*Gym in a Bag*
By: gvi
30 November 2019

In 2011 I submitted an essay on a portable library and game box. At its end I expressed a desire to do another on exercise equipment. It's taken this long because it's not an altogether easy task to account for all the sorts of exercise one may wish to do, nor account for all the different conditions under which we may wish to exercise - particularly in a preparedness context.

Back when I was casting about for ideas for this essay - it was a LONG time ago - more than one Rubie considered such a setup worse than useless. The consensus of their thinking seemed to be, "In a post-SHTF scenario, you'll get all the exercise you need; wasting a single calorie on unnecessary exertion is unforgivable."

It's a compelling argument... but I'm not convinced.

For one thing, a couple decades' worth of experience ought to have shown us that "SHTF" can happen to a single individual. My own example includes periods of unemployment, being laid up for health reasons (and the subsequent recuperation), localized weather events and indeed any number of occasions that have not only put me in rough straits, but also given me a surplus of time to sit around idle. If we're not prepping for THESE kinds of events in addition to the major catastrophes we all acknowledge, our preparedness is incomplete. Henceforward, therefore, I'll draw upon my own experiences, showing how I addressed them, begging the indulgence of the reader to imagine him- or herself unavoidably idled, in whatever manner pitiless Fate can contrive.

I'm no fitness expert, fitness trainer, physical therapist or anything of the sort. If anything I write conflicts with best practices at the time you read this, by all means defer to people who do this for a living. On the other hand, I was a Platoon Sergeant. I know how to create my own workouts, and getting my Soldiers physically fit was an explicitly-spelled-out part of my job description, to include planning exercise sessions, tracking my Soldiers' fitness and tailoring individual approaches in order to meet Army standards.

Lastly, consider the usual lawyerly disclaimer language, concerning not doing stupid things or hurting yourself, as having been inserted here. We're all grown-ups.

First, the Gym-in-a-Bag


The thinking in fitting up this bag and its contents was to develop a set of exercise equipment based on the following considerations, in descending order of importance

1) Compactness - had to fit in the smallest space possible so as not to take up valuable shelter/retreat space.

2) Completeness - had to allow for as complete a range of exercise options as a home gym, subject to 1) above

3) Cost - while fitness is a primary preparedness consideration, assembling a "prepper gym" is at best secondary. The kit should not shoulder out any more important purchases; moreover, it can be assembled piecemeal with additions, deletions or substitutions so as to be tailored to the individual or his/her family. This is MY way and A way, not THE way.

These considerations were more or less identical to the Portable Library and Game Box linked above.

The components are mostly self-explanatory, and only briefly discussed below:

If storage size were no object, I could have got as much impedimenta as I pleased. Then again, if I wanted that much stuff, it's less hassle in the long run to just get a gym membership - let someone else keep all the gear in proper working order! This bag and its contents, however, satisfy the conditions I set out for them. If I were cooped up indoors with nothing but time on my hands and the contents of this bag, I could remain in fine fettle, as I have the resources for an entire range of strength training as well as options for cardiovascular exercise.

And in fact, this is not the only physical fitness "equipment" I have. My workouts include all kinds of different things. For example, I do several Chinese stretching exercises called "qi gong" (CHEE-gung). They are kind of like yoga except you keep your shoes on and the hippie-dippie New Age nonsense you get with anything "exotic" is easily detachable. I also include martial arts practice (empty hand and with weapons) in my fitness program, as well as bicycling, fencing, cross-country skiing, archery and revolver/rifle dry-fire.

The last one's worth expanding on somewhat. Several years ago, just to prove a point, I went to one of my semi-regular Range Days in a track suit instead of my usual jeans-and-button-down. Using my Garand rifle and a few Appleseed qualification targets, I shot the first target as a control group, then did the "old" Army Physical Fitness Test (2min. pushups/2min. situps/2mi. run), shooting the next target over after each event. I looked like a perfect fool but it was good clean fun; and since my former Platoon Sergeant was along, he held my feet and gave me the usual encouragement to push myself to the limit. SFC(ret) Marlon Daniels is a good friend and cool like that - I miss him dearly. Not to put too fine a point on it, I passed the "APFT," but not the third Appleseed target. This should come as no surprise - our marksmanship will naturally suffer under less-than-ideal conditions such as heat, cold, rain or snow, the fatigue of exertion or the rush of adrenaline. But it need not suffer excessively; training our muscles and our minds to function under fatigue is worth the effort. Practice dry-fire in between sets of exercise - especially double-action revolver - and you'll see just how hard a good trigger-press becomes after not too long. But training this task, like all things, ends up making it easier.

Fitness is a preparedness skill, but not one of our most highly regarded ones. It's worth pointing out that the median age for your typical prepper is a lot closer to 60 than it is to 20 or even 30. This being so, lifestyle and the hazards incident to age are more likely to get us than zombies, nukes or roving bands of marauders.

Staying fit gets harder as we get older, but it can be done - my former tai chi instructor, a retired Gary cop who also taught karate for nearly 50 years, is 82 and in extremely good shape. He's got a lifetime of living the "fitness lifestyle," same as we live the preparedness lifestyle.

The good news is that it's easier for us to get closer to his level of fitness in the time we have left than it would be for him to get to our level of preparedness, even if he were younger. Exercise has plenty of benefits that no one here has to be told, and it can be made fun if we put our minds to making it fun - no one can maintain an unenjoyable pastime for long. It just takes making the time to do it.


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