You might have to run for your life while trying to calm a racing heart and lungs that are struggling keep up. You might need to use muscles that haven't been put to the test in quite a while. There's no question that being physically prepared to face a survival challenge requires additional strength and endurance. And because we can never know when something unusual is going to plunge us into a survival situation, it's a good idea to be ready to face the challenge when it arrives.
So let's talk about physical conditioning — not body-building or rigorous athletic conditioning, necessarily, but the kind of conditioning that will enable you to live through whatever you're dealing with. Here are my recommendations:
- Before engaging in any exercise program, it's a good idea to consult your health care provider to make sure there are no hidden monsters in your health profile that might rise up and kill you while you're trying to become more conditioned.
- Assuming you get the go-ahead from your doctor, begin slowly with the changes to your daily routine. The worst thing you can do it think "if a little is good, more is better." Injuries cause major setbacks in training, leaving you worse off than before you began. So take it easy, use correct technique, and be sure to warm up before beginning the real workout, and a cool-down when you finish.
- For strength conditioning using weights or a resistance machine that simulates the use of actual weights, focus on increasing reps, not on increasing the amount of resistance (weight). Find the weight or resistance level where you can comfortably do 10 reps. Continue at that level for a week and then try 15 reps. If you have no problem with that, it's time to move up. Continue using that method, moving up in 10-pound increments when you can comfortably do 15 reps at the present weight. Work the whole body — this isn't about getting big biceps or six-pack abs, it's about conditioning the muscles of the entire body. Stagger upper-body and lower-body workouts on alternating days, giving time for the muscles to repair and rebuild before working them again.
- For endurance conditioning, there's nothing simpler or more effective than standing up and moving. I'm talking about walking. Depending on your present condition, you might have to begin with slow, short walks. Don't worry about your starting level. You are where you are, so just deal with that and move on. Gradually increase the lengths of your walks, and maybe work on increasing your pace. If you can do power walking, that's almost as good as jogging. If you enjoy jogging, work on increasing the duration of the runs. Uphills are where the real work is accomplished, so work in some hills when you're ready.
- Vary your endurance training by including some cycling, swimming, and trail hiking. Set some goals to work toward, like cycling for 25 miles, swimming for a mile, hiking 10 miles. When you reach those goals, set the bar a little higher and keep improving.
The hard reality is this: if you are not able to take care of yourself, you sure can't help take care of anyone else. Improving your physical conditioning is a favor not only to yourself, but also to anyone else who might depend on you in an emergency — family, friends, neighbors, the community.