Imagine being in an emergency where you have to evacuate your home on foot. You may have to run or walk for several miles in order to get to safety. You may even have to build an outdoor shelter out of natural materials. Just thinking about these scenarios really makes me tired and makes me think, “If I were in an emergency would I be physically prepared to keep myself safe?” Building your cardio health through Stamina, Strength, and Endurance training will help you to stay healthy and to keep yourself out of harm’s way during an emergency. Select one or more of these areas to focus on for your summer fitness routine. Building a Survival fitness regime requires a lot of time, patience, and practice—it may be painful now, but it will be well worth it in the end. Set goals for yourself and take things at your own pace.


Assess Your Health and Fitness Before you begin exercising, assess your health as it currently stands. Talk with your doctor before you begin about which exercises are best for you. After visiting your doctor, plan and execute an emergency drill. This drill will help you to determine which skills you may need to work on. Practice building a shelter, carrying supplies or people, using your emergency ladder to escape a second story room, and walking or hiking to your emergency meeting place or evacuation location with your supplies. Ask yourself these questions to determine what you need to work on:
  • Can I build an emergency shelter?
  • Can I lift/carry someone else?
  • Can I carry a backpack full of several days (or even weeks) of emergency supplies?
  • Can I fill and carry sand bags to help protect my home against flood waters?
  • Can I help clean-up damages after a natural disaster?
Your answers to these questions will help you to determine where you should focus your attention during your fitness regime. Building Stamina Stamina is your staying power or ability to endure. Your stamina can help you to withstand fatigue and disease. In essence, it’s what keeps you healthy. In order to build stamina, you can:
  • Work out three or more times a week. Make sure that your heart rate does not exceed 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes or longer. Moderate exercise can increase stamina. (Click here to calculate your maximum heart rate.)
  • Mix up your workout regime. High intensity training, mixed in with more relaxed exercise can help you to build your endurance and stamina. Variation and moderation are important to strengthen your muscles and to help you acquire stamina and endurance.
  • Strengthen your abdominals. Working on strengthening your abdominal muscles will help you to gain strength and power for any activity that involves the torso. Try adding push-ups, sit-ups, and other core-strengthening moves to your exercise regime.
  • Weight training can also build strength. If you are new to weight training you may want to go to a gym or trainer to help you do it safely.
Building Strength Strength is the ability to exert yourself physically with power and force. In order to build strength you must remember that your arms alone are not where your power comes from, so consider working on:
  • Legs, chest, back, shoulders, glutes, abdominals. Strength is largely built through weight training. However, you can also do squats, chin ups or flexed-arm hangs in addition to shoulder presses, dead lifts, bench and leg presses, which will strengthen all of your large muscle groups.
  • Strengthen your large muscle groups. Learning how to use each of these muscle groups will give you more power, leverage, and force to do heavy carrying or lifting.
  • Use resistance bands. Although they are generally thought of as rehabilitation tools for sports injuries, using resistance bands while working out and stretching also builds muscular strength. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to gain strength!
Building Endurance Endurance is the ability to continue exerting energy despite stress, fatigue, or other adverse conditions. In order to build endurance it is important to remember to:
  • Pace yourself. Gradually build up your endurance through variation in your exercise routine. Start at a level that you are comfortable with (walk four laps around a track), then increase by 10% each week until you can run four full laps around the track without having to break. This applies to any type of exercise.
  • Gradually Increase. Once you can run/walk/bike a certain distance without stopping, gradually increase speed and distance (this also applies with any form of exercise).
Succeeding with your regime Getting fit isn’t solely about exercising longer or faster— a nutritious diet, rest, and hydration also help to increase your health and endurance as much as traditional exercise will. Select activities that you enjoy to increase your chance of staying with them long enough to get into shape. So, if you feel like you are dying when you are running (like I do), try something else to improve your cardiovascular health. You can walk, do aerobic exercise, swim, ride an elliptical, bike, or row. Always warm up, stretch, and cool down each time you exercise. At the end of the summer, execute another emergency drill to see how and where you have improved. Continue your workout regimen for the rest of the year. Now drop and give me 20. What does your Survival Fitness Regime include?

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