This page was last updated on Monday, 07 April, 2014.

Survival Shape; To Be or Not to Be...

Steve Whitman
7 April, 2014

Harry is a middle aged man of 52 years, still smokes, drinks quite a bit, is about 40-50 lbs. overweight, 5”-10” tall, and has a waist of about 42 inches. In his youth, he was generally in pretty good shape and participated in high school sports. Today, he has a desk job with all the stress that goes with it.

One morning, he awakens to get ready for work and plods to the bathroom to take a shower. As he passes the full length mirror, he notices for the first time what his lifestyle has brought upon him. As he stops, and looks into the mirror, he says to himself, " what the hell happened?....... everything is not where it was when I was 25.......", as he takes his shower, he is thinking,... "I need to do something about this, but what? .....This is no good......I look and feel terrible........ I know, off to the gym to join up and get this pathetic body back into shape....I know I can do it!" So off to work he goes, stopping to get a coffee with two glazed doughnuts for breakfast and follows it with lunch consisting of a large meatball sub, a bag of potato chips, and a large coke.

Anxious, after work, Harry stops by the neighborhood gym and signs himself up. He gets a full year membership and thinks, “I want to do things right and go at this with full dedication and get results! “ He quickly changes into his workout clothes in the locker room and as he enters upon the gym floor, he sees people of all ages and sizes busily working at the machines and free weights. He notices that they are doing 10-15 repetitions of each exercise in multiple sets. Acting like it's a New Years Resolution, he begins with some free weights and pounds out some barbell curls with 50 lbs. for 12 repetitions or so and does 4 sets. Without hesitation, he attacks the squat rack and loads up the bar with 100 lbs. and bangs out a set of 10-15 reps. He feels strong and powerful, adds more weight to the bar, and does 3-4 additional sets of squats. Harry continues on for about an hour and a half, after all he wants to make sure he gets a good work out in, doing more curls, overhead presses, lat pull downs, and anything else he can observe the other people doing. Some people are finishing their workout on the treadmill or elliptical machines, so he follows their lead and does an additional 20 minutes on the treadmill. Finally, totally exhausted, beat red in the face and sweating profusely, he decides he has done enough and is ready to go home. He is so pleased with himself, “I am well on the way to new and better health.....Before you know it, I will look and feel like 25 again!.....As he gathers up his stuff he mumbles, “Gee.....that workout sure made me hungry......I will have to stop on the way home and get something.......since, I really don‘t feel like cooking tonight.... especially after that great workout.” Famished, he stops at McDonalds and picks up a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, a large French fry, and a Vanilla McCafe shake. He almost forgets to get dessert, but remembers to order an apple pie as well. He finishes off the evening with 4 or 5 beers.

It’s Tuesday morning, and its 5:30 A.M.....time to get up and go to work for Harry. As he tries to get up, a slight burning feeling is felt throughout his entire body and some joints, especially his elbows and knees, have some sharp pain as well. He chuckles to himself, “Well, yesterday, I must have done a really good job at the Gym”. He has some difficulty dressing and getting ready for work, but he manages to do so. As the day progresses at his job, the pain is getting worse by the minute. By noon time, he can barely move, even sitting in a chair is difficult and tells his boss he will need to take the afternoon off. Being so sore and tired, he decides he can not cook dinner again, and stops at the Chinese take out and orders some spare ribs, fried rice, beef teriyaki, chicken wings and crab rangoons. He remembers the extra sweet and sour sauce and makes sure to get the fortune cookies. A six pack will make this meal complete!

Rise and shine, it’s Wednesday morning and Harry rolls out of bed and falls flat on the floor. His body is screaming from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). He cannot lift his arms at all, and his legs feel like two hunks of wood. He literally crawls to the bathroom and attempts to sit on the toilet. As he lowers himself down, his thighs scream with agony and basically give out causing him to fall in a sliding action, breaking the hinges of the toilet seat, and causing him to hit the tiled floor with a vengeance. Badly bruised and hurting, he calls in sick and stays home for the day. He can not move and as the day progresses, the pain becomes more intense. For supper, he orders a large pizza, with all the toppings, to be delivered, along with a six pack to wash it down with. Also, he is elated that he has found, for dessert, a quart of ice cream in the freezer.

Thursday morning comes, and Harry does not feel any better, in fact, his pain is unbearable. Unable to really walk or function, he calls the doctor and because of the acute pain, arranges for an appointment that day. After the examination, he finds that he has a severe tear of the left bicep muscle and a slight tear of the ligament in his right knee. The doctor informs him that his prognosis is not too good. Harry’s bicep, although not fully torn and retracted like a window shade, will need an operation to repair it. Chipping of the bone for proper retie of the tendon along with screws and Teflon threading will be needed. Due to his age, 3-4 months of recovery will be necessary, followed by several weeks of physical therapy. The doctor is confident, however, that extensive therapy and rest will hopefully revive his right knee, but he may need orthoscopic surgery, in the future, to repair the torn ligament. Additionally, the doctor informs him that he has high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and the beginning signs of sugar diabetes. Harry has missed 3-4 days of work, is going to require a couple of costly operations and extensive physical therapy, finds himself in poor physical health and has become totally depressed. His bold and determined journey of seeking better health and fitness has turned into a nightmare, and his fantasy of returning to his youth has come to a grinding halt, with little hope of a return performance.

Sadly, the entire scenario above has been witnessed or experienced by me, at one time or another, throughout my physical conditioning and weight lifting years. For the reader, this may sound all too familiar as well. Unfortunately, poor Harry has done everything wrong. Even if we have been strength conditioning for years and are forced into a layoff from training, by an accident, illness, etc., we must be aware of the probable injury that may occur, if we leap with blind faith back into an exercise regime. This is all so true as we get older, “since the healing process is not what it used to be”. We have to learn to workout smarter, more efficiently, if we want to achieve better health, and above all, minimize the possibility of injury.

There is no doubt, that personal health and physical conditioning will be a primary concern when the “house of cards come tumbling down”. It really does not matter what scenario is your flavor, namely an economic collapse, earth quake, massive flooding, or some other disaster, including the potential for world war lll or an EMP attack. All are going to require demands on our physical being and the ones in prime physical condition, unfortunately for some, will last the longest and survive the ordeal. The weak and sick will be the first to go, the elderly and the youngest will be next, followed by the “healthy” ones that become injured. Therefore, it is imperative that we all, if capable, and no matter what your current age; follow a daily lifestyle that promotes health and fitness.

When you have your youth and are “invincible“, lifestyle sins are forgiven by the body and you can “live on your laurels”. A young person can generally get away with a lot of improper conditioning routines and consumption of bad food types that they throw down their gullets. A high metabolism rate and super recovery powers are the “friends" of youth. Therefore, this group will not be addressed in this article, although, some of the included information can apply to them as well.

What Harry has done, along with so many others, that I have observed, is attacking the problem of health and fitness with little or no “battle plan”. Going to “war” with no thought on how to achieve victory usually results in a total devastating defeat. This actually compounds the problem by damaging the individual’s psyche and confidence level, thus further decreasing his or hers chances of returning to “fight another day”.

There are several good books on strength conditioning including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Encyclopedia of Modern Body Building” or Gold’s Gym “Book of Body Building” by Ken Sprague and Bill Reynolds. Both books contain a wealth of information for the beginner to the pro on setting up a gym program. Another great book for the weekend warrior or the sports enthusiast is “Sports Conditioning and Weight Training” by William J. Stone and William A. Kroll which has a lot of modern day techniques for improving your health and overall well being. Hiring a personal trainer, although not mandatory, is another avenue that may be taken in order to be “spoon fed” in order to orchestrate a proper conditioning program. However, with a little research on your own, a good “battle plan” can be drawn up, and set you on the right path.

A good place to start, especially if you have been inactive for many years, is to see your physician before starting an exercise program. Jumping into a vigorous program without a physical can be truly dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Laying on the gym floor or the pavement, waiting for the paramedics to arrive is not a pretty picture. With a little common sense, this can, and hopefully, will be avoided.

A normal weight routine would consist of working the entire body for 3 days per week with a day of rest in between, such as Monday - Wednesday - Friday. You should determine or estimate your ultimate strength that you can perform one repetition on each exercise. Make a written record and then take 40-50% of that weight and do one set of 10-12 repetitions for each exercise for about the first week. Week 2 perform 2 sets and followed by week three with 3 sets. After that, you can begin increasing the weight on each exercise after you are able to reach at least 3-4 complete sets at your current level. However, this is greatly dependent on how you feel. This is only a general guideline and you may, through your own research, find a beginning program that is more suited for you. On the off days, you can begin a light aerobics program such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming. But, listen to your body! Once you get the feel of it, there are many more routines that you can follow. Such as 4 or 6 day splits, stripped sets, pyramiding, super/giant setting, and several others which are all advanced programs and can be found in the above books.

Feeling overtired in the morning, restless sleepless nights, anxiousness, and weary legs are all signs of overtraining. This is the “kiss of death” in conditioning and means to immediately back off. Generally, this indicates that the nervous system is being over taxed and needs a break. Ignore it and injury is surely on the way or you will see little progress or even digress in your training. One of my favorite sayings which I think of often is, “Rome was not built in a day, and it wasn’t built in two either.” Listen to your body and it will treat you right. Ignore it and you will enter a world of hurt and dismay that will crush you.

Improper technique is probably one of the biggest sins that can be seen at the gym. Too often, people want to lift way more weight than they actually can and still perform the exercise properly. As an example, a simple exercise such as doing barbell curls can be disastrous with too much weight. Using the back (swaying back and forth) for assistance instead of utilizing the arms explicitly can actually hurt your back, as well as other parts of your body, including your neck. Anyone with a previous neck injury knows the complications that this can lead to. Recently, a friend of mine tore his right bicep by excessive weight on the bar and is having the same operation that Harry needs. He is recovering now and it will be several months to a year before he is good again. No matter what the exercise is, the proper amount of weight, to maintain good form and avoid injury, is absolutely critical. I can not tell you the countless injuries that I have witnessed in the gym because of this. It took a severe injury to myself, doing heavy squats without proper form, to get this important principle through my thick head. This is sometimes extremely hard to do, especially when the testosterone is flowing like Niagara Falls and you feel like you can lift a mountain. Slow, methodical, controlled movements will get you the results you seek far more quickly than trying to impress everyone and setting a record. Above all, leave the ego at home and do not bring it to the gym. This may help to avoid a crippling injury that will abruptly end your quest to better "survival health." Try the lighter, slower and controlled approach will like it.....guaranteed!

Warming up on each exercise by doing a light set of 15-20 repetitions, say around 20-30% of your max is an excellent way of stretching and rushing blood to the muscle area to prepare it for what it is about to endure. Another way to warm up, the entire body is to bicycle, jog, or use the stepper for about 5 minutes prior to your routine. I have found this to be an efficient way of getting the “blood flowing” and preventing injury. One of my old workout partners for years, and a very good friend, did behind the neck overhead barbell presses (a dangerous exercise to begin with) for his rear delts without warming up. He dislocated his right shoulder and ruined himself for future training. Once a shoulder has dislocated, as he found out later, it easily dislocates all the time and is never right again. Today, he is over 300 lbs., out of shape, severely depressed, and has given up on life. In fact, sadly, he has attempted suicide at least twice. A far cry from being the chiseled faced, ripped man, he was years ago.

As Harry experienced, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be a real problem, especially in the beginning, if you do not follow a gradual increase on your routine as described above. DOMS in the early years was thought to be caused by the build up and accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. This has generally been debunked, and DOMS has been accepted as being caused from eccentric (lengthening) contractions of the muscle. Although, lactic acid is formed during immediate exercise, and causes a burning sensation, it generally dissipates after an hour or so. There are other theories, such as “enzyme efflux” and the increase of calcium that cause DOMS, but that is beyond the scope of this article. In past years, when I had to take even a short layoff from strength training, (DOMS) was always an issue that had to be dealt with. As you get older, the muscle soreness, sometimes can take 2-3 days before it rears its ugly head and when it does, you will definitely know it! As a result of the shooting in October of last year, I was forced to take about a month off from training to recover enough from the gun shot wounds. The Energy Cleaner provided me with almost super healing powers, as I have written in previous articles. However, something else happened and continues to occur until this day. It appears, that the Energy Cleaner, reduces if not helps to eliminate DOMS. Since, I was utilizing the Energy Cleaner every day, getting back into my daily life and workout routine was far easier than I ever thought possible. It was a real pleasure to only have to deal with my bullet injuries and the problems associated from those and not have to worry about the uncomfortable feelings and complications that come with DOMS too! It worked for me, so you might give it a try as well.

Now, we come to the final and most important fact in strength training and conditioning, and that is DIET. I know, nobody likes to hear that four letter word, but in all actuality, it is the key, plain and simple, to success. The body, like a well maintained race car, without good fuel, will knock, ping, hammer, and eventually quit. You can have the biggest engine with the most ungodly horsepower, but without something good to run on, it will go no where. Likewise, you can go to the gym everyday and workout for hours, but if you do not eat right and put good “fuel” into your body, you will never see the results you want to. Just as important, you can not exercise the food off either. Eating excess calories and junk food, simply, can not be “worked off”. Trust me, I tried that for years and it does not work. I am not saying that you have to be a Saint and become a rabbit eating only lettuce and carrots, but devouring French fries and Quarter Pounders like Harry, well lets just say, bluntly, you are “pissing up a rope“. The meal that Harry got from MacDonald’s, believe it or not, contained over 2500 calories and was loaded with fat. This is enough to fully sustain daily a man of 250 lbs. and he ate this in one sitting! By eating his two other meals that day and drinking some beer, he would have consumed over 6000 calories. No amount of strength and conditioning training will eliminate this excess caloric food intake from going to fat storage around his girth. Quit the junk food and sweets, and after only a few days to a week, you will not miss them and you will be on your way. You will think clearer, recover quicker, and wake up without a “sugar hangover” and be ready to tackle the day!

Stay away from flour foods, such as bread, muffins, bagels, doughnuts, etc. All of these breakdown easily into sugar. The body is a marvelous machine, and when it gets sugar it stores it “for a rainy day”. Plus, you guessed it; the storage pantry is in the belly area. A great reference book, “The Wheat Belly” by William Davis, M.D. is worth reading on this subject as it explains in much more detail exactly what happens when you consume wheat products. Excess simple carbohydrates and sugar are “poison” and should be avoided at all costs. The American population is not overweight because of eating fats. Rather, the problem exists from over consumption of simple carbohydrates hidden in our processed foods. It has become a huge issue in this country, especially in young children where they are contracting sugar diabetes in record numbers. On the back of the book, an amazing statement is found which, in my opinion, says it all, “Did you know that eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase blood sugar more than 2 tablespoons of pure sugar can?”

If you eat right and get enough rest (6-8 hours) every night, you will realize, no matter what your age is, a huge improvement on your performance and daily life. Recovery between workouts will be shortened, and your progress will occur in leaps and bounds. To introduce more fiber into my diet, I have taken psyllium powder every day for the past 30 years. It promotes regularity, colon health, and as a result of removing toxins from your system, you will look and feel a lot better too.

Flax seed is another great way to better health. It has been called, "one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet", and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, breast cancer, and stroke. In powder form, I have found it to be easily mixed with oatmeal and take it daily this way. It contains Omega 3 essential fatty acids (good fats), Lignans (antioxidant qualities), and fiber. All of which, can be a great benefit to one's health and vitality.

I think a discussion on smoking and drinking is really not necessary, but here it goes anyway. Smoking, if you can still afford it, is a sure way of a poor and short life. Lugging around oxygen tanks because of emphysema, heart disease, lung and liver cancer, and many other deadly diseases, as a result of cigarettes, is definitely not the right path. Still not convinced?..... When I was a child, my parents and relatives raised apples on the farm. An insect, we always had trouble with, which “stung” the apples and deformed them prior to maturity, was very resistant to all of the insecticides of that era. Arsenic of Lead and DDT would not control this pest in our orchards. But, my uncle was told about a “new” and “effective” poison for control of this insect and ordered some. It was expensive, costing hundreds of dollars, and it came in an 8 oz bottle. Only a very small amount of that bottle was needed in our 400 gallon sprayer and it was almost 100% effective against this bug. And do you know what the “new” and “effective” poison was in that bottle?..........concentrated nicotine........enough said.

Drinking alcohol, which is loaded with sugar, goes right to the belly, never mind, what it does internally. I am not saying a few drinks and beers with the guys are bad or anything, but if it ever goes beyond that, then you have become a resident of “disaster city” and you better pack up your stuff and move out quick!

Recently, I worked out with a man who is 83 years old and if you could ever see what this man was capable of and what he looked like, I guarantee, you would quit all the junk food immediately! Speaking to him during our workout session, I asked him what his “secret” was for his energy and vigor. He quickly turned to me and responded without hesitation, “Diet my man... Diet”.

Forget the fad diets, the “magic” pills, and other “snake oil” remedies. In our “pill popping society”, everyone is looking for a substance that is the "quick fix" to solve their problems and really do not want to do the work that is required to solve the situation at hand. This is true whether someone is trying to lose weight, go to sleep, wake up, “focusing issues”, depression, and pain mitigation, etc. More likely than not, the pills cause severe and more detrimental side effects than the “problem” they are supposed to remedy. More depression, suicidal tendencies, and “unusual thoughts or actions” are experienced by the pill taker. These tendencies and side effects, especially if he decides to "self medicate", are magnified many times. I have experienced this first hand, almost losing my life, to a man who was on Vicodin, antidepressants, Lyrica (which causes depression) , and other prescription drugs, when he shot me three times with a .45 caliber semi automatic pistol that day in October and then committed suicide. Unfortunately, I have known many other people that have attempted or committed suicide in the past as well, and they were all on prescription drugs “to help their problems“. Avoid diet pills, prescription and "miracle" conditioning drugs like the plague, as they are dangerous and will leave you in ruins. Simply put, for better health, there is no “free lunch” and change of lifestyle, diet, and hard work are the only answers.

Without a question, excess weight is a killer. It over taxes the circulatory system, causes heart disease and many other complications, such as bad knees and ankles, along with harming the remaining organs and parts of the human body. Hauling a “30-40 lb. sack of fat” on your back everyday is not the way to go. Still have doubts? Then, you must ask yourself this one question,..... “How many old fat people do I know?”

Yes, difficult times are directly over the horizon, and will be with us soon. It is time to get our physical health and strength to be the best they can personally be. Our physical well being could be the difference between survival and death. Don’t become a Harry. I have been blessed with being able to do this for over 40 years, and the doctors told me that was one of the main reasons that I survived last October‘s shooting. So, develop your own “plan of attack“, get off the couch, get back in the gym, and eat right. You will be doing yourself and family a big favor, plus you are going to feel a hell of lot better too. Looking and moving, as if you were 10-20 years younger, as well, is not a bad deal either.

Additionally, by getting yourself in “survival shape” you will be prepared to

"Go the distance” and live a longer, more productive life.

As Spock has said many times, “live long and prosper”....... and really...... is there any better way?℠ (Right-side navigation page SSI insertion)