Thursday, October 30, 2014

Your Health: The Number One Item You Should Have Prepped


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I'd be a liar if I said that this was an original idea of mine. It's not and I don't pretend to persuade you that I am the genius that first told you this. Learning is all about repetition, so I will take the opportunity to harp on it one last time. Perhaps I will inject just the right amount of common sense and originality of unique thought that will really make you take your health seriously.

If you are reading this, you either believe that you must be prepared for the oncoming apocalypse or you just like to envision your life in such a time. The irony of this is, if you are like me, you are either blind to the need for good health going into this future world or you surely picture yourself at some stage of your life where you were physically up to the challenge. Yes, I am well aware that there is a 3rd option out there, that you are already in tip-top shape and you don't need to hear this. Yet, statistics don't play in your favor on this one, so if you think you are part of that 3rd option, consider that the vast majority of people in this country are not only out of shape, but morbidly obese. Additionally, millions have preexisting conditions that hinder them.

Before you decide that you don't need to read any further, take the proverbial step back and look in the mirror. While you are there, consider that I am not only talking about your ability to run a mile in 7 minutes, or be a part of the 1-Ton club, or make some imaginary number appear on a scale. I am talking about much broader strokes. I am talking about your overall health, physical stamina, and understanding what your body tells you in times of distress....specifically when it pertains to saving your life by getting out alive, whatever and wherever that may pertain and keeping you alive and healthy when you get to wherever.

The idea first came to me while watching one of those Prepper shows. It featured a gentlemen who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on his underground shelter. I won't knock his over all preparedness, because he had thought of a lot of things I had never considered. Additionally, he had access to funds that I do not and was willing to spend them on such a shelter. When he was graded, he received a failing grade. Why? Because he was in his 50s, in terrible health, and had never considered the effects that a post-apocalyptic world would have on his health or his bodies ability to cope with the rigors to be expected. No, I am not talking about radiation or plagues. I am talking even simpler than that. Even in the most basic of ideas: If this man had to run for his life, he would die. He didn't have the ability to do nearly any physical labor. Being severely overweight, his life expectancy on a grand scale was shrinking every day.  I decided that I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to have all the stuff "prepped" that I need except for the one thing that matters: your health.

As Americans we are used to money solving all of our problems. In our mentality, there is no problem that money cannot solve. Even in prepping, we consider our readiness in terms of dollars spent on objects. Guns. Protection. Sustenance. Tools. All bought with the all-mighty dollar and when we have them, we feel confident we are ready. I'm, just as guilty and if you look at my Last Man On Earth Studies ,  you see half of the posts about items. But, we ignore the most pivotal piece of the puzzle. Part #1. The Human Body. And, just like food, guns, or tools....great care must be taken to ensure that it works properly  now and in the future...even if it's 30-50 more years. We will discuss the need to the immediate, intermediate, and long term time frames.

Let's talk about the simplest thing. Are you in shape? Like we said earlier, chances are, you aren't. I won't go quoting specific statistics because, as Mark Twain said: "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." What do we define as "in shape?" I am talking about the things that matter. American's love quoting numbers. I can understand why and I am not dogging it. Numbers give us expectations and goals. Yet, the question remains and it isn't something you can define with a number. Being able to bench 225 is great. Squatting 525 is awesome. Being first in cross fit at your gym. Fantastic. Running a 5 minute first mile. Kudos. That's not what we are talking about. If you had to evade and escape, could you? We talked about The Immediate Stage of the 5 Stages of Preparedness. While unlikely, if you had the need to escape on foot, could you outrun the threat? Could you outrun everyone else? It's a very real possibility. The fact is, most American's can run a standing 100 yards without being winded. What if you had to run miles? Again, I know a lot of people are shaking their head in the affirmative on this. Now, let me throw you a curve. Could you walk miles while carrying your Bug Out Bag? How about your child? Children? Spouse? Nobody talks about that. Now, I understand that no one goes to the gym and gets in fantastic shape because they know one day they might have to trek through the muck with 3 kids in tow. Is it because thinking of only yourself is something that American's do very well? Or is it because no one wants to take responsibility for this potential. It's hard work and I wont' even pretend that I could do it. But, it's something I have considered. Have you?

There are other reasons for being in shape to physically get yourself and your loved ones out of the proverbial woods. Adrenaline can and will help you get out of many tight spots. It will push you through many boundaries that would otherwise derail you. But, what's the first thing that goes when you become exhausted? It's your mind. Your ability to think and reason is the first thing that degrades when you experience physical exertion. So, you may escape one danger through pure adrenaline only to fall to something else that you would have otherwise had zero problems with. It happens all the time to me when I work on automobiles, even on simple things such as Basic Vehicle Maintenance. When I get tired, even if it's coming home from work after a long day to change a tire, the effect of fatigue on my mind will greatly hamper my ability to reason. Simple problems that I otherwise would take 3 seconds to deduce and solve can become unsolvable. So, consider a situation where you are escaping and evading. You reach safety and you want to dig in for the night. But, a breakdown in your intellect hampers you from fully securing your area, whether against a foe or mother nature. All was for naught. Again, I am not in fantastic shape, but while I exercise, I do a handful of things that may seem menial, but ultimately prepares my mind to think while in the moment of physical exertion. For example, I play scrabble while I run on the treadmill. I read a magazine. I answer emails over technical topics regarding my work at NASA. The finest athletes in the world, say, in the NFL, are susceptible to mental breakdowns during games when they are physically exhausted. Don't kid yourself to think you aren't.

So far we have discussed being in shape for short stretches. I am not talking about being able to run for a few miles or even a full marathon.  Being able to survive a long stretch of physical exertion, say, a 24 hour trek to get you out of a suburb takes more than simple physical ability. It also takes a great knowledge of ones's self. If you are a marathon or long range runner...even a power lifter...you know a little bit about diet and its effect on your body over time, specifically how yours behaves during withdrawals of specific vitamins or minerals. Let's get back statistics. Chances are, if you are an American, you are obese and out of shape. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but one of those may be malnutrition. Eating unhealthy has a lot of consequences other than weight. While there is a correlation between the two, there isn't always a direct correlation. I know that if I eat a sodium heavy meal from a fast food joint, I have no energy. Many Americans eat fast food every single day. One of the biggest complaints about going to the gym the average person has is, they don't have the energy. If you are under duress, you will probably have plenty of fat to burn, but what about all those other vitamins and minerals that they body needs to function at such a level? If you have played any sport or even watched sports, you have seen what a lack of vitamin or minerals can do to a person. Debilitating cramps, heat strokes, and dehydration are just a few of the problems the average person has to deal with, and it all comes back to actively watching your diet and understanding what your body is telling you. Going back to my own life experiences, being a NASA engineer, I have a severe addiction to caffeine. In my Understanding Silly Addictions post, I talked about how such an addiction causes debilitating headaches that render me to the point of tears and stomach pains that make me vomit if I don't have a specific amount of caffeine. Over the last 6 months, I have fixed a lot of that stemming off of a day that I couldn't even function because I was trapped on a plane for 4 hours on the tarmac. I had virtually no reasoning ability and was physically sick. Additionally, when I am working outside or on a car, I can work for hours on end without stopping. I used to forget to eat and I would suddenly become very light headed and sick to my stomach. I have even passed out on occasion. It took years to understand this problem. Now I know to set time limits while I work and I understand exactly what my body is telling me from the outset of such a problem, as opposed to waiting until it's too late. How easy would it be for me, even being in good shape, to ignore these warning signs of my body in a pivotal moment. A cramp that prevents me from running or performing some action, a sickness that renders me dehydrated from throwing up, or the inability to reason in a situation where I need to think critically. All of these things are just as deadly as whatever it was you were running from in the beginning.

We have covered the extreme short term and the immediate needs for good health and understanding your body, but what about the long term? This one is something that is commonly overlooked. Why? Well, many writers believe that there will be a 10% death rate within the first month of End of the World as We Know It simply because of preexisting conditions. Again, the facts are that an astronomical amount of us in America rely on some sort of medication to help us function. Now, I am not talking about your prescription Xanex or whatever but drugs or medication that are the difference between living and dying.  Consider how many millions of Americans are diabetics, whether by chance, by genetics, or by lifestyle choices. Regardless of what type of EOTWAWKI event, millions of American's will find themselves without insulin. What about those of you with babies? If you or your spouse breastfeed, consider the amount of calories that the woman must have to continue to both function on their own and for the sake of the baby. A quick search says that a nursing mother needs an additional 500 calories a day. That's an extra 25%. And, that doesn't consider that you and your spouse may be on the run and burning far more than you normally would. If you don't breastfeed, have you considered stocking up on formula? If you are a person that needs some sort of medication, you MUST factor this in to your prepping. Again, we are only talking about the need for the immediate 24-48 hours. But, it would be a very bad time to realize that you were low on anything you may need. Even if you aren't on the run and are instead bunkered down somewhere, the last thing you want to do is have to go out and find the supplies you need. Rest assured that the people you will find out there are just as desperate as you are.

The next topic is one that I have had to deal with in the last few months and it doesn't have anything to do with being "in shape", your medication needs or your diet. I am a very active person. I play a lot of softball and football. I fish weekly. Now that I am in my 30s, things don't heal like they used to.  I find myself sore for days at a time. I also find myself getting injured constantly. The first thing that happened to me took place a few years ago. I grew up snow skiing and I have never hurt myself. On this last trip, I took a spill that hurt my knee. I knew it was serious so I went to the hospital. After X-Rays were taken and the Doctor saw me, he deduced it was an ACL strain and that it would get better. 6 weeks later and it wasn't any better. But, I didn't want to have surgery and I could still do *most* of the activities I wanted, though I was in pain. I was operating at about 85% speed and I could deal with the pain most of the time. After a year, it didn't go away. My wife finally made me go see a specialist because she was tired of me being so bummed about operating at such a low level. Come to find out, I had torn my ACL and had been diagnosed. Between the bad diagnosis, the surgery and rehab, I lost almost 2 years of my life of full functionality. Now that I look back, I would love to have had this fixed immediately and operated at 100% and not have had to deal with the pain. Fast forward to this year. A few months ago, I was sliding head first into 3rd and I tore my labrum. It hurt like you wouldn't believe. But, it got to be acceptable. I figured I could live with it. So, I quit lifting weights, I didn't play quarterback in football and I moved to the infield in softball. It never really bothered me, as far as functionality, other than when I played with  the kids or worked outside. However, I was talking with my uncle who said he had done the same thing. He went on to say that it never got better and he never had surgery to fix it. He said he sure wished he would have because he has been unable to do a lot of the things he would like to, such as lift weights and draw a bow to hunt. I got to thinking about all the things I couldn't do and their applications in  the EOTWAWKI. I can't lift things over my head. I can't pull things. What about specific things? I can't chop wood. I can't lift pieces of wood to build anything. I can't throw. In fact, there is very little that I COULD do in an emergency with my right arm. What if life or death came down to me holding on to something? Pulling someone? Pushing something away? Well, too bad. Why? Because I didn't have it fixed when I could have. What a terrible thing it would be to loose a child or a loved one because of an issue that could have been fixed.

This came up in a conversation with my mother who is a trained occupational therapist. We were talking about how useless I would have been in the past. She talked about how up to 100 years ago, between my knee and my shoulder, that I would have just been a cripple. Sure, there was a lot I could do but more than I couldn't. What about 500 years ago? I would be useless. I couldn't farm. I couldn't do manual labor of any kind. What about in the caveman days? Well, I'd be saber tooth tiger bait. That really hit home. I decided that I needed to have this fixed to prevent such a problem.

I understand that people, especially in this day and time, don't have great insurance. But, if you do, don't let something that seems trivial become a life changing problem. While I can do a lot with my shoulder as-is, I can tell you that after 3 months that it causes me to loose sleep because of pain. Who knows what 30 more years would bring? While we have spoken about short term health issues, you have to consider what the effects of any of this may have on your long term health. We all think we will live forever, but we won't. The fact is, our ability and productivity are always on  declining slope. In the case of the EOTWAWKI, we won't have access to good healthcare or medication. Both are something that you will have to plan for yourself, whether that is your exercise regimen or stock in needed medication.

So, how have I gone about it? Well, I still focus on my prepping, but I have simply realized that my body is ultimately the most important tool to my families survival. The first thing I learned was that, in the case of the EOTHAWKI, I may not be where I want to be. What if I needed to get myself and my family somewhere else and on foot. All the guns and food in the world wouldn't do me a bit of good if I didn't have them with me or if my health were the limiting factor. Additionally, I want to live a long life and ignoring my bodies problems may increase them 10 fold over time. I must be healthy and able to carry about whatever physical and mental exertions are needed. I started back in January to make a Better Best5Zach. I quit focusing on how much weight I could lift and more on my endurance. I quit worrying as much about having a six pack and I started paying attention to my body, why it's tired, why it responds the way it does. I train my brain to think under physical exertion.

Again, the focus of prepping always seems to be: how many guns you have, how many rounds for those guns, how much food, and what type of shelter. All of these are great and are needed, but we seem to forget about the key component to any of it: the human body.  Whether it's being in shape enough to get out of Dodge while carrying your kids, or knowing exactly how your body will react to stress, fatigue, and malnutrition over the first 48 hours, or even the long term to the terminal time the most important piece of prepping is your own body and is usually the one thing ignored in prepping. I'm not saying that you need to tape a note in your gym locker to remind you that you are working out for EOTWAWKI, but it should be in the back of your mind. Ultimately your health IS a life and death decision.