Here at Prepping for Everyone, we believe in ‘Skills, not things’, a mantra that we should all follow in our daily lives for prepping, professional and personal reasons. Fitness is one of the best investments in your preps you can ever have for so many reasons, many of which I will go into now.
Who the hell are you, What have you done with Merdok?
I am “Chaplain” as my Discord name ascribes me to be. I’m a 30+ gentleman who has been part of prepping communities for around 15 years now. I’ll talk to you about almost anything in prepping from crazed conspiracy to brilliant bug-out-bags. Merdok has asked me to draw up a couple of articles to talk about things that I am passionate about.
In the professional world, I am a nerd who looks at screens, works with data and can tell you whole heartily that fitness is SUPER necessary if you’re sat on your backside all day, every day. Many of us now live very sedentary lifestyles, Covid-19 has exacerbated that, and I guarantee many of us have put pounds/kilos on because of this accursed virus.
Why is fitness vital to a prepper?
Let’s cut right to the point. Being fit and healthy is awesome. There are websites out there that will relish in telling you every teeny, tiny tidbit of info about why working out is fantastic. I happen to agree with many of them (Despite them occasionally coming across as a tad cultish), but despite this fact I don’t ‘appear’ all that super fit when you’d look at me (I’ll go into this shortly).
You’ve got particular health benefits of being fit and exercising regularly;
- You can carry more
- You can pick heavier things up
- You can walk for longer
- You can run (longer, or better!)
- You can run with a full pack and keep going
- You can throw things further
- You can retain explosive potential in your muscles better
- You’re more resilient to sickness (of many kinds)
- Ad nauseum…
Look, Physical fitness for a prepper comes from those things alone, the biggest and best I’ve saved for now; You are simply more resilient to harm if you do something daft. I pulled my back out about six years ago when I went to pick up something heavy (A bergen), since then I’ve rebuilt my core and regularly go running with said heavy thing to keep myself working properly (More on my workouts later).
Mental Health. Holy crap I cannot stress this enough. We live in trying times. We live in the same walls in our homes for entire days and weeks right now. We’re not built for this, we’re social animals, and many of us are feeling the strain of digital existence with our friends and family. Fitness can really help this. Endorphins are incredible, working out anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes will grant you these delicious little chemicals that make you feel so much better about a lot of things (If you’re anything like me, you’ll also get them from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness the next day!) and with it, you’ll find your mood improves drastically.
I mentioned this above lightly, but weigh your bug out bag (If you have one), now how heavy is it? Have you walked your bug out trail to wherever you are going? How far do you think you could carry it before your arms/shoulders/back starts hurting? If you have doubts in any of those things, then you should crack on with some working out into your day. One of the biggest things I’ve seen preppers/hikers/friends/others do, is over-pack, chuck the bag on and then be in agony for 6-12 hours of whatever activity you’re doing (be it a crap piece of equipment, or terrible fitness both of these scenarios suck).
We’ve all grabbed a big bag of something in the supermarket and felt that twinge in your lower back, that’s due to muscle weakness. I have grabbed a rucksack of 25Kg+, put it on and instantly twisted a muscle in my back. You need to be fit enough to activate your plans. If your bag is 20kg and you need to cover 60km in three days; guess how fit you need to be?
It is easy (as a man) to sit there and go “Man, I want a Brad Pitt body from Fight Club”. That is A LOT of very intense, focused diet work. Look at Mr Universe, Halfthor Bjornsen, Gerard Butler in 300. They are the epitome of men’s fitness (So we’re told), but can you imagine trying to maintain that level of fitness when it all goes downhill? Halfthor has 10000 calories a day, in a prep scenario you’re going to be on 1500-2000 depending on your size, Brad and Gerard both would have cut a lot out of their diet and both of their bodies are not designed for long-term resilience and robustness (Halfthor will just eat whatever threatens him), but you’re going to be on a restricted diet, working on high-carbs to keep energy up and so those muscles are going to need to be developed, but not overdeveloped. You’re going to need a bit of fat in there as last reserves if it REALLY goes badly.
I guess I should tell you a bit about my physique? I am not the pinnacle of fitness who draws up YouTube videos about how to workout in my tracksuit. I’m just a guy who is 194cm tall, I am 105Kg in weight (6ft4 and 230lb for our wayward cousins!), I have a BMI of 27/28 which classifies me as overweight, but I prefer the term prepared (Ahh euphemisms). I can bench, bicep curl and squat my way to resilience and robustness, if worst came to worst I could out-last people because I’m slightly chubbier and less calorie-requiring than the Brad Pitts and Thor Bjornesens of the world.
What kind of exercises work best?
Exercise comes in two forms, generally; ‘cardio’ and ‘strength’. I am not going to tell you what will work for you, we’re all different.
Strength is fantastic; for guys we have this remarkable little chemical called Testosterone that goes into over-drive when we pick up heavy things and then put them back down again over and over again. You can get a lot of strength across your entire frame just by doing some basic movements with a bit of additional weight.
Cardio is just as important, though, and I think this is where many of us fall down. Running is cardio, but not all cardio is running. I will tell you now; I despise running, it’s the most boring, sweaty and frankly awful form of cardio I can think of. I do however have a passion for rucking (Read: Putting heavy weights in a rucksack, throwing it on your back and going for a leisurely 10k walk). There are other forms of cardio, rowing, swimming, aerobics hell you can even do weight lifting as cardio these days. There’s also “High-Intensity Interval Training” (HIIT) that is big these days, Essentially get an exercise and give it maximum effort for 30-60-90 seconds, before pausing and stopping for the equal amount of time, (It’s based off the notion of Fartlek training).
You need a blend of the two; I’m in the swing of things, my routine is set and I ‘workout’ six days a week. That number freaks people out, but I’ll get to it a little later.
It is perfectly easy to get a workout in 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then to get 30 minutes of rucking in on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I don’t see rucking as a dedicated workout, I’ve got to take the dog for a walk; so on goes my backpack (Before we had a dog, the wife and I would go for a walk in the local woods for 30-40 minutes). My workouts happen at around lunchtime as it gets me over that hump we all get in the early afternoon. My reasoning here is, you can fit your workouts around your life if you need to (Like my rucking and timing my workouts). But you do not start on six days a week straight away, start on maybe three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) with that last one being extra tough so you feel like you’ve earnt that weekend.
It’s about blending the two, so Wednesday could be a ruck, Mon & Fri being the strength workouts. It’s down to you to make it work.
But by hell, whatever routine or “thing” you do for your fitness is? Make sure you enjoy it. There’s a reason you see so many sad faces at the gym; they hate it, they’ve gone to a place they hate, to do workouts they hate. If you do a workout/sport you love… you’ll never hate it, you’ll want more and more!
An example workout;
This is my workout. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t hit ‘everything’, but it’s fitness and I am happy with it. The weights I do Monday, Wednesday, Friday, the rucking I do Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Sunday I relax and eat pizza.
Again, this is about what you’re comfortable with. If you’ve never lifted weights, start small and raise the weight slowly, or don’t expect to run 5km straight off the bat after sitting on your backside for 5+ years. Work up to everything, Don’t whole hog it; you’ll hurt yourself, I’ll laugh and take zero responsibility because I’ve warned you.
How to get started (cheaply);
“Every website tries to sell me something”, they do. Fitness websites are a nightmare for this (See my previous comment about it being a cult)
Here’s what you need to do the above workout set;
- Boots (Good ones!)
- A bag and water
That’s it. Start small, get yourself 5Litre bottles of water from Aldi for 39p (two of them) and use them as dumbbells, not ideal, but it’ll work. If you find you like lifting weights, buy some decent ones on eBay (They’re a tad more expensive right now because COVID, but I’d invest anyway!)
A rucksack, get yourself a decent MOLLE rucksack and put the bottled water in. 1Litre = 1Kg (Roughly).
Boots, something decent to protect your ankles and feet when you’re rucking over all forms of terrain. I cannot stress this enough folks, if you’re going to start running/walking/rucking/hiking, please buy some decent footwear, you will screw yourself right up by walking/running in the wrong kit (especially on British roads at night…) One last thing, A quick word on flexibility;
This goes under the radar on so many workouts (You can see above that I have omitted it from my workout regime entirely). At the start and end of every workout, stretch your muscles and hold that for 30 seconds each. Flexibility is a great way to ensure that your muscles don’t explode, that they stay supple and, well… flexible when you need them. For anyone who sits at a desk all day, get yourself some hip-flexor stretches done over a two-week period and you come and tell me if your back doesn’t feel 1000% better already.
Do not skimp on your flexibility. You don’t have to be able to wrap your legs around your head eighteen times to be ‘flexible’, you just need to be robust enough that a sudden change in gait doesn’t pull your back, or that you can reach that really annoying bit of your back you can’t scratch.
That’s it. That’s as much as you need initially. Rinse, lather, repeat your way to fitness and happiness.
What we’ve covered here.
- Fitness is essential to prepping; it keeps you strong in body and mind.
- Fitness should not be a chore. Enjoy whatever fitness you want to do. Don’t subject yourself to something you hate when it comes to fitness.
- Get yourself a body that you’ll be happy with AND is not high maintenance (Calorific or time)
- It’s cheap in time, equipment and skills to get working out (Bodyweight fitness, cheap water bottles as dumbbells).
- Flexibility should never be ignored.