Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Survival Conditioning

In any kind of survival situation, whether it is urban survival or wilderness survival, life is vastly altered from "normal" times.  Additional stresses are imposed on the body that can result in serious medical issues if you are not conditioned to endure.

So, what can you do to be more physically fit to survive a crisis situation?
  • First of all, get a medical checkup to discover whether or not you have any life-threatening conditions that would preclude you from doing exercise. Your doctor might suggest that you begin slowly and gently, building to more vigorous and lengthy exercise routines as your body become accustomed to the extra work load. 
  • Assuming that you get the "all clear" from your doctor, begin an exercise routine that engages you every day except one per week. For me, I take the Sabbath as a day of rest from exercise. That's a matter of spiritual fitness, but also benefits the body by giving it a break from the workouts. You need the breaks so your body can rebuild; and in the rebuilding process you become stronger than you were before. 
  • Start slow. Even though you feel great on the first day of exercise, the next day might be a painful surprise. So don't overdo it in the beginning or you will end up having to discontinue while you recover, and that is just a big setback. This goes of all aspects of conditioning — whether it is aerobic or strength training. 
  • Condition your heart and lungs by engaging in aerobic exercise that lasts from twenty to forty minutes per session. As your conditioning improves, you might decide to do two short sessions per day, rather than one long one. This exercise can be any combination of vigorous walking, jogging, cycling, working on a treadmill, Nordic Trak, elliptical trainer, stair climber, or some such apparatus. 

  • Strength training is important to condition your individual muscles to be strong enough to perform survival tasks. You don't need to become a body builder or look like and American Gladiator. Begin by just toning up the muscles you already have, and later on you can start adding muscle mass and greater strength. I work on a Total Gym (that's the machine Christy Brinkley and Chuck Norris advertise on TV) because in 20 minutes I can work all the muscle groups efficiently. I've had the machine for three years and it has held up well and I still love working out on it. 

  • Flexibility training is important to condition your muscles and ligaments so they don't suffer pulls and tears when they are pushed beyond their normal work load. Stretching should be done gently and in a static manner, not bouncing to force a larger range of stretch. Warm up before stretching. Contrary to popular belief, stretching is not a warm up exercise — it is an exercise method unto itself, and warming up must be done ahead of time to prevent injury. 

  • Vary the workouts. One of the reasons I love triathlon is because it involves three totally different types of activity — swimming, cycling and running. By doing different types of exercise, you not only avoid boredom, but you also avoid sport-specific injuries. Do a different type of exercise from one day to the next, to give your body and mind a break from the same-old same-old. 
When the time comes to work through a survival situation in real life, if you are physically conditioned you will have a much better chance of coming out alive. Not only that, but you will also be capable of reaching out and helping those around you who are in trouble. You can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

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