High Level Fitness, by Greg K.

There are plenty of times through my day I thank God for allowing me to have a physically capable body.  Appreciation for working out, building strength and mobility to the point I don’t have to think about the movements my body goes through.  For example, carrying a laundry basket up and down stairs is something everyone should be able to do without a concern they will injure themselves.

Will I be able to perform the tasks I need to in order to survive? How long will it take me to cover the 12 miles, on foot, that are between my family and me?  Food, water and another location to move to incase of emergency are only good if you don’t injure yourself loading the car.  Time to look at another aspect of preparedness.
We all may end up being an athlete or participant at some point in a match of Survival of the Fittest.  The definition of “fittest” is up for debate.  Some will argue they are more fit because they have more guns. Some will argue they are more fit because they have more water.  How about the person who has prepared with the greatest balance?  I’m referring to the perfect balance of preparation of mind, body and supplies.  This leads us to the preparation of your most important tool: your body.

If an athlete is serious about their sport, they will properly train for their sport. This means they may need to build speed and strength but also mobility and stability. Caring just as much about working out as they do allowing their bodies to repair and build.  Once again, balance. 

Over-complicating anything often decreases results.  I’m going to try and highlight just a few crucial aspects of health and fitness: 
Stretching is about proper circulation more than it is about doing the splits.
A strong core will increase your chances.
This one may be obvious to some, but oxygen is very important.
Pull as often as you push.
Strength through breathing.
The sum of all these parts will lead to less discomfort.

There is a high percentage of our population that can’t touch their toes.  Don’t be ashamed if you are one of them.  Stretching to me isn’t about being able to touch your toes or do the splits.  It is about allowing blood and nutrients to flow freely throughout your body.  When your joints are able to move through a healthy range of motion, circulation is not being impeded as greatly, or at all.   When muscles are tight and start to compress a blood vessel or impinge a nerve, you will experience decreased function.  Proper flexibility or mobility will also decrease chances of joint dysfunction. Don’t make things harder on your body then they need to be.

Core strengthening is not doing abdominal crunches.  There are over 20 muscles that comprise your “core.” The easiest thing to do to strengthen your core is to draw your belly button to your spine.  This engages your Transverse Abdominis (TVA), the innermost unit of your core.   Professionals compare the active engagement of the TVA to wearing a weight belt.  You can start to do simple exercises like holding your body in an up push-up position, while drawing your belly button towards your spine.  A strong core will allow you to walk or run farther distances.  Punches that come from the core do more damage than punches from the shoulder.  The stability a strong core provides is crucial in preventing injuries while performing athletic movements. 

There is only one route to cardiovascular conditioning, and that is to do it.  Cardiovascular function is the ability for your cardiovascular system to pump blood through your body.  Increased cardiovascular function equals increased efficiency of processing oxygen. As I mentioned earlier, oxygen is important.  You will not increase cardiovascular function by reading books, planning to uncover your treadmill or going for a walk.  Start small and increase your activity in small increments.   For someone extremely sedentary, going for walks a couple times a week will increase cardiovascular function.  After a while, your body will adapt and you’ll need to work smarter.  Work smart, not hard.  Get moving, start walking or running one time around your block or to the mail box and back.  Then increase to two times, then three times.  When you stop getting winded by walking up or down stars, you know you’re making progress!

When you look to increase your strength, you need to be concerned with the muscles you can’t see, as much as the muscles you can see.  “Pull as much as often as you push” is in reference to balancing strength from front to back.  Most people have a focus on pushing when they need to balance their strength and focus more on pulling.  Pull-ups, rowing, hamstring curls, glute-bridges are all examples of exercises that can be done to create balance.  When your back is strong, you’ll be able to push more weight.  When your hamstrings and glutes (muscles of your posterior hip, aka your butt) are strong, you’ll run faster, jump higher and kick harder.  Now that you’re increasing and balancing your strength, make sure you stretch. 

Now for an exercise that can help your mind as much as your body.  Everyone when they are born has the natural instinct to breathe with your diaphragm.  When you breathe with your diaphragm, your belly raises or goes out as you take a breath in and your belly goes in when breathe out.  Lie on the ground, put your hands on your belly button and breathe in and out.  Do you feel belly raising and lowering? If you do not, you are more than likely not breathing with your diaphragm.  Practice five minutes when you first wake up and five minutes before you go to sleep.  This will help train your body to breathe with your diaphragm.  This will also give you a time to clear your mind, gain your focus and let your body relax.  Properly breathing provides your body with more oxygen. As we all know, oxygen is important.

Now let’s look at just a couple of concerns with improper breathing.  Sometimes it is good to hold your breath when performing an athletic movement.  However, when you have a strong core and you all will, you may find it easier to exhale during exertion.  Boxers and martial artists will exhale or yell when striking or when on the defensive.  Breath holding causes increased pressure in your chest and abdominal cavities and increased blood pressure.  When we breathe properly, we are giving our bodies the opportunity they need to replenish oxygen and clear the CO2 from our blood stream.   Strengthen your core so you do not have to depend on holding your breath to stabilize your mid-section.  Learn how to coordinate your breathing with movements.

When you follow a recipe to bake a cake, you’ll end up with a cake.  When you put one egg and five cups of flour together and then throw icing on top, that is not a cake.  Neglecting either stretching, cardiovascular conditioning or strength training will make it more difficult to reach your goal.  Start your cardio program without stretching and you’ll more than likely wake up in the morning feeling more discomfort than you want.  Stretch without strengthening your muscles and you may injure yourself when doing some strenuous activity.  You may not spend the same amount of time stretching that you do during your cardio conditioning or during your strength training.  That is ok, just incorporate the three in your training.

Keep your training simple and celebrate small victories along the way.  Remember mobility is just as important as strength.  Stretching is about circulation more than touching your toes.  There are proper breathing techniques a person should practice in order to not only breathe more effectively, but more efficiently. This whole article was written on the basis of balance.  The balance of your mind, body and your preparation techniques and focus.            

If you feel you are unable to train yourself, look into hiring a certified personal trainer (CPT).  Working with a CPT for even 12 weeks will be a valuable tool you will see a great return on investment.  You’ll learn proper form and if you take notes, you’ll have exercises you can do on your own down the road. When looking for a CPT, make sure they have a certification through a reputable organization.  Look into NASM, ACSM, NSCA or ACE to find a CPT.  You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and you shouldn’t hesitate to let them know what you are training for.  The more they know about what your goals are, the better they will assist you.

Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail.  I wasn’t the first to say this, but like many people, I take it to heart.  For people on a budget, preparing their mind and body for survival is one of the easiest things they can do.  Cars will run out of gas and you will have to move yourself from location to location. Backpacks would be great if they stayed under 30lbs, but the reality is you will have to carry more weight than that from time to time.  Final thought of the article : Wish for the best, prepare for the worst and do not let your lack of physical conditioning put you at greater risk.