Survival Fitness: An Introduction

When the Emergency Broadcast comes over the radio, TV or you receive frantic calls from your friends, co-workers, loved ones, and it is for real this time.  Will you be ready?  Mentally? Is your gear in order?  Is your bug out location stocked and ready to weather the storm?

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

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This is the first post in a series of posts on “Survival Fitness”

How are you going to get there,survival fitness bug out bag survival training with your bug out vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or on foot?  How are you going to take care of yourself, rescue yourself, your family, and how will you fight to survive?  Do you have the physical stamina to evade invaders or a hostile force?  WILL YOU BE READY PHYSICALLY?  To fight or take flight for a sustained amount of time, regroup and fight another day and/or survive for a prolonged and indefinite amount of time?

What is Survival Fitness?

What is fitness and how do you apply the principles of fitness in a survival situation?  One definition survival trainingof fitness is work capacity across broad time and modal domain.  What does that mean?  It means the ability to do work and generate power over an undefined time and across many different modalities.  For example, having to hike with your bug out bag to your “Get Out of Dodge” location, jumping over walls, carrying a load, pulling someone out of burning building and carrying them away from danger.  The ability to be fit and apply fitness in a given situation requires some skills that can be practiced and developed.

These skills are called “The 10 General Physical Skills of Fitness” and they are as follows:

1. Cardiovascular Fitness
2. Stamina
3. Strength
4. Flexibility
5. Power
6. Speed
7. Agility
8. Coordination
9. Accuracy
10. Balance

As I mentioned, these skills can be developed and will improve the level of fitness.  Practice makes perfect, right? Perfect practice makes PERFECT EXECUTION!!!

This is merely an introduction to “What is Survival Fitness?” and how fitness can be applied in a Survival Survival TrainingSituation.  As stated in the bio line above, I am a former Marine Recon team member. I am also a Crossfit Coach and Endurance athlete.  The principles of Crossfit and sustained aerobic endurance training are relevant to daily life and are paramount for success in a survival situation such as Urban Survival or Wilderness Survival.

In articles that will follow , I will expand upon the tenets of fitness, health, and fundamentals of a strong mind and body.  I will help you develop the General Physical Skills that will increase your level of overall fitness.  I encourage you to not only read and study the excellent information on SurvivalCache.com, but to visit www.crossfit.com for the workout of the day (as known as the WOD).

Your Survival Fitness starts today.

I will leave you with this….

“World-Class Fitness in 100 words”

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.  Keep intake to levelssurvival training that will support exercise but not body fat.  Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, Clean, Squat, Presses, Clean&Jerk, and Snatch.  Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: Pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds.  BIKE, RUN, SWIM, ROW, etc HARD and FAST!

Five or six days a week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow.  ROUTINE IS THE ENEMY!  Keep workouts short and intense.  Regularly learn and play new sports.  – by Coach Greg Glassman

Read “Making the Best of Basics” to make sure your family is prepared.

Stay Survival Fit,
Mark
[email protected]

Photos courtesy of TBC Crossfit of San Antonio

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51 thoughts on “Survival Fitness: An Introduction”

  1. I'm glad to finally see an article regarding fitness and how it relates to survival situations and am looking forward to the upcoming articles in this series. What I think should be emphasized first and foremost is the fact that you don't have to join a gym or pay for expensive workout videos and exercise equipment to get in shape. Simply changing the way you eat, becoming more active, and quiting bad habits are a great start towards becoming a healthier individual, and none of that costs a penny! You can have the worlds greatest gear, access to all the fresh water, edible plants, and natural game you could want, and a flawlessly prepared shelter, but none of that will count for anything unless you are mentally and physically healthy enough to acquire those resources, provide standard upkeep on those resources, and possibly defend those resources. The fact of the matter is; if you don't prepare your body now, no matter what you won't be prepared later.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the Comment. I could not agree with you more! We don't need a gym to be fit, we have all of the resources at our disposal. Just have to get moving!!!

      Reply
  2. Man, I love Crossfit. I wish there was a Crossfit gym closer to my home here in Maine, but I've set my basement up with most of the things I need. Great post on fitness today. I can't wait to see what else you're going to do with it.

    Reply
  3. This is good thinking.
    SHTF or not, your life will be improved by maintaining your body.
    You don't need any equipment at all. You don't really need time.
    Don't go for things like 10 minute abs. Too specific. You could still work out and get a good sweat going in 10 minutes a day with a little coaching.
    I see so many lardass people around these days it's just pathetic. (If that offends you, TFB, get off the couch.) Even kids are packing extra pounds. It's disgusting. But, their facebook pages are up to date.

    Reply
  4. Great article! My husband and I were just discussing this two days ago. We’re new to alot of this, and have been putting together our first BOBs and working out our bug out plan. We realized that our fitness level is not where it needs to be. It’s funny that both of us hate even thinking about exercise, normally, but in the context of survival, both us are geared up! Also, we’ve decided to get into shape by practicing our bug out plan, which is a way more appealing to me than going to a gym or doing a workout video, or even just working out on my own with music. This is actually practical. Getting in shape for a specific purpose other than fitting into smaller jeans.

    Reply
  5. Just curious, I have been a power-lifter for the majority of my adult life, used to box and played football in high school, but 90% of the stuff I do/have done in the gym over the years is to focus on developing more strength (could care less about size and cut, I just like to know that if I need to move something out of the way I can!). In the series of articles you are going to post, will you cover "switching gears" to a more all around work out plan? The reason I ask, is because I am trying to become a Game Warden, and will be having back surgery soon, the PD and the Doc tell me I need to focus more on cardio and endurance training than strength development, but how to do this effectively is beyond me…. And hiring a personal trainer is beyond the reach of my wallet!

    Thanks, look forward to reading more!

    Reply
    • The Army taught me I had all the weight I needed to pump without a gym. We called it 'Army conditioning drill 1'. And if you got bored (tough to do with the loving, tender encouragement of my DIs) there was 'Army Conditioning Drill 2'! The only problem is that it DOES get boring by yourself but the key is to know why you're working out. If you look at the military basic training workouts, they are only partially about strength – they are also about endurance. The 4.2 mile disciplinary run up Medicine Bluffs from the Arty OCS area was murder during the first few weeks. What was amazing was how much easier it was after 23 weeks of training. ( I had 126 miles on that trail – one of my friends set a record – 294 miles). We weren't power lifters but we could march and run all day in full gear and fight when we got there. I'm sure most military guys have the same type stories.
      The trick is to be strong enough and agile enough with enough endurance to get the job done. Younger guys have it a little easier but if I want to survive past my current age, I too have to be in shape for what comes. I also look forward to the rest of the articles. I also have some medical issues that call for flexibility in my work out style. It will be interesting to see how I can adapt what is here to my needs.

      Reply
      • Yeah, military training can seriously increase your survival fitness level. Not only does it prepare you physically for a TEOTWAWTI scenario, but it would also prep you mentally as well; sometimes, in order to get out of a potentially life-threatening situation, you need to be able to tell yourself to take the next step regardless of physical stamina. As the old saying goes, "mind over matter." Of course, joining the military does not guarantee you would have the fitness necessary to survive a difficult survival situation, but as the old saying goes "there is strong, but there is ARMY STRONG." 🙂

        Reply
        • Walking, jogging and running are great for endurance. Pick one based on your current fitness level. The key is to keep pushing yourself to go 'a little further' each time. Wearing your BOB, or other weights are good idea too. The idea IS to be in good enough shape to take of the BOB, right? If you want to go lower imact, for your joints, a bicycle would do it too. I'm in good enough shape now to jog for short distances, but I DESPISE jogging. Bicycle is much more enjoyable and comfortable for me.

          Reply
    • Start by running at a pace that you can carry on a conversation with a run buddy after your body is comfortable running then start building that pace up till your out side your comfort zone and pretty much rinse and repeat. Always finish your run at a pace that is faster than what you started with. I do a butt load of chin ups and pull ups (for an explanation of the difference look up a guy on youtube called hannible for king) I can only do 4 pull ups in a row but the strength it takes to do that is unreal. Push ups are a no brainer I do about 200 in a 4 mile run. Try mixing push ups chin ups and pull ups into your run makes it a way better work out. Just remember to start slow and build into it increasing speed and distance as you go. Good luck and stay healthy.

      Reply
  6. Just keep in mind that in a survival situation, you may need a considerable amount of body fat to keep you going when you have no food – or perhaps to get you to that next availible food. A person in good/excellent shape with body fat will last longer than one without body fat.

    Reply
    • This is true especially if you are trying to survive in place and don't have to move around very much. Someone with more body fat will be able to digest their own body much longer than someone without. I am picturing an obese person here for some reason. Hopefully the person with a "considerable amount of body fat" will either get rescued or get skinny so they can move around and catch or kill food if needed before their health fails them completely.

      Reply
      • Just keep in mind that a healthy body fat percentage for men is around 13%, and for women around 24%. Make those your target and you should be good to go.

        Reply
  7. I don’t agree with the short and hard workout thinking. Military Special Operations train for the long haul for survival. Why do you think that is? Sure we did strength training but balanced with lots of endurance training. Endurance requires long workouts and pacing yourself. Hard short workouts build ones strength not endurance. Additionally you need hydration, easily accessible carbohydrates to burn fat, and salt or you will hit the wall. Some gels and goos have carbs, salt and caffeine which helps in long hauls. So does No-Dose.

    In my experience survival is about the staying power. I’ve done many long hauls, marathons and Ironmans… Events that require me to prove my abilities. The bottom line is you can’t fake it you must train for it and test yourself.

    Reply
    • My comment about 10 minutes was really to say that you can get SOME exercise in a short amount of time which would be of benefit as opposed to NONE.
      I do agree that stamina and endurance are important, but if one is not doing anything to ward off atrophy, the I-don't-have-time excuse is really just an avoidance tactic.

      Reply
  8. Sorry if this is reiterating the same point. I did CrossFit for a long time, and probably my favorite aspect was circuit type workouts that challenged my cardiovascular abilities even through calisthenics, however the one thing that I feel is important that was never covered is long distance endurance. Crossfit is great for explosive situations such as self defense (I took Krav Maga immediately after CrossFit), but I would highly recommend ruck marching aka very long distance hiking with your B.O.B. in addition to what is in my opinion, an outstanding program.

    Reply
  9. Agree 100%. Kettlebells pullups, and other bodyweight exercises comprise the majority of my fitness regimen. I'd also like to put a plug in for grappling as a great way to exercise and tremendous amounts of fun. If you have any interest in unarmed combat look into Brazilian Jiu jitsu.
    It trains strength endurance, balance, flexibility, and explosiveness, as well as being a mental workout. As a bonus, its one of the most useful martial arts IRL.

    Reply
  10. Part #1

    Thanks for all of the great comments on my 1st article. I want to briefly comment on a few.

    Fitness is about balance – work, diet, life, exercise, and for us developing and maintaining mental toughness and a never give in, never give up, never quit mentality. I am not a believer in absolutes.. Therefore, I am not an absolute strict crossfit strength and endurance coach, or a strict endurance only athlete. As many of you know, crossfit style workouts – develop mental tenacity and toughness. So do long sustained aerobic workouts and races – marathons, triathlons, ultra races or a 5k, 10k, 1/2 Marathon, Marathon, forced marches, hikes,etc. All of these workouts and races will prepare us in a survival situation. During the training period, which is ongoing, (combat mindset at all times, right?) workouts should be highly varied to create muscle confusion, cardiovascular endurance, and to develop a never quit attitude in mulitple conditions, environments, under different loads, working while fatigued, etc.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,
      My 2 cents on a combat mindset. Motivation is important. There are many forms of motivation. One guy stayed alive for a week in the desert after a plane crash because he was getting divorced and he didn’t want his wife to get his money and stuff. His anger fueled his will to live. Personally, I’ve read many articles that espouse about mindset effecting ones will to live. Take away some peoples lifestyle and they will loose their will to live. Simple as that. Although some will never change their thinking for others little things can help keep them motivated like small luxury items or even a piece of chocolate.

      I would like to see someone write about the survivor’s number one mental tool situational awareness. Without it most people won’t survive the lights going out for a few weeks let alone a huge disaster. I’ve seen hard chargers out “hunting” walk right out into the middle of a meadow and scare away a big meal because they didn’t stop to look for signs of something already there. Good intentions but poor mindset. Know what I mean?

      Reply
    • Muscle confusion…now that's a marketing term that I just do not agree with…muscles don't have brains so how is it that they are confused? Now you can be confused about how to use your muscles…I see it all the time…that fact of the matter is…you can do a thousand different exercises and if you do not know how to use your muscles correctly…then you are not being effective in exercise…learn how to use your muscles correctly and you will be effective in every exercise you perform…it has been my experience as a trainer…very few people even know what the stretch positions are for each muscle group or how to fully activate a muscle…ask your personal trainer and if he doesn't know…then you definitely need to find a new trainer…workouts can be as highly varied as you like… if you are not using your muscles correctly you will be wasting your time…

      Reply
  11. Part #2

    This is a bit of a primer to my next article, but I put together a survival fitness assessment to cover all these points that can be reproduced easily to guage your fitness level. I encourage you to comment and provide feedback when it comes out the 1st week of March.

    Stay mentally tough and prepared!

    Mark P

    Reply
  12. Sounds good. I am always looking for new ideas for cross training. I get bored very easily. My workouts are my hobbies and vice versa. I have to switch things up to keep my interest. Kickboxing, Kung Fu, mountain biking, cycling, kayaking, weights, bag work, swimming, cardio etc. I like that you pointed out the obvious– hiking or biking to your retreat with 100 lbs of gear will take an effort and endurance. Sparring/Fighting/Self-defense takes more endurance, stamina and power than some think. Looking forward to it.

    Reply
    • Jackie Chan is one of the few kung fu actors I've ever seen to allow himself to look tired/winded in his films. I know it's comic relief, but it's better than trying to pretend that one can fight endlessly at high intensity as occurs in many fight scenes. When I first started sparring (Oyama Karate), my thighs used to burn like crazy and I'd be completely out of breath after 30 seconds (not to mention the low kicks to the legs and getting hit in the solar plexus). I'm conditioned more for it now, but it doesn't take much for my conditioning to degrade if/when I take off for a week or slack up on the intensity for a while (you know, to work on form/etc).

      Reply
  13. When done right, survival fitness is "survival-fitness" across all means of survival, whether it be surviving to old age in a healthy state in your urban house or in the harshest of situations. The bottom line remains, fitness is applicable to everything. As for me, I do a combinations of Triathlons, marathons, cycling events, weights, yoga, and martial arts.

    CONTINUED>>>

    Reply
  14. Pt. 2.
    Anyone who has ever done a half or full marathon knows that the most friendly and genuinely nice people that you will ever meet are there. Events like this are great places to network… hence enhancing "survival" TODAY!
    Let's assume I need to swim… done! Maybe I'll never need to swim across a lake on a covert op, maybe I'll just need to jump in a lake to saving a drowning kid. If an EMP…etc. destroys moden transportation I have a bike. Consider this… There is a race called RAAM. Riders ride from CA to NJ as hard as they can. They do it in 10 days. Now this isn't practical for 99% of cyclists let alone the average person but with regular casual riding it's nothing to cover 100 miles a day. By the way, don't be intimidated by ANY of these events. On average, about 25% of all marathon & half-marathon participants are walkers. No need to pay for expensive coaching, just look online and pick up a book at the bookstores. Good luck.

    Reply
  15. I would love to see an article on impoverished / improvised weapons . Things that may only be at hand in certain situations . A buddy of mine actually made a point to get himself trained in the quarterstaff . The way he put it is , pick up a piece of re-bar or a dead branch and you have a quarterstaff , and can be very nasty opponent with it if you get caught without anything better . Kinda goes along with fitness .

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  16. Great advice, mine is just get off the damn couch people and start moving again….oh that sound?…its your bones and muscles moving.

    Reply
  17. I exercise regularly, and was thinking, if that a lot of people might end up in a nomadic scenario, and that being the case, I thought I might contribute one piece of advice, which is to make an emphasis to breathe through the nose almost exclusively, and to insist that everyone in your party does as well Breathing through the mouth expends a lot of more moisture than people think, which will amount to higher consumption of water, which increases your load, decreases your travel ability, and wastes water. __Also, in strenuous activity, learning to breathe through the nose, decreases the chance of hyperventalation, and increases your V02 max, which will enable you to increase physical effort and actually be less taxing on your body.

    Reply
    • I agree with the first part of your comment. A good technique to train yourself for nose-breathing is to emulate the Apaches: run with a mouthful of water and do not swallow it, only breathe through your nose.
      But, breathing through your nose doesn't increase your MV02, it just acts as a governor. Your MV02 is based upon intake, absorption, and usage, not method of intake. You might be able to go farther with nose-breathing, but it will be at a slower pace.

      Reply
  18. Crossfit is fantastic for survival fitness. I am also very partial to Krav Maga – intense training gives you the fitness and the tactical fight training skills all in one.
    Another great fitness plan is Scott Sannon's "Tacfit" – if you haven't heard of this – check it out. Great videos on youtube of the workouts.

    Reply
  19. There is a workout that effectively accomplishes your list of “The 10 General Physical Skills of Fitness”. It's called Muay Thai – the Art of the 8 Weapons.

    It's aerobic and major anaerobic – nothing gets you more tired that kicking. Virtually every technique uses every muscle in your body, and it's natural and easy to learn. In one workout you will accomplish all ten:
    1. Cardiovascular Fitness
    2. Stamina
    3. Strength
    4. Flexibility
    5. Power
    6. Speed
    7. Agility
    8. Coordination
    9. Accuracy
    10. Balance
    Add stress relief, along with learning a very interesting and useful skill set with Muay Thai, and you may have the ultimate Survival workout.

    Would love to contribute to SurvivalCache.com as this is a very good website.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Doss

    Reply
  20. While the the article does have some good info, i think the aspect of strength should be excluded. Sure it may come in handy here and there but flight (running/cardio) is almost always better than to fight, especially if you plan on counting on just your strength against blades or firepower. And the bigger your muscles, the more food you need to fuel them. In a survival situation its all about efficiency. Big muscles are inefficient. And no I'm not saying this cause I'm a scrawny guy trying to justify my physique. I'm actually pretty built…not bragging or anything…just saying i would stop lifting if i knew s**t were to hit the fan in the near future…

    Reply
  21. Would Parkour be a good sport to train? That is currently the only one I am engaged in right now since I'm homeschooled.

    Reply
    • I'd imagine that it would be. I've never done it personally, but it seems to train most, if not all, the skills listed above. When hordes of people are stampeding in the streets, you can navigate safely above their heads.

      Not sure if the neighbors or local authorities would like you jumping through their stuff though…

      Reply
  22. I absolutely agree that you must come up with various routine everyday so that it'll not bore you doing the same old exercises everyday. And also as far as I can remember sit ups and curl-ups could help you develop your abs these are the several six pack tips I got from subscribing to different health programs.

    Reply
  23. Love the site, guys!

    I read through the list of skills and I am wondering what is the difference between "strength and power?"

    Also, I would like to add some input about the workouts. Personally, I listen to music when I go for a run, but in a survival situation, that's not going to fly for a couple of reasons:
    1-distractions can get you killed.
    2-my ipod will probably have a dead battery 🙁

    Reply
  24. Exercising is an awesome way to keep body fit for longer period. I'm very much excited to do cross training because it's effective to help build muscle perfectly. Thanks.
    crunches

    Reply
  25. I am a regular viewer of the show "Man vs Wild" at discovery channel. There I had the understanding how important survival fitness is. Human body have to take the maximum pressure of everything tough situations when they are in a survival situation.

    Reply
  26. I left the Army a little more than two years ago,after serving fifteen years in.I was not a Infantry man or special forces person.I was once an avid weight trainer.I do not do it any more,because of doing it after so many years I got sick and tiered of it.I am fifty one years old.I havent been going to the gym in about a month.what I have been doing lately is walking alot.That will keep you from being fat.To be a body builder it's not on also how you train or how well is your nutrition intake,But also a lot of it is based on your Genetic's.I now days stick to the old basic exercises,Like push-ups,sit-ups,graviton machine,and do some cardio work-out.This would be good for older people.

    Reply
  27. The best exercise style you could utilize for wtshtf is called Tacfit by coach Scott Sonnon. Though crossfit is great for transforming your body, making you stronger and tougher, it is seriously lacking in a few regards and it is also pretty risky for someone with a limited training history. I find fault with the idea of “routine is the enemy” on a certain level. I would argue that it is potentially beneficial to practice certain movements at various intensities and even to repeat a workout a for a month or two so that certain tactical movements become muscle memory. This is how Tacfit works… I have a BS in exercise science I am CSCS certified and I have researched routines for injury and death prevention in firefighters and of all the stuff I have encountered Tacfit is superior.

    Reply

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