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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.

You can also vote for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

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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. I agree with others who have emphasized that endurance will be of utmost importance. I readily admit to being rather out of shape. I do try to eat ‘clean’, and weight is not an issue. I’ve recently begun a new job that is more physically demanding than my previous office job, and that is helping me to build up both strength and endurance. And as none of us are getting any younger, the sooner we get going on strengthening our physical endurance, the better off we’ll all be.

  2. We are senior citizens who have been doing strength training at the YMCA 3 times a week for about 8 months. With this,we feel we could carry a 20-30 pound bag for 6-10 miles OK. We really need to incorporate some cardio into our training. We’d certainly do better in a bug-in situation as opposed to a bug-out one!

  3. I think my answer would have to be “As fit as they have to be.”
    Ideally prepper should have some kind of plan for how they are going to ride out a SHTF scenario. If their plan is to bug out 30 miles with their bug out bag fully loaded, they should be able to walk 30 miles with a fully loaded bug out bag.
    If their plan is to stay in place they should be prepared to fight off any potential threats.
    If they have a homestead they should be able to maintain the homestead, to tend their garden and livestock and perform maintenance on their home and equipment.

    Ideally people should be able to walk at least 15 miles a day fully loaded; this is the average for Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers, these are people who are dedicated to walking a lot while carrying what they need. On a good day with less elevation changes than the AT or PCT you can bump that up to maybe 20-30 miles, but fully-loaded for any group, that’s a stretch. If you have young children one of you will have to be able to make that trek carrying young children at least part of the time in addition to gear. Again, it’s all situational.
    How far should a prepper be able to swim? Well, they should be able to swim in adverse conditions, first of all. It’s not always possible to find a safe crossing for a body of water, sometimes you have to cross water. Knowing how to swim with a current while weighed with gear is very important. I would say swimming a mile would be enough for anyone, but it’s always good to keep in practice. People who live on or near the ocean or large bodies of water should expand this and be able to stay afloat longer, preferably holding the weight of another person.

    How long should they be able to carry 30 pounds of dead weight in each hand? Again, as long as they have to. At least a couple of miles for this, as difficult as it is it may be necessary.

    With a fireman’s carry I find I, a very small person, can carry a 150 pound man about a mile. We’ve practiced. Ideally a person should be able to carry any member of their family or group away from a potential danger such as a fire or disaster zone, in the event that this person is unconscious. This could be as much as a mile or more in the case of large-scale attacks. It’s also important to have medical training and equipment to revive this person if necessary and treat any wounds that may make them unable to walk, but ideally any prepper should be able to carry any member of their family over a mile. Most men can do this if their wife is small, but women should learn the fireman’s carry as it is an easier way to carry a larger person. However, if you are a man who weighs 400 pounds, you should slim down or risk being left behind in a disaster. No one who wants to survive is going to lug around a morbidly obese person over a mile, no matter how much they loved them before SHTF.

    A person should be able to lift at least their body weight over their head, preferably the body weight of anyone in their group for boosting people over obstacles. This one is difficult, but every person should strive to train as much as they can so they can lift as much as possible over their head without injury.

    I would add to this list the ability to sprint enough to escape potential danger, be able to defend against a human or animal attack, and be able to do any tasks that are part of your survival plan, such as walking a huge distance, or chopping wood for your woods stove, hauling water, etc. Everything should be tailored to your survival plan, and, if you have to deviate from this, you should be in good enough shape to do what needs to be done.

  4. I have been reading through all the comments on my PrepperFit article and am pleased I struck such a positive chord with people. You have to understand that I do not hold myself up as a role model when it comes to fitness, but rather someone who has the same struggles we all seem to have. If you bring a pizza to a meeting, I am definitely the one who keeps eyeing that one slice left in the box at the end of the meeting and wonders if I can pick it up and eat it while no is paying attention. Sigh. But…I do try to do better.

    PrepperFit is what I call a BFO think piece. BFO? A Blinding Flash of the Obvious. We all know we must do better and get fitness under control before a SHTF event. I think if you want to simplify this, get four things under control: Your weight, your blood pressure, your blood sugar level, and your cholesterol levels. Beyond that put down the TV remote and walk every day. I have a golden retriever who simply will not allow me to miss walking her every morning. She sits by my chair and just stares at me until I give up and take her on a walk. She is probably saving my life.

    Richard Earl Broome

  5. OMgosh, he is right. I’m sure very few are in peak condition as he describes it. I agree with being as fit as possible, being able to carry weight, walk long distances, all while also being able to forage if necessary and locate/filter water.

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