by Todd Walker
It is not that our life is so short, it is that we waste so much of them. – Seneca
In my Individual Preparedness Plan series, I thought it necessary to talk about priorities in preparing. Today’s topic: Functional fitness.
I read something the other day about the popular Doomsday Preppers show. It seems that the producers of the show interview potential want-to-be-on-TV preppers and make them choose one doomsday scenario to highlight during their episode. I’ve never seen a full show, maybe one or two 5 minute segments, so I’m in no position to critique or criticize. I’m sure that those folks are preparing for more than that one potential catastrophe, right?
We all have our own reasons for preparing. Some are concerned about possible job loss and not getting that coveted gold watch after 30 years. Others worry about economic collapse, EMP attack, peak oil, government tyranny, zombie bikers, the golden hoard, natural disasters, and all manner of boogie man-isms like alien invasions. No matter the flavor of the brown stuff hitting the fan, being physically, mentally, and spiritually able to deal with chaos only increases your chances of survival. Let’s cover physical fitness priorities first.
I’m still amazed at the total lack of emphasis on being physically fit to handle the extra stress in survival situations. Claire Wolfe posted a letter of thanks from “just waiting” to her Commentariat related to clean up from Hurricane Sandy. Imagine the physical stamina needed for any common desk jockey to have to rip up storm soaked carpet and pad, soggy furniture, and mold infested drywall to the curb. Overwhelming. Preparing our bodies to handle the added stress in these situations should be done in advance. I’ve yet to come up with a workout tailored for alien invasions. Any suggestions? Until an invasion of green beings is imminent, we should focus on the practical benefits of being strong so we can be useful.
With Dirt Road Girl waging war on her cancer, I’ve been very cyclical in my approach to “working out.” Time to get my sweat on. I wedged this phrase in quotation marks for a reason. “Working out” is the path to fitness according to buff experts. Three to four times a week of weight training, squeezed in between a couple of cronic-cardio routines, a yoga class or two, and monotonous hours of sweating to Richard Simmons’ videos is not my idea fun. That goes for P90X and CrossFit. I have great admiration for practitioners of these way-intense fitness programs. It’s just not for me. Number one: My routine has to fit my primal lifestyle. Number two: I refuse to spend money on gym memberships, gadgets, and other shiny stuff to stay fit. About a month after the giving frenzy of Christmas, millions of shiny fitness objects will be laid to rest in the basement corner or closet.
There’s a better way. If you give me a moment, I’ll show how to develop fitness that is both functional and useful in the real world, and possibly in a post TEOTWAWKI world. I say possibly because I’ve never experienced the end of the world.
Obviously, a certain level of fitness is needed to perform basic functions in our modern world. Much less than our ancestors however. Today’s machines and technology have made our post industrial revolution lives more comfortable, convenient, and cozy. Cozy is code for complacent. I’m thankful for modern stuff. I plan on using my car, electric appliances, and time-saving machines like my leaf blower instead of a rake. This gives me more time to do the things I really want to do like hang out with my wife and our son while he’s in town. Plus, we’ve got a primal workout scheduled before we start herding leaves at my in-law’s down the street.
So what is functional fitness? Here’s my simple definition: The ability to do real work in real life situations.
What if our lives depended on functional fitness?
Could you fireman carry your friend or a stranger out of harms way? Split firewood without a hydraulics? Lift your body weight or even your child’s weight? Walk the 20 miles per day on your planned bug out route with 30 extra pounds strapped to your back? Rip 1,000 square feet of soaked carpet and pad from your floor? What if’s are endless. But…could you do it? I tell myself I could. I work towards that end. But quite honestly, I don’t know.
Anyone that has read my story knows that I follow a primal lifestyle. I’ve praised the benefits to the point of exhaustion. Guilty of the workout-so-I-could-burn-all-those-carbs cycle for many years, I discovered that eating, exercising, and weight loss is easy when we follow our true nature. Genetically speaking, we are not meant to eat the Standard American Diet. Humans are built to burn fat for fuel. And we don’t have live in the gym to be fit. Below is the blueprint I follow.
For functional, diverse athletic ability, and a lean, proportioned physique
Sticks and Stones Interval Workout
Bored with your workout routine? Get out of the gym and get spontaneous. Cliche alert: Variety is the spice of life. Here’s a sampling of my functional fitness workout that cost no money (sweat equity required) and pays health dividends now and in our uncertain future. Dirt Road Girl, our son, and I jogged over to our local park a few blocks from our house. The temperature was in the mid 40’s so I wimped out and wore my five finger shoes. On warmer days I do it barefoot. Barefooting is optional.
WARNING: Here’s the caution about starting any fitness program in our happy-lawyer-society. Consult your physician before starting any exercise regiment. This info is for entertainment purposes only. Use your common sense before attempting any of these exercises. If you drop a rock on your head, it will hurt, and maybe even kill you. Don’t blame me. You’ve been warned.
Dead fall squats
A.) Dead Fall Squats: Grab a log you can manage, stand it on end and balance it on your shoulder. I’m not getting into the basics of form and how to. Search “Proper Squat Form” on your search engine to learn proper form and prevent injury. I usually do about 2 sets of 10 reps, alternating the log to each shoulder between reps. This helps strengthen your largest muscle groups in your legs, hips and gluts.
B.) Plyometrics: I do a set of ten box jumps on the stone bench in front of my squat station. I perform these in between each squat set. Find an elevated, stable platform and jump up and back down. It can be a tree stump, steps, homemade box, or whatever. Be sure to choose something that is sturdy and will not move when you stick your landing.
C.) Front Squats: I like to mix it up with my squats. Rest the log on your chest and squat. Wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty. Another note: During the warmer months, be aware of insects and poison plants on your workout equipment. Tics or poison ivy will ruin your day.
Variation on squats
D.) Overhead Press: Get creative. I’ve got a longer log that I use for this exercise. It’s about 15 feet long. I grab it at the heavy end, lifting with my legs not my back, and perform 2 sets of 10 presses over my head. The law of gravity and Newton’s Laws of Motion are still in effect, so get out of the way when you’re done and have to drop the log.
E.) Rock and Roll: You probably won’t find an old tractor tire lying around your park you can flip. Here’s Mother Nature’s answer to heavy tires. I have no way of knowing how much this rock weighs. My son said 300 lbs. maybe. He’s smarter and better at estimating. I roll the rock several times. It’s quite a chore and will enlist all of your muscles to perform this primal rock flip. NOTE: Use gloves to protect your hands.
Rock and roll
F.) Sprints: I usually do these about once every 7 to 10 days on our street before going to work. I run between five to six 50 plus yard sprints on days dedicated to sprinting. Sprint days don’t take long, but keeps me young. How many 50-year-old men do you see sprinting down your street with nothing chasing them? Whether you’re biking, swimming, or cycling, all out effort is what you’re going for here. We only did two sprints on this interval training day.
My son out running me
G.) Pullups: Wake up call. I could only squeak out one at the end of this interval session. Our son showed out on the bar. I’ve neglected my separate pull up routine for the last few months. I’ll remedy that oversight. Even if you’ve you never been able to get your chin over the bar, do modified pull ups. That was my goal three years ago. Maybe I’ll write about my goal of doing one stinking pull up in a future post. Oh, you don’t need an official pull up bar. Find a tree limb or piece of playground equipment that you can hack.
H.) Stones Throw: On our way out of the park, we did a few stone throws. DRG and I collected two stones and placed them at the base of a bird house last summer. They’re still there. We throw these like you might throw a medicine ball in the gym. Don’t lug rocks to the gym. You’ll be thrown out. Throw the rock as far as possible. Fetch it and throw it again from the other side of your body. Make about 4 tosses or more if you’re up for it. Then push the rock up over a head-high object (bush or fallen tree) a couple of times like you’re passing a basketball. Do this for as many reps as you can. When you’re done, put the rock back for your next workout.
That’s it. A simple, cheap, and challenging workout. Remember that 80% of your body composition is determined by diet. No amount of working out will overcome a crappy SAD diet.
I haven’t been as disciplined about the fitness aspect of preparedness since DRG’s diagnosis. That has changed. I’ll be posting more follow ups to my progress in later posts. Whether you are in perfect physical shape or just starting your journey, I’d really like to hear your thoughts, comments, fears, and insights on this subject. I’m no expert. Just a middle-aged guy trying to stay young.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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