What is the Baseline of Prepper Fitness?

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
What is the Baseline of Prepper Fitness?

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Of the myriad of preparedness topics, one that is often shunned is that of prepper fitness.  It is easy to see why.  Fitness is hard work and with busy lives that border on frantic, we barely have time to go to work, do our chores, spend time with our families, then crash as our head hits the pillow each night.  Physical fitness?  What’s that?  And why is that important?

In the latest think piece from contributor Richard Broome, we ask that question within the context of a disruptive event and SHFT.  Going beyond that, we ask a few questions in our quest to establish a baseline of fitness.

What is the Baseline of Prepper Fitness | Backdoor Survival

All you have to do is hike ten miles with a twenty or thirty pack on your back to realize that fitness is indeed an important part of prepping.  This article is going to make you ponder, no doubt, but beyond that it just might trigger some positive action to set you on the path of prepper fitness, or, what Richard has call “PrepperFit”.

Enjoy this latest think piece and note the special bonus at the end.  Richard is giving away an autographed copy of his book Good Crazy, to one Backdoor Survival reader.  You are not going to want to miss it.

PrepperFit ©

“If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind.” ― Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

I have been out of town for the last week spending time with my wife, my four children and their spouses, and four grandchildren at a resort in Florida. I know. I know. Seriously? Florida in July? Yet…it was a great family time renewing our connections before we scattered all over the country at the end of the vacation and tended to our very busy lives. We will not be together again until my youngest son gets married during the holidays this winter.

As I spent time sitting in the shade of a large umbrella, watching my family splash about in a pool, I took note of the other people at the resort and was taken aback some by the fairly rotund people around me. Montana’s lifestyle requires a certain level of fitness. Admittedly there are plenty of people in Montana who could stand to lose a pound or two or more (and, I reluctantly, but honestly must count me in this group). Most Montanans I know here like to hunt, fish, hike, bike, ski and have the physical fitness level to do this.

So, back to that pool in Florida. As we age, it is clear to me that with our intense lifestyles and demanding careers, many of us are not as fit or lean as we would like. Small wonder. Exercise falls to the bottom of the priority list when all you can do is just cope with each stressful, hectic day.

For me, retired from both the military and the business world, and now teaching at a university, I do have more time each day to try to stay fit. I walk at least a couple of miles every morning with my golden retriever, Molly, and then go to the gym on most days to lift weights and generally workout. But, admittedly, I am very far from that peak level of fitness I had at age eighteen as a high school athlete.

I went into the Army about that age feeling very confident about my physical abilities. No problem, I thought. However, pretty early in boot camp they required us to learn to do the things we were expected to be able to do as soldiers.

The first time we were told to drop to the ground with our rifles cradled in our arms, and then low crawl on our stomachs using only our arms and legs (no getting up on our knees, hands or elbows and crawling like a baby) and move for 50 yards as fast as we could go. I was shocked at the effort this took. It was exhausting.

The drill sergeants did help us though. Every time we tried to rise up and crawl on our knees and elbows, (which would expose us to enemy fire if we ever got that high off of the ground) they kicked us in our rumps to encourage us to learn how to do the low crawl correctly. The second time they had to kick you in the rump, they were also nice enough to have you start over at the beginning of the 50 yards, so you could be really sure you understood how to do it right. It was an early, painful, but necessary lesson as we went through the rites of passage from civilian to soldier.

It got better. As a former football player, a big guy at 6’4”, I was assigned the job of carrying my platoon’s machine gun. Just try walking twelve hours in 100-degree Texas heat carrying a heavy machine gun with its belts of ammunition also draped around your neck. Your shoulders ache. Your arms become rubber.

On the move, there was no place to put the machine gun down. Every time the platoon finally stopped to take a quick break and drink some water out of our canteens, I was grateful to rest the machine gun on the ground for a few moments. By the end of the day, I was so spent I could barely move.

But at the end of the day and getting ready to settle in for the night, the drill sergeants then told me to dig a foxhole that I could shoot the machine gun from. I also had to fill up several sand bags with dirt to surround the foxhole. I could not stop until the drill sergeants were satisfied I had built a good fighting position. I thought I was in great physical shape, but was staggering with exhaustion when I finally finished all of this. It was a level of physical stress and endurance I had never imagined.

So, as we begin to have a conversation on Backdoor Survival about what standards we need to have as preppers, it occurred to me while sitting comfortably in the shade by the pool at that very nice resort in Florida looking at some less than physically fit people, that while preppers may well be ready with the material items they need to gather, will our bodies fail us?

On the long plane ride back from Florida to Montana, I was on one of those airlines that had a TV embedded in the seat back facing you. There are moments when you have read as much as you possibly can, so you are grateful for anything that is on TV on an airplane to help pass the time. I know I was.

I flipped channels until I came across the CrossFit games. Men and women competitors were doing feats of strength and endurance such as picking up a 50 pound bag, running the length of a football field with it, then dropping it and running back to fetch another 50 pound bag until they had several bags moved from one end of the football field to the other. They were doing this as fast as they could to win the event. This struck me as a pretty tough challenge that required peak fitness.

So, in that vein, here are some challenging PrepperFit questions:

–Can you walk for twelve hours carrying a rifle, ammunition, food and water hunting for game, then shoot something and carry a heavy load of meat back for several miles to your shelter?

–If the SHTF and we are all surviving, do you think you could carry in each hand a 2-½ gallon can down to a stream three miles away, fill it with water and then carry it back?

–How long during a day can you chop, split, carry and stack firewood?

–Can you build enough of a woodpile over time to keep from freezing during the winter?

–If you had to run and hide, how much can you carry? How fast can you move?

And…how do you even prepare for something like this without your neighbors thinking you have gone completely bonkers?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Prepper fitness is a topic we must not ignore. What is the baseline of prepper fitness?” quote=”Can you walk for twelve hours carrying a rifle, ammunition, food and water hunting for game, then shoot something and carry a heavy load of meat back for several miles to your shelter?”]

Here is the bottom line. My guess is for every 1000 people who read this article about prepper fitness on Backdoor Survival, maybe 25 of you have this level of fitness now and 975 don’t. Just a guess and I am definitely in the 975. I also believe that most of us in the 975 are doing as well as we can, but have no real hope of ever getting into the top 25. Something keeps getting in the way. It is called “Life.” We are who we are. We live how we live. We do what we can do. There is a term for people like us. The term is: “Normal.”

Given my suspicion that most of us will likely be physically challenged if the SHTF, how do you prepare for a sudden increased level of physical demand? I think the most honest approach is to know that you are going to be, as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says, behind before you are out front.

I was able to get through my first weeks of Army boot camp because I had a baseline of high school athletic physical fitness to start with. I was sore and tired each day and would fall into my bunk as soon as our drill instructors turned the lights out in our barracks. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and was always startled when the bugle sounded reveille early the next morning and the drill instructors ran through the barracks yelling at us to get out of our racks. Each day I just kept on, keeping on until my muscles grew stronger and my endurance improved. This experience made a deep impression on me.

If the SHTF I do not feel life will be much different than this for most of us. But…for all of us, the key factor is going to be where you start from on the fitness scale and it cannot be grossly obese and seriously out of physical condition. You may die from the physical shock no matter how materially well prepared you are. As well, if you think a good lunch is a bag of Cheetos chased down by a can of Mountain Dew, I am going to suggest you rethink this lifestyle too.

In short, at whatever age or state of life you are presently in, a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and routine exercise needs to be a baseline for all preppers. There is no way around this.

So, as our starting point to developing a PrepperFit standard, suspecting most of us will only be moderately physically ready for the SHTF moment, here are some questions for all of you.

If asked for your opinion today, before the SHTF, what would your answers be to the following questions?

–How far should a prepper be able to walk in a day right now?

–How far should a prepper be able to swim?

–How far should a prepper be able to carry 30 pounds of dead weight in each hand?

–How far should a pepper be able to carry a 150-pound person on their back?

–How much weight should a prepper be able to lift over their head?

–What other PrepperFit physical standards would you add?

But, most important, how far behind do you think you are right now, before you will be able to get out front?

Richard Earl Broome –  Copyright. All Rights Reserved – July 27, 2015


Richard Earl Broome is a contributing author and friend to Backdoor Survival. He has lived an extraordinary life rising from an Army private to an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of their National Security Council staff.

He is considered a national expert on the subjects of preparedness, disaster recovery and survival. He is a frequent contributor of articles about the many threats facing our society, appearing frequently on shows to discuss issues such as pandemics, ISIS, and the cyber threat and how we need to meet the new threat realities facing all of us.

Now living in a small community in Montana, he is a member of the faculty at Montana State University where he teaches leadership. For more about Richard, visit the About Richard page.

Also, note that his two books, Leaving The Trees and Good Crazy (Leaving The Trees Journey) (Volume 2).  His next novel, Final Reckoning Day, will be out in the fall of 2015.

Win An Autographed Copy of “Good Crazy”

You know the drill when it comes to giveaways.  This one is very simple; all you need to do is answer the giveaway question posed in the Rafflecopter and you are good to go.

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The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific next Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winner must claim their prize within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

The Final Word

On more than one occasion I ask myself why I post articles on the less popular aspects of prepping fitness, for example.  After all, traffic, or eyeballs in website-speak, attract advertising which is how most site owners support their efforts.  So if a topic is not popular or even uncomfortable, my answer is the same one I used way back when during my years on the corporate world.

“If no one asks the tough questions then nothing will get resolved and this meeting is a waste.”

So there you have it.  As proponents of preparedness, we must both ask and answer the tough questions as they relate to our personal situation.  And for now, that is all I am going to say about that.

For additional reading, visit Prepper Preparedness: Personal Fitness and Health.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to email updates.  When you do, you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-Book, The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

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 I frequently emphasis the importance of “Comfort” when it comes to survival.  Whereas being truly comfortable during and following a disruptive event is an oxymoron, here are items that I feel will contribute to our comfort, for better or for worse.  For more ideas, visit 16 Items To Help You Hunker Down in Comfort.

Let’s start with something we can use to brew coffee and move on from there.

Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: Here is a link to my own percolator.  It makes great coffee.  I also own this manual coffee grinder but have not used it yet although the reviews are good:  Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill.  Note that whole beans store well when sealed in a Mason Jar (see How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning).

Making biscuits in a cast iron pan - Backdoor Survival

Lodge Logic Cast Iron Pre-Seasoned Drop Biscuit Pan: Biscuits with jam are one of my favorite comfort foods.  This is the pan I purchased for biscuit making and to me, it was worth the cost.  If you don’t mind seasoning your own (it’s easy), you can save some money with this one Texsport Cast Iron Biscuit Pan.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: Having adequate light when the grid is down is another key to comfort.  Don’t let the price lead you to think this wireless flood light is wimpy. I have two of these and feel that these lights are worth double the price.

Coleman Mini Lantern:  You already know that I have a think about flashlights but this is a slightly different take on portable lighting.  It is 7.5 inches tall lantern and weighs just seven ounces, including batteries.  And boy does it give off light.  Inexpensive plus, it is a genuine Coleman.

Mr. Heater Portable “Big Buddy” Heater:  Off course you are going to need a heat-source.  With the Mr. Buddy heater, you can use propane indoors safely.  It features an automatic low-oxygen shut-off system that automatically turns the unit off before carbon monoxide fumes reach dangerous levels in home.  To learn more about propane, read the series Propane for Preppers.

Ticket To Ride: This my favorite board game, bare none.  Family friendly, you will spend hours in front of the fireplace playing Ticket to Ride with your favorite people.  This is worth the splurge.

Bicycle Canasta Games Playing Cards:  This timeless classic will keep the entire family occupied when the power it out.  Playing cards or board games should be in everyone’s preparedness kit.

Coloring Books for Grown-Ups :  This is the latest addition to my list of comfort items.  I hope you don’t think I am being silly because there really is something quite relaxing about coloring books. Don’t forget the crayons or Colored Pencils.

Note:  If you prefer to print your own, check out this eBook that includes a link to a PDF version for printing on your home printer:  Adult Coloring Book: 40 Relaxing And Stress Relieving Patterns.


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43 Responses to “What is the Baseline of Prepper Fitness?”

  1. This is a great article. Our sedentary and fast food lifestyles have left us all in terrible shape. It’s even worse, I fear, for this video game, i phone generation who does nothing but text, tweet and play online games. Most would be in sad shape in the event of a disaster. I don’t know what a baseline would be but I think its important to recognize that where ever you are starting from, JUST START! You might not make it to your ideal fitness level, but any progress is progress.

  2. I have been active and work on the homestead. I can hike 10-15 miles on the mountains and do this regularly with the scouts (going this week on a 50 miler!). But when it comes to running forget it. I always said that everyone should be able to run 3 miles. That is my current goal.

  3. I think it depends on your plans if said event should occur. If your bug out location is 100 miles away and your BOV breaks down 50 miles away then you better be able to walk the rest of the way with as much of your gear as you think you need to carry. If you make it to your location, or if you hunker down where you’re at, then you need to be fit enough to do the chores required to keep yourself and family alive such as carry water, chop fire wood, plant and maintain a garden, etc.

  4. all this is good info but , some people cannot seem to getgoing without help (namely a buddy/exercise buddy) and it is very difficult to find them and trainers are always so judgemental that it discourages a person from the start , si it seems , I just never get stasrted

    • Don’t get discouraged. Focus on your purpose for being stronger, faster, and more resilient. Start small, listen to your body, and challenge your mind and spirit to grow. Physical fitness is about spiritual growth. Your body is controlled by the mind, and the mind (unfortunately) is often the weak link. See my response to a message above for context to the whole mind/body thing. Take care, and keep moving forward.

  5. Would like to think I could pack 25 pounds for ten miles without any undo stress. However, I couldn’t make it 2 without lots of stress. I’m a wuss.

  6. If you can’t run 5 miles over hilly terrain in 40 mins or carry 40lbs over 12 miles in under 2 hours you’ve got some serious work to do. If you are old and can’t hack it I don’t know what to tell you except…hunker down and hope it happens quickly. SHTF favors the young, absolutely and unequivocally. Old people are more fragile, weaker, less endurance and much more (to include the author). Show me the 75 year old who can whip the 25 year old’s arse and I’ll empty my bank account.

    • PJ – Shelly (aka the Survival Husband) wants to know how much is in your bank account. He said give him 3 months and bring ’em on! 🙂

    • Hi!
      How much is in your bank account? I am a commercial fisherman. Several years ago I watched an 84 year old commercial fisherman beat the living hell out of a jackass punk 17 year old. The 17 year old started the fight. The 84 year old, Wilson Rowe of Mathews County Virginia, would have killed the punk if a couple of other commercial fishermen had not stopped him. Nobody I know ever saw the 17 year old again and he was a big strong kid, he was crying pretty hard as he ran away.
      I have been a commercial fisherman for 50 years now. The difference between old men and young men is that young men do not know that pain will not kill you. You can work through a lot of pain once you understand that. Experience is the best teacher. Experience allows you to work smarter. Endurance is usually much more important than strength.

      OLD AGE: It’s not for young people!

  7. baseline will vary,but I believe first of all that you need to try and eat as healthy as you can and try to cut out processed foods and refined sugar. With excercise, start slowly and do a little at a time until you build up to where you can do more. In a SHTF, I believe you also need to make sure you’re able to withstand different types of weather: extreme heat and extreme cold. Everyone will have different levels of fitness and I believe endurance more than strength will be important in a SHTF

  8. Anyone interested in finding out how PrepperFit you are or need to be should check out GoRuck Events. Led by a SOC Cadre they’ll put you through your paces. Did. GR Light Challenge in June, and will be doing a Tough Challenge win Sept. The training Anne lets me know I can survive physically, but adding in the rucking, running, and lifting it shows me where I need to improve.

    The Light opened my brothers eyes to the reality he wouldn’t be bugging out into to the woods when the SHTF. Unless he lost a lot of weight and started getting more physically fit.

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