Physical Preparedness: Practical Performance for Real-World Survival

by Todd Walker

Is your body fit to function in troubled times? Good times? Events are happening with increasing regularity that are steering us to hard times.

Stories from Great Depression survivors reveal how physically demanding life became after the crash. The difference in last century and the cliff we’re dangling over now is we’re in a state of soft. Soft bodies, soft drinks, and soft minds characterize today’s society.

Granted, there are exceptions. But look around. We’ve become a bunch of physical softies. You might be soft if…

  • Minimal physical exertion like walking up bleachers at your daughter’s soccer game leaves you breathless
  • Bending to place a case of bottled water under your shopping cart sends you to the chiropractor
  • Planting three tomatoes warrants a two-hour nap
  • Playing outside consists of a game of Angry Birds on your tablet on your screened porch
  • Checking the mailbox becomes an endurance event

If the soft shoe fits you, it’s time to stop wearing it. No one is immune from emergencies. Natural disasters happen. Some time we put ourselves in stupid situations that demand a strong response. If you’re soft, you’re not going to be very useful to yourself or those depending on you.

Excuses for staying soft run on forever. But if you’re sick and tired of being soft and tired, you’re the only person that can change you.

I work with a teacher who got tired of being soft. She had lost over 100 pounds by the end of this school year. She decided to take charge of her life and get strong. She’s an inspiration to many. Her method is not what I would use, but you can’t argue with her results.

Back to excuses. Not having a gym membership is not a valid excuse to stay soft. There are many more exciting ways to get functional fit than striding on a treadmill or pulling on a lat machine. As a matter of fact, doing conventional workouts with traditional equipment will build a baseline level of fitness for you, but washboard abs and python arms are not your aim in functional fitness.

To be functionally fit, you train your body to handle everyday situations. You want to perform movements that use multiple muscle groups. Whole body movement will increase your endurance, coordination, resilience, stamina, strength, power, speed, agility, and balance.

Think of it this way. When in nature have you seen a wild animal doing the same repetitive motion over and over like jogging in a circle for an hour. That’s not how they exercise – neither should humans.

And you don’t need a gym to get functionally fit. Allow me to introduce a workout I did the other day in our local park. Dirt Road Girl named it after the Commodore’s disco hit “Brick House.”

The Brick House Workout

brick house workout

Rolling a section of chimney from the ruins of a brick house in our park. 

Chimney flip. Moving this chuck brick and mortar was a challenge. Wear work gloves if you flip rocks or jagged stuff like this. It was heavy enough to work my hips, gluts, legs, arms, and every other muscle in my body. Use caution when flipping heavy stuff. Items like this are homes to various creatures like spiders, snakes, and other scary critters :)

I flipped it end over end about ten times. It ruined my legs and I took a short break to sip from my camel back.

Hydrating on the chimney. Don't forget to stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts.

Hydrating on the chimney. Don’t forget to stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts.

Next up, balance beams. There’s a seating area beside the ruins. I’ve never seen anyone use these for their intended purpose. That’s the beauty of this kind of workout. You can turn most anything into functional fitness equipment.

Balance is something you won’t get much help with from your conventional personal fitness trainer in the gym. However, balance is important in the real world and should be practiced. You never know when you’ll have to cross a flooded creek on a slick log – or walk a straight line in a DUI checkpoint ;)

That blur is me jumping from bench to bench ~ I played the stunt double for Predator in the movie.

That blur is me jumping from bench to bench ~ I played the stunt double for Predator in the movie.

The object is to jump from beam to beam without falling. Jump in a high arc to give you a better chance of sticking the landing. I like wearing minimalist footwear or going barefoot when appropriate. Make sure the beam, log, or bench is not slippery before trying this stunt.

Remember, the most important part of survival is Don’t Do Stupid Stuff! If this looks stupid to you, don’t do it. A safer alternative is to lay a 1×4 on the ground and bear crawl from end to end without touching the ground. If you slip, you won’t fall far.

Brick squats. For this I found a smaller section of the chimney and held it to my chest while doing squats on top of the big section of chimney I just flipped. Do a few squat sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Doing weighted squats on top of the chimney

Doing weighted squats on top of the chimney

Practical Performance benefits: Lifting that case of water, your toddler, or a 50 pound bag of feed.

Timber overhead lift. There are several long, heavy logs laying in our park that I use to work my shoulders and arms. Find one that you can press safely over your head for 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

timber overhead lift

Don’t drop it on your head.

I sometime use shorter logs and balance them on my shoulder and perform squats – or drag them through the park.

Practical Performance benefits: Helps with any over the head lifting, log cabin building, and just looks cool.

Jump on it! Plyometrics are one of the best exercises to increase power. Simply put, power gives you the ability to turn strength into speed, quickly. You need a sturdy elevated surface 18 to 20 inches high. I use two stone park benches. Jump from the ground to the top of the bench and back down to your starting point… and repeat as quickly as possible. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps as quickly and safely as possible. As you build up your strength and reps, find a higher surface to jump on.

I'm behind DRG's thumb

I’m behind DRG’s thumb

Safety point: If you’ve not been doing much in the way of physical activity, plyometrics are not where you want to start. They are very intense. Build your fitness level slowly before attempting plyos. They are very taxing on your tendons and joints so don’t overdo it.

Alternative to plyos: Do squat jumps. Squat and jump as high as you can. When you land, go into squat position and jump again. Progress until you can do box plyometrics.

Practical Performance benefits: Allows you to finally jump and touch the net (maybe even the rim) on the basketball court, converts strength into power and explosiveness (great for snatching granny from the oncoming bus), and out run your hunting partner while being chased by a grizzly bear.

I finish off my workout with elevated push ups, a few pull ups, and five sprints.

For the push ups, place your feet on the park bench with your hands on the ground after you’re exhausted from plyos and do as many push ups as you can. If you need an easier alternative, put your hands on the bench and feet on the ground to do the push ups.

Keep your body straight and core tight.

Keep your body straight and core tight.

This is my preferred gym, natures gym, to build physical preparedness. The best practical workout of all is actually doing the real stuff like throwing hay, splitting wood, digging fence post holes, clearing land, and carrying rocks for DRG’s garden. When you can’t work on a homestead, at least find a park, backyard, or even a gym and get busy practicing for practical, real-world performance.

Your survival may one day depend on your physical preparedness. Just a thought.

What do you do to increase your practical performance? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section!

Doing the stuff,

Todd

P.S. – As always, if you found this useful, please share it with your friends.

P.P.S. – Dirt Road Girl is finally dipping her toe into the Twitter pool, testing the water. If you’d like, you can follow her @TheDirtRoadGirl – She’s also promised to post here soon!

 

 

 

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Categories: Functional Fitness, Preparedness, Primal/Paleo Lifestyle | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Physical Preparedness: Practical Performance for Real-World Survival

  1. Pingback: Physical Preparedness: Practical Performance for Real-World Survival | thesurvivalplaceblog

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  4. Bigs

    One of the most physically demanding things you’ll ever do is riding a motorcycle off-road.

    I’m looking to get physically fit enough to keep up with the local guys riding. I’ve already had one embarrassing ride where I pretty much collapsed and couldn’t continue until a full hour’s rest – after just 2 hours of riding.

    On a more recent ride my bike broke down and I’m glad it did, as I was inches away from the same kind of collapse. I’m curious just what it is? It’s not simply being out of breath, and it’s not any particular muscle too tired (though many muscles are indeed tired). Just a general collapse, including collapse of the spirit/willpower.

    I’ve been tested negative for diabetes but I can only describe it as though a complete loss of blood sugar? You just want to lie down and rest. I don’t care about my bike, I don’t care about the ride, I lose interest in how I look to the other riders, I just want to rest. And not for 10 minutes, more like an hour, two hours…

    I like your idea of truly functional exercises. I’m seriously considering pushing my dirt bike around the block, to get good at pushing it, to lift it in and out of ruts and generally try to recreate that exhaustion barrier, but in a safer environment.

    Does that sound sane or not?

    • Bigs, I raced motocross when I was a kid and feel your pain. Of course, my races didn’t last the length of time you described. You entire core and every other muscle is stressed when you’re riding like you stole it.

      As far as functional fitness, doing the same movements you do while riding would be hard to recreate outside Doing the Stuff on your bike. But any lifting, pushing, pulling exercises would probably benefit you greatly. Lift heavy things about 2-4 times per week. Also try doing a set of sprints every 7 to 10 days.

      Keep us posted on your progress please.

      Todd

  5. Pingback: The Top 3 Tools for Mechanical Advantage in Bushcraft | Survival Sherpa

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