Your body is the ultimate prepping tool. If you’re fit, you can outrun threats, carry your gear, and avoid injury in acute situations.
We don’t tend to focus on physical fitness as an aspect of prepping, probably because it makes so many of us uncomfortable, especially as women. But breaking through your mental barrier and focusing on your fitness is worth it. A little bit goes a long way.
You don’t have to run a marathon or even visit a gym, to get more physically prepared. And unlike so many other parts of prepping, you gain a lot by improving your fitness even if the disaster scenario you anticipate never arrives.
By the way, I’m not a doctor, and you should consult one before you take my advice!
Prepping Your Body: Physical Fitness for Women
Should You Aim to Lose Weight?
We’ve all heard someone joke that their extra few pounds are going to help them ride out the apocalypse. And sure, if you have weight to lose you will be more resilient in lean times than someone who is underweight. But, you won’t be as resilient as someone who is a healthy weight. These people do, also, still have a few pounds they could afford to lose if they had to.
Instead, when you’re overweight, you’re opening yourself up to injuries when SHTF. You’ll still need to exert effort, like when you flee, collect water, carry your bug out bag, and more.
Your extra weight makes all of those activities harder, adds stress to your joints. If you do get hurt or sick, your weight could slow your recovery time. In short, there’s plenty of reasons to lose some weight from a prepping perspective.
Exercise is a key component of weight loss, but the old adage “you can’t out train a bad diet” is all too accurate. The rest of the advice in this article about exercise isn’t going to be enough. You need to change your diet, and I’d address how, but I think it’s likely you know what your dietary flaws are. If not, check in with a nutritionist. And remember that losing weight isn’t just a prepper goal– remember that it will improve almost every aspect of your health.
Start with Cardio
As a woman, you might be tempted to start out by focusing on your physical strength, seeing as you probably feel a disadvantage as compared to men. But, that’s not the best approach from a prepper perspective. Running from a threat is always a better idea than fighting that threat. Especially when that threat is a collapsing building, wildfire, or something else you can’t win a fight with. So my suggestion is to start with cardio.
Walking is a good first step, and I know many a prepper who hikes as a way to build endurance and prepare for bugging out on foot. But don’t neglect your sprinting skill. Few exercise regimes will call for you to run flat out, but, it’s smart to improve your sprint, over short durations, to be able to escape threats.
That being said, starting out with a sprint is a horrible, horrible idea and a great way to injure yourself. Once you have reasonable stamina, then you can start to experiment with sprinting. To get your heart healthier, I suggest you try the Couch to 5K program. It starts out very gentle, with 1 minute running intervals. You could also try None to Run, which is a slower cardio build and incorporates equally gentle strength training.
Gain Some Strength
It’s hard to predict what kind of strength you’ll need if SHTF. Maybe your day will involve hauling water, or re-doubling your gardening efforts, or chopping wood, or carrying a sick person. There is any number of possibilities, all requiring a different set of muscles. You can’t be ready for everything, but you don’t need to be.
The truth is, if you start from a relatively solid foundation, you’ll gain the strength you need while adjusting to your new reality.
Again, instead of focusing on any specific muscle groups, get a little stronger overall. You can use body-weight exercises instead of buying equipment or a gym membership. Or, you can try some sports or activities that develop strength, like rowing, climbing, gymnastics, tennis, and more.
Whatever you choose, be sure that you don’t neglect your core. Arms and leg muscles are flashy, but you need your core for stability and flexibility. Yoga can be great for this, and women do tend to be drawn to yoga but remember that you need to feel the challenge in your core to know you’re building strength there. I find too many yoga classes these days focus on heat and relaxation over building strength (but maybe that’s just the classes I’ve been trying).
Specific Physical Skills to Focus On
You can’t rely on strength alone to defend yourself, there is always someone bigger than you. Instead, you need to learn techniques and drill them until you can remember them in a crisis and pull them off.
Women’s self-defense courses are particularly helpful, teaching you to leverage your likely smaller size against an attacker.
So many of the emergencies we prepare for involve water, and not just boating accidents. Hurricanes and floods are very common natural disasters, and while you should avoid swimming in flood water so as to not get sick, you may not have a choice.
Have your basic swimming skills down, and know how to tread water to preserve your strength.
3. Grip Strength
On average, ladies have a disadvantage in the grip strength department, but at least we also have less weight to support. Nevertheless, actively focusing on your grip strength can give you huge advantages in the hurricane and flood scenarios we were just talking about, as well as help you in any acute situation where you need to hold on for dear life.
If you have to shoot, it’s always best to down your target quickly, and that takes aim. Your aim is a physical skill and, if you’re like me, you don’t practice with your firearm nearly enough.
It doesn’t require strength so much as it requires discipline and practice, assuming you can already comfortably hold your weapon, which is sometimes a challenge for smaller/unfit people. You also need to be in tune with your breathing and know how to steady yourself. Practice is the only way to get better aim!
5. Learn to Lift
I don’t mean lift weights in the gym, I mean learn to lift properly with your legs to avoid harming your back. Many women never really have to carry something heavy enough to do damage. But, take it from someone who owns too many books and packs boxes poorly, you need to learn to lift with your back should you ever need to move something. And if this a SHTF scenario, odds are you can’t afford to let your injury heal before you lift that heavy object again.
As you start new exercise regimes remember that our bodies acclimate quickly to new conditions. So, switching it up every once and a while is a good idea. SHTF situations will surprise you, so learn to deal with physical challenges before you have to.
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