In a recent article I brought up the importance of preparing your mind for the effects of living in a survival situation. I addressed that issue first because the mind controls all else that our body does. There are many things that my body would like to do but I find that as I get older, some tasks become harder. When working as a wilderness guide in the “high country”, I saw many hunters get altitude sickness and not be able to keep up with the rigors of hunting. To help to combat this problem, we gave our clients instruction on how to prepare themselves physically for the challenge.
By Chuck Savage, a contributing author
Get To Know Your Body
Living and working at altitude can be challenging at times but is also very beneficial to your body physically. Many professional runners train at altitude to increase their stamina, lung capacity and heart function. For example, your oxygen saturation is depleted by 15% at 7500 feet. At sea level however, your saturation is closer to 100%. It is very easy to put off or wait until the last minute to deal with the things that are important. I suggested that when getting ready for these excursions to the mountains you should begin well in advance, a year ahead if possible. Proper conditioning doesn’t happen overnight. We need to make it a lifestyle.
As I thought about the advice I was giving to these clients to prepare for their trips, it dawned on me that I would not have to give this advice if these folks made it a lifestyle. Well that is easier said than done. After moving to the South from Colorado, I found that my exercise and eating habits had changed drastically. It seemed like everywhere you went to eat, the menus were full of fried foods and delicious side dishes. Fried pickles, fried chicken, fried fish, fried ice cream, fried Twinkies and donuts, you name it, there was always a temptation. A strange thing about the South is that everything seems to slow down here also. The heat and humidity slows you down. You slow down because you don’t feel like exercising as much but the wonderful foods help you pass the lazy days as you wash it down with a big glass of sweet tea. Even your metabolism slows down. We talk slower and maybe even write slower.
Well, I got caught in that trap. I continued working at putting together all of the things needed to survive emergencies and make sure I was prepared for most problems but forgot my physical state. I kept telling myself that I would work on that some other time. I put it off until a routine trip to my doctor uncovered that I had to address my physical well being. For me, it was the wakeup call I needed. To make a long story shorter, I cut back on most of my carbohydrates and started walking morning and evenings. It wasn’t easy and still isn’t because I am still faced with all of the southern goodies. I have to date, lost thirty pounds and my energy level is incredible. I have also added some crunches and strength training to my routine.
Your Body – The Ultimate Survival Tool
I realized that we can buy the latest and greatest survival tools and supplies but they are no good if we don’t have the mental and physical strength to use them. So what I have found that works for me is to cut back on the amount of food I consume and watch how many carbohydrates I take in a day. I drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day and take fiber and vitamin supplements. This is good training for a survival situation because our foods would be more limited and may even need to be rationed. During survival, we would become more of the hunter/gatherers that our ancestors were.
Weight loss, for those that could stand to shed a few pounds, will become a pleasant outcome. For those who are fast metabolizers, the challenge will be to be able to keep weight on. You need to be aware of this and keep an eye out for the dietary needs of your family and possibly your friends. Regardless of your condition, we all will come closer to surviving under harsh conditions by being in better health and good physical shape.
Meats, nuts, roots and natural greens will sustain you as they did everyone who has been here before us. The new Paleo diet is somewhat like the native peoples diet that served them well. I’m not going to suggest a certain diet because everybody is different in their needs. I will suggest that we all need regular exercise and training. Aerobic training three to four times a week should be routine. Resistance and strength training at least twice a week is a good place to start. You will be carrying heavy loads and gear during a survival situation. You might want to take a backpack with you occasionally on walks with what you would normally carry in a Bug Out Bag. Flexibility is very important to prevent injuries so don’t neglect these types of exercises. Endurance is a key factor so make sure that you push through the urge to blow it off.
One of the key components of a survival strategy is security. Being able to protect yourself and your family and property is physically demanding. We can’t all look or be an Arnold Schwarzenegger but we need to be the best we can be. Your physical conditioning can affect how well you can shoot and perform other security related tasks under stress. I saw this often while guiding for elk in the Rockies. It is hard to make a clean shot on an elk with your heart rate elevated and out of breath. Under these conditions, most of your motor skills will suffer. Your physical condition can also have an effect on your mental state. The better shape you are in, the better you feel, the better you perform and the more peace of mind you will have. All of this to say, don’t put off working on your physical well being.
Consult your doctor, watch what you eat, how much you eat and start exercising and training. You will feel much better that you did. My motivation is that my wife, daughter, son in law and our grand kids well being may depend on my mental and physical conditioning. That’s enough to keep me on track and make me work harder.
For all you techies out there, “There’s an App for that.” There are many Apps that will help you in tracking your exercises, vital statistics, foods to eat and weight loss or gains. Don’t forget to use this technology while we can. The body responds much better to the stress of life and survival challenges when in good condition so let’s get physical! Get up, get out of that chair and walk some laps, get moving. Here’s for the best for you and yours!