Prep to be fit and be fit to be prepped

The state of our physical fitness impacts our ability to survive and cope with a crisis. 

When I met my husband, he was 6′ 5″ and 400 lbs. Medication side effects, illness and inactivity had taken him to that point.

He was so large that when requiring an MRI, he was referred to a veterinary clinic as veterinary equipment could accommodate a person of his size.

For anyone horrified by that, don’t be. It is common practice to refer persons to veterinary clinics who are larger than hospital or clinic MRI’s can handle. Just like railway scales are used to weight people who are unable to get an accurate weight otherwise.

What matters is getting the results be it for life threatening conditions via a MRI as was my husband’s case or finding a way to become more fit.

He was so physically unfit that he was unable to make the short walk to the street from his home and frighteningly out of breath.

In a crisis, how could he move fast enough or long enough to save his life?

The situation took a horrible turn when he ended up in cardiac ICU and was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He was placed on insulin and oral medication for the diabetes and had developed a cardiac arrhythmia which required another medication.

I didn’t care what he looked like. I already decided that I really cared for him because of the person he is and I was terrified he could die early because of the morbid obesity.

Here’s how he became fit. 

First, we worked as a team and together were educated by the diabetic nurses in a two session information and management course. We learned that diabetics with high sugar experience ravenous hunger. It is very real to them, but is a phantom hunger created by the high blood sugar.

We formulated strategies to deal with high blood sugar hunger. He drank water. I distracted him when he said “I’m so hungry” and I knew it was his sugars.

We put his diabetic healthy eating chart front and centre on the fridge door. It listed how he should build each meal with protein, carbohydrates, starches, and fats. It also showed him how many servings of each category were allowable for each meal.

I met with dieticians and received recipe booklets for healthy eating for diabetics. Most of the booklets were based upon legumes and healthy grains. I learned to cook healthy meals using the new methods they gave me. He loved the food!
The legumes and brown rice also are a big part of our pre staples today.

Next, we had to tackle his physical conditioning which would be the other component of managing his blood sugar aside from achieving better fitness.

When we began, it was hard for him to walk far. He had been crushed in a work related accident years before, and there was residual effects from that. His feet hurt, and he was easily fatigued and out of breath.

I found a way to make movement fun for him. There was an empty lot not far away at the end of a road. I would drive us there sometimes and we would waltz under the moonlight, very slowly. But he was moving and having fun. Getting fit should be fun, not a chore!

After we moved into our house, we adopted our first dog, a Samoyed, and she became his walking buddy. He could only make it to the end of the block, but the two of them kept going. 

Little by little, they went farther as they could manage and soon he was walking over an hour twice a day. When she passed, our rescued border collie took her place at his side on his walks.

His cardiovascular improved. He wasn’t so winded at the slightest exertion.

And the best part, the weight was coming down as was his insulin dose. It didn’t take long until he was off insulin and the oral medication!

Our family doctor was amazed and told him that he was the first patient he had who had actually followed the medical advice for managing diabetes. My husband’s diabetes was in remission! About a year later, he was off the cardiac medication.

He also got a new wardrobe as his weight decreased.

There was no magic formula to how he achieved fitness. It was determination to survive that kept him motivated. His feet hurt at the beginning when he walked, but he pushed through that pain because he understood why it was happening and that once his weight was down, the foot pain would be eliminated.

He went from a size 56″ waist to a size 38″ waist and he did it in a healthy, sensible way. He went from 400 lbs to 225 lbs. He became fit.

He had to have another MRI, only this time, he had no problem getting it done at the hospital.

I told you how my husband became fit, because it is a part of prepping. We talk about possibly having to walk in a disaster or carry packs. We may have to defend ourselves in hand to hand combat. We may have to forage for food or haul water. 

Many disasters invoke the need for labour intensive tasks. A physically fit prepper can do it. A physically unfit prepper can hurt themselves or worse, give themselves a heart attack.

I shared my husband’s journey to become fit to help anyone here who is struggling with achieving fitness. It can be done sensibly. Get educated, get resources, make the changes you need to make. 

Last year, my husband hand dug and lowered a berm on the front of our property. People stopped and commented how fit he was and couldn’t believe his age.

He became a healthier person. He became fit. And if you are struggling, you can do it, too.


  • Comments (31)

    • 3

      Only vaguely are memories of primary school teaching the 5 basic food groups …… We were being taught diet and health. In Cub Scouts was taught we were not to drink fromthe same ladle to get water from the container; had something to do with transferring germs.

      Do the public schools teach diet and health now ?  They don’t teach emergency preparedness – at least not here.

      The key term: “determination to survive”.

      “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche.

      Glad to learn of recovery.

      • 3

        Bob, we did have an emphasis on health, didn’t we? It wasn’t about how to look a particular way. It was about how to be healthy.

        Manitoba has the “Healthy Schools” promotion since 2004 with topics: healthy eating, physical activity, sexual health, mental health, safety & injury prevention and substance abuse & addiction.

        The only emergency preparedness I can find is at University level through one of the university science depts.

        I raised the topic because most of us can improve our fitness in some way. Disabled preppers can use chair aerobics and healthy eating, for example. 

        That key term determination to survive drives prepping for many of us.

        Nietzsche was the first philosopher I read when I was 10. One of my favourties.

        “The wise have always said the same things, and fools, who are the majority, have always done just the opposite.” Arthur Schopenhauer

        Thanks, Bob. He’s is doing better. There are still parts of him I can’t fix. But we aim to be as healthy as we can.

      • 5

        Bob – My high school in the mid 2000’s had a health class. I don’t remember much about it except that the teacher was really fit and healthy and he had a ‘Wall of Shame’. Whenever a student would sneak in a piece of junk food, the teacher would confiscate it and pin it on the wall. You could bring all the healthy foods you wanted though. 

        I remember a glazed doughnut on the wall the entire year. It got hard, but didn’t mold at all. Shows how many preservatives and such were in them.

      • 5

        Robert, How sad and insensitive that the teacher used a “wall of shame”. It would have been far more constructive to reward good food choices.

        If I were the teacher, I would have quietly asked the student with junk food what was going on for him/her that day. Are they anxious, sad, tired?

        That could have been a teachable moment for everyone. Many times unhealthy food choices are not what we are eating, but rather “what’s eating us?”

        Ironic isn’t it, how foods loaded with preservatives shorten life span? I get the image in my head of a prepper somewhere “Hey I’ll put donuts in my preps. They won’t go bad and bonus, I’ll live forever!”

      • 7

        Robert, Although I support teaching good nutrition, here, that teacher would no longer be employed. Plus, other nasty matters could arise.

        The term “food desert” would come into play.  The poor kid’s morning meal might have been only that glazed donut…. and it didn’t come from home; someone gave it to student. 

      • 5

        Well said, Bob. A girl I knew took inner city education and specialized in it as a grade school teacher.

        So many children are not fed, through no fault of their own. How can anyone learn on an empty stomach?

        Even in my town, we had a winter coat drive because farm and town kids didn’t have winter coats or ones that fit.

        I’d like to stick that teacher to his wall of shame with a few donuts….Grrrr…

    • 8

      That’s such a wonderful story Ubique. I’m really happy for you and your husband. 

      We really will never know how strenuous or intense a disaster will be until we have gone through it, but I know it will require much more than I am currently able to do. Thanks for the motivation to get up and move.

      • 6

        Thanks Robert.

        When he and I met online, we had coffee and both of us were smitten. He told me he liked slow oven cooked brisket with vegetables.

        So one day not long after we met, he invited me over. I came courting with a full brisket slung over my shoulder. When he opened the door, I slapped it down on the counter (and not a moment too soon, I’m not a big person and that thing was heavy).

        My way of declaring my intentions. lol

        Fitness is ongoing like prepping. Just make a daily walk part of your life and before you know it, your cardiovascular will improve.

        Whatever activity you choose, make it fun and you will want to continue. Walk and dance under the moonlight with your wife. Have a pillow fight on date night at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

        Small changes add up to big results. Even cutting back a 100 calories per day can make a huge difference.

        You can do it, Robert. 

      • 8

        You are full of wonderful stories! 

        I took a stab at the world of online dating and met this girl online. Before we met in person, she found my mother on facebook and asked her for the recipe of a meal that I liked. On our first date and when we first met, she surprised me by pulling out this large coffee cake! I married that girl. 

        The key to a man’s heart is through his stomach. 

      • 8

        Robert, and you full of wonderful stories, too!

        What an incredible story. Your wife exemplifies creativity, ingenuity and a go-getter attitude – exactly the kind of qualitities that stand the test of time in a relationship.

        I will smile for a good while on this story. Thank you for sharing it. 

    • 9

      An additional point about becoming more fit and capable of surviving a disaster.

      It is easier to stop a bad habit by replacing it with a good habit. It takes about 30 days to fully integrate a new habit.

      Small changes add up and breaking fitness goals down into smaller goals help also.

      Don’t worry about how anyone looks or what they can do. Focus on what you are in control of and the changes that you can make.

      This isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you can function better in a crisis. Cardiovascular function is key.

      Also, before beginning any exercise program, talk to your physician and get the okay for what you want to do, especially if you have been inactive or have underlying health conditions.

    • 9

      That’s a freaking amazing story. I’m really impressed with both of you— not just with your stick-to-it-ness but with your creativity and resourcefulness.

      And I love the fact that you got a dog and that she helped. (Dogs are the best.)

      • 7

        pnwsarah, Thank you, we were lucky to have some really great people along the way who helped and guided us.

        We usually adopt older dogs from rescue who have been displaced from their homes due to family entry into personal care or death.

        Our current girl, is a border collie who we rescued privately. She wasn’t well and had been neglected. She had lumps on her mammary tract.

        I hit the ground running with her: open pyometra (?sp) infection with emergency treatment. 

        Next came spay and mammary tract surgery for cancer. Our vet told us she had a 50/50 chance of survival and she did her best to resect as much tissue as possible.

        It was an open wound heal, drains, intense care, and I spent a lot of time down on the floor sleeping beside her and cuddling her. 

        With daily flushes and raw honey treatment per our vet. It was amazing for wound healing. We called it “doga-spaw” time. On the floor, with spa music, slightly warm honey poured into the wound, and massage while we braced her on her back, and waited the 20 minutes – she usually tranced off or slept.

        She healed to the point where our vet could perform another final surgery. It was supposed to close a small opening that hadn’t healed and be a minor surgery. It ended up being the same as the previous surgery with drains, and intensity. 

        Today, five years later, she is cancer free. The bedraggled, sick and sad border collie that stepped into my kitchen is a healthy, shiny coated, happy and goofy girl.

        She also has a special talent. If I am not doing well ptsd wise, she can be in another room, sound asleep but will awaken and come to me. She puts her head against me or paws me. It is the most amazing thing. I never taught her to do that.

        Dogs are truly amazing. 

      • 9

        Wow, what an amazing creature! It’s like she taught herself to be a PTSD service dog. That’s incredible. They have such intelligence. And after everything you rescued her from and went through with her, she must have a lot of appreciation.

        Mine was a literal pound puppy— technically a rescue, but he was at a well-resourced shelter for approximately two weeks after his mother’s owner dropped the litter off, so he’s known nothing but love and care and isn’t aware that there are any other kinds of dog-lives to be had. He is perhaps a tad spoiled, but also loving, intelligent, and a friend to every human or dog he meets. 

      • 4

        Aww! Aren’t they the best. I love dogs. And your dog is so lucky to have a loving home with you.

        When Mikko our Samoyed passed, I made a card for our vet and clinic staff with a photo of Mikko and an inscription:

        “If there are no dogs in heaven, I want to go where the dogs go.” from Will Rogers.

    • 8

      What an inspirational story of you and your husband working as a team. His journey to fitness is wonderful. That reminds me of an idea for a The Preparedness video that I’ve thought of now and then. It would be about body mechanics and using simple tools (incline, pulley, etc.) to move loads safely. 

      Since the pandemic started, I have taken some online exercise classes classes. One is strength training for older people. The other is Pilates for people of any age. Both of them have been valuable. The instructor explains why we do things. For example, with squats, form is critical to help and not hurt the knees. Pilates works the abdominal muscles in ways that help the back. 

      Most people know “lift with your knees, not with your back,” but what does that actually look like? Regarding simple tools, an acquaintance talked about how he strung a rope over a branch, attached it to something heavy, and tried to lift it. I realized that I didn’t understand the concept or how to do it.

      I suppose there are liability concerns with “teaching” people how to do something more safely. However, if the topics were simple concepts, I’m guessing it would be ok. It would be like any other type of education.

      Thanks again for sharing your family’s experience.

      • 7

        Seasons4, I love your idea of doing a The Prepredness video. Go for it! It is a wonderful idea.

        Illustration via video can help so many people because it shows how to do something in real time versus a drawing or written instructions.

        There are many moving parts to preparedness oriented tasks. Videos could  eliminate confusion and bridge talking about it and showing how to do it.

        I’m not certain, but wouldn’t liability concerns be satisfied with a disclaimer of some kind? 

        Plus, you have great communication skills and I think any videos you make would be very well done and helpful.

      • 6

        Hi, Ubique. I appreciate the feedback, though I need to clarify that I am not on The Prepared staff. I am just a member of the community. I imagine the staff reads most of the posts, and I wanted to put an idea in the hopper for their consideration.  🙂  I was imagining that it could be like the water course or the knife sharpening course or any other course that they offer. By the way, I appreciate your thoughtful and interesting posts.

      • 8

        Thank you for the suggestion Seasons4. I am sure that everyone could improve on their body mechanics and many don’t know how to properly use a pulley or lever to help assist in moving things. This isn’t something that is taught in school (at least in my school) and many could benefit from this knowledge to make life easier and to avoid injury. 

        I’ll throw the idea out to the staff and see if it’s something we can cover. In the meantime, if anyone wants to start a forum post about proper lifting techniques or how to use tools to better assist us in a prepping standpoint, they are welcome to start it. 

      • 6

        Hi Seasons4, 

        I know you aren’t on staff, but you a really great member of the community. You have great ideas and excellent communications skills. Your contributions to comments are thoughtful and insightful. I always read what you have to say.

        Which is why, I thought you would be great for teaching it. I still do.

        I am glad you enjoy my posts, coming from someone like you that is a huge compliment. Thank you.

      • 1

        “That reminds me of an idea for a The Preparedness video that I’ve thought of now and then. It would be about body mechanics and using simple tools (incline, pulley, etc.) to move loads safely.”

        I would love a video like that!

        Related to that, I’ve been reading a book about posture that Alicia recommended: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back by Esther Gokhale. It’s all about how to reduce back strain and avoid injuries.

      • 2

        These two videos might be up your alley, at least for thinking about it and might be a reason to keep a hank of paracord in your gear. Also search and rescue and fire departments, I think, use a technique called cribbing, where you lift objects up and then put wood or materials underneath to hold it in place, we used 2x4s and pry bars to lift those big cement barriers up a couple of feet in the air.



      • 1

        “Most people know “lift with your knees, not with your back,” but what does that actually look like?”

        The Prepared’s “Physical Fitness for Preppers” guide (“deadlift” section) endorses this external video by Emily Skye on how to properly “lift with your knees not your back”. Ironically, this technique actually requires a lot of work from your back muscles. The important part is that it puts less strain on lumbar discs, preventing the most common type of major back injury.


      • 1

        BTW, while it’s good to study the technique in that lifting video, I very much do not recommend doing any heavy weight exercises, especially dead lifts. The risk of permanent spinal injury is very high.

        The saying should be, “lift with your mind so you don’t break your back.” If something weighs 40+ pounds, use tools to avoid putting all that strain on your back.

    • 9

      Thank you for sharing you and your husband’s story. It’s very inspiring. I definitely know that my physical fitness and health are the biggest liability in our preparedness plan. My favorite form of exercise in the past has been walking and I’ve been unable to enjoy it for over a year now due to foot pain. Went to a podiatrist recently and they said my weight was a contributing factor, but that I should rule out walking as a way to exercise. Talk about a frustrating visit. Solution = lose weight, but hey, don’t do your favorite (and most likely to happen) form of exercise. Sigh. 

      Took my boys for a short walk the other day to visit the goats down the street. Sure enough, my foot has hurt like crazy for two and my back was hurting too from how out of shape I’ve let this get me. Your husband’s story makes me think I should just return to doing the exercise that works for me and makes me happy and push through that pain. Maybe the long term loss of weight will eventually be the solution. 

      I did buy a bike last fall too, but admittedly am a wimp when it comes to the rain and cold. Spring is slowing working its way in though and I find myself with the desire to venture outside and work on this again though. 

      • 7

        Hi brekke, 

        Medical clearance is important for any diet and exercise program that we embark upon.

        When my husband lost weight and walked, he had clearance from his doctors. He knew what pain was okay to push through, but he still had to be careful of cardiac symptoms, so he knew if that happened he had to stop. He was okay because he stayed within safe limits for his training as his weight came down.

        Did your podiatrist tell you why you should rule out walking as a form of exercise? Did he/she offer any alternatives to walking as exercise for you?

        It must be incredibly frustrating not to be able to do what you prefer to do. Is there some way you can confirm what exercise options are available to you?

        Some doctors aren’t very forthcoming with alternatives, as a physiotherapist might be, for example. Maybe a referral into physiotherapy might help, also?

        Aquasize is a great way to work out gently and without putting load bearing weight on joints. If you have access to a community pool, that that might be an option. It could ease the stress on your foot, but make sure you speak to you doctor first and get clearance that it is a safe form of exercise for you.

        I did aquasize for a back injury and it was so good. It was like pain free exercise because of the buoyancy and you don’t need to know how to swim. Plus it was fun. It felt like playing in the water instead of therapy for my back.

        There are also toning exercises and chair exercises that can help condition muscles and flexibility.

        You will lost weight with calories reduced. It does go faster when you are able to exercise safely and appropriately for your health conditons. The main thing is to do it safely.

        If you have to wait until your weight or another factor is at a particular point, don’t give up. It is just part of the process for you on your road to health and you can do it.

        Please let me know how you make out and if you were able to confirm that you can safely walk or have found an alternative form of exercise.

        You can do it, brekke. Just remember you are worth it.

      • 7

        Thank you for the encouragement! I have plantar fasciitis in that foot and he said it would not heal if I walked on it too much or did activity that caused it to become inflamed. He did recommend bike riding and water exercise. We bought an above ground pool, so I’m hoping to be able to use that some, if my boys don’t drown me. Lol. 

        I have been able to lose close to 30lbs over the last 6 months, just from modified diet and we’re taking a shot at gardening this year, so that might help add some fresh produce to our diets. 

        I have a walking boot I can wear when it gets real bad, just really miss taking my kiddos for walks and hope to be able to do it without the pain someday. For now, just the short trips to the goats or the pond in the other direction and then lots of ice and ibuprofen to ward off the inflammation. 

      • 6

        My wife’s been dealing with some health issues as well. Low energy related. She has religiously done two 45 minute walks every day for years with our dog and loves doing that so much. But with her low energy issues lately, it’s getting harder and more burdensome to do. So we are going to look into getting her an electric scooter off of Craigslist for like $75 so on days when she has low energy, she can still get out and do the things she loves.

      • 5

        I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s difficulties. It’s so hard when the mind is willing, but the body is not. The scooter sounds like a great idea!

        I’ve considered getting a knee scooter for my foot (the one they have you get if you break your foot and crutches aren’t a good solution.) I guess I’m just self-conscious about it. It would allow me to get exercise without additional strain on my foot though, so I guess I need to get out of my own way on it. 

      • 3

        Robert, I am sorry to hear that your wife is dealing with health issues also.

        Is her low energy long term as part of a chronic situation? (Forgive me asking and it’s okay to not want to discuss it.) I hope that something can be done so that she will feel better soon.

        Low energy/fatigue is a very frustrating symptom. Most people who have it were previously quite active and the adjustment is a hard one.

        Sometimes people who experience it feel guilty or bad about themselves because they can’t do what they used to do. The important thing is to balance her energy that she has on a day by day basis. 

        From my time in a fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue support group, here is something that we used to give people to help them understand what it is like to live with pain, fatigue and symtpoms that relapse and remit.

        It is called “The spoon theory” and is a really good way to help people understand what it is like to live with low energy/chronic fatigue symptoms.


        Tell her to put air horns on that scooter when you find it, and a really cool bumper sticker.

      • 5

        Hi brekke,

        Congratulations on the 30 lbs lost! Good for you for trying out the gardening also. That will be some wonderful summer fun for you and your boys and a great way to teach them prepping skills.

        I understand your situation now re the plantar fasciitis and the need for the walking boot. It sounds like you have a plan for coping with it using the short trips to the goats (love the fact that you can go visit the goats! – they are such neat little animals) an also visit the pond.

        Having an interesting place to visit each way helps make the walk more enjoyable.

        The above ground pool will be a great source of fun and activity for the whole family. I’m sure the boys are over the moon and can hardly wait to play in it with you.

        brekke, your story will inspire others who read about your journey toward healthy living. Thank you for sharing this and please continue the updates so that others may also continue to be inspired.