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Building Physical Resilience

When building a resilient lifestyle, you must start with the basics, and that means becoming physically resilient. For too long we have led sedentary lives that have dulled our physical fitness abilities. We no longer rely on our physical fitness for our survival, and so have become soft. In many cases, staying cooped up in quarantine has exacerbated the problem, as many people have become even more sedentary, with the only activities available being eating and binge watching TV shows. We all know that being in shape is important, but somehow the desire to be in shape fails to materialize into action. While we all know that physical fitness will lead to a longer life, the corona virus has shown that it could save your life in the short term, as well.

Physical fitness will give you a better chance of survival in any disaster scenario. Records of airplane crashes over the years have shown that young, fit men tend to survive crashes much more often than old, obese women. Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps who were physically fit survived much longer than those who arrived at the camps already in frail conditions. Physical fitness will make nearly any task easier, whether it is building a shelter, defending yourself physically from an attacker, escaping a flood or fire, or carrying supplies. Beyond the more obvious benefits, those who are physically fit are more likely to survive illness, adverse weather conditions, injuries, hunger, and lack of sleep. While the benefits of physical fitness are obvious, the majority of people in the U.S. are not physically prepared for disaster.

Even worse, many people stack the odds against them through addictions that cause immediate or long harm to themselves. We cripple ourselves with addictions to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, knowing that these things are harmful. In writing on conditions in Auschwitz, Witold Pilecki reported that smokers would trade their bread for cigarettes. Pilecki noted that smokers would quickly starve to death. Would you trade your children's last meal for a pack of cigarettes? We all know that smoking can kill you in 30 years, but in the age of the corona virus, it could also kill you in two weeks.

Rule #1 for surviving Zombieland (Warning: contains gore)

Anyone who has seen the film “Zombieland” (or just the clip above) knows that the #1 rule for surviving Zombieland is cardio. This is critically important for surviving the zombie apocalypse, because the first to die will be those who cannot escape or fight due to physical limitations. This article will not seek to provide you with a fitness routine or an exercise program. Plenty of resources exist in print, online, or through personal coaching that can give you an exercise routine to meet your individual goals. Find a training plan that meets your physical fitness goals. For example, do you really want to take exercise tips from your friend Joe, or diet advice from your Aunt Patty? Do you really want to end up like them? You are better off following the advice of athletes in a sport you want to emulate, survivors who made it through difficult physical conditions, or your great Aunt Ruth, who was still riding her bike at 99. Following their advice will set you up for a life you can live at its fullest.

Keeping in mind your personal physical conditions, age, gender, disabilities, and other factors specific to your case, find a training program to improve your speed, strength, and endurance to prepare you for the challenges that life will throw at you.

Speed: Speed often is a critical factor when surviving a wide range of disaster scenarios. How fast can you get out of a burning airplane? Can you quickly swim to shore if you fall through the ice? Can you outrun an assailant with a knife? How far will you need to run to get to safety? 100 meters? One mile? Will you have gear, clothing, or environmental factors that might slow you down? Once you have considered various potential scenarios, you may want to practice building up your speed in as realistic conditions as possible. You will find, for example, that running with a backpack is much harder than you anticipated. Your seatbelt always seems to get caught when you try to bail out of a vehicle. In some terrain, too much speed will actually slow you down if you fall and get injured. While you can never anticipate the exact conditions where you will need to use your speed, thinking of and training in various situations will prepare your mind and your body to take on any number of circumstances. You will also gain a better understanding of your body’s capabilities and weaknesses.

Strength: Lifting weights at the gym will give you impressive muscles, but will not build resilient fitness. Large muscles burn more energy that you will need when resources are scarce, and they will take away from your speed. Rather than focusing on how many reps you can do at a certain weight, focus on why you need strength. Can you carry your injured spouse up the stairs to safety? Can you carry all of your children? If not, which one will you leave behind? Can you push your bedroom dresser to make a temporary barricade if an intruder comes to your home? If not, what other options do you have? Depending on your personal situation, your strength needs may differ. In order to prepare yourself to have the strength you will need, begin now to practice for what you may face in the future. Rather than lifting barbells for a set number of reps, practice for conditions you want to overcome, like climbing over walls, dragging or pushing heavy objects, or carrying gear you may need. Put together a bug out bag, and practice carrying it for several miles. Make an effort to improve your grip strength. Grip strength is critical for shooting, swinging a hatchet, carrying buckets of water, climbing over obstacles, and any number of tasks critical to your survival. Most fitness programs inadequately focus on grip strength.

Endurance: In many disaster scenarios you may find that you will need to push yourself physically for much longer than you are used to. If you need to evacuate, where will your evacuation point be? If conditions prevent you from getting there by vehicle, could you evacuate via bicycle or on foot? How long will it take you to get there? How much gear will you be bringing with you? Could you hike for twelve hours a day for several days, if necessary? What are the limits to what your body can endure? As with speed and strength, you will need to prepare yourself to endure long hours or long distances, depending on your possible circumstances. Practice ahead of time by hiking or biking with your bug out gear to your evacuation point. Learn how long it will take you to get there under various conditions. Learn how your body reacts to prolonged periods of physical activity, and how you can improve your endurance. You may also need to learn how your body copes with lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is not like a muscle, where you can train your body to function on less sleep. Your body needs sleep to function well. However, you may benefit from occasionally practicing sleep deprivation, as this will teach you how your body reacts to lack of sleep. You don’t want to find out about how your body functions through lack of sleep when you find yourself in the middle of a disaster. However, you should only do this training when you have the time and ability to get a long, restful sleep afterwards. Sleep deprivation negatively affects your body and mind’s ability to function effectively, but has no lasting effects following a long, restful sleep.

By practicing a wide range of possible scenarios, you can improve your body’s speed, strength, and endurance, and better prepare you for possible conditions during a crisis. Your physical fitness goals are as unique as you are. No fitness program will match every individual, but you can make a personal routine that can become a habit, and then a resilient lifestyle.


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