by Jesse Mathewson
While not everyone is disabled, many Americans over the age of 30 are out of shape. You will be hard pressed to find one in a hundred who can carry a 25lb pack 25 miles in a day*, let alone a 50 lb pack the same distance and time.For myself carrying 25lbs 100 yards can do me in for a week, depending on the day of the month.
So we are faced with a dilemma, if we can train physically, but do not have the time to do so properly, what are our options? What if we are one of the millions of Americans who are physically disabled, some to the point of reduced ability to stand or walk in any formative way? Are we just supposed to sit back and let the hordes overtake us? Should we give up and die? Many of us have vast stores of knowledge and from experience as a physically disabled individual, many of us are quite capable, just mobility limited.
For instance I will use myself as an example, I am currently 39 years old. At the age of 11 I was involved in a traffic accident, the cargo van rolled multiple times. I remember the driver losing control, I remember walking out through the windshield because the van was so crushed up that only the windshield was open. We were 22 miles from town in the high desert of Arizona, the closest person was a rancher a little over 4 miles away as the crow flies. The long term result was severe ptsd driving in any vehicle for years, and I learned and than taught high speed stops, pursuits etc,. (Just recently realized that my tendency to get extremely upset with stupid drivers is a ptsd thing.) The long term was it aggravated a genetic condition passed through the maternal side, spondylolisthesis. I was diagnosed with grade IV less than a year later, and three surgeries, a year of traction and body cast, another year of learning to walk again and I was back up being human.
Deciding at an early age to push through and better myself was something I did, not something everyone can or does. In 2006, after over two decades of living, working multiple jobs, learning muy thai, penkat silat, some jui jitsu as well as continued education in firearms, tactics and bushcrafting I became disabled yet again. This time my spinal fusion separated from what it had been, it slipped to a grade V (completely separated, spondyloptosis) my left leg became almost completely paralyzed, pain increased to levels beyond what I had been used too. During this time there were other incidents that occurred, getting shot, knifed, baseball batted and more. (Mostly training incidents and proof positive that life is what we make it.)
Over the years the pain had become a dull buzz in the background, post 2006 this became a roar. The fitness I had experienced and embraced disappeared. For several years I worked ceaselessly after the additional surgeries to gain back what had been lost. My daughter was born in 2009, my son at seven years older embraced it, and a dad at home, and I settled into a life of the modern stay at home dad. In 2011 my daughter and I were hit by a large truck and I was again set back physically.
Life continues on and I graduate physical therapy early January 2016. Having reduced my outdoors adventures since 2006 but still regularly spending months out of year in the wilds, since my childhood I have not spent a day in a paid camping spot, preferring to explore and find spots where game trails are all that exist, and animals haven’t seen we two leggers regularly enough to fear us yet. January 19, 2016, my daughter, son and I are hit by yet another driver without a brain, the vehicle is totaled, my sternum fractured and additional injuries sustained.
Another 6 months later and I am sitting here typing this article wondering if I will ever be able to do what I once enjoyed so much, spend my available spare time in the woods.
Yes, I can and so can you!
Mindset is everything, adaptation is essential and adapting ones abilities and conditions to what is necessary to both survive and flourish in the woods becomes a reality. It takes the mental desire to become better than you are. I may be the short (I have shrunk two inches since 2006) fat guy (and put on weight due to not being physically capable of walking long distances or carrying large loads, however, I can and still do daily prove that a disability is only the condition of the body, not the mind. Obviously, there are other possible issues, missing hands etc., however, I know people who shoot with their feet! Reloading magazines and aiming better than I can!
Mental state is everything when physical ability is degraded. So adapt, change and shift your approach. And remember, there are people like myself who have created entire approaches based around being physically incapable of the same feats as the in shape woodsmen may be capable of. Have questions, ask, I teach for free or donations accepted high desert wilderness survival, with a twist, I am disabled and concentrate on that aspect. If you are older and breaking down, younger and broken or just want to learn. Ask, I love sharing what I have learned and how I do things. Thanks for having me here, and as always remember, free the mind and the body will follow.
Always remember, the most important aspect of survival is the mental ability to accept that change is inevitable, and individually we must be willing to do so on occasion, even when it is uncomfortable! Never sacrifice your values or precepts, however, there may be times your approach to life or prepping may need adjusting.
*day refers to the time from sunrise to sunset, which as we all know varies widely based on time of year as well as location, for instance the further north you go the less likely a day is to mean anything depending on time of year.