Survival Fitness: Are You FIT Enough To Survive?

When I was in high-school, I was the worst in P.E. class. Well, next to last, because there was this one kid who was not only bad at it, he didn’t really care. But I cared about the grades so I was always beating myself down for sucking at it.

In college I started going to the gym, and fell in love with it. I went 4 times a week, I was eating only the right stuff, supplementing with 3 types of protein and creatine, only to find myself stagnating month after month. The only signs of hard work were the blisters on my hands.

The fact of the matter was, I didn’t have the genes to build huge muscle. So, although I looked good, that was about as big as I was going to get. Another failure and so much wasted time.

But that was then. Now, I finally found a way to do sports that is also useful. I finally found a reason to be in shape and, as you probably guessed from the title of this article, it’s because we’re all gonna need it when total chaos kicks in. Let me be more specific.

Why You Need to Get In Shape For Doomsday

To be fair, not just for Doomsday, but also for everyday SHTF events. See, in an emergency, you might have to:

  • run like Hell from impending catastrophe,
  • walk for hours, or even days on uneven terrain through the woods,
  • pull yourself out from under a tree or a big object that fell on you,
  • carry an injured loved one to safety,
  • or make a run for your bug out vehicle.

And this is only the beginning. Once the world as we know it ends, your life will change forever. No more computers, cars, or supermarkets to make everything easy. This means:

  • you’re gonna have to walk to get anywhere,
  • you might need to climb trees and/or ladders daily,
  • and you’ll spend all day working your survival garden, the field, taking care of animals, washing clothes by hand, cooking, sharpening knives, etc. etc. etc.

To put it another way, your whole life is going to be one big workout!

Sounds scary? It shouldn’t be. Growing up in a communist country, living in the countryside with my grandparents, I was doing physical labor every single day. And I was happy. I had no smartphones, laptops, HDTV, or malls to eat all the junk food I wanted. But I was happy. And you will be too, once you rediscover the joy of moderate physical exercise.

The 4 Pillars of Survival Fitness

There are 4 things you need to focus on if you want to be physically ready for when it hits. And the good news is, you don’t have pump weights to be the next Iron Man. In fact, you won’t even have to train as hard as most guys at the gym.

People at the gym are simply building their muscles to look good and that’s just something you need. But this doesn’t mean they have the speed, stamina, and flexibility to deal with a large or even a smalls-scale disasters. But you will, as long as you train on these four aspects, these pillars of survival fitness as I like to call them:

  • strength
  • stamina
  • flexibility
  • speed

If you can improve each of these big 4 just a little bit every week, you’ll increase your chances of survival exponentially. Here’s what I mean.

You’ll need strength to lift heavy objects or people, to lift yourself when your feet are useless, to carry stuff (including your bug out bag, buckets of water, 55 gallon water barrels), to move heavy objects out of the way (fallen tree branches), and even to fight off or escape an attacker.

You need stamina to be able to bug out into the woods. Most preppers run out of breath after 10 minutes of walking with a backpack on their back.

You need flexibility to be able to reach certain objects (like when someone’s throwing you a rope when you’re trapped in a flash flood), to jump, climb, and so on.

Finally, you need speed for those few moments when you’re gonna have to run for your life from whatever disaster is threatening to kill you. You’re gonna need it once the dust settles as well because, as I mentioned, there will be no cars so, when you need to be someplace in a hurry or send a message, your own two feet are going to be the only solution.

How Can You Improve Your Fitness Levels?

It’s pretty clear that people who want to look good in the mirror need to go to the gym. It’s the only place they have the right equipment to target their muscles optimally. Believe me, I tried doing it at home, but once my body got accustomed to the improvised weights I was using, I needed something heavier.

But that’s not the case with survival fitness! You don’t need to be super-strong because, apart from a few strength training exercises, you’ll be focused on a completely different set of exercises than everyone at the gym.

You can train on all 4 aspects/pillars with almost no gym weights at all. In fact, if you can buy or get a couple of adjustable dumbbells (like these), and you’re more than set to get into shape for Doomsday.

What Else Do You Need?

Well, your doctor’s approval, of course. If you’re older and haven’t done a push-up in 20 years, you’re definitely gonna wanna check in with him or her to see what you can and cannot do. Of course, I should point out that even if you have certain problems, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the ideal of survival fitness.

Far from it. For instance, if you’re experiencing strong pains inside one of your arms, to the point that you need treatment and to pay extra-attention to them, this doesn’t mean you can’t train your legs.

Once you have your doctor’s blessing and you know what you can or cannot do, you only need three things:

  1. An exercise list for you to choose from,
  2. A few workout plans (having just one will get boring after a few weeks, the more diversity the better)
  3. Motivation

If you don’t know where to start or if you need more variety in your work-outs, here’s a list of things even seniors can do (after they checked with their doctor, of course);

  • walking (increase distance and pace over time)
  • light running
  • light sprinting
  • push-ups (use an elevated surface such as a bed to put your hands there and make it easier for you)
  • squats (not recommended if you have knee problems)
  • sit-ups
  • stretching, yoga
  • plank exercise (stand still with your back and legs parallel to the floor, similar to the push-up position but holding your upper body on your elbows as opposed to arms)
  • rope-skipping (it’s quite the cardio work-out)
  • jumping jacks – these are really fun!
  • leg squats
  • glute bridges (sit on your back and raise your behind)
  • superman – lie down on your belly with arms and legs stretched
  • forward and side lunges (you need good knees to do this)
  • biceps curls (you can use a bucket or some other heavy object if you don’t have dumbbells)
  • stepping up and down a box (you can hold a weight to increase difficulty)
  • knee raises while lying down – bring one knee at a time to chest level – this straightens out your spine

There are a lot more exercises to choose from, but these will get you far as long as you do them right and don’t push yourself too hard.

Next, you need to group these exercises/activities into workouts that make sense. For example, you may want to walk during your first workout, then do some strength training on your second. Again, you don’t have to break a world record or even your personal best, you just need to improve.

There’s only one goal you should have: to do it for the long term and never quit. If you train like a mad man for two weeks and then you call it quits, you’ve just wasted your time.

It’s like with your other survival endeavors. You don’t just buy a few cans of food and be done with it, right? You buy something each week or month, you take the time to rotate your stockpile twice a year, then you need a whole bunch of survival items and gear items such as toilet paper, fish hooks, flashlights, and on and on. All of which you obviously purchase over time.

Same thing with survival fitness. Since you don’t know when disaster will strike, you have to be ready and in shape at any time. That’s why I recommend you work out no more than 2 or 3 times a week. Twice a week if you’re busy, three times if you have more time on your hands. Working out four times a week is actually counterproductive as I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.

Survival Fitness Tips to Get You Started

You know what they say:

Motivation gets you started, habits keep you going.

I couldn’t agree more. I think you’ll find my tips below pretty compelling to start your first workout today.

#1. Resist the temptation to workout too much in the beginning. Just like a kid who plays with his new toy so much that he gets bored with it the next day, you don’t want to overtrain. Not only is it dangerous, since you’re not in shape yet, but this is also the fastest way to lose your long-term motivation.

I’ve seen this at the gym countless times. New people show up every week, come in every day the first couple of weeks, then I never see them again.

Train twice a week and resist the temptation to do it more often. Even if you really feel like it, don’t do it. Let the anticipation of the next workout build inside you because long term excitement is what keeps you going for the long term.

#2. There’s no such thing as too much warming up. I met with a buddy of mine about a month ago (that I only see once every few years) and he has changed. He looks good, trains hard, and counts his calories. Only problem is, he got injured at one point. So now he has to warm-up for at least 15 minutes if he doesn’t want to really screw it up. That’s a lot of time for a warm-up, but the thing is, warm-ups exponentially decrease the chances of getting injured.

If you’re 40+ years and out of shape, eager to pump those weights, spend at least 10 minutes warming up. Yes, it might get a little boring but it’s important.

#3. Start small. You don’t have to get those adjustable dumbbells just yet. Your first work-out can consist of a thorough warm-up and a session of walking around town. If you have to buy your groceries, for instance, why not walk there and leave  your car in your garage?

Even better, you can get a backpack to put the groceries in. This will simulate you having to bug out with a BOB on your back, not to mention the money you save on gas. Once you get comfortable with walking, you can move to running, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and so on.

#4. Make walking your “new car”. I LOVE walking. I get my iPad, find the routes that are less crowded so I can read while on the move and just walk for miles on end. Sometimes I have a purpose such as doing some shopping, other times I don’t. The only thing that matters is that I’m doing this for the long term.

So, how about it? Are you up for my survival fitness challenge? Are you ready to be fit for Doomsday? Let me know your progress in a comment below.

About Dan F. Sullivan

Dan F. Sullivan
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.


  1. Avatar
    Jöran Jäderberg

    Hi !!!
    Thanks for a great article and i am a 44 year old male and i exercise 6 days a week 3 of them i run for 1 hour and the other 3 days i do some weight lifting.And i feel in good shape actually and i have done this for a couple of months now and i enjoy my training.I keep going and i feel so good too.And thanks for a good site too keep up the good work.

    • Dan F. Sullivan
      Dan F. Sullivan

      Thanks, Joran! I hope you’re not neglecting the other aspects of survival fitness, speed and flexibility. 😉

      • Avatar
        Jöran Jäderberg

        Well i stretch after i have exercised and i do that always and speed well i may have some problems with that to gain more speed.

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