Survival of the Fittest: Part 1 by Fred Dimenna, CSCS

It's safe to say we take survival for granted. Sure, we're all aware of our mortality, and the older you get, the more obvious it becomes that the years pass even more rapidly. But at its most rudimentary level, survival means locating food and finding shelter, and these are aspects of life that have become relatively manageable for the masses.

But when Mother Nature lowers the boom as she did last month in the Gulf Coast, our ability to survive is put to the test. And despite all of the technological advancements we've made, it's apparent we've lost ground when it comes to the basic ability to preserve human life.

Regardless of your views on how man originated, a general conclusion can be drawn: We have evolved a long way from a time when we had to hunt food and build our own shelter. In the modern era, procuring the nourishment we need to sustain life simply means a trip to the grocery store or a local restaurant. And as for shelter, real estate agents, landlords and construction workers do the dirty work: All we must do is foot the bill.

Technological advancements are a good thing when it comes to overall quality of life. After all, when I return home tonight, the last thing I want to do is go out hunting for dinner. In fact, waiting on line at the grocery store cramps my style! But as is the case with all of the progress that technology brings, there is a negative attached. And if we aren't wise enough to recognize and account for this "one step back," our ability to survive could be jeopardized.

I came to this realization after the Northeast blackout of 2003. I was at work at the Empire State Building when the lights went out and, after evacuating the building, found myself on Fifth Avenue, walking to the subway station like I always do. But when I found out this was more than a local occurrence, I realized that the subways wouldn't be running for quite some time. I decided to walk to my car, which was parked at Shea Stadium. Six hours later, my journey was complete!

A subsequent discussion I had with one of my professors made me realize we shared similar experiences that August day. He, too, was stranded and decided to walk a considerable distance to get home. And like me, he actually enjoyed the experience!

He is a triathlete and is used to challenging himself physically, but this was a different and unique obstacle to overcome. He didn't have his running shoes, so running was out of the question, but a walk of that distance isn't exactly a picnic in the park, either.

My enjoyment with the challenge of walking six hours contrasts with those who found the blackout threatening and potentially deadly. Air conditioners were down and ambulances were unable to get to people who needed help. And if you weren't physically up to the task, you weren't getting home: In fact, a few of my co-workers spent the night on the streets of Manhattan!

My survival wasn't in jeopardy during the blackout, but it could have been. I value my fitness and, therefore, keep myself conditioned to tackle considerable physical challenges by exercising regularly. For years, I did this simply so that my muscles were sufficiently developed: It was requisite for success in the sport I had chosen. But now, I look at my workouts differently. They are the life line that help ensure the continuation of my existence.

Consider how the physical attributes a triathlete possesses might have proven beneficial when Hurricane Katrina hit. Running, swimming and even cycling certainly qualify as survival skills when conditions like those prevail. And some resistance training exercises are also helpful. If a torrent of water swept by and you had nowhere to go but up onto something, you'd need to do some pull-ups which many people can not do.

Before the human race evolved, everyday life required considerable physical activity. Survival was, therefore, not dependent on training like a triathlete or hitting the weights. Even our more recent ancestors had to work much harder physically during the course of their day. But with technological advancement, an associated reduction in daily physical stress has taken place. And the results are obvious.

More people are overweight now than ever before and it doesn't take a nutritional guru to figure out why. The system of "energy in/energy out" balance has been skewed. Instead of run-walking miles to find your dinner, you merely walk from car to store or even get it from the drive-in window of a fast food joint.

Technological advancement has reduced the degree of physical challenge associated with everyday living. To counter this negative result, we must dedicate some of our time and financial resources to maintaining our physical prowess. Our very survival depends on it!

Fred Dimenna, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant is a two-time Natural Mr. United States and a WNBF drug-free professional bodybuilder. Visit him at or email him: