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.
As evidenced by the multitude of subjects covered in SurvivalBlog and other preparedness websites, many elements come into play if you desire to survive some of the potentially devastating and even not so devastating situations that one can encounter today. What is the most important element? Beans ? Band-Aids ? Opsec?
Physical Abilities– Most Important Element For Survival
Arguably, the most important element to me is physical fitness. If you were to counter with skills and attitude, I would not argue too hard with you, but I would perhaps offer that, although well armed, the gentlemen described below do not appear as if they will do very well in a difficult survival situation. But then again, who knows? I will discuss that later.
Regardless of whether it is the most important element or not, I would argue the following is important. Without the following physical abilities and attributes, you will not fare well in a survival situation (and you will struggle in normal situations):
- The ability to walk at least a few miles with a load.
- Enough strength to do manual labor and/or possibly fight.
- Freedom from the need for regular medical care or pharmaceuticals for survival.
- Freedom from debilitating chronic pain or another condition(s) that may significantly limit your activities.
What This Essay is Not
I have some specific goals to achieve with this essay. Also, I have some specific things I am not trying to achieve. First what this is not.
Not the “Best” Fitness, Diet, or Health Routine
I am not trying to specify the “best” fitness, diet, or health routine possible. This is impossible; it is subject to endless debate, and as I will discuss this varies from person to person.
Not Specific How-To Exercise Regimes
For the most part, I am not trying to provide specific how-to exercise regimes like, “Do three sets of this many of that exercise.” I will leave that to you, Google, and also a few books and links I will recommend on the way.
Not Delving Into First Aid, Pharmaceuticals, or Herbs
I am not delving into first aid, pharmaceuticals, herbs, or any of that side of the health equation, although these are very important. That is one reason I am calling this article “Fitness and Health” rather than “Health and Fitness”.
What I Am Trying To Achieve in Essay
There are several things I am trying to achieve with this essay. I hope to:
- Motivate you to get fit and healthy.
- Educate you on the elements of fitness, or at least one way to look at it, as there are some different ways to categorize them.
- Provide an overview of some of the exercise systems out there.
- Provide some broad opinions on diet.
- Provide you with some of the experience I have accumulated in personal training, training others, and in the research I have done over the course of approximately 50 years.
Some of my relevant background includes that I have been an avid runner, a weight lifter, a Navy fitness trainer, and a Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research Certified Personal Trainer. I have observed hundred of sailors who were struggling with various aspects of fitness. Over many years of involvement in fitness, I have injured myself and healed and watched others do the same. Also, I have done a lot of personal research.
Now, in my mid- to late-50s, I’m trying to fight off (with moderate success) the accumulation of excess weight (about 10 pounds over) and monthly prescriptions (none so far) that I am observing among my peers. I really relate to that country song, “I’m Not As Good As I Once Was, But I Am As Good Once As I Ever Was”. Although, even that is not quite true.
I am not as good once as I ever was, but I am doing okay. As I sit writing this, I am working through some hip and sciatica issues from an old injury. Yet, I am still very active and functional.
Not An Athlete
What I am not and never have been is an “athlete”. I played some sports with limited success from time to time, but the only thing I would say I was really good at was hitting a baseball. I have always been pretty good with a hay hook, shovel, or splitting maul.
Separate Athletics and Fitness
I have usually been fit and had an athletic frame, but right here I would like to separate athletics and fitness. While they can be linked, some of what we do to achieve athletic prowess, especially in youth sports, is not conducive to long-term fitness. In many cases, youth sports pushes the “non-athletes” away from fitness (as they sit on the bench or get humiliated on the field). This mentally burns out and/or physically damages the “athletes” in a manner that results in them abandoning fitness in later years.
I feel this is very important. If you are in either of those categories, I hope this will revive your interest in fitness.
What Makes a Person Fit
What makes a person fit? Or what are the components of fitness? There are subtle variations in fitness literature, but on the whole the following is a pretty good list:
- Muscular Strength
- Cardiovascular Fitness
- Body Composition
Muscular strength is pretty basic. How much can you lift or move in various manners? How often or how many times can you do it? How much force can you apply to a wrench, a sledge hammer, pick, shovel,…, or attacker?
Some would divide muscular strength and endurance and perhaps even power. There are some useful subtleties, although I will not cover them here.
How Muscular Strength Achieved
Muscular strength is typically achieved through calisthenics, weight lifting, kettlebell training, physical labor, et cetera. What is the best way to get strong? The answer is, whatever of these you will consistently do, with one caveat.
Exercise Whole Body
You need to exercise your whole body. The best way to do this is with exercises that utilize multiple joints at once. Examples include:
- Squats, weighted and/or body weight,
- Push-ups and/or bench pressing,
- Military presses or hand stand push-ups,
- Pull ups or rowing exercises, and
- Deadlifts with barbells, hay bales, rocks, or whatever.
Kettle Bell Training
If you do not like the sound of the above exercises, or just want to do something different, look into Russian kettle bell training. It can do everything you need by basically swing and/or lifting a cannonball with a handle. The 53lb kettle bell  was and is a staple of Soviet/Russian military training. It’s highly effective at building strength and endurance in a relatively short time period.
The 10-minute kettle bell snatch test is reportedly part of the overall Secret Service physical fitness test. Mixed martial artists are also very big into kettle bell training these days and swear by it. I keep a kettle bell in the trunk of my car and frequently use it when I have to travel for work.
Strength Training Can Reduce Body Fat and Help Avoid Injury
While there are at least four distinct elements of fitness, they interact. Strength training can reduce body fat by increasing resting metabolism. You do not burn many calories in a weight training session, but you increase your fat burning for the rest of the day. Some strength training will increase your cardiovascular fitness a bit, especially kettle bells and calisthenics, but more importantly, strength training will increase your ability to do cardiovascular activities with good form. Therefore, it helps you avoid injury.
Less Obvious Benefits
Strength training has other, less obvious benefits. There are quite a few of these.
Bone health is one. Without stressing the bones, they will deteriorate and as you age can become brittle. Strength training provides this stress and helps to ward off or even reverse this problem.
Balance is another. Strength and balance go hand-in-hand.
Injury prevention is yet another benefit. Strong muscles are not as easily damaged as weak muscles. These strong muscles provide protection for the rest of the organs in your body as well.
There is research that the chemical benefits of cardiovascular training, like blood sugar normalization and normalized cholesterol levels, are equally conferred by strength training.
A Question of Why I Need More Exercise
If you are a physical laborer, or like me have property that keeps you physically active, you are likely relatively strong already. You may ask, “Why do I need more exercise?” This is a valid question, which I shared for many years. I would counter with several answers.
Physical Labor Is Not Same As Systematically Exercising Whole Body
The point of physical labor is primarily to get things done, not to exercise. You will not typically systematically exercise your whole body effectively doing physical labor. You may exhaust certain parts of your body while barely working others. For example, a friend of mine (my same age and rough build) who is extremely active on his property with all manner of projects is quite strong in the upper body but has pretty weak legs. By his own estimation, he may need knee replacement eventually. Although he has a pretty strong back, he has already had two major back surgeries with some subsequent limitations and pain. Would exercise have mitigated this? Most research indicates that certain targeted exercises to round out his strength may have improved his chances.
Cyclical Physical Labor
Physical labor for most is rather cyclical. You do certain activities for a while and then shift to others. You dig a ditch for that project, and then about the time your body adapts, you start working on your wood pile. At that point, those ditch digging muscles weaken. Variety is good; however, the continuous conditioning followed by loss of conditioning can take its toll on the body.
Physical Labor Has Only a Degree of Progression
Physical labor only has a degree of progression to it. If you buck hay, you reach a certain level of strength and then pretty much plateau before you reach your genetic potential. Systematic exercise (especially accompanied with some physical labor) takes you much closer to your genetic potential.
Systematic Exercise Makes You Better At Physical Labor
Systematic exercise will make you better at physical labor, especially labor that is cyclical. If you are better at physical labor, you will be more productive, and this increased productivity will more than offsett the amount of time spent in systematic exercise. Remember that in many cases you can get quite good results in as little as 15 to 30 minutes a day.
Sources For Specific Workouts
I will discuss important basic principles later. I will not delve into specific workouts here. For specific workouts, I would go to these sources.
The books Convict Conditioning  and Convict Conditioning 2  by Paul Wade. These are definitely the best books I have ever read about calisthenics and are possibly the best exercise books of any type I have ever read.
It is super simple in principle and bone easy to start and work with, but it is the most advanced general calisthenics program I have ever seen. If you have no preferences regarding fitness and want to quit reading this essay here and just do something sound, get these books, do what they say, and walk at least a half hour per day (sometimes with a pack). Without the walking, you could do Wade’s system in as little as 15 minutes a day, although you could spend more time and get more benefit. The one weakness I see with his system is, that despite his claims, I do not think the lower back is strengthened as much as it might be with his system. To counter this, perhaps do some deadlifts a couple times a week with a barbell, hay bales, big rocks, or whatever else you have. Research good deadlift form online to avoid injury. See your physician before doing any of this, of course.
For Bodyweight Training
For a peak into where you can go with bodyweight training go to http://www.beastskills.com/.  These are not calisthenics done the same way you likely did them in gym class in school. I do not think the site is as informative as the Convict Conditioning series, because it is not quite as systematic in the progression. That is what makes Wade’s books so special, in my view and in the view of many prominent fitness professionals. He shows the average or maybe weak person how to get from almost any starting point to their genetic potential in a realistic manner. It should be noted that the host of the “Beast Skills” site features prominently in Paul Wade’s books demonstrating Wade’s techniques.
Convict Conditioning 2 also provides an excellent flexibility system and, interestingly enough, some decent life philosophy, IMO. Paul Wade (a pseudonym by all accounts) claims to have spent a couple decades in prison, which is where he learned his exercise techniques. His insights into personal struggles are interesting and quite good, IMO.
- 2 – Survival Fitness and Health- Part 2, by JBH  (Active 9/6/18)
- 3 – Survival Fitness and Health- Part 3, by JBH  (Active 9/6/18)
- 4 – Survival Fitness and Health- Part 4, by JBH  (Active 9/6/18)
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part one 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:
- 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.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- 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,
- 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),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator  provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- 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,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit  from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- 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,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners , donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances , and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (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.