For Survival Fitness,Try Thinking Outside “The Box”

This guest post is by J.D. from Ohio and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

Fitness in a box is the latest craze; P90X, Insanity, Tae Bo and Hip Hop Abs are just a few examples. There are also some great online fitness sources such as and

I know people who have used all of the above and have had great results. If these programs are already working for you, then outstanding! At least you are doing something. However, this article is geared towards those who don’t necessarily have time, space and/or money to invest in to the above mentioned programs.

Disclaimer: Prior to attempting anything mentioned in this article, please consult your doctor to make sure that you are physically capable of doing such things. You are responsible for you!

Fitness Walking

Walking is obviously something we all do pretty much everyday and during a WROL-type event, we may be forced to do it a lot.

There are several significant ways to achieve good fitness with walking as the base and the first way is walking with a weighted backpack. As a husband and a father, I always planned on carrying a majority of the load should my family and I be forced to escape/evade our area on foot so I have included this in my fitness regimen. However, I quickly realized that carrying just 25 pounds over a 4-mile trail was very hard! It took over an hour to walk this four miles and I was spent. And, this doesn’t counthaving to walking over obstacles, maintaining noise discipline and other OPSEC considerations required during a WROL-type event. If this is part of your bug-out plan, then it is something that you should be doing on a regular, maybe even daily, basis.

The second type of fitness walking is to walk inclines,specifically stairs or steep hills. Most of us have stair steps in our homes or apartments and one of my regular workouts is to walk up and down my basement steps for at least 25 minutes. Want to take you stairs walking to a whole new level? Add the backpack or a set of dumbbells. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I walk my steps a lot as part of my regular workouts. Adding the weighted backpack puts my workouts into overdrive.

When using dumbbells, you have a couple of options. First, you can carry them with you for the entire hike/walk and do a variety of exercises while walking, such a curls,shoulder presses and flies, one arm rows and tricep extensions. Stop long enough to add some push-ups, squats and lunges and you have a total body workout in 30 minutes or less. This is especially refreshing if you are hiking through a metro park or around a lake.

Another thing that I sometimes do is carry smaller dumbbells while walking up and down the steps. Then I pause every 2-3 reps of stair-walking to do the above mentioned exercises only with heavier weights.

Resistance Training

Several good exercises using dumbbells and a weighted back pack were mentioned in the previous section. However, there are some other exercises and options that can be of benefit to you. Along with those previously mentioned, these exercises are designed to help you with a concept known as functional fitness. Functional fitness is basically exercises that are designed to enable you the user to be able to meet the demands of your daily life and to do so in way that doesn’tbreak you down but rather enhances your ability to thrive.

The first functional fitness option that we will discuss is calisthenics and the first things that come to most people’s minds are push-up sand sit-ups. While these are important exercises, realistically they should only make a small portion of your regimen. More emphasis should be placed on pull-ups, tricep dips and bodyweight squats. This is because that in a WROL-type scenario, your chances of having pull yourself up over an obstacle, especially while carrying a weight on your back, are quite high. This is especially true if you have to bug-out for some reason and/or escaping from two and four-legged predators.

Another awesome resistance option is the kettle bell. Kettle bells basically look like cannon balls with handles on them and they come in various sizes. I like kettle bells because they are more of dynamic motion as opposed to dumbbells or other weights and, when used properly,they enhance flexibility. Many of the exercises used in kettle bell routines are known as compound exercises, which mean that the exercise works two or more body parts at the same time. Also, many of the exercises also elevate your heart rate, which is an added bonus. One of my favorite kettle-bell routines is to do a warm-up and then do a 10 minute workout consisting of nothing but kettle bell swings. During the 10 minutes, I will swing the bell for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds of each minute. This will rock your world!

The final form of resistance exercises that I will discuss at this time is power bands or some other type of flexible cord, such as a fitness bungee. There are a lot of things that can be done with these types of bands to enhance flexibility and strengthen a certain body part. This is actually one of main devices used in Pilates. I will use these in my warm-up at times but for the most part, I only use them for an area that I have had to rehab, such as my shoulder and when I had a severe MCL strain in my right knee. Other than rehab, the main reason I mention it here is that many times women are more comfortable using, or at least starting out with these bands.

Before I finish this section I want to mention why I did not put standardized and Olympic-style weight training on here. I do this type of training myself by following the workouts in so I am in no way opposed to it. In fact, for those who can, I encourage it. However, I also know that for whatever reason there are many people without access to the equipment/facilities necessary for this type of training.

Many times, kettle bells, dumbbells, power bands and quality backpacks can be found at a discounted price at the usual spots; re-sale shops,garage sales, craigslist, etc. This makes them more affordable and you really don’t need any other specialized equipment. They also take up a lot less space and if you are including walking into your exercise regimen, then you are getting lots of fresh air too!

Some Final Thoughts

If you have a working garden and/or take care of larger animals, then you should be getting at least some functional exercise already. Carrying hay, straw, bags of feed/mulch/dirt, buckets of water, digging and turning a compost pile on a regular basis all work to enhance your fitness. Mixing hard work with other regular exercise, plenty of fresh air and consuming the quality food that you are raising will all work together to enhance your health and your overall wellness.

This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:

  • First Place : $100 Cash.
  • Second Place : $50 Cash.
  • Third Place : $25 Cash.

Contest ends on October 10 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Great article! Lots of good information and instruction.

  2. Love the article we should think about this more and more.
    Back when I was a fat kid and not a fat adult Jack Lalanne had a program. On this program he had a chair (now there are fancy dancy ones being sold on info mercials) and the big peach cans.
    You lifted the peach cans for resistance. You used the chair for balance while doing squats, kicks, stretches etc.
    The one that always was fun was scooting your hinney to the edge of the chair seat and leaning back and holding on to the seat and doing kicks—Yeah real fun.
    He advised old people they could do all sorts of things while sitting in that very same chair.
    He also showed how to use static things in the house to do things like putting your hands against the wall and doing push-ups or outs whatever.
    His point was you didn’t need fancy equipment to exercise just get off your butt.
    Great Man!!!!!!
    Just plain walking is the best exercise. I lost 20 some odd pounds just walking back and forth to work. Thats why that guy lost all that weight going for those sub sandwiches. Not the blasted sandwich. He walked to and from the place.
    So as you are doing things around the house stop and do some sort of exercise manuver couldn’t possibly hurt a feller.

  3. I have been increasing the amount of physical activity I get for the last couple of months. Not enough to loose the extra weight, but I sure feel better.

  4. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    When I used to live in an apartment complex and had access to a pool, I used to ‘shadow box’ while immersed in water. Gave me a pretty good workout. Treading water for half an hour without touching bottom or sides of pool also did some wonders.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      I had a big pool once and I used to wade vigorously around and around the shallow end (3-4 ft) for 30 minutes. You’re right it was a good workout with the double resistance.

  5. mississippi madman says:

    Great article. I was really glad to see you mention kettlebells. Being a long time martial arts instructor, the kettlebell is the one piece of equipment I’ve always preached. It takes up little space, is much easier on the joints than other forms of weight lifting and you can get an incredible workout in about 20 minutes.

  6. EB. Esquire says:

    I am up to running 3 miles w/hills and can press my body weight(205), but like JP, I need to lose some more of the stomach.

  7. Hunker-Down says:

    If you’re a desk jockey that has been growing a broadening posterior and want to start a walking program, take it easy (I usta b 1). Walking 4 miles on day one will get you a nice set of blisters on day 2. Start with short walks and diligently increase the distance every day, and don’t wear your office work shoes.
    I think about lifting and running every day, so my thinker is musklebound.

  8. Tinfoil Hat says:

    Great article. I’m an avid runner, and can attest to both the physical and mental benefits of it…

  9. What a coincidence, I just joined a different calorie-management website yesterday and wandered through to a quirky fitness blog. Here’s an interesting article that compliments this one nicely. The website devoted to training for a zombie apocalypse seems to go a bit more into parkour, which the people with teenage/adult children probably wouldn’t consider as personally possible. There’s also a zombie-themed running aid, but I think I might be the only one here stupid enough to use a smartphone.

    I’d decided to set up the treadmill again and spend my “mouse potato” time walking at an average of 2.5 mph, hopefully getting 6-10 miles in once I get used to it. I was at my skinniest when my job involved walking several miles per day in steel-toed boots. (The dress code said hiking boots, but I wasn’t going to shell out for another pair of work boots before the soles fell off the last ones.) It was summer, and I got so dehydrated that my idea of lunch was finding a bush to hide under, but the walking alone should give me a healthy weight. Maybe I’ll be able to complete the “walk to Mordor” challenge within a year.

  10. I’m a cancer patient in remission for three years this December. I’m almost 40. I know I’m active but I worry that I will just never be as fit as I was before. I’m about 15 lbs heavier (not coming off easy) and I just don’t have the endurance. Anyone else in a similar situation? I have decided to learn deer and turkey hunting this year and I have other survival skills. But I also have four kids and they are my priority, I don’t want to be a burden.

    • Karena,

      I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem many years ago. That caused me to put on 20 lbs. I lost the weight by walking, cycling and weightlifting.

      I did a lot of research and really liked the suggestions by Dr. Mirian Nelson. She has written a number of books on fitness–Strong Women Stay Slim is probably the best. You can pick up a copy at just about any pubic library.

      I started off just doing the weights for 20 minutes three times a week. And I started with 2 lb. weights. I like her common sense approach.

    • Hi Karena

      God Bless you. I pray that you will stay healthy for years and years to come. Just be patient and stick to your plan. It will all come together. Besides, with four kids, you should be getting all the exercise you need. Lol.

      Stay safe.

    • Hi Karena…at 40 y/old was given less than 3 months to live – uterine cancer…21 months later was part of the Qld Judo Team, cleaned up my competitors in my weight division, and also in the open – there at the State Titles, and at the regional titles prior to that…and cleaned up all my competitors at the Masters later that same year, and a few months later, brought back a medal from the National Judo Titles…my then 6 y/o DD was my priority…and I still don’t want to be a burden, even though many years have passed…

      I had 2 of the mothers (all graded up) of some of my students
      take the classes/looked after the dojo while I was 2k kms away having radiation for 8 weeks, and helped me take the classes for a time after I got back…as couldn’t do standing techniques still – too wiped out from radiation for that, instead taught the students all groundwork techniques.

      There is always a way if that is what you focus on.

      Yes, endurance is always going to be an issue – radiation was a bummer – took ages to get stamina back…but I did…and so will you, but cancer does take its toll – so, steady does it.

      Endurance requires daily diligence, especially as we only grow older…and your four children need you for the long-term. It is not just physical exercise, have to fuel your body with good fuel…just like one wouldn’t put inferior oil/fuel or old rubber hoses in their vehicle, avoid putting bad fuel into your body…will make a huge difference.

      My DD still tells me often that she needs me, and yesterday showed her how to make banana cake, (thank goodness SIL can cook) and today she phoned to ask if I wanted to go with her to walk the dogs…said yes of course…

      Take advantage of all opportunities for regular exercise interspersed in your daily routine and take those children with you and keep them active as well.

      Focus on doing what is going to enhance your physical/mental/spiritual life…and your 4 children are the perfect focus…

      I then went on to other great and marvelous life-changing events in my life…far surpassing anything I ever thought was possible for me…(all glory to God)…

      You are still young…have all your life ahead of you…as do I, ’cause can’t go backward…and enjoy each day with your children, no matter whether cancer diagnosis or not…however, it really does make one ignore trivial and unimportant matters, and instead frees you up for all the love and happiness you can squeeze into each and every day…it is up to you now…

      And what I also did, was meditate – listened to tapes, did the visualizations as per the tapes…and who would have guessed that I would still be here…so, go for it…you’re healthy today…good: and tomorrow – more of the same…sending you the best of wishes for continued good health…

      also, a few years back in 2006, both my DD and I were diagnosed with breast cancer…yes, and we are both fine…so, chin up, and take each day at a time…just like everyone else…

      I also had plans to take my DD to meet her relatives overseas – when she finished school, if I lived that long…well, I did, and we went for 5 weeks and had a ball (and I had a backpack [training for SHTF bugout even then,while my DD had a sensible trolley suitcase]…she is still laughing (at some of the things I got up to on our holiday) when she plays back the videos that she took with her camcorder…while she is laughing at the screen, I am watching my DD laughing uncontrollably…and it makes my heart sing.

      I walk, swim long distance and ride my little dirt bike…and am going to have to go to a gym soon, as am getting lazy – because I’m logging on here too often instead of lifting my weights as much as I should…

      So, I am almost 20 years older than you (however still look 40, not boasting, just saying what is)…and adding endurance is going to take diligent regular workouts – whatever you choose. Also, when I was training for comp’n’s…no amount of swimming helped specifically for martial arts…

      And no amount of martial art training made up for missing weeks of swimming when we had jelly-fish stinger season…

      So, work out what it is you want to build up your strength for, and what that requires, and start small…and never go beyond your stamina level until you are ready to push harder…and have someone measure your oxygen levels etc now so you will know when you can push your body harder…e.g., what can you do now, for 30-40 minutes, and then have your pulse, respirations etc measured…write these down…and measure your body too – as you start exercising, your fat does eventually get burned, and your muscles will perform better, and burn the food you eat faster – better metabolism…those muscles then, after a few weeks of steady workouts…will allow for a longer workout (read endurance/stamina).

      If you haven’t had a history of athleticism, then please have a coach at the gym keep tabs on your progress – even if it is at monthly intervals.

      If can’t sign up for a gym…then have one of the coaches there measure you up – resp’s/pulse/body etc…ask his/her opinion on what you can do, exercises etc on your own…and when does s/he want you back to gauge your progress.

      Has your doctor any reservations re your health, or ability to exercise, or is s/he advising some exercise…perhaps phone the surgery and see if they have any pamphlets regarding a fitness/exercise program – that way your doctor knows, and when you go back for your regular oncology visits…you will both be on the same page.

      Also, when my DD needs to go to see a Dr, and they ask her about her, and then her family’s history…they invariably ask ‘and when did your mother die’ DD responds with…’my mother isn’t dead, she is still riding her dirt bike and she is nearly 60′.

      Also, still can’t get any personal insurance cover…too big a risk they say…recently I tried again…and broker said $265 p/month…and that includes a 200% loading…bummer, still.

      So, focus on what you can, ignore the rest, work on your endurance and stamina issue, and if have any questions – let us know…and by the way…there are pack members with elderly parents, another recently had a stroke, others lose their homes, jobs etc…

      we all have our concerns for our loved ones, so, looks like you will fit in here nicely…so, welcome on board Karena…and prayers for your continued good health…cheers.

    • Karena – Glad you are in remission – 3 years is great! I know that as we get older – especially after 40, the body changes make it tougher to lose weight and also muscle loss happens easily. It may be that being “fit” will need to look a little different, BUT being healthy and fit IS still possible.

      I think you will do better by not having the goal to be as fit as you were before, but to be as fit as you can now. If we all were to spend hours and hours a day on fitness, we could improve LOTS, but we also have kids to take care of and spend time with, housework, and lots of other stuff – it’s ALL important. Whatever changes you can make will be helpful – like walking, doing 10 minutes of exercise a night, saying no to dessert at times, some weight lifting, etc. Being active can also help the body to work well and as you FEEL well; hopefully, you will be able to do more. God bless you.

  11. SurvivorDan says:

    Good stuff JD! Very important point that folks don’t give enough thought to. Gotta try to get in the best shape possible.
    I’m in better shape now than 7-8 years ago because as I passed 50 I realized that grit alone (I gots me a bit) doesn’t help tote that 55lb BOB in my trunk.
    I speed walk with a 35 lb pack 3 times a week. But most of my exercise is done watching the news 4 days a week. I do push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks and curl with 30 lb weights and a couple of other exercises. Takes about 30 minutes. Light workout. I’m a bit of geezer so if it wears me out on one day, I stop and continue later.
    The other days I punch and kick one of my heavy bags. That’s a great work out. When I’m done with that…..I’m DONE!

    I used to work out at a local Shoren-Ryu (karate) school sparring with friends. I also got a workout working a beat in a county island for the Sheriff’s dept. I cut out activities like that because of the risk of a permanent injury to someone my age. I don’t lift excessive weight in a gym anymore. Not worth the risks entailed.
    So moderate exercise that you can do….safely. Pick it up as you get stronger. No discipline. Find someone in your area who has therapy horses and volunteer to help out a few hours, a couple of days a week. My buddy does that and he gets quite a work out. keeps him motivated.
    I like the idea of resistance bands JD.

  12. JD.. I have the P90X box … I still use the streach disc. Its my set of Kettle bells that I use that has me doing the most useful work. That and speed walking with hand wieghts and adding some iron to my fannypack. I have seen this one lady hauling around one of those ‘work out bars’, a 15 pounder.. doing her daily circuit around the block. Reminded me of doing a run with my M14 at port arms. It’s all good.. just gotta find out what is good for you.

  13. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Very good article. Thank you J.D. for the kick in the pants. Keeping a journal of diet and exercise would be all I could really add. We are such an educated society but it isn’t so easy to put it into practice. I do worry about body fat, especially for women. We have to have lean muscle mass but body fat serves a purpose. And during periods of high activity, low carb, or pregnancy we need that fat. Don’t forget everytime you diet you lose muscle along with the fat. Same with you guys – if you don’t have reserves, how can you battle the hoardes with a clear head? Also, I too am recovering from a protracted illness. Movement of any and is good. Start your day w/ stretching. I like the 3 basic strength builders: crunches, push ups, and squatts. These can be modified to any fitness level. Remember too, that we rebuild muscle at twice the rate we lose it.

  14. Thanks for the pep talk. I’ve been feeling especially weak and tired this week. Just had a PET scan so I know I’m ok, just feeling totally wiped out.

    Yes the kiddos do keep me busy but the oldest two are teenagers and they are all great about chores,etc.

    I did start a gym and I walk, swim and along with farm chores I probably do alot more than most women my age. I suppose I’m just impatient about my progress.

    Thanks again for all the encouragement.

  15. J.D. in Ohio says:

    Thank you all for the awesome feedback. It also great to hear how some have battled through cancer. Your stories are inspiration to me and thoughts and prayers go out to you.

    I actually sent this article in about a month ago or so and since then, we have been walking/hiking/running as a family at least tow days week. I have also taken my two sons on extended hikes with one of their friends. My two boys, 10 and 8, had 8 lb weights in their backpacks while I had 25 lbs in mine. I was tough, but good, workout.

    I have been working with a couple of MMA fighters and we have been using kettlebells a lot with our workouts, along with our regular bag and pad work. I hope to shed at least 40 pounds over the next 6 months.

    Another good option is the TRX Rip trainer. Here is a youtube video of one being used:
    I made my own using a fitness bungee cord, a 4 ft piece of 1″ conduit and a u-bolt. After about 10-15 minutes, your body is smoked.

    I personally like options that only require a few minutes per day for personal workouts as I enjoy the hikes with my family for the longer ones.

  16. Uncle Frank says:
  17. I travel a lot for my job , Im not always in a place that has the gym chain that I go to in it , or its a situation where I just dont feel like doing it . There are several very good improvised exercises that are designed for use in any hotel room . Some are isometric and some are cardio . If your in the close quarters of a building , these exercises can keep you from becoming too sedentary .

  18. Great article and very helpful, thank you! A lot of really convicting points that I needed.

    It reminded me of a “postsecret” I just saw this week; here it is: It was perfect for your article. It starts with “I don’t work out to burn calories…”

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