Here on the blog, we’ve discussed choosing a concealed carry handgun, getting training, learning tactics and techniques, and maintaining situational awareness. To this point, however, we’ve only tangentially touched on physical fitness.
I am NOT a fitness guru. I consider myself pretty fit, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The purpose of this article is NOT to set you up with your own training regimen, diet, etc. The purpose is to talk about the importance of fitness. Because something else I am NOT is a 300 pound sack of shit with a Taurus on his belt who considers himself ready to take on all comers.
Being fit can be a key component to surviving a potentially lethal encounter. Now, we all have to determine what our own threat matrix may be. For me, living where I do, the most likely things I might face would be one or more assailants assaulting me on the street, in a parking lot, etc. Robbery, general assault (motivated by who knows what?), carjacking, etc. Having a concealed handgun can be part of the equation at winning such a battle, but it is no talisman. Criminals don’t generally yell out from 30 yards across a parking lot, “Hey man, give us your wallet!” Chances are much greater that they will be MUCH closer, perhaps using a ruse or concealment to attain that proximity. Accordingly, there is a very good chance you may have to go hands-on, and strength and conditioning can play a major role in your success–or failure–in this endeavor. You’ll need the strength to physically match your opponent, and the endurance to finish a fight on the street that has no referee. Obviously, hand-to-hand skills would also play a major role, but that’s for a different article.
Also consider situations of civil unrest (see my related article here). If you have to abandon your car or mass transit due to some sort of “disruption,” can you walk or jog home? Or will you be searching for a hotel room in a city that you would rather have already left?
Your fitness level may also help you avoid the struggle altogether. If you recognize something bad happening ahead of time and can beat feet faster than the bad guys, well, a fight avoided is a fight won.
Being fit can also help your body better deal with the dump of adrenaline your body will receive at the moment it recognizes you are about to fight for your life. A strong heart, lungs that can get plenty of oxygen to your blood, and muscles that are ready for action will serve you well.
If your fitness level has translated to how your physique looks, that can be a very good thing, but perhaps not for the “usual” reasons. For example, for someone like myself who carries his concealed handgun appendix-style, having a flat belly and chest muscles that stick out further than my waist make concealing the gun MUCH easier. Also, if you look fit, bad guys may choose to target someone else who looks less capable of handling him or herself.
Finally, being fit can help you recover more quickly from any injuries you might incur in a fight for your life. Keep in mind, such a “fight” doesn’t have to have been the result of criminal behavior. Car accidents, athletic injuries, etc., can all leave you injured and “fighting.” There’s no feeling like waking up in the recovery room in a hospital and having a cute nurse check your vitals and ask you, “Are you an athlete or something?” I can cross that one off the bucket list!
My Personal Journey
Around the same time that I realized that owning a handgun, but not being trained in its use, would not solve potential “problems” I might one day face, I also came to realize that my fitness level was not where it needed to be. Indeed, being smaller than your average guy out there, it is probably of even greater importance for me to stay fit. Of course, we all have our own definitions of what being fit means. I had spent a lot of time running and mountain biking, but not much on improving my strength. I’d play around with some body weight exercises and even throw some weights around from time to time, but could never stick to a plan.
To this day, I don’t spend a lot of time researching workouts and diets and all of that type of stuff. I’ve come to realize that if I eat foods that are better for me and less of it, and exercise more, that I will reap the benefits. Most of what I do today is body-weight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups/crunches, burpees, planks, etc. I try to do such strength training three times per week (quick note: having little kids is great, because when they want to go to the playground, I’ll often exercise right on the jungle-gym equipment!), and then 1-2 “cardio” days. I’ve been running less lately with the onset of plantar fasciitis in one of my feet, but I still get some in, along with biking or sometimes just walking. I have even been considering adding yoga to the list of things to work on in order to improve flexibility and core strength. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last year. I know I would have lost even more, but I have replaced a lot of flab with muscle.
Much like learning to fight or shoot, fitness is a never-ending journey. As with so many other things, the key is to set some over-arching goals, and then set some short-term objectives that can help you reach those goals. Keeping track of everything by writing things down helps me a lot. When I started getting more gung-ho, I had trouble doing 20 pushups in a row. Today, I do 4 sets of 50. That’s just one example.
If you find yourself catching the “fitness bug,” look at the fitness regimens of people who do this stuff for a living. For example, Pat McNamara occasionally offers a combat strength training class along with this short book. Mike Pannone and Jeff Gonzales have also written blog posts and articles about strength and conditioning that, with a little time on your favorite search engine, should reveal themselves.
Again, if you feel that having a pistol on your belt can make up for your lack of fitness, I believe you are sorely mistaken. You may be a fantastic shot on the range, but “on the street,” you will not have the benefit of standing still and shooting at still targets. Instead, the situation will be much more dynamic, and being fit can be every bit as important a tool as something you bought. Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.
****As noted, I don’t consider myself a subject matter expert on fitness, so we would welcome any fitness gurus out there to chime in with some comments. What’s your regimen?****