The older I get, the more concerned I am with survival fitness. I’ve only posted one other article on fitness, “Getting In Shape For TEOTWAWKI,” but I’ve learned a few things since them. Much of my learning is from The Primal Blueprint. I highly recommend that book. It completely changed the way I eat and exercise and I’ve never felt better. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
I know a lot of people will disagree with this, but long workouts like jogging are not the best way to exercise. In fact, they’re probably one of the worst ways to exercise. Last year I went jogging three days a week so I would be able to complete a 10k run. Strangely, I only lost a few pounds during the months I spent training. I also noticed that even though I could jog for several miles, I still got winded when I ran up the stairs in my house.
Believe it or not, long cardio workouts aren’t very good for your heart. Yes, they make your heart more efficient, but they also reduce your heart’s reserve capacity. In order to get more efficient, your heart actually gets smaller so it can go longer while using less energy. But what if you suddenly need to push your heart to the limit for a few minutes? It won’t be able to handle it. This phenomenon is explained in detail in The Doctor’s Heart Cure.
Another problem with jogging is that it’s terrible for your knees. There are thousands of marathon runners who end up getting knee replacement surgery in their forties. Some people ride bikes or use elliptical machines instead, but even then you’re still creating a huge amount of extra free radicals. If this is how you work out, I hope you’re getting plenty of antioxidants.
The main problem with long, boring cardio workouts like jogging is they don’t prepare you for what might happen if the SHTF. If there is a disaster, you might be in several situations where you need to run as fast as you can. Imagine all the things you might have to run from: thieves, fires, tsunamis, wild animals, etc. If it’s teotwawki, being able to jog at a slow, steady pace for an hour won’t do you much good.
Here’s what I do: once a week I go outside and do 30-second sprints with a couple minutes of slow walking in between them. When I do this for twenty minutes, I get as tired as I used to get after an hour of jogging. The weight is coming off more easily, my legs are stronger and look more defined, and now running up the stairs is a piece of cake.
This type of exercise is called interval training. Sprinting down the road isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re older. But you can still sprint on elliptical machines and stationary bikes. Just move as fast as you can for 30 seconds every few minutes. A word of warning: it takes time to work up to this point. You might only be able to do a few sprints at first, but it’s worth the effort. Eventually, you’ll be ready to push yourself to the max when there’s a sudden crisis.
Lift Heavy Things
For years I’ve used weight machines at the gym, but lately I’ve been experimenting with other types of weight lifting. For example, there’s a huge pot of dirt in my backyard. I don’t know how much it weighs, but sometimes I pick it up (using my legs, not my back, of course) and carry it back and forth across the yard until I’m exhausted. If any neighbors have seen me doing this, they probably think I’m crazy.
The reason I do this is because someday I might be in a situation where I need to carry food, water or supplies from one place to another. Of course, I could exercise many of the same muscles at the gym, but when I carry that pot of dirt, I’m exercising all the little stabilization muscles that get neglected on most weight machines.
Other things you could do: Put your car in neutral and push it up and down the street. Get some heavy lumber, lift one end above your head and push it end over end. Rearrange the furniture in your living room then put it back the way it was. Be creative.
And when I say, “lift heavy things,” that includes your own body. Push-ups and pull-ups are a fantastic way to exercises. (I use a pull-up bar.) You could also climb a tree or a rope (just be careful). Anything that challenges your muscles for twenty or thirty minutes. Do this a few times a week and you won’t have any trouble digging people out of wreckage, searching rubble for food and gear, or climbing over fences to get away from dangerous looters.
Ideally, you want to get your heart rate up for several hours a week. Now don’t think this contradicts what I said about long cardio workouts. The problem with those is that your heart rate gets too high. Instead, you should get your heart to 50% – 75% of it’s maximum rate. (You can guesstimate your heart’s maximum safe rate by subtracting your age from 220). So if you’re 40, you’d want to do something that keeps your heart rate anywhere between 90 and 135.
Going for a walk should do that, but you’ll have more fun playing golf, swimming in a pool or riding a bike. This kind of exercise burns calories and releases endorphins without hurting your joints, shrinking your heart or creating free radicals. After the SHTF, you might have to spend a lot of time walking or bike riding. This type of exercise will prepare you for that. Don’t underestimate the importance of survival fitness.