If you move completely off-grid you will need to be able to perform a lot of physical labor, from chopping wood to planting and harvesting gardens to dealing with the day-to-day work of a farm. One thing you can start today, as you plan for your off-grid experience, is to get yourself physically fit. The three areas you need to look at are physical activity, diet, and addictions.
Physical activity simply means using energy to move your body. You participate in physical activity all the time—walking, gardening, pushing a baby stroller, climbing the stairs, playing soccer, or dancing. To improve your fitness level, your physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and last at least thirty minutes a day. In order to be considered moderate or vigorous, the activity must increase your heart rate. Such activities are considered aerobic because they increase your heart rate and breathing, thereby improving your heart and lung fitness. Here are some examples of moderate aerobic activities:
Walking briskly (about 3½ miles per hour)
Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
Some vigorous aerobic activities include:
Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
Swimming (freestyle laps)
Aerobic exercise classes
Walking very fast (4½ miles per hour)
Heavy yard work, such as chopping wood
In addition to aerobic activities you should also engage in resistance training, strength building, and weight-bearing activities. These exercises include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or using your own weight to build muscles and strength. These exercises help build and maintain bones and muscles by working them against gravity. They are also the fastest way to improve muscle strength and endurance, which allows a person to perform everyday tasks with less effort and for longer periods of time.
Resistance/strength training can also improve circulation, coordination, balance, bone, and ligament strength. These exercises include any exercise during which muscles expand and contract against an external resistance. The idea behind resistance is to increase the strength, endurance, and tone of the muscle. The external resistance can come from a number of things—dumbbells, weight machines, elastic tubing or bands, cinder blocks, cans of soup, even your own body weight. What you are looking for is something that causes your muscles to work as you expand and contract them. The best results in resistance training come with increases in repetition and weight.
You should begin to live with a diet that will match the restrictions you will have when you move off-grid. If you want to eventually use freshly ground whole-wheat flour to make your breads and baked goods, start adding a little whole wheat to the things you make now, so your body can adapt. When you are off-grid, most of your foods will have less processing, and will be much better for you than chips and frozen pizza. But if you are used to high-carb, high-fat, and high-sodium foods, you are going to want to wean your body off those and move toward a more basic diet.
One of the principles of a basic diet is to simply eat a wide variety of foods. A variety is essential because different foods make different nutritional contributions. The foods that should make up the bulk of your healthy diet are fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. These are all foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, low in fat, and free of cholesterol. The rest of your diet should come from dairy products, meat and poultry, and fish.
The following basic guidelines will help you construct a healthy diet.
Eat plenty of high-fiber foods. Concentrate on fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, and these are the good ones. These foods are nutritious, low in calories, and they fill you up. Your body needs 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day; eating these foods will help you meet that fiber goal.
Include green, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet. The color palette is actually important. Different colors represent some of the varied antioxidants and other nutrients in these foods that can help to protect you against developing certain types of cancer and other diseases. You should eat five or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
Avoid “bad” carbohydrates, like sugar. Sugar actually encourages you to eat more than you should. Your body burns carbs before it burns fat. When you eat sugar you get a “sugar rush” and you feel energized. But as the sugar is burned for fuel, your body reacts and wants more sugar for another quick rush. The body doesn’t turn to its own fat, as it should, because it’s been trained to consume the sugar. When you begin a low-carb diet it takes several weeks before your body starts to efficiently burn fat. But once you take sugar out of your diet, you will be amazed at how much energy you have.
Cut the trans fats out of your diet. These are supplied by hydrogenated vegetable oils used in most processed foods found in the supermarket, and in many fast foods.
Eat more fish and nuts, which contain healthy unsaturated fats. Substitute olive or canola oil for butter or stick margarine.
Don’t let your food get boring. Eating a wide assortment of foods helps to ensure that you will get all the necessary nutrients.
Maintain an adequate calcium intake. This is especially true for women and children. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. Get your calcium from low-fat sources, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt. If you can’t get the optimal amount from foods, take supplements.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That is, one drink a day for women, two a day for men. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Excess alcohol consumption leads to a variety of health problems. And alcoholic beverages can add many calories to your diet without supplying nutrients.
The alarm clock goes off. You reach over and shut it off and stumble to the kitchen. The automatic coffee pot is set to a timer, so your first cup is already waiting for you. You sip it tentatively, feeling the caffeine course through your body. Now you can face the day. What happens if the coffee isn’t there?
It’s 10:30 in the morning. You walk down the hall to the break room, the change jingling in your hand. You reach the machine, drop the quarters in, and push the button for the diet caffeinated soda. Now you can make it to lunch. What happens if the soda isn’t there?
If you smoke cigarettes, you’ve already been told over and over again that it’s bad for your health. But, if you smoke and you are going off-grid, you need to think about the cost of making sure you can always satisfy your nicotine cravings.
If there is anything in your life that you have to have in order to be a pleasant, functioning human being, whether it’s caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, or something else entirely, you need to get rid of the habit before you go completely off-grid.
The idea of being off-grid is being self-sufficient. If you are chained to an addiction, you’re not free. And going through withdrawal from any addiction when people are relying on you for their welfare is never a good idea. The sooner you stop using it, the better.