Survival Fitness

January 28, 2013 by | 1 Comment

Many people have endured a survival situation without the proper gear, after making a multitude of poor choices, and even running out of food and water, but two things are absolutely critical if you want to make it home alive; a positive mental attitude and physical fitness.

The average American’s idea of fitness today is surprisingly shortsighted, usually limited to weight lifting, yoga, or hitting the elliptical machine a few times each week. This is certainly better than stuffing your face with Oreos and watching a Honey Boo Boo marathon on your couch, but it’s not going to help you develop the physical condition you’ll need in a survival situation.

Whether you’re treading water alongside your capsized boat, pushing through the thick jungle undergrowth, or trudging up and down treacherous mountains, your ability to bench press 300 pounds or run a six-minute mile isn’t going to matter. What will matter is your endurance and core strength.

I’ve seen plenty of military men who could keep up with Olympic runners all day long, but when dropped into a dense jungle and forced to fight the vegetation, slick mud, and even mountainous terrain, they folded in a matter of hours. Until you’ve experienced an extreme environment first-hand, you can’t imaging how quickly it will exhaust you.

The solution is to train to build extreme endurance. Running is great, but mix it up from time to time by running:

  • With a 20-30 pound pack
  • Through the woods and swamps
  • Up and down mountains
  • On the beach sand/in the surf

This will build endurance, improve balance, and increase lower body strength, all of which you’ll need to extricate yourself from rugged terrain. You’ll also need core and upper body strength to help you climb obstacles, carry your gear, and sometimes fight off two or four-legged predators, which is best achieved through an extensive calisthenic program. This may seem old-fashioned, but consider that this is how the Marine Corps, Navy Seals, Delta Force, and other special military units all around the world keep the most elite men in the world in peak condition. Some exercises to consider are:

  • Push ups
  • Sit ups/crunches
  • Toe touches
  • Flutter kicks
  • Squats
  • Pull ups
  • Windmills
  • Lunges
  • Leg lifts
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jumping jacks

You should also add unconventional techniques, such as flipping tractor tailor tires, carrying railroad ties, logs, or boulders, and dragging weighted sleds, as well as more conventional exercises like jumping rope, a punching bag workout, and wrestling. You’re only limited by your imagination, and if you’re not the imaginative type, PX90 or the many boot-camp style exercise programs available can help get you started.

Swimming is another great total body workout. Open ocean is best because you have to fight unpredictable waves and currents, but if you don’t have that option, a lake or even a pool will work.  Just make sure you know your capabilities and stay within them. Even with all of my experience, I’ve let my ego veto logic on several swims, including once nearly drowning three-quarters of the way across a lake, and on several occasions, barely fighting my way back through the ocean currents to finally collapse on shore.

A varied fitness routine is going to work muscles you probably didn’t even know you had and introduce you to a new level of pain, but it will give your body the strength and endurance you need to survive nearly any situation.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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