A large part of the interest in amateur radio is emergency preparedness. Just as there are subsections of amateur radio like satellites and DXing, there is a subsection of operators who are interested in emergency communications. This subsection relies on setting up a portable field station and operating remotely, sometimes off the grid. Operators work to streamline gear for portability and ease of use. Stations are stripped to their bare minimums for operation. An excellent example of a portable field station can be seen with OH8STN, Julian. His field station has been cut down to the bare essentials with no excess equipment taken. Even if operators are not into emergency communications, lessons can be learned from operators like Julian for how a POTA or SOTA kit can be streamlined. His critique of equipment doesn’t just highlight flaws in portable field equipment but all equipment.
There is one thing that many operators forget and that is themselves. A large emphasis is put on equipment but that equipment has limited use if you cannot get it to the field and deployed in a timely manner. After attending Fort Wayne Hamfest, it became clear that many of the ARES and RACES operators are not equipped to help others, not because their equipment is flawed, but they lack the the ability to be effective field operators. Many of the ARES/RACES members were overweight, required the use of a walker, or both. While I’m not one to say how one can enjoy their hobby, a life or death situation requires the best from these operators. This is why I feel physical fitness is important to the field operator. While physical fitness isn’t the cure for many physical maladies, it can help with many cardiovascular issues.
As with any sort of physical fitness, it is important to consult with your physician. For many, too much exertion can cause issues in itself. It is also important to consult with a personal trainer if you have never performed any physical fitness before. Form, for many activities, is important. There are many places to start. Signing up for a marathon isn’t the right answer. Going for a 30 minute walk may be a better answer. Ten minutes of yoga may also be a better answer. This will depend on your goals. As a field operator, it is important to have a good, all-around fitness over any one area. What this looks like depends on you. If you operate a lot of POTA/SOTA, being able to hike for extended periods while carrying gear may be what you are looking for. If you drive to a local field site and unload from there, having solid upper body and core strength will be important. Julian, for example, makes his way to his field site using his fat tire bike. This requires a proper bike fit, instruction on proper cycling form, and endurance to turn the pedals for the journey. What this looks like for you depends on you.
I would say this is one of the more important parts. Endurance is your ability to continue an activity for an extended period. This doesn’t have to be long distance running. This can be hiking, cycling, kayaking, standing, or a combination of everything.
So how can someone start? Easy, go on a walk. It doesn’t have to be an epic walk in snow, ten miles, uphill both ways. Start with a walk in a local park. Do a single lap. Do this every other day. Make it every day. Add another lap. Do whatever fits your schedule. A park near me is a 1/2 mile walk. The park is 1.1 miles around. Three laps plus the walk there is enough after work. It takes about an hour to do. I could walk longer, but there are other responsibilities I have. On the weekend, we take our dog hiking at the local trails. He enjoys the outdoors, and it gives us extended time to hike. We are out about two hours or more, depending on how the dog feels. We carry water for us and the dog.
Treadmills are an option too. In the winter time, I do use a treadmill. I usually run on it but will walk on occasion, especially the day after a hard run. Start with something that is manageable. As with anything, stop if you experience pain. Fatigue and soreness are different than pain. See a physician if you experience pain during any physical exercise.
Cycling is a great option. It puts less stress on your joints and provides a good workout. The nice thing about cycling is that you can cover more ground than walking/running in a shorter period of time. You can bike to the store, work, lake, park, etc. Commuting by bike to work is a great option for fitness. There are plenty of cycling clubs that offer experiences for different fitness levels. Cycling is more expensive than running. At a minimum, you need a bike, a helmet, and glasses. Yes, a helmet is important. It helps protect your head in the event of a fall. I’ve fallen from my bike quite a few times and most of them would have ended poorly if I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Glasses, either sunglasses or clear lenses, are important to protect your eyes from debris. You can get moving at a decent speed. You need to have a way of preventing debris, and bugs, from entering your eye. An easy way to do this is by getting safety glasses from a hardware store. Most offer decent protection and don’t cost all that much.
These are just a few things you can do. I don’t lift weights myself. If I did, I would do it under the supervision of a personal trainer at least until I learned the proper technique and form. Use this as a baseline and build upon the information.
Diet is a terrible term. It implies some strange eating dogma that you have to follow. A better term would be proper eating. This is limiting what you eat but not eliminating anything. There are certain foods that are better than others. The best thing to do is consult a dietitian, not a nutritionist. A dietitian has formal education and licensing to make them a healthcare professional. A nutritionist does not. Want to see how easy it is to be a nutritionist? I’m a nutritionist. Do I have a license or any education relating to human nutrition. No, obviously not, but I said that I’m a nutritionist and that makes me a nutritionist.
For myself, I follow a simple rule. Calories in vs calories out. I use a Fitbit to track my activity. It estimates how many calories are burned based off certain factors. I also enter what I eat. As long as your calories in is under your calories out, you should lose weight. That being said, everyone is different. Don’t starve yourself. If you didn’t do that much physical activity, don’t skip meals. Maybe skip the Coke or cake at the end.
One essential to avoid is the payment form of dieting. That means, don’t think because you did a two hour walk that you can eat two of everything from the Taco Bell menu. You don’t burn as many calories as you think. Running burns around 100 calories each mile. This means it take 1.4 miles to burn off a can of Coke. It would take 5-6 miles to burn off a Big Mac. It take 2.2 miles to burn off a Snickers. This is in addition to anything else consumed during the day. Stick to limiting your calorie intake by eating properly. Use the Fitbit app or other fitness tracking apps to log food intake. Be honest. No one else will see it but you.
We all wonder what the secret to fitness is. There is a secret. It is consistency. Walking for three hours each night for a week doesn’t help any if you only go out twice for an hour each night the next week. Make a meaningful schedule and stick to it. It does get repetitive but that is what yields results. When I was training for Powerman Michigan, I did nearly the same workouts nearly every week. I was in the best shape of my life. The workouts weren’t crazy hard. They were just consistent with consistent effort. I did add in some variation, but for the most part, it was just consistency. It took me a bit to find out what worked for me. You have to find what works for you.
The Goal of This Post
The goal is to increase emergency preparedness by increasing physical performance. “You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself.” This plays true in this situation. You need to be able to perform your role as a field radio operator. Fitness plays into this. There is no need to be an Olympic level athlete. Just fit enough that you don’t get winded from the car to your field station. There is a surprising number of people manning the ARES booth at the hamfest that look like they were enlisted on MEAL Team 6. This is something that I feel needs addressed by the amateur radio community, especially if these are the people we will rely on if anything happens. While I’m not a “prepper” or one of the many emergency communication groups, fitness is important for other aspects of amateur radio. For me, it revolves around hiking for POTA/SOTA activation, but if there ever is an incident that I must evacuate my home and provide emergency communications from a field location, fitness becomes an essential part of the portable field station.
Thank you for reading this post. It is more of a rant than a post but hopefully my point is understood. This isn’t to poke fun or harass anyone in the amateur radio community. It is just to highlight a problem that I see. As always, leave a comment below. If you disagree, let me know why or what you think a potential solution could be. Follow on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Thank you again for reading.