And when you leave your house, whether to patrol you’re area, gather intelligence, scavenge for food/water, or are forced to leave – you need to be in good enough physical condition to stay ahead of the bad guys. It would be nice if you were so stealthy, that you could always avoid dangerous encounters. But when you come face to face with trouble, you have two choices: Fight or Flight. I won’t go into ‘fight’, since that’s a whole different topic and I just read a great article by Gunfighter on small team tactics; but for ‘flight’ – there is no choice but to be in the best condition you can. And I don’t care how far out of shape you are, you can improve. Frankly, if ANYONE depends on you, then you owe it to them to be in good enough shape to do your part and help out.
Brief Background. I was very active in my 20s and early 30s. But the combination of getting married (and my wife is a great cook), having a job that keeps me at a desk 8+hrs/day, and generally staying home with the family ….. all came together, so that by the time I was in my early 40s, it’s fair to say I was out of shape – big time. I’m 6 feet tall, but weighed 225 pounds, with a medium frame. However, at the age of 47, I achieved Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. That Black Belt test was the most grueling physical thing I have ever done. How did I go from around 45 pounds overweight, and not able to climb two flights of stairs without breathing hard – to surviving a 5hr beating that is a Black Belt test?
This is how you get there, no matter what kind of shape you are in now: Set some goals, Get off your ‘six’ and start, create and follow a training plan. I’ve included mine to help you get started.
After getting in the physical condition required to survive a Black Belt test, you might ask – what are you training for now? For me, it’s simply to be in good enough condition to stay ahead of trouble. At age 50, I don’t pretend that I can take on all threats alone, martial arts training or not. So my goal is that, as I mentioned at the start of this article , if I have to ‘flight’ from a situation, I have a plan: if they run – I run faster, when they start to slow down to a jog – I keep running, when they slow to a walk – I keep jogging, if they stop – I keep walking. My goal is to put some distance between myself and the threat, and plot my next steps from safety. Knowing that predators are usually after easy targets, they usually won’t follow you for long. And in the condition most folks are in these days, they can’t. So my training goal became: be able to evade, run/jog/walk, for as long as it takes. In my estimation, that would put me in good enough condition to elude most threats. You can tailor your end state goal to your environment and situation. But don’t fool yourself … you cannot be invisible, and will not be able to fight in all circumstances. Except Chuck Norris, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him run?
How to begin … Make a commitment and start! Set a goal and commit to improving. You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest by the end of week one. By taking it in steps, you will be able to get there. As you achieve a milestone, set a new one, until you ultimately get in the condition you think serves you well. For me, the first thing I needed to do is get my weight down to a reasonable, healthy level. I targeted 180lbs, based on where I was before I got married. Second, I needed to be able to function with my heart rate up in the 170-180bpm range for an extended period of time, with short periods of going full out. When I started training in martial arts, I could not even spar for two minutes before being winded! So the strategy is to improve over time, and be realistic. It took me a year to get to where I could jog five miles without stopping, at a pace to finish in one hour. That’s 6mph, or a 10 minute mile. Pretty reasonable target. And in the process, I dropped 45lbs in about six months.
Depending on where you are, you can start at any level below.
· Starting Out
My initial training step was to walk for an hour, as fast as I can. Keeping track of how far I went in that hour. If you are out of shape and overweight … you might do this several weeks, or a few months, to start building some cardio strength. Be patient and persistent.
· Two Intervals (Walk and Jog)
My next step was to begin adding level of difficulty in intervals. As I mentioned, I could only jog for about 2 minutes when I started. So what I did was … jog for 2 min, walk fast for 5 min, and repeat. At first, I couldn’t do that for an hour, I ended up walking more than jogging. It took me a few weeks to get there.
Next step is simply to keep increasing the intervals. When I go to the gym, I do intervals in minutes. When I go to the county park and run either on the ¼ mi oval running track or the 2 mi trail, I switch between doing intervals by time or distance. It’s nice to mix it up so you don’t get bored. Start off by just trying to keep moving, whatever pace you run so you can jog the whole ¼ mile, then walk ¼ mile, repeat and keep that up for an hour or 5 miles, whichever comes first. When you can do that, move to jogging ½ mile, walk ¼ mile. Then jog 1 mile, walk ¼ mile. Etc, etc. Until you can jog the full five miles. Once you can jog five miles, work on pace. The first time I was actually able to jog five miles without stopping, it took me a little over an hour. Over time, I was able to pick up the pace, and now I can jog five miles in about 40-45 minutes. Why did I pick five miles? A professional trainer once told me: “If someone can run five miles, I can train them to run a marathon”. So I thought is must be a good target?
· Three intervals (run/jog/walk)
Now that you have a good cardio base, you can start to train for evasion scenarios. It’s time to add a third interval – sprinting. As with the plan above, I add time or distance in the mix for sprinting. Initially, I used the same strategy as above, to continuously improve. I downloaded a free interval timing app to my iPhone, but you could do the same thing with a watch. Try starting with 15 sec sprint, 30 sec jog, 2 min fast walk, repeat. Not as easy as it sounds, especially after an hour. Keep increasing to a target you believe will meet your needs. Again, my goal is to be able to sprint until the bad guy slows down and put a little distance between me and the threat, then stay ahead until I get to a safe area. I am getting to where I can flat out sprint for a several minutes, run hard at a fast pace for several minutes more, decreasing to a jog for a minute or two to recover and allow my heart rate to drop, the run hard again if needed.
· Advanced Training?
First and foremost – you can start training in a Gym, on a treadmill. But that just doesn’t duplicate real world. You will find that actually running on a track is harder. And a jogging trail is a step up in difficulty from a track. So to keep taking in to the next step, keep making it more real … Try running trails, up and down hills, thru heavy woods, tall grass, in the middle of the hot summer, even in the rain. All that keeps it interesting, and you won’t get as bored doing the same thing day after day. Secondly, mix up the training – variety is more fun. Some days I just jog. Some days I do mix up intervals based on time – two intervals (2 min jog / 5 min walk), some days three intervals (15 s sprint / 30s jog / 2min walk), or mix up the distance ( ¼ mile sprint, 1mile jog, ¼ mile walk). Also, I have found it helps me to take a day off and rest. I don’t work out on Sunday, regardless of whether I missed a day during the week, for whatever reason.
Lastly, consider training with your G.O.O.D., BOB, or SWM (stays with me) gear. What are the chances you may have to evade while toting one of these? How far can you walk with a 50 lb G.O.O.D. pack? Can you jog with a 20 lb BOB? How fast can you run with a SWM bag? (Mine is a medium size fanny pack.)
Measuring Success. Obviously, one measure of success is the increase in distance and rate you can run. But, if you are like me, you want cake and to be able to eat it too. The best part of all this is, you can eat what you want, and still get in shape. You don’t have to eat grass and pine cones, join a gym or hire a personal trainer. Here is tip … Get a cheap bathroom scale, and learn some simple math to measure success. Your Weight = Food – Exercise. Understand, to get your weight where it needs to be, it doesn’t matter what you eat, as much as if you are burning it up. This article isn’t about nutrition, just how to know if you are moving in the right direction. So, jump on the scale each day, and if over time: a) weight stays the same – then you are burning the food you eat, and are balanced; b) if, over time, weight is increasing – you are either eating too much or not exercising enough; c) if, over time, your weight is decreasing – you are expending more energy than you are eating. It’s really pretty simple.
I use these free iPhone apps and found them to be very valuable:
- WalkingGPS – This is a great app to track exactly where you have been, and it even plots your path on a map. Measures distance, time, rate, and even altitude change. I’ll bet the first time you walk what you ‘think’ is five miles, you are way off, it’s further than you think. This will keep you honest. It’s also easy to see the pace you are moving at in real time. So you know if you are jogging at 4mph (15min mile), 6mph (10min mile) or 10mph (6min mile). I’ll bet the first time you try to run at 8mph you are shocked at how fast that really is?
- IntervalTimer – I can set it up to alert me when it’s time to walk, jog, sprint and listen to music at the same time. I’ve saved several … Jog/Walk: 2m/5m, 10m/2m or Sprint/Jog/Walk: 15s/30s/2min, 1m/4m/1m, etc.
- Lose It! – great way to track your weight over time, and does a great job of helping you keep track of calories if you want to.