Fitness: The Mindset Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is of extreme importance for all people.  As is the agenda of this blog we look at the world of self-defense and personal protection.  From that perspective exercise is an integral component to your ability to fight and defend yourself.  This, of course, is just one of the many life benefits to exercise, but that is the specific topic of this domain.  I am constantly, and I mean constantly, dismayed to see the amount of “gun guys” who are morbidly obese.  Now, obviously there are gun guys who are just shooting hobbyists that don’t put too much time into thinking about or preparing for self-defense.  But those who shoot specifically for that reason and take training for that reason, yet are severely overweight, have their priorities all wrong.  That simple.  You are far, far, far more likely to die a victim of heart or metabolic disease than you are to die a victim of criminal activity.  You are simply prioritizing the wrong fight if you are shooting all the time yet you get winded walking to paste your targets.

I am not a fitness nut and my approach to exercise is not that extreme.  My idea of a diet is to just try and cut down on my caloric intake so that I don’t gain weight.  I am always trying to lose weight too although I maintain more than I would like.  I am not obsessive about what kind of food I eat.  In terms of exercise, I lift weights.  I also do cardio but nothing extreme.  Lifting heavy things is where it is at, I have always believed that, and modern studies seem to be bearing that out.  Cardio is important as well, but percentage wise most men should be lifting more if they are interested in functional strength and overall fitness.  Pushing yourself in either lifting or hard cardio, however, is beneficial in terms of what I want to discuss here: the mindset benefits of exercise.

Pushing to and past discomfort while exercising has two benefits: you get stronger and more conditioned, but you also get mentally tough.  Pushing yourself beyond the lactic burn of lifting heavy weights for reps, or pushing past the exhaustion of a run, teaches a form of discipline that nothing else quite does.  This is one of the reasons that the military takes fitness so seriously.  The more elite the soldier the more fit he usually is.  Not only is a fit person a more effective fighter, harder to kill, but they are more used to powering through discomfort.

Have you ever been on a long hike with a person who exercises regularly and with one who does not exercise at all?  Even if the person who does exercise is not in ideal shape, perhaps a few pounds overweight, that person will be charging ahead while the non-exerciser, even if cosmetically skinny, complains and falls behind.  Why?  Because they don’t have the conditioning, obviously, but there is more to it: they are not used to pushing themselves beyond discomfort.  A person who exercises hard can push beyond discomfort dramatically harder and further than an individual who does not work out.  This dual benefit of exercise makes it yet that much more important for anyone who pursues self-defense and self-sufficiency.

I have been on hiking trails on mild terrain and two miles in a person who may be thin but does not exercise is winded, taking breaks, and proclaiming “I am going to die!”  This is because the physical ability is lacking, but perhaps more importantly, this individual is not used to dealing with any form of physical challenge or discomfort.  This being the case, if all else is equal, ask yourself, who can fight better?  Who can take a punch better?  Who can perform better with a heart rate of 180 bpm while in life-or-death struggle?  Who can last if in an entanglement with an enemy?  Who can drag another from a burning car?  Who can run to get clear of danger while carrying a friend?  Who would you rather have backing you up in an emergency, the weight lifter or the sedentary desk bound modern man or woman?

The person who trains cardio is used to being winded.  The person who lifts weights is used to feeling lactic burn in the legs.  The person who trains is in their element when out of breath and sweating.  The person who exercises will have the fitness level to finish a hike, finish a run, finish a swim, finish a bike ride, or finish a fight, because they are used to powering through and finishing a workout.  If you don’t exercise but you shoot every weekend and own a safe full of guns it is time to fix your priorities.  Certainly shoot, but you need to start lifting heavy things.

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