The Most Overlooked and Critical Item for Preppers

October 23, 2021

How to Prevent Failure After SHTF

“If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” — Count Rugen

When we consider prepping for every conceivable scenario, our greatest challenge will be having the physical and mental capacity to withstand the demands of the crisis we may one day face.  Whether that is running from a disaster zone, walking on foot to a safe location, or exerting a great deal of physical activity, we are more likely to survive a prolonged disaster if we are already fit before the event.  The only way to prepare ourselves is by starting right now to improve our health and wellbeing daily. You have to approach your health as a daily endeavor–a daily prep.  And beyond just a potential disaster, focusing on your health will provide you with a much longer and enjoyable life.

A special thanks to Athletic Greens for sponsoring this Youtube ad free video.  When you have to push your body beyond its normal limits, having the right nutrition will be everything.  More on this in a moment. 

This blog will cover the three aspects you can easily focus on now to ensure you can rise to the occasion should a disaster necessitate you to do so.  These three critical elements are functional fitness and activity tolerance, diet and nutrition, and sleep.  We hired a licensed clinician to help with this video who works with older individuals who have neglected these 3 principles and he has seen firsthand the detrimental impact it has on them.  Your fitness level, nutrition and diet, hydration, and ability to get rest will all determine how well your body adjusts to a post-SHTF environment and really whether you can even make it through to the aftermath of a disaster.  Treat your health like your most important prep because, well, it is.  Also, as an added bonus, we’re doing a giveaway at the end of this blog which will help you on your physical fitness journey.  Let’s jump in…

FUNCTIONAL FITNESS

Functional FitnessMost of us work out with a specific motivation in mind. Maybe you want to get back in shape, build more muscle or become a better runner. As a prepper, training for real-life situations you could face should be one of the main reason for exercising.  Living better now is the by-product of that and just as important.  Functional fitness is a term used for full-body workouts, during which you don’t train isolated muscle groups but move your body the way you use it in daily life. Instead of doing bicep curls or bench-pressing to isolate vanity muscles, you train your whole body to do everyday activities more easily and efficiently.  In its simplest terms, a bicep curl machine may make your arms look great, but it won’t help you one bit if you need to collect and process firewood for an hour which would engage muscles you may have overlooked training in the gym and could potentially result in injury.  Someone with a whole-body functional fitness approach may not look massive, but their body will be better suited to handle real tasks that may be required after a disaster.

Functional fitness is also the approach that skilled clinicians use for people recovering from disease or injury and for those dealing with chronic illness – namely, focusing on those areas of fitness that improve your health and quality of life the most.  For example, running on the treadmill boosts your fitness, but it may not be the best choice if you’re considering your preparedness for all aspects of a crisis or disaster situation.  Treadmill running is very different than trail running or even street running.  Even the slight lateral twisting of the knees involved in navigating terrain is a small critical movement that isn’t effectively accomplished on a treadmill. 

Unlike most workouts, functional fitness doesn’t just focus on building strength and endurance, which are obviously important.  It also develops other capabilities you need to function well: flexibility, dynamic balance and stability, coordination, and good posture.  By doing activities and exercises that mimic strenuous physical movements you may need to do after a disaster such as hiking long distances carrying a heavy load, or processing firewood, functional fitness trains your muscles to work together on tasks instead of only training your muscles for specific, isolated motions which be as important in a survival situation.  If you think you may have to walk over several miles with a heavy backpack as part of your overall survival, then the best way to be prepared for this is to load up a backpack and go try and walk a mile.  This will give you a baseline to work with.  Once you learn your capabilities from that hike, you can begin training your legs to handle greater distances and weight by doing squats, lunges, and step-ups.  Squats train the muscles you need to stand up, sit down, and pick things up from the floor.  Lunges in various directions will assist you in traversing in the wild, repeated crouching, even gardening, and foraging.  Step-ups with your body weight or the additional weight of a backpack support your body to climb elevations, irregular terrain, or stairs with supplies.  Hopefully, I’ve sold you on this concept of functional fitness versus isolated weight training that focuses on sculpting muscles.  We’re trying to build strength for real scenarios you may face in a grid-down situation.

DO THESE DAILY

Daily FitnessAfter consulting with a licensed clinician with extensive expertise with inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, here are some ways to approach improving your functional performance for daily living and disaster preparedness.  Obviously, consult with your own physician before engaging in physical activity you may not be used to, especially if you’re over 40 years of age.  First, If you want the health benefits of functional fitness to live longer and healthier, you should have either: 2.5 – 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity; or 1.25 – 2.5 hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or some equivalent combination of the two.  So, the absolute minimum of physical activity you should have is two and a half hours, but getting five or more hours is best.

Second, you need to make an honest assessment of your current physical condition. Take an inventory of yourself, just like you take an inventory of your preps.  What are your limitations?  What are your challenges?  Is going out on a hike or city trail a challenge because you have difficulties with prolonged walking or standing?  Are you fit enough to lead a ‘normal’ life, but you still need to catch your breath each time you climb stairs?  Which slight improvement could you make today would make everyday life better?  What physical tasks would you need to complete for your disaster plan?

Then, start focusing on gradually improving your endurance and functional fitness by incorporating more activities and exercise routines that simulate what will be physically required, such as brisk walks or long walks with your bug-out-bag, picking up weighted items from the floor, and carrying it to a location, shoveling dirt or snow, or lifting an object above your head.  Build your total-body strength by practicing squats and lunges, push-ups against the wall or floor, or simple exercises with resistance bands.  Also try walking backward and sideways, getting up from your chair without using your hands, standing on one foot, or using a stability ball to train your balance.  Identify your most significant problems and start where you are now, even if that means only doing a 1-minute “workout” a day.  Do something every day to start, and then build up to a routine.

Athletic Greens AG1 is a daily supplement that provides critical vitamins, minerals, and whole-food sourced ingredients.  While spending 20 weeks training for a marathon, we needed to ensure our body had the necessary elements to fuel my muscles to push further than we had ever gone and to help with recovery.  Having a convenient option we only had to consume once per day was not easy to find.  In the typical prepper’s pantry, the focus on carbs, proteins, and fats is front and center, but micronutrients are often overlooked.  AG1 is a daily supplement that helps round out your body’s nutritional needs.  Recently while doing a 20-mile jog, at around mile 15, my body completely gave up.  After working with a nutritional consultant, we discovered we weren’t intaking enough nutrients and as a result, we had depleted my reserves.  With the foundation of a proper diet based on whole foods and vegetables, using a supplement like AG1 has allowed me to ensure we am providing my body with the essentials to go the distance.  If the grid goes down and important nutrients are hard to obtain, providing your body with the necessary micronutrients will be vital.  You can pick up AG1 by visiting athleticgreens.com/cityprepping

TWO APPROACHES

Daily Real FitnessNow that we’ve explored some of the concepts of functional fitness, let’s look at the two approaches to make you more successful for everyday living, as well as for crisis scenarios.  

The 1st approach is incorporating more activity throughout your day and being less sedentary.  This will help you cover your basic cardiovascular requirements for health and endurance, so you can make it through those dire situations without running out of gas.  It will help you stay focused and productive by having the stamina you need without frequent rest breaks.  To accomplish this, try working into your daily life one of these things, even if you consider yourself fit:

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Intentionally park farther away from your destination.  If you take public transportation, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.  Walk or bike to work, run errands, or visit friends. Or cluster your errands in one area so you can park your car once and then walk to each destination.  Take a short walk during your lunch break, after dinner, or on a regular work break.  Instead of sitting down to watch TV, try doing a few simple exercises or stretches while you watch.  Or make a new rule: no sitting during commercials.  Stand up or walk around while talking on the phone. Better yet, catch up with a friend or brainstorm with a coworker while taking a walk together. Don’t let housework, gardening, or lawn maintenance build up – they’re all opportunities to get moving.  Cleaning out the garage or attic is another way to be productive and active at the same time.  Find ways to get more exercise from your current hobbies and activities. For example, if you play golf, walk the course instead of using a cart.  If you have a child who plays sports, walk around the field or court while the team practices.  Plan family outings that involve being active, like hiking, swimming, or outdoor games.  Don’t camp solely to drink beer and eat unhealthy foods, but instead go for a long hike, eat well, then sleep even better.  Build outdoor adventures into your family vacation.  It can be an opportunity to try something new.  Carry your pack or bug-out-bag with you on any one of your outdoor walks or adventures.

The second approach is to begin and maintain a basic home and outdoor functional exercise routine that improves your performance in real-life situations. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that a strength training program be performed a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week, with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for healthy adults or 10 to 15 repetitions for older adults. Focus on performing 8-10 total exercises per workout and 1-3 sets per exercise.  Since we lose muscle mass and bone density as we age, strength training helps maintain and mitigate these losses to prevent functional decline and fractures.

Even if you don’t have a gym membership, these types of activities we’ll cover can be done at home with some basic gear.  You don’t need a lot of equipment, but adding a weighted bag, elastic bands, or dumbbells can be helpful.  Consider combining a few exercises each day from these compound and core exercise groups.  A compound exercise is any movement where you’re using more than one muscle group at a time.  These are squats, deadlifts, lunges, dips, lying pullovers, push-ups, pull-ups, lat pulldowns, shoulder presses, jumping rope, step-ups, and single-leg standing while bending and reaching.  Pick a random two per day from the compound exercises and build a routine for yourself.  Core exercises are any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion.  Flutter kicks, seated knee tucks, crunches, bicycle crunches, vertical leg crunches, leg raises, planks, and plank jacks are all easy to perform without additional weights, carry a low risk of injury, and will have an almost immediate effect on your functional fitness.  We’ll post links to each of these items in the description section below if you’d like to learn how to perform each of these movements.

Increasing your daily activity habits, and sticking with a functional fitness routine that incorporates compound movements and core strength, will increase your activity tolerance and performance and improve your ability to perform everyday tasks.  When disaster strikes, your body will be functionally conditioned to meet the challenges and additional rigors better.  Implement these now to ensure you won’t succumb to injury and you’ll be able to perform the critical functions you’ll need to be able to perform.

NUTRITION & DIET

Nutrition and DietWhen considering essential nutrition related to functional fitness, you want to get back to the basics: whole foods (not processed) that are nutrient-dense (as opposed to calorically dense), a balanced variety of foods, and hydration are the keys.  Our diets now will likely be radically different from our post-SHTF diets.  As a prepper, your diet will change after a disaster, and how fundamentally different and body-jarring that change is will depend on your efforts to optimize your diet now.  Your largest meal with all three macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) should be breakfast. Each subsequent snack and meal should be smaller and with fewer calories, fewer carbs, and sugars. Dinner should be your smallest meal in terms of calories, and you should avoid carbs.  Eat nutrient-dense foods–whole foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, and meats.  You probably don’t get enough vegetables in your diet right now. Still, after a disaster, many people get almost no vegetables in their diet.  In my training for a marathon, this has been the number 1 lesson I’ve learned: when you push your body to an extreme, you have to provide your body with nutrients, otherwise you’re body will be depleted of essential components it needs.

Also, stay away from calorically dense foods like candy, pastries, bread, cakes, cereals, and processed foods.  Processed foods get their name because they typically lose their nutrients and gain calories in the “process” of manufacturing.  Read nutrition and food labels on everything you buy and consume. If the first four ingredients are junk or you don’t know what they are, don’t buy it. Are there more than a dozen ingredients with some additives you don’t know what they are?  Pass on it and reach for something healthier.  The nutrition and food label ingredients are listed in order based on volume. For this reason, the first four ingredients make up the majority of the product and will help you determine what makes it into your body’s “gas tank.”  Finally, if you need a chemistry degree to read the ingredients on a food label, it’s not real food so stay away. 

For a macronutrient guideline for normal adults who are non-athletes, consider keeping a daily consistency of 45–65% of your calories from carbs.  Focus on green leafy vegetables and complex carbs that are low in sugar or don’t have sugar. These carbs should be high in fiber.  If you have sugars, have them from whole fruit, not canned or dried where extra sugar has been added. 20–35% of your diet should be derived from fats.  Stay away from trans fats, saturated fats, and hydrogenated oils. Although there are pros and cons to each diet philosophy, a more plant-based diet will more likely prevent disease later in life.  However, fat from egg yolk is acceptable since it is a better source of cholesterol.  Stick with fats from olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and fish 10–35% of your diet should be from protein.  

For fluid intake, you already know the answer — it’s to drink water and more of it. Inadequate water intake or excessive caloric intake can lead to dehydration, affect thinking, mood, cause headaches, and lead to overeating, constipation, overheating, and urinary tract infections.   Proper hydration maintains kidney health and reduces the chance of kidney stones.  I cannot stress this point enough.  2 out of 1000 people are currently on dialysis 3 times per week just to survive.  We are woefully dehydrated as a society.  You don’t want to start thinking about hydration only after disaster strikes.  Your target water intake for men is 1 gallon per day or 3.7 liters, and for women, it’s roughly 3 quarts of water or 2.7 liters per day.  When it comes to water, it’s okay to be an overachiever and drink more than your target.

Understand that after a disaster, water intake and nutrient intake can radically shift.  Maintaining a routine of good nutrition, diet, and hydration now will make this shift easier for your body because it will be ready to face the challenges after all your building.  If you go into a disaster already suffering from inadequate nutrition and hydration, the added impact of the disaster on your health and chances of survival could be deadly.

SLEEP

SleepThe last aspect here for fitness and the prepper is sleep. Most importantly, we need to discuss sleep habits and how to maximize our fitness, health, and energy.  Any sleep deficiency, categorized as 6 hours or less per 24 hour period, can decrease the immune response, lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, an increased risk for diabetes, increased weight gain, reduced balance and coordination, can affect mood, behavior, emotional control, decision-making, and problem-solving.  In addition, one of the ways sleep deficiency promotes weight gain, and obesity is that it results in increased cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone that prepares you for fight or flight, so extra production of this hormone over time can lead to diseases and problems with anxiety, depression, digestion, memory, and focus.  After a disaster, cortisol levels will naturally spike.  Your ability to adequately take up that cortisol and use it properly will depend significantly on your established and maintained sleep routine before the disaster struck.  

The key to prepping your sleep is establishing an evening routine that involves relaxation and good personal and oral hygiene. Like showering, shaving, flossing, brushing teeth, and even some light stretching of large muscle groups.  Routines help transition the mind and body.  To avoid fight or flight hormones that keep you alert, keep stressful tasks and conversations for earlier in the evening or the next day.  Avoid artificial light after the sun goes down, especially “blue light” present in electronics such as TV, laptops, and cell phones.  Excessive blue light in the evening and right before bed can decrease your Melatonin levels.  Your body makes melatonin to help you wind down and sleep better.  Therefore, trade your electronics in for a book in the evening or calming music.  If electronics are a must in the evening, use a “night mode” on your phone or invest in some inexpensive blue light filter glasses.  However, you should still “unplug” from screens, at the very least, 30 minutes before bed.  Avoid caffeine for at least 6-8 hours before bed. Some might even need more time in between to not have caffeine disrupt their sleep.

Avoid heavy alcohol consumption or casual drinks (1-2 glasses) at least 3 hours before bed.  Alcohol affects the quality of your sleep and causes increased urination, and can lead to constipation.  Don’t bother taking naps in the afternoon or early evening.  If you’re tired, try walking or light activity to give yourself a natural energy boost.  

Keep your bedtimes and wake-up times consistent every day, as much as possible, including the weekends.  This will establish a regular rhythm for your mind and body and, therefore, an improved sleep cycle.  Maintaining a consistent routine that provides you with proper rest will improve your day-to-day life right now.  After a disaster, being able to find rest when it is safe will be critical for your ability to handle threats and think clearly.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully this blog gave you the core foundational aspects everyone should observe not only to be ready for a disaster but to live a better quality of life.  They are, perhaps, more important than any prepping gear you could ever obtain.  Your fitness level, nutrition and diet, hydration, and ability to get rest when and where you need it will all determine how well your body adjusts to a post-SHTF environment and really whether you can even make it through to the aftermath of a disaster.  Treat your health like your most important prep because it is.

What do you think?  What’s your assessment of your fitness, diet, and routines right now?  What percentage chance of surviving an SHTF situation do you give yourself based upon your evaluation?  What are you going to start doing today to improve your odds?  Let us know in the comments below.  

As always, stay safe out there.

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