Survival isn’t specialized, like a 100m dash. It may require the ability to move fast, but also move far. It may require you to carry weight or traverse uneven terrain. Building a solid, strong foundation that can adapt to a changing environment is going to be one of your biggest assets when the going gets tough. But developing strength is going to do more than help in an emergency. It’ll make life more enjoyable.
So whether you’re a gym rat, or your fitness has slid a bit since high school, here are a few exercises to do when you need to get a workout in. Anytime, anywhere.
1. Push-Ups: I used to work at an ad agency, where everyday at 2pm, the entire office would do pushups. We started with 10, and added 5 each week. It wasn’t long before nearly the entire office was ripping 50 Push-ups off like it was no big deal.
Push-ups are a classic and for good reason. With simple variations, they can work your chest (arms shoulder width, elbows in), shoulders (hands wide) and triceps (hands close together). Start with as many push-ups as you can while keeping your form, and add 5 reps each week. Bonus points: drop down and crank off your max number of reps more than once a day.
2. Lunges: Lunges are great for lower body strength and mobility. They target the quads, glutes, and core. Mix it up and switch between lunging straight ahead or side to side. Or switch to reverse lunges and hit an entirely different group of muscles.
TIP: Make sure you’re never letting your knee go so far forward that you can’t see your toes, and start with 3 sets of 20 and work from there. If you’ve got a backpack nearby, throw some weight in it, or hold something heavy in your hands (like a 25 or 35 pound weight) to work the core a bit harder.
3. Dips: Dips can be done on any parallel sturdy surfaces, like two chairs. They will target triceps, shoulders, and chest. Just like the reps above, figure out your max number of reps and add 5 each week. If you’re a beginner, keep your feet on the floor to help get through the last few reps. If you’re advanced, find something taller and keep your feet off the floor. And for the super advanced, add weight via a backpack or something similar.
4. Squats: Maybe the most important in my opinion… squats. Bodyweight squats hit glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and even calves. Squat down until your thigh is parallel to the ground, and explode upward. Variations: hold at the bottom for a static couple seconds, and jump as high as you can when exploding out of it. Do them until failure, but make sure to keep good form on each rep.
When it comes to cardio - there are three workouts I focus on:
1. HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training. My go-to? Set a treadmill at your slow running pace (for me, it's a 7 min mile), and run for 30 seconds, then step off and rest for 30 seconds. Increase the treadmill vert 1% and repeat. Do this up to 12 or failure.
2. Long slow cardio: This is my weekend ritual. Whether it's on the trails or watching a football game on the treadmill, I like to log at least an hour at an easy pace. This should be at a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation if running with someone. This is a good indicator of staying in Zone 2, which is a fat burning zone and a great cardio base builder.
3. The Ass Kicker: This is an all out effort of medium duration, and it often varies. Sometimes, I'll do a 2 mile uphill run as fast as I can. Other times, I'll wear a 20 pound weight vest and run 5 miles of hills. The goal is to stay as uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible. Breaks are ok if you absolutely need them, but repeat the same workout and try to reduce the breaks you take with every run.
In the end, fitness is a personal thing. My general rule is that if it's not challenging you, it's not changing you. Find what works, make it fun, and be consistent. Soon you'll be feeling stronger, sleeping better, and ready for whatever this world throws your way.