Bug-Out Boot Camp

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If you had to carry your loaded 20 pound bug out bag and get the heck out of Dodge on foot, how would you fare? What if you had to carry your sleeping child over the mountains in order to evacuate?

If the proverbial S hits the F, we will see a lot of serious injuries, and even deaths, from people making unaccustomed physical demands on their bodies. A lot of us are going to be using muscles we forgot we had. Our bodies will be under enormous cardiovascular stress. On top of the mental stress we will undergo, the physical stress will very likely kick our butts.

Prepping with food and medical supplies is not enough. A good mental attitude is not sufficient. We have to prep our bodies too.

Moreover, your entire family should begin a fitness program to train their minds and bodies for emergencies as well. A family or group is only as strong as their weakest link. You want a strong group that is physically equipped to handle the demands that an emergency situation may place on them.

*Disclaimer: Before starting this or any other exercise program, consult your physician.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You did not get out of shape over night and you won’t get back into shape over night either. If you start off too gung-ho, you risk injury or muscles so sore that you will quit after one or two workouts. You have to listen to your body and locate that fine line between “Okay, that’s all I’ve got” and “If I stop exercising now, I could go lay on the couch with a cold drink, wow, that sounds nice!”

The three facets of fitness are cardio, strength and flexibility. All three are important in a SHTF scenario and for general fitness and wellness. Start gently and work your way up.


Cardiovascular fitness might also be called “endurance.” It is the ability of your heart to supply oxygen to your body while you are under physical strain. Cardio is important in many scenarios:

  • In a bug-out situation, you may have to evacuate on foot over rough terrain.
  • When chopping wood you are swinging an axe over and over for an extended period of time.
  • When hunting, you may have to hike through the woods dragging your kill behind you.
  • In a battle situation, you may need to run for cover (or even run away!)
  • In a flood you may need to haul sandbags to build a wall.

To build your cardiovascular fitness, start out simple. You don’t need an expensive membership to a gym. Just lace up your shoes and start walking. I live in a medium sized city and I attempt to incorporate walking into my day by doing as many errands as I can on foot. I also specifically walk for fitness, plugging into my Ipod and bringing along my dog. As your fitness increases, look for more challenging routes with hills. Walking or hiking off road is more of a challenge because of uneven terrain. Finally, you can add a loaded pack for some resistance.

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Tess Pennington joined the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999 Tess worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response. You can follow her regular updates on Preparedness, Homesteading, and a host of other topics at

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