Survival Fitness Part 2: The Assessment

Starting anything you might be uncomfortable with or challenging is daunting to almost anyone.  With the right mindset, support structure, guidance, coaching and most importantly motivation, you can do just about anything you put your mind to.

Contributed by By Mark, Former Marine Reconnaissance Team Leader, Marine Infantry Officer, Cross Fit Coach, Endurance Athlete, and Survivalist.

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This article is part 2 of a series of posts – Read Part 1: An Introduction

Survival Fitness, where to be begin?

I believe starting with a baseline self-assessment is where to begin.  After doing an initial Survival Fitassessment I am going to put together an aerobic endurance (both cardiovascular and muscular) build phase that will last up to 3 months.  Following the aerobic phase I will incorporate simulated real world high intensity scenarios into our Survival Fitness plan coupled with continued aerobic base and strength building.   I plan on doing another assessment in 3 months to ensure we are all progressing in the right direction.  At that time, I can make appropriate changes so you can get the most out your training.

Initial Assessment

(Safety:  Please check with your physician to ensure you are healthy enough to start a fitness Check with your physicianprogram.)

The initial assessment is going to consist of multiple events that you should complete in a minimum of 3 days. The events over the 3 days should be completed without a rest day in between.  If this is too challenging, rest one day between each day’s events.  For example, start Day #1 on Wednesday, then Day #2 on Friday and Day#3 on Sunday.  You are going to do Hollywood events (No Gear), and Geared Up events.  In the real world, you are not going to high tail it to your bug out location empty handed so we need to assess how your body reacts under the stress of a load.  The events will be run with time, conditions, and standard guidelines.  You will rest 2 minutes between each event.

For example:
Event: Maximum Push-ups
Time: 1min
Standard:
Chest to the ground, back straight, arms to full extension
Condition:
Non-weighted
Rest 2 minutes
(then begin the next event…)

If you have questions on time, condition or standard for any of the events feel free to email me.  These events should be familiar to many of you.

Safety:  If you cannot complete the entire assessment, complete as much as possible.  If you have family members, friends, etc., I recommend doing this in teams and with support if possible.  If you are doing it alone, let someone know what you are doing… Going to Force March 4miles, hike 10 miles, the route, etc.  Have a contingency plan , bring your phone, etc.  If you have any safety questions/concerns email me and I can hopefully assist you.

The Self-Assessment is as follows:

Day One: (No Load)

1) Run 5K for time, Non-weighted.  Pick a level out and back course preferably.  Record your time when done.  If you cannot run a 5k, then walk, force march, Recon Shuffle, etc.

Rest 2 minutes

2) Maximum Pull-ups, Non-weighted.  Chin over bar and arms to full extension at the bottom of the pull-up.  Note: Make sure do the same type of pull-up on each assessment

Rest 2 Minutes

3)  Maximum Sit-ups, Non-weighted, in 2 minutes or until failure.  Shoulder blades must hit the ground and chin/head must break the plane of the knees when coming up.  Record your number after 2 minutes.

Rest 2 Minutes

4)  Maximum Push-ups, Non-weighted, in 2 minutes or until failure.  Chest to ground, back Survival Fit Push Upsstraight, and arms to full extension.  Record your number after 2 minutes

Day Two: (With Gear)

1)  4 mile Forced March with your Bug Out Bag. Pick out a 4 mile course, out and back preferred and flat.  Remember to bring water with you.  Simulate the load you will be bugging out with.  This is a hike, run, forced march, recon shuffle, etc.  This is as fast as possible.  Record your time at the end of the 4 miles

Rest 2 Minutes

2)  Maximum Pull-ups, With Pack.  Chin over bar and arms to full extension at the bottom of the pull-up.  Note: Make sure do the same type of pull-up on each assessment

Rest 2 Minutes

3)  Maximum Push-ups, With Pack, in 2 minutes or until failure.  Chest to ground, back straight, and arms to full extension.  Record your number after 2 minutes

Rest 2 Minutes

4)  Maximum Squats, With Bug Out Bag, in 2 minutes or until failure.  Legs to full extension when coming up and thighs must go beyond parallel when going down.  It helps if you have a medical ball, soccer ball, basketball to put below you.  Go down and touch the ball with your glutes, then come up to full extension – that is a count of one.  Record your score after 2 minutes

Day Three: (With Gear)

1)  10 Mile Hike with pack, gear and water.  Pick out a 10 mile course over varied terrain.  Bug Out BagSimulate your bug out load just like the 4 mile Forced March however, this is a hike.  Strive to maintain the same rate of speed over the entire 10 miles.  Record your time when done

Be sure and record all of your scores and keep them so you can reference them in the future

Why these events?

These events are basic assessments done by many branches of the Armed Forces (as many of you will recognize).  The weighted scenarios are in here for obviously reasons, we don’t fight and/or evade with minimal gear.  They are to simulate and prepare you for real world conditions.  This is a very BASIC assessment of cardiovascular and aerobic endurance.  Ensure you are hydrating during the events and before after each day.

Be prepared for the next Survival Fitness Training article coming in one week.  Please share your results in the comments section below.Survival Fit

Stay Survival Fit!!
Mark
TBC CrossFit Coach – San Antonio, Texas
[email protected]
“The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare”

Photos By:
TBC CrossFit
Temrey89
LaughingGull

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37 thoughts on “Survival Fitness Part 2: The Assessment”

  1. Wow, just reading that makes me want to take a nap! Just Kidding, but it does make me realize just how far I have to go yet.

    Reply
  2. Did this earlier today. I am not going to lie, it was a little on the ugly side since I was at 9200 ft in the Rockies.

    5K Run – 26.33
    2 min rest
    Max Pull Ups – 15
    2 min rest
    Max Situps – 80
    2 min rest
    Max Push Ups – 75

    Reply
  3. So I have a "stupid question"… I am admittedly more out of shape than I would like to be at the moment (had a couple back surgeries), but I'm working on it. However, even when I was in the best shape of my life, back when I was playing football/power-lifting regularly/boxing I couldn't do a single pull-up. I was able to bench 425lbs- 6reps but not a single pull up… Does that mean I was out of shape then? I was running several miles a day, lifting weights, swimming every couple days, I was only 12% body fat and 240lbs. The reason I ask is because this is my current goal, to get back into the shape I was in or better. Thanks for the articles, they have been great so far and I am looking forward to the next!

    Reply
    • You'll be the fittest prepper left behind hanging from the precipice. 🙂
      IMO, you need to be able to do at least one pull-up, so you can pull yourself up into a tree to escape an angry bear, or to get back onto that dangling rope bridge ala Indiana Jones, etc.

      Reply
    • I'm with you on the pull-up. I think I suffer from the female upper body strength issue. However, at my peak while I couldn't do a single pull-up, I could climb trees, and rock climb.

      Reply
    • As nerdyadventurer mentioned, I used to rock climb, and I can climb a tree with the best of the kids (just a little slower with my age and injuries). I can lift myself over a wall with no problem, even with having to pull myself up from a height I can just reach. It's just the actual pull-up on a bar that I have always had trouble with. I can hang for a couple minutes these days, but back then I could hang from the bar for up to 15 minutes, I just couldn't do a pull-up.

      It's annoying as hell, because I used to be able to pick up the back of my Ford Ranger with little effort, I used to practice with Atlas stones (like on the WSM show), just a pull-up has always been out of my reach.

      SurvingJerry- Bring on the bear… I have always enjoyed a challenge! Put my family behind me and I guarantee that bear will wish it was never born! Although to "even the odds" I would want my Bowie knife, since I don't have 4" claws! I've got some pretty good recipes for bear meat too

      Reply
      • If you are serious about getting you entire body back in to shape, I highly recommend P90X. Doing pull ups uses a lot of little muscles you don't normally use just lifting weights. If you follow the diet, and give the work outs your all, you will be busting out pull ups in under a month.

        Reply
        • I have tried the P90X program, it does work. My problem with it is that it seemed to aggravate some of my old injuries (L-knee= ACL tear, R- knee= meniscus, R-shoulder= torn rotator cuff, spine= several disks removed, and a couple more in need of removal). Don't get me wrong, it is a great program, and if it didn't have me in agonizing pain the next few days after a work-out I would still be doing them. I have learned to stick with the exercises that my physical therapist gave me, and sometimes I throw in some of my favorites from the "old days" when I am feelin' froggy!

          Reply
          • tacfit is a decent program also, I like the p90x, especially for the pull ups etc. tacfit cordinator had some serious injuries and he created a program that helped him get out of a bed.

      • This is what I did to learn how to do pull-ups before I left for Marine Corps boot camp. I simply did pull downs on the weight machines. Hold the bar the same way you want to be able to do pull-ups, over-hand or under-hand. I prefer over-hand slightly wider than shoulder width. I had to work-out and learn in order to do the minimum of 3 just to sign up. I kept at it and I also incorporated pull ups into my workout. By the time I left for boot camp I could 5+ depending on if I took a dump before hand. Then by the time I got out of the Marines I could do 15+.

        Reply
    • I recommend the trx suspension training it is an easy to use,and is a functional strength and it is what the marines use, check it out online, you won't be sorry.

      Reply
  4. Doing a pull up is more about body acclimation to the movement than the strength needed.

    I exercise four days a week but deadlifts are not my favorite and I am very weak in that movement but I can squat 1.5x my body weight five time.

    Reply
    • That's good, most of the folks I see in the gym these days can't squat their body weight.
      Be careful with the dead-lifts, make sure you have good form! I have seen people really screw up their back by having a sloppy form, and I am living with a pretty serious back injury (4 surgeries so for, in need of another one), it makes everything you do much harder and more painful.

      Reply
  5. i like the fact that you stress training with your gear; good tip. still, i believe you should had focused more on the benefits of each exercise rather than a rigrid exercise program. even though you stated do what makes you comfortable, i dont see any point of doing all of these exercises as a "self-assessment." in my opinion, be honest and start out small.

    Reply
  6. Good tips….

    I would add some sort of grip strength exercise once a person develops a good base of fitness. I like to rip decks of cards and bend bolts, but that’s me… 🙂

    For an extra twist, try the forced march /hike / run in bad weather… Safety first of course (don’t go during a thunderstorm with lots of electrical activity) but try this in all sorts of conditions because you may be buggin’ out under less than ideal situations…

    I’m from AK and have trained / forced myself to do a similar march with my gear at 30 degrees below zero. Not only does this add a new twist to the exercise, but you get to test your ability to manage your body heat (shed layers as you warm up) and you get a good idea on how your gear will work at low temps…

    If you try this, forget about the plastic water bottles unless you keep them under your jacket… Nothing like stopping for a rest and a drink to find your water is now a giant hunk of ice… I got rid of my bottles a while ago and use bota bags because they are easier for me to pack under a parka…l

    Reply
    • What kind of bota bags do use? All the ones I have seen, other than the ones my Uncle makes, are pretty much garbage.
      You can also get an "arctic" camel-back as mil-surp for pretty cheap, I think I paid $10 +shipping for mine. I use it in the winter/fall when I deer hunt, and have never had a problem with freezing. The case is insulated, and even the hose has neoprene around it. They also work well for keeping water cold in the summer, or while jogging on the treadmill at the gym. I went on a 9.5 hr. canoe trip (Buffalo River Tennessee) with my girl last summer, I put some ice in my camel-back because it was supposed to be 95F+ that day, when we got off the water half the ice was still in there!

      Reply
      • Chefbear58,

        My botas are just the cheapo Malwart type… Yep, you get what you pay for… They only last a year or so…

        Reply
    • Good tip to change it up with different weather patterns. I’m a cold wanderer, I could walk / run / camp etc in reasonably cool conditions (o to 10 deg celsius) but as soon as it gets warm i just want to sit in a creek and “chill out”. Hot weather can really slow me down… I guess I now know what I need to work on!

      Reply
  7. If you are sound in body and reasonably young (under 50) these are excellent evaluation tools. Thank you for posting them. At my almost 62 years of age, broken bones, arthritis, and various other physical limitations (yes, I do have a handicap sticker on my car) means my initial assessment would be zero assuming I could get it all done without injury; brittle bones are a fearsome thing .

    I am not denying the need for physical conditioning as it is critical for the execution of any survival plan. What I am suggesting is that as you age, you loose the ability to function as you did when younger. Bones get brittle, tendons and muscles loose flexibility and strength, joints get stiff; it is all a function of aging. Some have it happen sooner than others but it does happen to us all. Be brutally honest in your evaluation of your capability and plan accordingly. If I have to force march 30 miles with 50 lbs on my back, I don't make it. Simple truth.

    Get in the best shape you can be in at your age and physical condition then make realistic plans accordingly. One of the reasons I plan on bugging in and not out is simply that of the four members of my household, I am in the best shape to bug out and I know I probably would not make it if it had to be by foot. Physical conditioning is one of the most over looked parts of our preparations. It is also one of the most critical. My mind thought (right up until I fell from the tree and broke my left heel) I was still 25. My body informed me in very painful terms that I was 61. That is a mistake that gets you hurt, sometimes permanently.

    Mark has given us a great tool. Modify it if you must but use it to help you focus on being in shape for your survival tasks. If you can't physically do the things your survival plans call for you to do (you have tried all of them, right?) you need to get into better shape or change your plans or perhaps, both.

    Reply
    • CaptBart… You hit the proverbial "nail on the head"… I am only 29 (though I easily feel like I am 95 some days!), and I have had to adjust my workouts drastically compared to just a couple years ago! The most important thing to remember is to not push yourself to the point of injury, showing off is a great way to end up hurting yourself. I used to slap on a few extra plates when a pretty girl would walk by while I was working through my weightlifting routine in my younger days (I even sound old!). These days, I would rather focus on good form, and concentration lifts than worry about what the women walking around the gym think! Though I do have to admit, I still succumb to competition with the guys once in a while. Also, it's always gratifying to see the look on someones face when I start doing tricep pulls using every plate on the machine!

      Reply
  8. @Chefbear…Crossfit is a great option as the workouts are usually around 20-30 minutes and are intense and varied. They give out daily workouts on their website, so all you need is some makeshift gear and a few weights. You can also modify P90X (as I have) and just do one circuit of the workout (round one) but max out your weights. Puts less strain on your problem areas when all your stabilizer muscles are weak. To shed fat, Insanity is also a good option. I tend to mix the two…Insanity on a strictly cardio day and then a three mile run with one round of P90X on resistance days. My main problem is maintaining consistency with both diet and exercise…easy to derail me with beer and pizza.

    Intermittent fasting is also something I've integrated into my routine. Once or twice a week, I go 24 hours without eating (dinner on day one being my last meal until dinner on day two). As of now, I can do a 24 hr fast, run three miles and do 30 minutes of weight training before eating again. And let me stress…I'm not in nearly the shape I should be in. High body fat and capable of one, maybe two pull ups. Still working on that…

    Reply
    • I do pretty much the same thing. I did p90x twice last year and started off this year with insanity, so after both I mixed it up, doing Doubles p90x with Insanity on the cardio days. I don’t follow the diets at all though. Fasting is probably a bad idea, like they say in one of the videos after 5hours your body starts going into starvation mode and eating the muscles you’re working so hard to develop.

      I’m doing all this to hike the AT, go across the country, and do the PCT. It would be impossible for me to do pull ups with my pack since it weighs somewhere around 100 pounds, with about 50 pounds of dried food, though without it I usually do about 25 reps in any one pull up exercise and around 30 for push ups, not huge by any means, but certainly fit. One other thing I do is during the legs part of Legs and Back on p90x is put about 60lbs of weight in pack – talk about destroying your calves! it hurts so good.

      Reply
  9. Like mentioned above , Squats may not be the best thing to be doing if your not in your 20’s . I wont do them at all because I happen to like my back and knees . There are things you can do that accomplish the same thing without risk to your back or joints . Same thing with dead lifts , thats what tools ( like a lever ) are for . Be careful with your body , its the only one you got . Work smarter , not harder , as an injury could be a disaster at the wrong time .

    Reply
  10. Gyms, weights, biking, okay… it's all good. If you want a way to really get into shape quickly, build solid strength and muscle endurance, and a massive cardio workout, then try this if it's practicle in your area. Chop and cut wood by hand! That's right. Drop the tree by hand, pick up a good crosscut saw and a buddy to help you. Two stought men working a crosscut on a nice old 2' diameter log or bigger will litterally kick your butt. Swinging the axe to drop your tree will trim inches off your waist and rip your obliques. Any hay farmers in your area? Go buck some hay for 8 hours. I know that sounds silly, but no gym membership required. Believe me, even with a bad back, you'll learn how to work around it. Bucking the hay will help you learn to squat, tossing it up on a trailor will develop your grip and forearms plus you"ll develop power by throwing a 75 lb bale up ontop of 4 or 5 tiers of hay.

    Reply
    • I support this. When I was in high school we had a 150lb Fullback who rushed for 1200 yards. He wasn't a big guy and couldn't push much weight in the gym but he spent summers on his dads farm, bucking hay. That kid could put the hurt on many a 200 pound middle linebacker who could squat cars and bench press the world.

      Reply
  11. This is a pretty good assessment. I do Crossfit 2-3 times a week with some Krav Maga thrown in on off nights, but those ruck marches/runs would still kick my a**. A guy at my CF box is training for RASP, as am I (5 classes left for my BS degree) though he’s been with the 82nd for a while, so he’s been rucking on the weekends, think I will start joining him.

    Reply
  12. I have a wife and two very young children so my BOB has my stuff, 95% of my kids' stuff and a portion of my wifes stuff. Even a low-ball estimate puts my pack in the 70lb range. I may be able to crank out 2 whole push-ups with my pack on but I probably couldn't even jump high enough to reach the bar for a pull-up with that much weight on me.

    Guess I have a few new goals now.

    Reply
  13. So what kind of numbers are we looking at here? What kind of ballpark range should I be trying to hit? If someone could provide a link to a site that what we shoud be doin that would be great.

    Reply
  14. Love the site and the articles, but I have Never Ever In my LIFE been able to do a pull up. I think I woul keel over from day 1 of the assessment. Is there a more beginner level suggestion? I have two very small children and I am in horrible shape. I do mean horrible. I've recently lost 10% of my body weight. Now I'm starting round two- 10% more and a fitness plan. I've had two babies in three years, so time for myself has been limited! Any suggestions would be great!

    Reply
  15. After spending most all of my teenage years crippled and bound to a wheelchair, I know for a fact that I wouldn't be able to physically do what needs to be done should a survival situation present itself.
    But now that the problem that had crippled me for so long has been fixed, I have goals, and I have been working to meet those goals. I want not just to regain my former strength, but to become strong enough to protect myself, as well as my loved ones. After spending so many years depending on other people, and slowing people down…I want to be the person who can be depended upon.
    Over the last year and a half, I've re-learned how to walk and run properly, and have been working on regaining some of my strength… Initially, my 'work-outs' entailed simply trying to stand on my toes again, since my ankles were so weak… More difficult then it sounds. But over time I've made a lot of progress, and my legs are now strong enough to walk for a good couple of miles.
    I'm not strong enough yet, but I do what I can, when I can, for as long as I can. And I'm going to keep on trying, and struggling… and someday, I'll get there.

    Reply
  16. Once your older and have problems you work within your limitations.

    I love all this young gun stuff but I have seen many perfect specimens laid out stiff as a board with parts missing.
    so never think your so buff you can't be taken out by a single cell organizm.
    Time will catch up to everyone I like the octogenerian joggers LMAO how many win the New York marathon ?
    it is not that I am not impressed with their efforts but they are not going to take a 30 year old in good shape and
    well trained.

    I know from experience that work muscles are different than life experience ones try laying tile or solid concrete block all day after you think your in shape it takes a different group of muscles
    a good pre workout strech session 50 rep of 10 and mix the exercises up different days and always do a slow
    Ti CHI / slowed down versions of streching exercises to cool down adjust reps for the time you have but do not fail to strech or cool down.

    wear back support you only have to hurt in once and you will have a reoccuring issue with it.
    I have seen so many people that now cannot exercise from self inflicted injuries and now they may as well be invalids start with 10 and work up a week at a time are you in a hurry to injure yourself ?

    I saw where a 91 year old lifted 187,2 pounds I bet when he was in his 20's he could lift double.
    and this was not a rep it was a single lift as far as I know let us see him do it all day.
    no matter how hard you train you will never get past a singular date of your personal best

    If there are no limits whay are people so impressed with stats ? how many can bench 500 how many can run a mile in under let us say under 4 minutes or long jump half of the record about 14 foot ?
    and long distance run the 880 in 2 minutes now how many can do all this in one day and swim 3 miles ?

    in a life and death struggle is is not what you did before it is what you do now I know more overweight porkchop eating country boys that can out work any fitness guru and do it from day light to dark every day then go home and feed cattle and go dancing get drunk and do it again no days off and don't even think about it.

    that reminds me I need to fry some pork chops <}:=)

    Reply
  17. i agree you and i will trying to start every day in the morning!!!!
    Did this earlier today. I am not going to lie, it was a little on the ugly side since I was at 9200 ft in the Rockies.

    5K Run – 26.33
    2 min rest
    Max Pull Ups – 15
    2 min rest
    Max Situps – 80
    2 min rest
    Max Push Ups – 75

    Reply

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