Written by 3:35 pmSurvival

Survival Fitness: The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re going to be heading out into the wilderness to test your survival skills, then there is one thing you need above anything else. Fitness. If you don’t have a decent level of physical fitness then you can forget about trying to survive in the wild. To survive you need to able to lift and carry heavy items, run away from danger, and have enough stamina to survive long hikes. In this survival fitness guide, we’ll explain why fitness is so important and how you can improve.

If you know anything about fitness then you know that there isn’t just one thing that defines it. For example, there’s no point being physically strong if your stamina isn’t good enough to run a couple of miles. Survival depends on different types of fitness coming together and working towards keeping your body going through the tough moments.

Below we outline what survival fitness is and why it’s so important. Then we explain why you should work on your fitness and train your body, before outlining the key components of survival fitness. After reading this article, you’ll be in a great place to go out and get in survival shape.

What is Survival Fitness?

Survival fitness represents all the strengths and skills needed to survive out in the wild. Being fit for survival means that you are strong and in shape, flexible and powerful, and most importantly mentally prepared to take on anything that comes your way.

Anyone can increase their level of survival fitness in a number of easy and accessible ways. You don’t have to be an olympic weightlifter in order to survive in the wild. In fact, an olympic weightlifter is probably not the kind of person who would be best suited for survival – although their incredible strength will no doubt come in useful, their long distance stamina could be something that lets them down.

In conclusion, a person who has a good level of survival fitness will not be fazed by anything that comes their way in the wild. The Navy Seals are a good example of a group who have incredible levels of survival fitness that will probably save their lives on numerous occasions throughout their service years.

Why Should You Undertake Survival Fitness?

Survival Situation

Survival fitness training will ultimately prepare a person for that moment when they are forced into a difficult situation, and they can rely on their skills to get them out of it. Survival fitness is less about fun and more about being absolutely ready to take on anything that comes your way.

Unfortunately the fact of the matter is that if you were thrown into a natural disaster situation, a person without some survival fitness skills would struggle to get through it, and more importantly not be able to assist others who need extra help. Going into a survival situation knowing you are prepared is a great feeling.

Everyday life

This attitude will seep into your normal life. When you’re at work and struggling to get through some difficult tasks, you can draw on your training and know that this is something you can overcome. The same can be said for the moments where you hear some difficult news, and the resilience you have built up through the training will ensure your mental health stays strong.

And of course survival training will give you a fantastic level of physical fitness that will ensure you are fit and healthy, and help you perform best in the gym or during your sporting endeavours. Read on for more information about how to improve.

The 10 Key Components of Survival Fitness

Survival fitness can be broken down into 10 distinct components. Each of these components is as equally important as any other, so it’s of upmost importance to remember that you should be training on every single one, and not focussing too much time on one particular skill.

Training in these areas should be seen as a long term plan, and reaching a high level in each of these is going to take more than 10 minutes every other day. A person who has mastered each of the following components through regular training, commitment and dedication will be ultimately rewarded with brilliant survival abilities.

1. Cardiovascular

One of the most important factors in survival fitness and fitness in general is cardiovascular strength. Cardiovascular fitness determines how effectively a person can deliver oxygen to their working muscles and is influenced by a few different things. Someone who has a high level of cardiovascular fitness will have a fast heart rate recovery time, high cardiac output, and high maximal oxygen consumption.

Cardiovascular strength can be improved in a few ways, but the most common is through sustained exercise. If you go to the gym, then you’ve probably heard people refer to the “cardio” machines. Using cardio machines such as the treadmill, rower and stationary bike will quickly improve cardio fitness. You should try and fit a cardio workout in around most sessions, maybe 2 or 3 days a week. You can do this training outside, by going for a run or cycle for example.

2. Endurance (Stamina)

Another key component of survival fitness is endurance, or stamina. A person’s stamina represents how long they can keep going and maintain a level of physical exertion for a long period of time. Think of this in terms of racehorses. All racehorses can run extremely fast, but the winner is always the one who can run fast, and maintain the pace for a whole race. Endurance is the marathon and not the sprint.

Stamina could also refer to someone’s mental endurance. Having high mental stamina means that you can withstand difficult situations, mental setbacks and criticisms and instead of worrying about them, absorbing them and moving on. Mental stamina is just as important, if not more so, than physical stamina. Often the body can outperform itself if it is being commanded by a strong mind.

Training endurance is all about keeping the human body under stress for long periods of time. This means long runs and cycles or extended time in the gym. Interval training is a great way to up your stamina levels. During interval training, you work in high intensity bursts, and intersperse them with rest breaks and cool-downs. This is even more effective since it is probably how you would be operating in a disaster or survival situation anyway.

3. Strength

Pure strength is another thing that you are going to need to survive for any extended period of time. Survival usually always involved lifting heavy items, holding onto ropes whilst someone climbs it or pulling yourself up onto ledges. Training your muscles is pretty essential if you want to develop strength.

It’s important to understand that size doesn’t determine strength. Look at Bruce Lee – a small, lightweight person who had the strength of people twice or three times his size. When doing strength training, don’t focus on piling on the muscle mass, as this will impact your agility and other survival traits.

Resistance training and strength training is a huge and complex field, so you should definitely look into more information about it. A good place to start is with regular push ups and sit ups every day.

4. Flexibility

Flexibility might seem like something that is not that important for survival, but in reality it is almost essential. Being flexible can get you out of a lot of sticky situations, that inflexible people wouldn’t be able to escape from. Furthermore, being flexible can improve a lot of the other components on the list, especially agility and speed.

There are a few ways to train and improve your flexibility. From simple stretching to yoga and pilates, there are loads of things you can incorporate into your workout. Yoga is probably the ultimate technique you can use to improve flexibility. The best thing about a yoga class is that is also has a lot of other great benefits to your health, such as building muscle strength and mental wellbeing.

Training for flexibility can be a nice contrast to the intense endurance and strength training sessions. That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult though, and flexibility can often be the stumbling block for a lot of fitness enthusiasts.

5. Power

Power is closely related to physical strength, but is slightly different. You can be very powerful but maybe not as strong as someone else. Power defines how quickly you can transfer energy to move an object. For example, a powerful person might be able to push a boulder a short distance very quickly, whilst a less powerful person would be slower.

Power is built up through strength training. However, increasing your power isn’t just about lifting the heaviest weights possible – it’s all about the speed that you can move the weights. It is often helpful to reduce the weights you are lifting when training for power, and instead trying to complete the exercises faster and with more power.

In a survival situation, powerful muscle would come in handy if you have to move any heavy objects. They could be blocking a doorway for example and a powerful person might be able to roll that object out of the way to clear the way for everyone else.

6. Agility

Agility is a very important trait of survival fitness that lots of people neglect during their training sessions. You’d be surprised just how often an agile person can get out of survival situation and is better prepared to do so than someone who hasn’t worked on their agility.

Agility is the ability to change direction and move quickly and lightly. It is sometimes referred to as nimbleness and is one of the most important components for athletes and professional sports stars. Think of a football player. Of course they have to be big and strong to run through tackles, but they must also be super agile in order to evade defenders and get into the end zone.

There are loads of simple but effective exercises that will quickly improve your agility levels. Lateral jumps, high knee drills, and jump box exercises are all fantastic ways to improve, and will also help you work on balance and coordination. Also look at things like yoga and pilates classes, since flexibility is a big contributor to a person’s overall agility.

7. Speed

Another key component of survival fitness is speed. It makes sense that speed will be essential during a survival situation. There will likely be things you need to run away from and evade, so training speed is paramount for anyone who is interested in survival.

Speed determines how fast you can get from A to B. A fast person will get to B in less time than a slower person, and this could be the difference between life and death. Speed training is also great for your other fitness traits, especially power and strength. A good regime will also improve your stamina if you incorporate things like interval or circuit training into it. Circuit and interval work are very common in military training.

A great way to train speed is to do sprinting. Sprinting can seem quite daunting if you haven’t done it before, but there’s really no need to worry. Head down to your local athletics track and get to work. Be sure to stretch off before any sprinting session since it can put a lot of strain on your muscles and we don’t want to risk an injury. In the weight room, work on the leg press and other machines if you want to increase your power for sprinting.

8. Coordination

Many people think that coordination is either something that you have or you don’t have. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Like anything else, coordination can be taught and learnt, and a good amount of dedication and commitment is enough to improve your coordination.

Coordination gets you more in tune with your body, and gives you a better understanding of how your muscles work together. In its simplest terms, coordination is the organization of different elements of a group, such as your muscles, so that they can work effectively towards a goal. Someone with good coordination will be more aware of their surroundings, and ready to spring into action in any direction.

So, how do we train coordination? Well, we can actually work on coordination whenever we’re doing any other exercises from this list. Simple techniques such as closing your eyes whilst lifting weights, or performing regular balancing exercises, will increase your coordination dramatically. It’s all about getting in tune with your body, so don’t be afraid to try things like meditation to really take your training to the next level.

9. Balance

Balance is yet another component you should absolutely be working on if you’re working towards survival fitness. Being able to confidently balance across ledges or beams is bound to be useful in a disaster situation, so don’t forget to work on your balance when training. It’s easy to get swept away by strength and speed training, but it is much more important to be well rounded if you want to be able to survive.

Balancing exercises don’t just improve your balance either. They will also make you more coordinated and will likely improve things like strength endurance. Balancing for long periods of time can be pretty strenuous on your muscle groups, so this is definitely going to increase strength.

Use some simple balancing techniques at first to build your confidence. These are things like standing on one leg and slowly raising the other one to your stomach. It’s important to focus on control when completing balancing exercises. You don’t want to be rushing through them because when a situation does arise where you have to balance for extended periods, you need to able to do it. For more advanced balancing exercises, we’d recommend reading up on calisthenics.

10. Accuracy

The final component that you need to be working on in your survival training is accuracy. Accuracy is pretty similar to coordination, and is definitely just as important. A high level of accuracy means that you can jump and land wherever you need to, throw punches at an exact target, and generally understand exactly how your body will respond to any movement.

One easy way to improve accuracy is to do box jumps. Mark on the box exactly where you want your feet to land, and then try to jump onto those markings. Another great method is on the punch bag. Again mark exactly where you want to make contact, and then use a variety of different punches to achieve it.

Top 5 Tips for Survival Fitness and Strength Training

If you want to improve your survival fitness and strength, then there are a few key things that you need to incorporate into your training schedule and daily routine. Each of these 5 tips are quite easy to accomplish, and the rewards that you will reap from doing them will be massive.

If you make sure to follow these tips, then you are bound to build a stronger and healthier body that will be prepared and ready for any survival situations that may arise.

Eat Well

The first tip for survival fitness is to make sure that you are eating well. As all fitness instructions and health enthusiasts will tell you, your diet is probably the biggest factor that can influence your fitness. A good diet will allow you to train harder, longer and overall keep your body running efficiently and to its maximum potential.

If you’re training regularly, then you need to ensure that you are taking in enough calories to fuel you through the day. There are loads of great apps out there that can help you count calories, and we think that this is the best way to keep on top of your diet.

Eating well isn’t just eating plenty of calories though, you need to ensure that your diet is healthy. A good day in the gym can be easily undone by a bad meal, so it’s important to keep track. You don’t have to be eating healthily all the time and it’s actually pretty essential to allow yourself some ‘cheat days’ where you can really enjoy your favourite foods. In general though, try to eat clean. This means plenty of vegetables, lean proteins and carbs.

Keep Hydrated

Equally as important as diet is hydration. Your body can’t run without being hydrated, and this especially true when putting it through its paces in a workout. You sweat out a lot of liquid during a hard workout, so it’s extremely important that you replace that water that has been used up.

Electrolyte drinks are also great if you can get your hands on them. They replace the electrolytes that you lost through sweat, whilst hydrating you at the same time. Plain old tap water also does a good job though and as long as you are eating well, then you’ll be getting everything you need.

Work Out Regularly

There’s no point working out once every two weeks if you are trying to get into survival training. You have to be doing regular training if you want to start seeing improvements in your strength, endurance and speed. You don’t have to be going to the gym every single day, but try to get a session in as regularly as your schedule allows.

It can be hard to get into a regular workout routine. To combat this, try and make your training varied and not so boring and monotonous. For example, one day you could go out for a run instead of going to the gym, or swim across your local open water lake. We’d also recommend looking into things like martial arts clubs, since these are great places to maintain fitness whilst also working on the other key components such as power, accuracy and self defense.

Work On Your Weaknesses

Any good workout will focus on your weaknesses rather than your strengths. Although it might be fun to train something you are already good at, there really isn’t much point. Time is valuable, so you should be concentrating it on things that you need to get better at.

To help achieve this, you could sit down for a while and come up with a training schedule. Be sure to include the things you are good at so that you can maintain them, but schedule in your weaknesses much more regularly. A training plan should spread out your weight training, cardio workouts and balance exercises equally.

Target All Muscle Groups

To save time in the gym, it’s a good idea to focus on exercises that target a larger number if muscle groups. A good example of this is the bench press, which will improve the strength of your chest, back and shoulders whilst also improving your grip strength. These kind of exercises are the most efficient way to use your time.

Having said that, it is also good to incorporate some isolated exercises into your workouts. This will allow you to make real gains within certain muscles. The machines in the gym are often good for this kind of thing since they usually always focus on building strength in one or two body parts at a time.


What is survival fitness?

Survival fitness determines how suited you are to survive if you thrown into a difficult situation. This could be a natural disaster, apocalypse, or a time when you are stranded alone in the outdoors.

Survival fitness can be broken down into a variety of components. People who have good survival fitness will be proficient in all of the components, and won’t have neglected any of them in their training schedules. The components include endurance, heart strength (cardio) and general fitness level.

Survival fitness will mean you can swim across lakes, jump across crevices and be able to confront all the things that come your way in a tough situation. For more information about the different fitness components, be sure to read our list above.

How many types of fitness are there?

Fitness can be dissected into a number of different disciplines and components. Fitness isn’t just how long you can run for. It also takes into account your agility, balance and strength.

Being fit will mean that you rarely pick up any injuries, can lift and move heavy objects, and generally lead a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Being fit doesn’t mean you have no fat on your body, and this is a common misconception held by many. Our list of survival fitness components will provide extra information about how you can improve during your workouts.

What do you do in fitness for life?

Fitness for life is an excellent scheme that has been recently set up to help people improve their physical fitness and in turn their mental wellbeing. Fitness for life is a great place to start of you haven’t done workouts before or are looking to get back into exercise.

A fitness for life program will help you burn fat, improve your heart health and ensure you are fit and healthy. You can find out more information about Fitness for Life on their web page or Facebook page.

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