Sunday, November 20, 2011

Speak your piece!

Speak your piece.

In the past couple of days, I came across two pieces of writing that sounded similar chords, and the connections between them helped me to solidify an idea that has been percolating for a while.

This idea is, when discussing the disempowerment of the female voice, usually the viewpoint taken is that women are excluded due to the social conditioning or physical characteristics that combine or interact to take away that voice. Thus, the voice must be “given” to them, whether by a system that forces male voices to be quiet, or by justifying those softer voices through an essentialist perspective that views women as naturally inclusive creatures, who won’t raise their voices. Many times, persons with this viewpoint are advocating for some sort of power-sharing structure that will give – again I stress the word “give” – them their chance to be heard.

The two pieces I refer to are the Indigo Girls’ “Pendulum Swinger” ("Eyes show the hell you're gonna give them/When they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman...) and a piece on the communications systems at the Occupy Protests, originally posted by saigh.

Now, I’m not here to argue the basic points of these pieces. I personally think that the song is an excellent one with great lyrics and very timely, and the Occupy Patriarchy piece points out something that really should be considered, especially by a movement that claims to speak for the “99%”.

However, as a female who has been described as “loud,” “pushy,” “aggressive,” and “violent,” sometimes by men, sometimes by women, I am here to state my argument that waiting around for someone to GIVE you a voice is, in the words of Captain Mal “A long wait for a train don’t come.”

If you want to be heard, whether you are man, woman, child, transgender, YOU MUST SPEAK UP. YOU must take that mic and if someone tries to yank it away, you get in their face and you don’t back down.

Do you think a woman cannot be as loud as a man? Talk to my sister-in-law Katie M., a trained classical singer, whose voice can fill a cathedral unassisted by modern technology. Talk to my friend Liz S., whose confinement to a wheelchair does not impede her witty online presence. Talk to my fellow women in the military, who know that if you want to be heard, you have to have what is known as “command presence.”

You want to lead? You want to make a contribution? Nobody is going to GIVE you that chance – you must take it. Does that scare you? Okay fair enough. Find that loud, pushy, aggressive, violent woman and make her your friend. I’ll clear the floor for you. I don’t even have to agree with what you’re about to say, I’ll make sure you get the chance to say it.

Does speaking up in public make you feel uncomfortable? Surprise, this is not a gender-specific feeling of discomfort. Some people of both genders seem to view girly parts as automatic signifiers that you are going to be a naturally soft-spoken, community minded, social being who is also a team player. I believe this perspective is known as essentialism, by which a certain characteristic confers intrinsic properties. It annoys me when this perspective is held by a man, but it DRIVES ME BONKERS when it is held by a woman. Sorry, ladies and gents, my uterus doesn’t determine how I interact in conversation. If you think I’m going to shut up and let a conversation roll over me, you obviously never grew up as the oldest of six children where dinner table conversation was a combat sport.

Yes. I agree that gender relations have a long way to go, and we would get there faster if some loudmouths (such as, sometimes, myself) would shut up and let someone else have a turn talking.

But I also believe, with all my heart, that attitudes promoting female confidence, forwardness, volume and, of course, high levels of physical fitness which allows one to not grow weary when standing in the wings, are more productive than telling someone to just “give” someone a chance.


Monday, July 4, 2011

SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad

ALWAYS check with a medical professional before starting a new fitness program or making major changes to an existing one, especially if you have any risk factors for heart disease, have joint pain or have been very sedentary for a period of time.
See also:
SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

When people think of fitness they tend to think of it as terms of just how much they work out. Or don’t work out, as the case may be. Many people who spend a half hour to an hour a day exercising hard in the gym become frustrated that this isn’t enough to meet their goals. Others, likewise, figure that it takes “hours and hours” in the gym, time they don't have, and don’t even bother, perhaps fed by stories, like of Linda Hamilton’s preparation for Terminator 2 or of what athletes they might admire do. When their short workouts, or those of people they know if they don’t work out themselves, do not give them those same results they put it off to not having the immense free time “needed” to work out, often coming up with overblown ideas of how much free time others must have. Like, those who seem to think being drugged up in a mental institution would make it easier to stay in fighting form.

The fact is, that even if you have reasonable goals of being stronger and healthier (as opposed to looking like an ideal person), an hour in the gym is not going to counteract spending the rest of your waking hours sedentary. We’re not just talking about muscle gain or weight loss, but about the actual health benefits as well. We are an animal that evolved to move a lot, yet we are an increasingly sedentary society. Many of us are virtually tied to desks for livelihood, then spending much of our free time in front of either TV or computer screens. Often it’s all many have the energy for because we are just as under slept as we are sedentary. We do not get true rest when sitting, often stressed out, and working or even “relaxing” after work…real rest is an important, and often neglected, element as well.

I like to think of this on terms of a triad, as I like to think in threes generally anyway. But it does come down to the fact that there are three activity phases needed for good fitness levels and health. That would be physical activity, exercise and rest.

Physical Activity
It’s actually fairly common to confuse “physical activity” and “exercise” but they are not the same thing; exercise is a form of physical activity, but not all physical activity is, or at least should be, exercise. And what they mean for different people can be somewhat different as well, for some of what the average person considers exercise might be an athlete or warrior’s physical activity. This is one of the reasons why so many believe that fitness requires hours of working out, when really, it just requires more movement through out the day rather than just in the gym; athletes physical activity would include their training, it’s what they do. In our sedentary world, we often forget that our ancestors moved almost constantly during their waking hours, primarily in the quest for food...not just hundreds of thousands of years ago but just a few decades ago and in some parts of the world, still today. In the Western world now the most we might get is from roaming the grocery story, often in the wrong sections, and plopping something in a microwave for a minute.

“Physical activity” is defined by the American College of Sports Medicine as “bodily movement that is produced by contraction of skeletal muscle and that substantially increases energy expenditure.” [i] These are the things we should be doing on an every day basis; regular activity, such as walking throughout the day, doing chores at home or on the farm (traditionally and for some of us again), walking your dog, playing with your children, gardening, social dancing. It would have meant hunting and gathering food, or planting, tending and harvesting food, or herding food. While our society might have evolved to be more sedentary, our bodies have not. And while some might have the notion, as many a Star Trek episode seemed to suggest, that we’ll evolve away from needing our bodies, it’s not a future that looks good to me and I doubt to anyone who would be reading this.

Depending on our jobs, it can be difficult to find ways to increase physical activity during our work hours; today many jobs are inactive and some are seemingly designed to prevent workers from adding any activity. There are the little bits that are commonly suggested, of course, remembering to park further away if you must drive to work, walking or biking to work instead of driving if you can, taking stairs instead of the elevator, getting up from your desk and just doing something any chance you get, going for walks on breaks.

Those who have some control over their work environment can do other things; one that is becoming increasingly popular is standing desks or work stations. These are set higher up so that you stand and move around rather than sit at them. For those with a lot of control and cash, there apparently are even treadmill desks. In places where the desk can’t be changed perhaps the chair can be replaced with a balance or stability ball. This may be sitting, technically, but it’s a far more active sitting, and keeps the core muscles which most of us let slop about with our poor sitting posture working and strong. For those who can change their chair but a ball rolling about the office might be a problem, there are even balance ball chairs, which might not be quite as effective as they don’t roll the same way, but are still better than conventional chairs without being overly noticeable. If you can't change the chair, then there are “cushions” which work similarly that you can put on your chair and even in you car if you drive. These might not be optimum, but every little bit is something.

Outside of work look for physically active forms of recreation. Go for walks, hike, take a martial arts class. Play, I mean really play as in run and laugh and shriek, with your kids. Gardening, cleaning house, washing the car, do it all with determined activity. Don’t forget to walk your First Line of Defense if it’s a dog and smaller look-out animals will also be mentally stimulated if you take them out, even if it’s best to carry them. See how much movement you can get into the day. At least get up every few minutes from the computer or TV.

And, yes, some of those things, hiking, walking, martial arts, biking, sound like exercise. They may be for the average person, but as SCCS members, we’re trying to optimize our fitness levels, aren’t we? While a martial arts class might be seen as a form of exercise for a sedentary average person replacing other forms, for us it should be seen as part of our physical activity. This is why the “hours and hours in the gym” idea has become so ingrained in people’s minds, because for athletes some of their training really is more defined as physical activity than exercise, so some of their activity might take place in a gym. Many women might take a cardio-kickboxing class to exercise, but a competitive kickboxer likely runs and lifts weights to be able to stay strong in the ring, her fight training is more of a physical activity of her vocation. We of the SCCS need to be less "Average Jane" and more the athlete or warrior who fills our waking time with as much movement as possible every day.

Like at work, especially if you are sedentary at work and then might have limited time for other activity, you can “multi-task” what sitting you do at home. Again, for computer and TV time, you can stand or sit on a balance ball; you have control of your home desk, right? But, also, “multi-task” in more relaxed ways; what time you spend sprawled on the couch should be used to snuggle your significant other, kids and/or pets something to give yourself some restful comfort. That means not just snuggling your laptop. Or a bag, box or carton of fake-food. Or that report you didn’t finish, do that at your at home standing desk. When you sit to rest, really REST, don’t sit and stress instead.


This is what you’re mostly reading this series for, right? And I will be covering how to build an exercise program in future articles so I’ll stick to bare basics here. The ACSM defines exercise as “planned, structured and repetitive bodily movement done to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.”[ii] This is your workouts, the components of which are aerobic (or cardiovascular), strength and flexibility all of which must be included. Yes, three again, I can’t help myself…but then there’s no getting away from this triad, these are all required for healthy fitness.

Most of us do find that we are more naturally suited to one or two of these while one or two come to us harder; it’s rare to be naturally really flexible, really strong and have really amazing endurance…and those who do tend to end up competitive athletes. Typically someone very strong is not likely to be real flexible or have cardiovascular stamina and someone very flexible might not be real strong and so forth. And most people love to work their strengths, to do those things that their body naturally is adept to, often neglecting, giving up on really, forms of exercise that might come harder. This even goes so far for some that they actually attack the other components as pointless, wasteful and deny the science behind them; sadly, this includes a growing number of “fitness experts.”

While it can be lovely to revel in what we do best, which ever that is, we can also enjoy the challenge of developing what comes hardest. Striving to find a balance of all three facets is vital and all three feed into the others. Without one of these physical traits being brought to our own personal optimum, the others will fail too.

I know most of you are primarily interested in strength training, so no sales pitch here on that, but without also balancing that with stretching for flexibility the body can become tight and lack range of motion. Without a strong cardiovascular system, well, we can just plain stop if it is weak or damaged enough; and heavy weight lifting can put a strain on the heart with no benefit to it, so we must exercise it too.

The frequency for each of these forms of exercise is different. Stretching can and should, especially if you are not naturally limber, be done at least after cardio or strength training and anytime you wish after warming up the muscles with activity as “cold” muscles can tear more easily It should always be done in a slow, static way with not bouncing movement.

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise can be done from 3 to 5 days a week, and can be done on consecutive days. Doing more per week has not been found to be more beneficial but can increase your chances of injury especially if you do the same activity each time. Remember, this doesn’t include daily physical activities. For general fitness and health the best cardio exercise is the one(s) you will do; for SCCS it is highly recommended that you also consider the survival focused ones, such as running and hiking (preferably with a pack of the weight and style of your go-bag…if not your go-bag itself). While any aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart and lungs, you only get good at the ones you actually do.

Strength training, that which most of you love the most, we might do the least of, depending on how many body parts we work in a session, how intense we are lifting and our bodies’ individual needs. A given body part must be rested (that is from actual strength training, that doesn’t mean skip stretching, cardio or physical activity) for at least 48 hours. For those who have trouble gaining muscle, resting longer, combined with heavy workouts, is far more likely to bring results than lifting more often as counter-intuitive as that may seem. As the primary form of strength training, the SCCS recommends “traditional” weight lifting, combining single joint and multiple joint exercises utilizing free-weights and body weight.

Of course, there are exercises that combine two or more of these fitness components and these can be added in to ones regime. Most Yoga forms, for example, combine stretching and strength training, although the strength aspects can be hard to develop if you’re not already strong and lifting can help you get there. Some involve cardiovascular periods as well. Pilates similarly can combine some stretching with strengthening. Kettlebell work is often very aerobic, some training programs with them are actually more-so than they are strength training (and be careful with these as some create unsafe momentum, be aware of your posture and form). And there is what I refer to as “Sarah’s Cell Circuits” which I use during active rest phases[iii] and for a change at any time. But all forms of “dual” methods should be in combination with focusing on each component. We’ll discuss this more in future segments.

But with the three components, people again start to think “hours and hours in the gym” and few of us have that. Not having the time is the number one excuse people use, but again, it doesn’t have to take that much time. First, unless you are choosing to do a mixed training, there is no reason you have to do both cardio and strength training in one session. For weight training depending on how intense you work out, it could be just half an hour. Depending on how you split your workout and how long your body needs to rest (which does vary as noted above, but is always at least two days for a given body part), this might just be two or three days a week…it might be more but chances are if you’re splitting it that much your sessions are short. A twenty minute to half hour run, especially if you are otherwise physically active, is enough for cardiovascular health, if you have no more time than that (remember to give yourself some time to stretch and cool down). On days you have less time, it’s okay to work out a bit less than on days you have more. It really is. In fact, as you progress, you’ll find that every change you make helps confuse the body and that is important, especially in muscle building but it can also help in cardiovascular work as well.


Okay, now you’re thinking “rest isn’t activity; it’s the opposite of activity.” This is, in fact, probably where a lot of us get in trouble with it. There is so much to do, especially now that we’ve added in all this exercise and physical activity, that rest is just a waste of time. But it isn’t, it’s a key component of our activity. Without enough rest, including enough sleep, our bodies can not perform adequately nor recover properly. And rest must mean rest, as I noted above just because you’re sedentary doesn’t mean you’re resting; being stressed in a seat or prone position is not rest.

Muscle builds during the rest periods, not during exercise. It’s the recovery. So think of sleep and relaxation as an actual part of your training, a time where the activity takes place inside you rather than outside.

When it comes to sleep, this could be one of those things where I could tell you to do what I say and not what I do. Or I could lie and tell you I’ve got a great relationship with sleep. Or admit that I don’t but make excuses about my night time work schedule just making it too hard. But instead I’m going to be honest that I do not and I’m going to take an attitude of “we’re in this together, what can we do about it?” I’m totally a work in progress and recently I have learned a few things about sleep that I think are helpful and that I’m TRYING to use to fix my relationship with it.

First I want to dissuade anyone who has the idea that just because you habitually sleep very few hours and manage to drag yourself through everyday like that, with the help of caffeine and sugar most likely, that you are one of those Short Sleepers. You’re not. Okay, a short sleeper might have bothered to read this for entertainment, what with all the time they have on their hands (although I suspect another motive, as you’ll see), but they no more need suggestions on physical activity or exercise as, well, they not only have the time to do all that but they have a lot of energy. Constantly, and all the time.

I suspect, myself, that there are no such people, that all these so-called Short Sleepers are actually Terminators whose mission is to demoralize the entire human population to the point where we accept the machines. So I also know they’re reading this and I’ve put a target on myself, but it’s my duty to warn you all to beware of them. (but in case I’m wrong, just avoid them…well, they’re annoying so you probably do that anyway…don’t do anything more drastic)

Conventional recommendations regarding sleep for we who are human as been “an average of 8 hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep.” It’s that uninterrupted part that is usually the problem. So, pretty much all of us wake up in the wee hours of the morning and we know it’s The Insomnia! We will not get enough sleep! We will not be able to do what we need to do during the day! We must now worry over everything that we have to do during the day! OMG! Also we must worry about everything we did yesterday that we messed up because we have The Insomnia! What about that presentation next week! We’ll have The Insomnia and screw it to hell! We must get The Insomnia fixed!

Again, the conventional advice is to not lie in bed tossing and turning and worrying, but to get up and go to another room and do something. This "wisdom" says that you will only toss and turn and worry with The Insomnia if you stay in bed. Well, the problem is, light makes you more awake. Getting up makes you more awake, for that matter. And the tossing and turning might be that because that’s what we’re told is expected, because we’re told that this waking up is The Insomnia. I remember being told as a child when I’d wake up how I would suffer at school for not sleeping through the night. So I’d lie awake listening to the hours tick by (clocks that chime the hours are not your friend). I started this worrying about The Insomnia early. I think many have.

But it may be that while there is real insomnia, and I do not mean to make light of those with a real problem with it (but obviously, that’s outside of my scope of abilities), this may not be it. Sleep studies have shown that it’s normal for people to wake up after a period of sleep and stay awake for a period of time. And that for people who don’t fret about it, it’s not a problem. They drift along in lovely day dreams, meditate, happily plan out a worry-free day, have sex, snuggle, then they drift back to sleep. And awake far more rested than those of us who may simply be convinced that interrupted sleep is The Insomnia!

So what do we do? Well, stop worrying! It’s that simple. Um, yeah…not so much, right? But it’s the goal. We need that rest, we need to learn to accept the waking and not make it worse by getting up, we need to not rely on drugs that make keep us unconscious but don’t usually make us feel rested (note that most sleep aids warn about morning tiredness! So what is the point?). But, obviously, “just get over it” doesn’t really work.

I’m on a mission with this. To make my house darker before I intend to go to sleep and accepting that I won’t fall asleep for awhile and that that’s okay. Then when I wake up, to just accept it and stay there and work on reprogramming my brain. I try to think about good things as my mind willfully tries to make me think of bad things. This will take effort and time. I might listen to relaxing music (such as these Gaelic lullabies –please excuse the plug for a talented friend here) and am considering some meditation tapes. Sometimes, yeah, I resort to watching something a bit boring, but not so boring it doesn’t keep my somewhat distracted, to watch but in bed, despite “conventional wisdom.”

Yes, when any Shit Hits the Fan and we're in crisis, we might have to go long periods without sleep. However, practicing not sleeping does not make you better at not sleeping. It just can't, the body doesn't work that way. It'll just mean that you're judgment is always off, that your body is not working at it's best and therefore that you will not manage in a crisis as you really need to. So forget “you can rest when you're dead,” that thinking may just make you, or someone you love, dead all the sooner if you maintain it as a constant philosophy. Instead, sleep when there is no crisis, doing what you need to do to do it well, so that your body and mind are ready for when you absolutely must go without. And even during a crisis, get what rest you can when you can to keep yourself able to go for the long haul.

A Note on the Fuel

I mostly do not discuss food in the SCCS as I leave that too the Foodies such as Thistle to do. As a personal trainer, I also do not offer my clients “diets.” “Diet” in our society no longer seems to mean a general term for what foods we eat, but rather a short-term method of eating designed specifically to alter our bodies, most often for weight loss. And I do not believe in them. At all. Instead, I feel we should fix our relationships with food and develop a consistently healthy food lifestyle.

Just as we can't have a healthy relationship with a fake person, we can't have one with fake food either. So even if for some reason you prefer a bunker full of MREs over Thistle's real food storage suggestions, I highly recommend you not eat fake food now. After all, like not sleeping, eating fake food is not something you'll need, or want to practice. It'll just make you sick of it faster. We need real, nutrient packed, vital food.

If you have to shop the grocery store, shop the perimeters, but try the farmer's market or join a Community Supported Agricultural group (CSA) as a first choice. Local produce, grown in good soil, local grass-fed, humanely raised animals may sound pricey and elitist, but it’s often cheaper than the average junk food grocery bill if you. Don’t forget that getting to know your farmers, is an important survival tactic too, farmers are seriously good people to get to know for when the SHTF. If you are in a city, you may be surprised to find how many people are growing food in urban areas and farmer’s markets are growing again in cities.

Because most of us at The Sarah Connor Charm School are focused on strength, on building muscle, it may not be a reduction of calories you are considering but increasing. And many of us do find that we need more fuel as we workout harder. Many bodybuilders and other strength athletes use chemical laden protein drinks or bars to fuel their workouts, using fake food to give more calories as opposed to reducing them. Again, fake food is fake, don’t use them! Instead, if you missed it, Thistle has posted a flexible smoothie recipe that you can modify to your own tastes.

Move more. Sleep. Eat real food. Stay frosty!

[i] American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2009
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Active rest will be discussed in the weight lifting section, for those unfamiliar with the term, it is a “break” taken from one’s weight routine, to avoid plateaus and give muscles a bit of confusion. Often, especially among bodybuilders, this period is totally free of lifting but not of cardio and is typically very short. Alternatively, a far less intensive lifting, such as this circuit, Pilates, kettlebell or Yoga might be continued even though they involve strength training as they may be less intensive and different from the usual routine.

Saigh is a co-founder of the SCCS and is head of the physical fitness department. She is also an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Power Smoothie

Since Saigh has been posting some stuff about fitness programs(with more great stuff to come!), I figured it would be nice to include some nourishing and boosting recipes to go along with the workouts. I know when I started getting into heavier workouts and doing a lot of weight lifting, my body began to require more foods, and more of certain food groups – mainly fat and protein.

I make this smoothie usually an hour or so before my workout, or sometimes after my workout, depending on when I am feeling most depleted or in need of a boost. This is a very versatile recipe, and intended that way.

In the food blogging world, I am known as The Leftover Queen, and my philosophy is that making food for yourself should not be difficult. One way to make it simple is to use what you have on hand.

Many times in the past I would post a specific recipe, and then get comments like: “can I substitute Y ingredient for X ingredient?” or “I wish I could make that, but I don’t consume X ingredient” or “I wish I could make this but I don’t know where to get X ingredient” or “I don’t like X ingredient”. You get the gist…

This is your smoothie recipe – easy to tailor to your tastes and needs. I give some suggestions, but feel free to improvise. Like chocolate? Add a TBS or two of fair trade cocoa powder (no sugar added). Don’t do sugar? Try stevia, or fruit sweetened smoothies – dried dates are great for this. Avoiding caffeine? Skip that. Want to make it a greenie? Add a handful of spinach. The possibilities are endless!

INGREDIENTS: per smoothie (@ 16 oz)

1 cup liquid – Kefir, Raw Milk, Coconut Milk are good choices

1 banana – I also like using instead 1 avocado or ¼ cup of pumpkin puree

3 TBS almond butter – you can use any other nut butter

1 TBS virgin coconut oil – macadamia nut oil or hazelnut oil would also be tasty

Handful of soaked nuts – I usually use almonds – click here to understand about the benefits of soaking nuts

1 TBS 100% pure maple syrup (optional)

Dash of cinnamon (optional)

1 shot of espresso or ¼ cup of coffee (optional)



Place all the liquids in your blender first. Then add the fruit, butters, oils and nuts and then the cinnamon. Process on medium speed until well mixed, then start adding ice, a handful at a time, gradually, until the smoothie is at your desired consistency. I usually turn up the speed to high during the ice process. Pour and enjoy!

This recipe has been kitty approved.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!

*ALWAYS check with a medical professional before starting a new fitness program or making major changes to an existing one, especially if you have any risk factors for heart disease. *

Many of our website hits are from people looking for how to get Sarah Connor’s muscle, so I have decided that a series of fitness pieces would be welcome here. For the record, I am a personal fitness trainer, but do keep in mind that the following is never a substitute for consulting with a real-life trainer, which is never a bad idea even if it’s for short term evaluation and program updating. As noted above, it is also your responsibility to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise program, if you are currently un- or de-conditioned especially.

So to the title…..the truth is that no, I’m not going to be able to offer you some super-secret-no-sweat-no-work short-cut to looking just like Sarah. I can’t even offer you a super-hard-lots-of-sweat workout to look like her. It’s not going to happen for a number of reasons. The first is that you’re not Linda Hamilton (unless you are, then I would swoon if I found out you were reading this), nor her identical twin, Leslie, nor a clone of either. The only way to look just like that is to have identical genes. Or be a T1000, I suppose.

All those sites that promise you’ll look like *CELEBRITYX* with their offered work out are scamming you, for that simple reason. We all look different, we all muscle up different, none of us in the SCCS look just like Sarah; in fact, I’d say we represent a very wide variety from very muscular, possibly bigger than her, to very skinny but with definition to quite plump but with lots of muscle to something sort of in betweenish. What you need to look for is your own optimum strength and conditioning, while being inspired by what Sarah did in going from Waitress to Warrior. But it will look different. No routine is going to magically change your genetic code. Sorry.

Just two examples of SCCS members, Thistle and Saigh, who were
inspired by but do not look like "Sarah Connor" but instead themselves, just
Likewise, this means that I can’t give you a “one program fits all” program. Just like you will look different from anyone else, your body will respond differently not only from others but from itself as time goes on. There are basics that will create the strength, endurance and flexibility that you should be striving for, but your exact program is going to be different from that of others and be ever changing, to create muscle confusion. The ever changing part is often the most difficult and I’m likely to dedicate an article just on that.

And it does take work, it really does. There are no short cuts. That being said, it actually doesn’t take the “hours and hours every day” in the gym that some out there claim, for long term fitness (Hamilton did work longer hours, but she had a short term goal…she also could get away with it because she has good muscle genetics, for most of us her schedule would likely have led to overtraining and injury, for some it would work but lead to burn out). That is, of course, if you are otherwise physically active, this will be our discussion in the next segment. It also takes progression and, eventually, muscle confusion (that is, the exercises need to change), the “just do these easy exercise” part in those “look like *CELEBRITYX*” offers may well be a good start, but in a short time, you’ll need to make some changes. If you’re already working out, these workouts may well be giving you less than you’re doing now and might even qualify as “active rest.”[i]

So if you’re looking for an easy fix, give it up one way or the other, that is, either decide now if you are willing to work and prove your SCCS material or move on to someone who tells you want you want to hear even if it won’t actually help you. If your mind is going immediately to all the excuses for why you can’t do it “too busy, too poor, too whatever” then go here to be reminded what conditions Sarah Connor had to endure to remain fighting fit. *Of course, if you have actual health issues that counter indicate strenuous exercise that’s a reason not an excuse. Remember you are responsible to making sure you are healthy enough to start a fitness plan, and to get the help you need to develop a safe program if you have health issues.*

What I can do, over the next several weeks, is give you some tools and some path pointers to develop the programs you need to develop serious and functional strength and health.

[i] “Active rest” periods are used by many athletes, including bodybuilders, to give their bodies time to heal from heavy training, allowing for a bit of a “reset.” The “active” part is that you don’t stop exercising and especially don't stop being physically active, but rather stop the sports related part. For bodybuilders, most will continue cardio work, although perhaps a bit lighter (most alter the amount of cardio work they do by what their body fat needs are at the time, usually upping it before competitions to burn fat, as well), but not lift during this period. For the rest of us, we might switch the sort of lifting we do, for instance someone doing free-weight training with a focus on single joint action might "take a break" by doing powerlifting styled full-body training or kettlebell or Pilates....

See also:
SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
 SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

Saigh is a co-founder of the SCCS and is head of the physical fitness department. She is also an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Surviving the Future

By Aivlys_Nagrom

Some say men are made for hard labor and women for nurturing. That may be seen as a basic fact of life to some, but what isn't so basic is what those things mean, especially in this day and age.

What isn’t so basic is what those things mean. Sometimes nurturing means protecting, and sometimes protecting means violence. For some women, the instinct to fight only comes up when their children are threatened. For others, it comes up whenever someone looks at them the wrong way. And then there are those who never tap into that vein at all, who simply fall off the cliff of becoming victims.

I’ve had apocalyptic dreams since I was a child. And I’ve always aware of and concerned by the fact that modern society has led us further and further away from the natural world. Basic facets of how we survived in the past have fallen away. Farming, blacksmithing, animal husbandry, hawking, hunting, tracking ... these were all fairly common skills for men until the recent past. Women knew canning, soapmaking, herblore, sewing, weaving, took raw goods and made them into meals, clothes, medicine. Now we unwrap packages, press a few buttons, pour a few sauces or spices over something, and men grill store-bought meat on store-bought grills. In a way, every modern convenience we snap up widens the disconnect between us and the planet we walk on.

Warnings and speculation about the End are becoming pretty commonplace, even as worst case scenarios unfold before us on the nightly news. At this time, Japan is in a state of crisis following the devastation of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear explosion. Natural disasters, climate change, nuclear threat, plagues, battles for resources ... these things no longer inhabit the realm of paranoia or imagination. They’re in the headlines. They are monsters in front of us, monsters of our own creation, and they’re getting closer every day. Personally I don’t think we’re going to get hit by one single event. I don’t think a nuclear World War 3 will wipe out most of humanity within a few days, or that life as we know it will come to a screeching halt on 12/21/12. Instead, I think we’re facing a slow, horrible descent into devastating wars for dwindling resources, third-world living conditions, and possibly extinction. Whether it turns out to that the future holds epidemics, water wars, food shortages, a classic Armageddon meteor, or all of the above, most of us will be pretty helpless without our modern conveniences. What do you do to prepare? How do you get ready? Should you stock up on rice and peanut butter? That might sound like a good idea after a few hours of CNN, but really? You’re better off filling your head than your pantry. Even canned goods don’t last that long.

My dad is something of an outdoorsman, and he taught me some basics. Nothing too intense, but enough to where I probably would have had a decent shot at surviving a stint in the wilderness up north at a pretty young age. By the time I was five I knew what to do if I was stuck in a blizzard (snow fort) lost in the woods (follow stream to river or use the sun to guide me) or kidnapped (run, even if it means jumping out the window of a moving car). I knew how to dig cat-o-nine tail roots and make pine needle tea. Of course, now that I live in Florida, most of this knowledge probably isn’t going to be very helpful, but I’ve always sort of picked up little tidbits and information. And this is what I’ve learned; knowledge is power.

You can’t be ready for everything. Learning native plants isn’t going to be a huge help if Yellowstone blows and buries your hometown in ash, knowing karate isn’t going to save you if a nuclear bomb falls on your head, and having a larder full of canned food is going to be useless if a bomb, flood or earthquake obliterates your home. But it just may happen that in some dark future day, you might find yourself homeless and broke. There may come a day that yourself are your only resource, or that someone else looks at you and sees you as a resource or a trophy. You can either do nothing now, and set yourself up to be very vulnerable, or you can build yourself a safety net .... in your own body and brain. You might be married to a Marine or a wildlife expert, but if you’re relying solely on him, that reliance could be your downfall if something happens to him. If I had the means, I’d have a castle with huge walls protecting an orchard, a stocked fishpond, cattle, horses, and a garden. I’d have solar panels, cisterns and an herb garden, and be within walking distance of the sea. This would all also be protected by wolves and owls, and my friends and I could spend the years after the apocalypse learning how to brew really good beer. In reality, I have about a backpack’s worth of camping gear, a few really good books, a head full of trivia, and the ability to keep my calm in crazy situations. The last is by far the most important.

Here are a few tips for women.

BUY SEEDS. Buy lots of seeds. Save your seeds carefully. Seeds are cheap and light.

LEARN HOW TO GARDEN AND COMPOST. This isn’t just a worst-case scenario survival thing. Look at the list of ingredients on any processed food item and ask yourself if you really want to eat things you can’t pronounce, much less identify.

LEARN HOW TO DRY FISH AND MEAT Buy a small smoker.

BECOME FAMILIAR WITH THE RAILROAD TRACKS IN YOUR AREA. Know where they go. In the event of a huge disaster, everyone’s going to try for the road. If you really need to move, a railroad track might be a better bet, especially once you’re a bit out of the city.

KNOW THE WATER ROUTES IN YOUR AREA. You might be better off in a kayak or boat than on foot.

LEARN BASIC HERB LORE Guessing at plant uses can be deadly, but even just knowing the uses of a few local plants could be very helpful.

LEARN SELF DEFENSE/WEAPONS USE No further explanation needed on that one.

LEARN NATURE. I struggled with how to describe this one, and just picked the basic way. Let yourself learn the sort of knowledge that saw us through the first ten thousand years of civilization. Look outside for the nearest tree, and see if you even know what kind of tree it is or if you know one thing you could do with it other than chopping it down to get wood. This isn’t just about survival. This is about getting to know the planet. We only have one, after all.

GET BASIC SUPPLIES. If you can fill a pantry, buy a cabin, build off the grid, or dig a bunker, great. Have at it. If nothing else, put a backpack together with some basics (the usual, rope, knife, garbage bags, hair ties, vitamins, underwear, etc.) Watch enough videos to have a good idea of how to start a fire (just in case) and throw matches and lighters in there. Include a pumice stone (lightweight and will do the job in case you run out of soap), garlic, basic camping-type gear. Don’t forget a comfort item or two - an Ipod, a pleasure-reading Kindle, nail polish, perfume, photos of your loved ones, whatever you think will keep you from completely losing your mind in a really bad situation. Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you grounded, and sometimes being grounded will save your life.

GET A SURVIVAL-DEDICATED KINDLE and fill it with useful knowledge about farming and tracking and basic medical herb lore and maps, first aid, canning techniques, soap making, etc. Of course it would be better if you could learn all this, but for a lot of us being able to access what you can’t memorize may be a lot more doable. The internet, wonderful store of knowledge it is, will be inaccessible if there are no satellites. Books are heavy. But a Kindle can run independently. And there’s a lot you can put on a Kindle that may be worth saving. You can download the Army survival guide. Instructions for building a solar generator for under $300. Plans to build an eco-friendly self-sustaining house. While you’re at it, get a solar-powered battery charger.

CAMOUFLAGE TECHNIQUES. You may have absolutely no plans to creep around the woods or a war-struck city at night, ever, but just having the foresight to damp your jewelry and darken your skin and hair could save your life in a situation like that. (Bonus: stock up on mud masks. You can be sneaky and give yourself a facial at the same time)

BE GREEN. Buying eco-friendly dish soap or organic tomatoes may not help you out a whole lot in a worst-case scenario, but in the end you’re either a part of the problem or a part of the solution, and war over resources is a front-running contender for Really Bad Thing Most Likely To Happen. You can choose to support companies that engage in things like factory farming, genetically modifying crops and animals, animal testing, pollution, poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, or fracking ... or you can choose not to. If you love animals, don’t support companies that treat them cruelly.

KNOW YOUR LOCAL TERRAIN If you live in Vegas, you might want to learn a bit about desert survival, and so on.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF I love Bear Grylls, but there’s no way in hell I’m scaling a cliff wall or eating live grubs. I have a crap memory so I’d probably kill myself trying to identify edible wild plants from memory, but I can recognize a few common ones, and I know a few fairly idiot-proof fishing techniques. I know how to purify crappy water (boiling kills germs but doesn’t clean the water), how to desalinate seawater, how to harvest seaweed, and how to make bark edible.

RETHINK WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF - Instead of waiting to feel strong, learn how it feels to declare yourself strong and then step into it. All the strength you need is inside you. You don’t need to wait for the end of the world to tap into it. Doomsday may never come. But any step that takes you away from the path of a victim to the path of a survivor makes you a stronger, better you.

REDEFINE WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF - If you work out regularly, read regularly, and keep yourself informed by reading survival blogs, you can wake up every day stronger and smarter than you were the day before.

RELAX. Live. Love. Laugh. Knowing how to unwind and re-set your mind might be more important than you think. Prepare for tomorrow, but live for today.

Women today have to be ready for anything to happen at any moment. That’s ok. Our greatest strengths lie within us. Maybe in the end, that’s what separates us from men.

Article copyright © 2011 Aivlys_Nagrom and The Sarah Connor Charm School
Photo copyright © 2001 Kym Lambert

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's about the pain, or what we want to do with it

(I know, I'm cheating again, reposting something from a year ago posted in my own blog. But as this is focused on Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton and I want to remind myself that this is to go in the article section, here it is again)

In an interview at the MCM London Expo last May (which tells you how long I have been thinking about this), Linda Hamilton remarked regarding fans wanting to be like her Terminator and Terminator 2 character Sarah Connor, "I was playing a character in a hell of the world's making. She's in so much pain. Why would anyone want to be like that?"

My immediate reaction, which I did briefly express in comments on that page, was, “Well, because we’re ALL in pain and we’re looking for a role model to help us figure out how to deal with it.” I don’t know that in all these years of wondering “What Would Sarah Do?” and before and after looking for role models to match her, I really thought of it that way. But, really, isn’t that exactly what it all comes down to?

We all have pain. We may not lose our mother, friends, lover and many surrounding us to a machine from the future, but we do lose those we love to other terminators throughout our lives. We may not face the fact that our child is going to be entering a known dangerous future, where he’ll be burdened with saving humanity, but those who have children (their own or those of others close to them) are faced with, at best, their unknown futures, and sometimes very real and immediate fears for their lives and safety. Our pains might not be quite interesting enough to be a subject of a movie, and when they are they are usually such direly depressing movies that we don’t watch them, but they are real.

“Escapism” really often is about watching someone else have pain that is more interesting than ours. At times perhaps it is escape we are looking for, to see someone go through something that just makes us, for an hour or two not think about our own. But I think many of us “fangirls” and “fanboys” of particular, especially action, characters, often do so because we like the way those characters deal with their pain. And while we would not want their pain as well, certainly do not wish those horrors upon ourselves and our loved ones, we want to be able to deal with what we do face in a similar manner.

This means that the fiction we tend to prefer may well say something about how we wish to cope with or solve the problems and sorrows in our lives. Those who mostly watch comedies might prefer search for laughter to soften the blows of life. We who favor action, horror or science fiction movies probably want to cowgirl up, face things down and carry on. Of course, most of us probably want different coping methods at different times which is why some of us have varied tastes in our fiction.

I think that Sarah Connor is revolutionary in this way, as much as she is for her physique and prowess with arms, in that she gives women that role model to carry on and do what needs doing. And, indeed, that strength and fighting skills were part of her answers is revolutionary as well. The training, the preparation, the choosing to become a warrior, rather than just remain the reactive Final Girl, these things are hard to find in female characters, especially in film.

It’s not hard to realize that the fictional “solution” to pain focused on female audiences has often been, in one way or another, to be saved. Whether it’s the lighter offerings of romantic comedies where the heroine is in a bad relationship or none at all until she meets the right guy who helps her out of her current situation or the darker action where the heroine’s very life is in peril and the hero must risk his to save her, this has been a standard message. It’s been there for a long time, whether the saving of the damsel is the main story or just a side-bar of the hero’s journey. There have, however, long been plucky heroines who have saved themselves in many cultures, sometimes even by taking up arms. Some even trained hard to do so, but this has been rare and still is.

Even when we’re not being taught that we must wait for our Knight in Shining Armor to come sweep us to safety, we may be taught to just wait. Many of our more physically active heroines, after all, are endowed with the power to solve their dilemmas from some outside source. Whether it’s the Bionic Woman’s science fiction enhancement or Buffy’s supernatural vampire slaying powers being awakened or so many comic book heroines who go may run the gambit between “science” and mystical, we may well wish for suddenly being gifted with the power to take on our own problems. Even those heroines born with powers can instill the same desire, their typical “alien” identity often calling out to our own feelings of being alienated, that we might wake up to the realization that we are special and do have powers we never expected (that many do believe this these days, in the Otherkin phenomenon, is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open). (I'm not going to say there are not similar male characters, just that there does seem to be more of a balance between them and those men who take action for themselves.)

But the truth is, Otherkindred aside, we’re not going to get those powers. So, certainly, we have heroines who have no powers but persevere. Ripley and a parade of Final Girls in horror films never prepare to any real extent. Ripley in Aliens goes through some weapons training after the threat has been established, but that’s about the most we ever see in any of these movies. This gives us hope that any woman could survive, given enough attitude. And so, we can survive our own trials, we’ll face them as they come.

As women we are supposed to constantly fear sexual violence, and so we have “good” examples of women saving themselves with attitude and ingenuity. In fact, we have an entire B-movie genre, the Rape Vengeance movies. I Spit on Your Grave is, of course, the representative of this genre. Like other Final Girls, the heroine doesn’t prepare and her sense of power is continually tainted with terror while her success is often dependent on just plain luck. It gives us a gratifying sense of vengeance, but no real role model.

Similarly, the cinematically superior, but inaccurately (or was it meant to be ironic?) titled, The Brave One, followed a similar formula replacing rape with the death of a loved one (which in a world where women are trained to see men as protectors this alone gives a similar sense of vulnerability) and the hillbilly hell setting with the dangerous urban world that the character had always lived in but seemed to be previously oblivious of. Many women related to Jodie Foster’s character’s fear and her striving to protect herself and avenge her lover, but instead of offering a role model of developed strength we get one of continued fear and powerlessness. She substitutes a gun she never learns how to use for real power, for real preparation, she never really gains control, she remains reactive and in terror to the very end. She is perhaps a good example of how many of us do deal with our day to day trials, scared, unthinking, out of control, nearly hysterical, sometimes getting lucky in our blind actions but never acting with strength. Again, a message society often tells women we are and can never get beyond, irrational, vulnerable, even when we do manage to enact our revenge.

In The Terminator Sarah starts out like Final Girls and those who are gifted with powers as just one of us, someone most of us can relate to. She works a very typically female shit-job, she is in college but there is some sense that she’s not really found her path yet, she’s stood up by a date with someone she apparently barely knows; she’s nowhere and we’ve all been there. Fate intervenes and she does find out she’s special, but instead of getting gifted with a power which will make her tasks easier, she’s given the burden of knowing she’s to bear a son who will be a great leader but in a world of utter hell. She’s a Final Girl, reacting, whining and scrambling in a situation she’s unprepared for, with tragedy after tragedy striking in just one night as her best friend, her mother and her lover, along with many others are killed. But in the end she makes a choice, to stop whining, to stop being reactionary, to prepare her son for what he must face by preparing herself. It might not be a totally independent decision, for she is told that she was the one who trained her son of the future, but for that young woman who “can’t even balance my checkbook” it was a big one.

We don’t see that preparation, but we see the results from the moment Sarah appears in Terminator 2. We see her chinning in a situation where maintaining any fitness level would take such a stronger degree of commitment than any of our own issues with motivation at getting to a gym can compare. She soon is picking locks and taking out orderlies with the skills she learned. These things tell us she prepared. And to those of us whose desire is to face our problems by being prepared, she’s awesome. Hard, inside and out, yes, but there are times this is needed. Hair triggered, but even “out of control” she’s got power because of her training.

It might seem strange that a character who onscreen never faces the threat of serious rape, face licking sexual abuse is as much as we’re shown (even the non-sexual beat down from the same orderly was not shown in the original theatrical release), has become an icon for many to prepare against sexual violence. It’s actually that she never is shown to be so imperiled that is at the very core of why she’s so inspiring. In a world where women are considered constantly at risk of sexual assault, she actually represents a woman who isn’t at the same degree of risk. Even in taking the gross face lick, there’s a strategy, she’s biding her time for what needs to be done, and that insult isn’t that important in the long run. Even taking the orderly out, though there might have been some feelings of rightful revenge, is more about getting him out of the way to deal with real problems. The threat of sexual violence is something to be dealt with efficiently and quickly, not pondered upon, just get the problem man out of the way and move on.

It has been pointed out that her muscle and Krav Maga skills would be pointless against the machines, but that doesn’t mean they were pointless in her training. We can well imagine that in the “man’s world,” a literal jungle, where she sought out paramilitary training, there were men who would have gladly taken out their violence upon a lone woman. She may well have been a rape survivor during the early days, that may indeed be an added pain, one many of us share, that is never revealed. But considering the future she and her son face, there are greater threats. So, the skills needed to deal with those men are acquired with the skills needed to deal with the future threats, again, when the threat is presented, get the problem man out of the way and move on.

Likewise, muscles, guns and hand-to-hand combat skills, which many of have been inspired to pursue (and some of us where before but just found our role model) might not help any of us with most of the problems we face. But the fact is, sexual violence is a threat that women live with everyday, the statistics remain high that we will be assaulted in some way by someone, stranger or “loved one,” at some point in our lives. Many consider it just a fact we have to contend with. It’s not our only problem, it’s not a problem most of us actually face on a daily basis (although some might fear it almost constantly), but the truth is, it’s a major burden lifted from your life when you feel just that much less vulnerable than you did before.

Knowing that should it come up, you have a good chance, that you are prepared, that perhaps that asshole who thinks you are a victim is the one that should be worried more than you, it does change how you handle other things. Living in fear, feeling that at least half of the world could take you out in a moment, does not empower you on any level. Sarah showed us that such threats can be just something to get out of the way should they come up. Until then, you can do what needs to be done to deal with the other shit in your life. So she becomes a symbol of the ultimate preparations against any sort of assault we might face.

This is, as I've noted before, the greatest travesty of Terminator Salvation, that the franchise that gave us this ultimate role model of strength, turned around and made the one female character who could have carried on that legacy into just a victim. A victim who needs a big strong Knight to save her. That demonstrates the very thing that Sarah Connor represented our journey away from.

And when it comes to other problems in our lives, Sarah can still offer us hope. We can face the loss of loved ones and still strive towards our goals because she did. If our tasks seem hard and overwhelming, we can stoically strive on, with out whining (or at least not for long), without faltering, because, well, she got through her burdens and, even when there seemed no hope, fought to find a better solution. Certainly she mourned her dead, she went from just conceiving to very pregnant in the last scene of Terminator, but she shows eventually you pack up your dog, gun and Spanish dictionary and head head out to prepare for what's to come.

Of course, there is another factor in dealing with the sadness issue at hand in what Sarah inspires for us. Moments of sheer joy. It’s the endorphins, baby. Working out, martial arts/self-defense training and defensive shooting training all give us strong endorphin dumps. It might not solve the problems, it might not cure the source of the sad, but it certainly is nice to have those periods of elation.

So, Linda (although I’m sure you’ll never read this) and others who ask this question, this is why we want to be like Sarah. No, we don’t want her burdens added to our own. We just want her strength, which you demonstrated so well, to handle them. Strong and hard, sometimes too alone and shut-off but we can find our way back to love too, sometimes ranting and raving at a world that can’t grasp the hard truths, always prepared, with a plan, getting the small problems out of the way so we can deal with saving the world as best we can.

And it’s kind of nice if we can groove on some endorphins and look our buffist while we do it, too.

Copyright © 2010 Kym Lambert (Saigh)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Survival Food Strategies for Real Food Minded Modern Warriors:

Tips and Tricks for Stockpiling Survival Foods for Long-Term Storage with Preservative-Free, Chemical Free Options...

Survivalist, Disaster Plan, Preparedness, TEOTWAWKI.

These are all words that conjure up end of the world scenarios in which, we are humans must fight to survive.

One of the key components to surviving an apocalyptic event is food storage. No matter the scenario, if you are going to survive to fight another day, you must be well nourished and fed not all stripped and burned out from eating heavily processed foods that you have had in the basement for the past 10 years. Most survivalists are well-versed in the MRE or Meal-Ready-To-Eat. These are much touted in the neo-survivalist community for their ability to be stored for years, and lightweight enough to grab and stuff in your bug-out bag, when you need to get the hell outta Dodge. But they don’t offer much in the way of nutrition.

Although I think having a few MREs on hand for very dire emergencies is OK, there are some major issues with them that caution me from making them my primary source of apocalyptic food. These factors also make me question having them on hand at all. They are full of preservatives, contain very little dietary fiber, and have an abundance of trans fats. All of which can wreak havoc on the body, weakening you when you need to be strong and making it hard for you to be at your best physically, thus earning them the nickname of “Meals Requiring Enemas”. You really don’t want to be dealing with constipation, hives, or projectile vomiting when you are running for your life in the wilderness or fighting off Terminators.

Bullets, Beans and Band-Aids is a common phrase used to describe survivalists and what they tend to stockpile for TEOTWAWKI. The first and last, are great, but it is the middle, beans, that I have a problem with. For most people this means canned beans. Modern cans are made from materials that contain BPA a known estrogenic, which interferes with hormones. Another thing that is not good for those who want to be in optimal physical shape. Plus heavily preserved beans create a lot of flatulence and you don’t want to put yourself in the position of being “sniffed out” by marauders.

So what is a Survivalist to do?

Here are a few suggestions that my family has implemented in the past year that has worked out great:

Food Rotation

Food rotation means having non-perishable foods that your family enjoys on hand, in large quantities. These foods may not have more than a year to two for shelf life. That is OK, the plan is to eat them as part of your regular meal rotations, and replenish as you use, making sure to always have a 1-2 years supply (depending on the shelf-life).

Examples of foods to have on hand:

Canned Fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel, kippers, sardines, anchovies. . If you can find wild caught, all the better. These fishes are great for Omega-3 fatty acid intake as well as a great dose of protein. Good things for your muscles, including the most important one – your brain. You need to be at your best both physically and mentally to survive and thrive.

Pasta and Rice – these can be made to bulk up any number of recipes and stretch food supplies. I suggest organic pastas and brown rice as they have many more nutrients than their generic counterparts, an important component for survival foods, plus, a good part of a healthy diet today. You can also try other grains like quinoa, buckwheat and barley.

Nut Butters – great source of fat and protein. Add protein to your oatmeal in the morning. Spread on bread, use as a binder in baking, or eat off the spoon for a quick jolt of energy. You can choose from a large variety - anything from peanut butter to almond and cashew. You can also store large batches of these raw nut varieties and make your own as the need arises.

Organic or Preservative-free Food Pouches – like TastyBite Indian entrees (also Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell other brands). A Taste of Thai is another brand that can be found in most supermarkets. There are very few added ingredients of harm and they are good in a pinch. All you have to do is boil the pouches in water for 2-3 minutes. For your rotation, take them to lunch or use them as a base for dinner by adding fresh meats or veggies to it. Kids love these too.

Preserved Foods – if you do any gardening or have a farmers market nearby consider preserving your own fruits and veggies, either through canning, lacto-fermenting or dehydrating. If you absolutely can’t do this, then make sure to buy canned fruits and veggies with as few ingredients as possible. Fruits should only have the fruit and their juice; veggies should only have water and salt to preserve them. This won’t save you from BPA, but at least you aren’t also adding corn syrup and weird chemicals to your body.

Fun Items and Condiments: If you are surviving on your stored food for a long period of time, you need to make sure your meals have variety or you will soon grow bored and your morale will be sure to drop. Having favorite condiments on hand like ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, etc. will help. So will having items like pickles, olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers. You can toss these into pasta or beans and rice to give them a depth of flavor. Be sure to choose items that your family already enjoys so you can use them in your rotation.

Dark Chocolate and Raw Honey – both sweet items that are good for energy and can be stored almost indefinitely, especially the honey – use in baking, cooking, drinks. Stir in oatmeal, or other hot cereals and/or yogurt. Definitely great pick-me-ups in a drab world and can be eaten and enjoyed in the world as we know it right now. Besides sugar is bad for you, so you might as well do your body a favor and get on less processed sugars right away.

Dry Bean and Whole Grain Storage: Did you know that whole dry beans and grains like wheat berries can be stored for decades if packaged properly? That’s right. They have found wheat berries in archaeological digs that are still good. The important thing is to get the grains whole, and then have a way to grind them, without electricity, into flours for baking. You can also eat them whole and use them to feed livestock. They can also be sprouted as a way to add fresh produce to your diet, even in the worst of times. Using food grade storage buckets, Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers are the way to go for long term storage items. I suggest keeping some for your rotation and then storing some for super long term storage.

Livestock – for true survivalists having your own livestock can mean life or death. Livestock insures your family fresh food year round whenever you need it. You can also make things like yogurt, butter, cheese and have milk to drink and eggs to eat. Having some fresh foods in your diet is so important not just for survival but morale. Of course you can enjoy all the benefits of having livestock even if the world is not over. They make great pets and keep you connected to the natural cycles. Something you will need to familiarize yourself with when there is no electricity or running water.

Pemmican, Nuts and Berries: For a different take on the MRE and perfect for your bug out bag, consider foods that are good for you, have a decent shelf-life and that can be easily transported. Pemmican comes to us from the Native peoples of North America. It is a highly transportable and highly nutritious food. It is a combination of dried meat and fruits and held together with fat. Mmmmm…fat.

My favorite producer of Pemmican is the Native American owned and produced TankaBar . This version is made with buffalo meat (high in CLA and higher in B-12 and iron than other red meats), dried cranberries (an antioxidant) and an herbal-based preservative. I believe it is also lacto-fermented. The shelf life is one year, and you can buy in bulk to save money. Or you can make your own . If neither of these options works for you, you can find many all-natural-nitrate free jerkys – beef, salmon and turkey are just some of the options out there.

Whether you go for pemmican or jerky, having a good supply of raw nuts and dried berries (try to find no sugar added, sulfate-free) available is a great idea. If you have to bug out, having a bunch of portioned out baggies containing some of all these items is perfect for the grab-n-go scenario. For your rotation, you can make trail mixes with them or just eat them plain. The goal is to make these a part of your family’s regular diet and replenish them as you use them up. All of these items make great snacks and quick breakfasts.

These suggestions are better than having MREs or the types of food supplies that many survivalist websites and books suggest. For one, you don’t know if you family likes the taste of those foods until you open them after the world ends. If you have to survive on them for a year or more and you dislike the food or someone in your family has an allergy to something in it, you are in big trouble. No food, means no survival. It is a big risk to take. Both for your health and your wallet – on foods you aren’t used to.

I have briefly touched on many different topics in this overview. This is the beginning of a series of posts on this topic and I need you to tell me what directions to take. So in the comments, please let me know which topics you’d like to learn about in more in depth.

Thistle is a SCCS member who also has a food blog, The Leftover Queen

Meeting Our Icon

(For those who have seen it already, this is an edited version of a post from my own Championing Ourselves Blog, but I thought it would kick this off. I may repost other Terminator related posts)

Last August I went to Chicago ComicCon for a secret meeting with "Sarah Connor" who was undercover as the actress Linda Hamilton. ~;p I also got to meet her tragically late roommate
"Ginger" Bess Motta, the Termatrix Kristanna Loken.

The first of these kickass actresses I met was Kristanna Loken. While you all may know Terminator 3 was not may favorite movie, I did become a fan of Loken when she was in the television version of PainKiller Jane, a very different version from the comics, but with a lot of power and, yes, ass kicking. Loken's passions are evident in her work with several charities, especially involved in helping children. Among recent movies she has made Darfur and is currently working on Love Orchard that confronts the issues of migrant workers whose families are often torn apart by current laws. Fans can become involved in this movie through the Kickstart link on Kristanna's website as well as find information on her charities and other activities. Kristanna obviously doesn't just play strong women in movies and TV, she lives it.

While we then waiting in line to meet Linda Hamilton, she went on break. Others in the line were gracious enough to let me slip out to meet Bess Motta, who was Ginger, Sarah's roommate, in The Terminator. She was also one of the 20-Minute Fitness instructors in the 1980s, and is still a fitness instructor today. That she's keeping up that part of her career is quite obvious, as she's probably as fit or fitter than she ever was. She was a delightful person and seemed to be having a great time at the con herself.

The favor we got was paid, um, backwards as the women who were behind us and saved our spot had theirs saved by those behind them while they went to see Michael Biehn. I'd been warned that fellow fans in these lines might be nice during what may be a long wait.

Okay, so we go! Trying to describe meeting Linda. OMG! I can't. It was amazing. As I was picking out photos and paying for the autographs with her assistant, he has commented on the shirt (the shirts got many comments, actually...including one guy who did ask if I had more than one on Sunday, which I did, btw). Linda quoted the "siempre como culebra" and explained to him that it was from T2 and what it meant. After that, it's sort of a blur.

As the shirt was already brought up, I babbled a bit about The Sarah Connor Charm School, of course. And the prerequisite, "what an inspiration you were" stuff. When I noted the purpose of the SCCS, which is also the purpose of this blog, to pass on inspiration to other women to find their own strength, Linda said, "In the end the only thing we have is our own strength." Gods, mine pretty much was gone, but I managed somehow to stay upright, get the autographs and some photos with her. Oh, there was also a bit of "looking so forward to seeing you on Chuck" and her saying she was excited about doing the show too.

I also told her that I'd be back because I had a gift for her. This being my first con, and with some of the things written up, I wasn't sure if this was okay, but she was open to it. The next day I did see her, Bess and Kristanna along with Michael Biehn very briefly as we went through for our professional photos which I still need to scan. We also went to the Terminator panel, with Linda and Michael, which was delightful. They were very open about not liking the later two movies all that much, he especially did not mince words. A number of fans seemed thrilled to know that the love scene in the first film was uncomfortable because they did have feelings for each other and spouses who knew it and were there. But for me, I was touched by several other women who told her how much Sarah Connor was an inspiration of strength, especially one who told her that she helped her through a really difficult time in her life. This reflects what I wrote earlier. This is why these roles are vital to us, we need role models.

I did learn a few very important things to keep in mind if I go to a ComicCon again. The most important is stick to the panels and avoid the floor on Saturday. That's when most people are there. Yet, I did have a professional photo with a different photographer, on the floor (the Terminator ones were where the panels were) with Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson of the original Bionic Woman. And the Terminator actors were all across from William Shatner and other Trek stars, so between the two the aisle there was jammed packed. We did manage to get back to see Bess and to see Michael Biehn. So, yes, I did get photos and autographs with two men, so see I'm not sexist because I have token male representation here! *snerk* Bess even asked us to pose with her for a photo for her FaceBook page!

But, of course, the highlight was again seeing Linda, this time with the certificate from the Sarah Connor Charm School to present to her. She even remembered how I spell my name, for when she autographed the group Terminator photo she noted that Michael Biehn had spelled it wrong. (Bess noticed too!). I showed her the certificate and she seemed thrilled by the words, saying that she'd treasure it for ever.
It reads:
Certificate of Appreciation
Linda Hamilton
The Sarah Connor Charm School
thanks you for your inspiration to women
to be strong, prepared and save ourselves, our loved ones, the world

And then:

Do I even need to say there are no words?