SURVIVAL & PHYSICAL FITNESS : PT 2
In Survival & Physical Fitness : PT 2, we’ll examine each individual component of physical fitness as we talked about briefly in PT 1. But first, let’s look at four broad, but common fitness goals.
- Losing weight
- Gaining muscle
- Running farther, faster
- Some combination of the first three goals.
Since these are high level informative articles, we’ll provide the fundamental ways you can achieve any one or more of the fitness goals above. For ease of reading, we’ll categorize each goal so you can quickly reference it if you need to.
Losing weight is a huge market ($30-$50 billion industry in the US alone…) so it’s understandably crowded with ineffective fitness routines and gimmicks. There are some reputable programs and diets out there, but many times, you have to do a lot of digging to find them…
Weight loss is a very common goal, and for excellent reasons.
Obesity is a a potentially life-threatening condition that lowers quality of living and is unfortunately very prevalent here in the US.
Don’t think obesity is an issue? Here are common health risks associated with an overweight or obese lifestyle according to the CDC:
- Type II diabetes
- Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Liver and/or Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
- Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
- Coronary heart disease
Maybe you’re not overweight or obese, maybe you just want to shed a few pounds before summer or for any reason, it feels good to lose weight! Not only do you have the sense of accomplishment that completing a goal can bring, but you also increase your standard of living.
You’re body is less taxed by excess fat and becomes more efficient. An efficient body is better for combating illness and disease and can also heal faster.
It’s in your best interest to determine your own ideal body weight. There’s several scales and standards in place depending on the source. The CDC, Military, etc., all have similar body weight charts. These can be used as indicators, and can also be helpful in determining what weight you should be targeting.
This suggestions can vary widely based off body type. It’s important to set goals to set yourself up for success in achieving weight loss. Keep in mind that achieving your ideal weight is half the battle. After your target weight has been met it’s in your best interest to maintain that weight until your goals change. We’ll discuss this more in depth later in the series.
How to Lose Weight
Here’s how to lose weight, no frills: Take in less calories than you expend on a consistent basis.
OK, that looks simple, sounds simple – Yes and no….
It’s true, that’s how to lose weight. But it’s also a process that won’t happen overnight, and can sometimes be challenging to maintain on a consistent basis. If you’re unfamiliar with caloric intake, here’s the bare bone basics.
A calorie is a small measure of energy. It’s the fuel for our bodies. The amount of calories you should consume to maintain your current weight is based off a variety of factors such as weight, height, age, sex, and level of physical activity. If you’re interested in finding out what your recommended intake is, here’s a calories per day calculator. Keep in mind, your level of physical activity, its duration, and intensity in your daily routine plays a big factor in determining your ideal daily caloric intake.
The general weight loss guidelines are to determine your daily caloric intake, and subtract 500-1000 calories from that figure. Again, every body is different, these are just average figures so only you or a qualified health professional can determine your ideal levels.
That sums up the absolute basics covered in the “Take in less calories” portion of the weigh loss equation. Let’s take a look at the second part.
Expending (or burning) calories happens both automatically by your body and with physical activity.
You’re body will burn up calories on it’s own even if you lay in bed all day. Unfortunately, most people can’t rely on this approach to achieving and sustaining weight loss. A Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) estimates how many calories an individual burns assuming little to no physical exertion. These calories are essentially freebies, burned by your body to support itself.
Once you’ve found your ideal number of calories you’ll be taking in daily, subtract your BMR from that figure. What you have left is generally the figure you’ll shoot for to expend in physical activity throughout the day.
Both strength training and CR endurance exercises such as running or swimming, have the potential to burn massive amounts of calories depending on a variety of factors such as frequency, intensity, style of training, etc. These are all the finer details you can sort out depending on your goals and body type. In PT 3, we’ll expound on these specific types of physical fitness routines to review the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of some of the more common ones.
Finally, for the last part of the equation ( Intake less calories than you expend on a consistent basis. ) we look specifically at the “consistent basis” bit.
Setting goals is important to set yourself up to be successful at any desired level of physical fitness. Once these goals have been achieved, it’s critical to adhere to some sort of maintenance mode. In a maintenance mode, exercise and a sensible diet is critical. Although the exercise is sometimes less intense during this mode, it’s still just as frequent in order to effectively maintain any type desired weight loss (or gain).
Gaining muscle also sounds straightforward (and in concept is…), but can be very challenging to achieve. This holds especially certain for body types of primarily ectomorph characteristics.
Here’s another boiled down equation for the fundamentals of gaining muscle: To gain muscle, you must take in more calories than you expend AND challenge your existing muscle fiber.
In this series, we won’t dive into finer points of nutrition and dieting. We will however focus on the last section of the equation “challenge your existing muscle fiber”. Notice we’re not saying lift weights, we’re saying challenge existing muscle fiber. Although strength training through lifting weights is a fantastic way to exercise (muscular strength and endurance), it’s by no means the only option. If you don’t like, don’t have, or can’t afford basic weight lifting equipment, there are still plenty of ways you can effectively challenge your various muscle groups. We’ll delve more into specific ways to challenge each muscle group in PT 3 but just keep this in mind for now.
To build new muscle, you must first tear your existing muscle fiber then allow it to heal. The recovery period following an intense period of physical exertion is just as critical as the 30-45 minutes of actual exercise. If you’re new to exercising and desire to gain muscle, keep this recovery period in mind as it’s common for beginners to push themselves to hard in the beginning only to become injured or burned out and give up.
During this period of trying to achieve whatever your target goal is, there will be a cycle of 3-4 active strength training days followed by a day or two of either lighter activity or complete rest. You might strength train Mon, Wed, Fri, and take the other days off or switch to a cardiorespiratory exercise. Again, this is your call, some individuals may desire a more aggressive regiment than others. Some may need longer to recover based off body type, gender, age, etc.
These are high level guidelines on how to gain muscle. Because everybody responds uniquely to variables like diet and intensity, use common sense to guide you.
When preparing for a potential survival situation, the concept isn’t to try and become Mr. Universe or a body-builder, but rather to have an ideal level of physical fitness to defeat whatever challenges the situation may pose. Focus on what you think is more important in your situation. Such as those who may desire to increase their ability to hike, walk, or run for a certain period of length or time.
To summarize, To gain muscle, you must take in more calories than you expend AND challenge your existing muscle fiber.
Running Farther, Faster
A physical fitness routine geared towards cardiorespiratory (CR) endurance is another practical and realistic goal to pursue. An efficient body is best equipped to many of the common hazards associated with a wide variety of realistic survival situations. Some of these hazards such as illness or infection dealing with limited medical resources or know-how can be defeated simply by an effective immune system. When the body is taken care of, it allocates resources extremely well. It can respond the most effectively in a situation involving mental and physical stress or hardship if it’s well taken care of.
Running (or some variation such as jogging, hiking, walking, etc) is one of the most common and effective methods of achieving high levels of CR endurance and overall stamina. This involves virtually no equipment and most individuals have some outdoor (or indoor) area in which they can measure their progress (such as laps around a track, park, or city blocks). If you don’t enjoy running or simply decide it’s not your style, there’s several other methods of consistently challenging and progressing in your CR endurance. Swimming, cycling, boating, and a variety of other activities are available to choose from. Simply select something you think you’d enjoy and start engaging in that activity on a consistent basis. Like gaining muscle, increasing your levels of CR endurance is most easily accomplished by keeping some type of goal and log to document your progress. Once you’ve determined a realistic goal of your choosing, start putting the plan in action and exercise on a consistent basis.
If your goal is to become faster for example, it’s best to select an exercise in which you can run, swim, bike, whatever, for shorter duration, high intensity bursts. Likewise, if your primary objective is to increase overall stamina and endurance, it’s best to pace yourself at a moderate intensity for increasingly extended durations.
Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be some traditional stereotype of a jogger or marathon runner, just pick some type of physical activity you already enjoy or engage in and try to set new goals for yourself. Like other survival and preparedness concepts, be realistic…
If you tell yourself you’re going to run a half-mile every morning at 6 am but hate to run and hate to wake up at 6 am, you’re probably being unrealistic and won’t follow through.
This could be extremely simple at first such as always taking the stairs. Or parking purposefully at the most remote corner of the parking lot the next time you go grocery shopping. The point is, start small, be realistic, and choose activities and exercises you enjoy doing. Just make sure you continually challenge yourself and don’t become complacent.
Some Combination of the First Three Goals
Remember, you can always combine and prioritize short, mid, and long term goals by combining any of the three previously mentioned physical fitness goals. You may want to focus your routine on both gaining strength and overall CR endurance. Or, you may want to lose 30 lb’s of fat while still retaining and increasing muscle mass. Whatever the case may be, be realistic and stick with it. So easy to say but can be very challenging to start or maintain on a long term basis. If you’re having trouble with the time commitment, just think of it this way, if you spend lets say 3-4 hours online every week looking at survival sites or something else online, you can also easily devote 30-45 minutes daily broken into 5-6 sessions throughout the week. In other words, if you’re taking the time you currently spend becoming informed and educated about survival and self-reliance skills, you’re potentially throwing that time away if something happens and you’re out of shape or otherwise unfit to defeat the challenge. The cost of striving towards physical fitness is minimal to none when compared with money spent on preparing for uncertainty through material items.
Have anything to add? We’d love to get your feedback!