Let the Hunger Games begin!
Yup, I’m a Hunger Games fan. Two and a half years ago, I stumbled across a book with a concept that immediately grabbed my attention: a dystopian futuristic United States where twelve districts, each under the control of the all-powerful Capitol, are forced to each send two children as tributes every year to compete in the Hunger Games – a bloody and brutal fight to the death in which only one kid can emerge victorious.
You could say I was a Hunger Games fan immediately.
I finished the book in two sittings over the course of a day – I had fallen in love with the characters, concept, and story…putting it down was not an option.
With the film adaptation of the Hunger Games movie coming out this past weekend, I reread the first book and put together a post about what we can learn from Katniss, the book’s main character, in our continued quest for survival on this planet.
Although my friend David already wrote a fun post about this topic (you beat me to it, you jerk!), I still wanted to take a crack at it.
Obviously, if you haven’t read the books or seen the movie yet, this post won’t make a lick of sense. For that reason, I highly recommend spending the $5 to buy it on Amazon (you’ll fly through it) and THEN come back to this post.
Now, you might be like me and purposely avoid anything trendy, and this book series is trending off the charts – it’s worthy of the hype – give it a shot.
Ready? Good, let’s get started and see what we can learn from the “girl who was on fire.”
She lost her father at the age of 11 and has been taking care of her mother and younger sister ever since. Every day, she goes hunting in the woods to provide them with food; she even adds her name to Hunger Games lottery multiple times in exchange for extra rations for her family.
When her sister Prim is selected as this year’s tribute to the games, Katniss volunteers in her place, knowing full well that she is essentially writing her own death sentence. Although the thought of dying scares Katniss (as it does most people), nothing scared her more than losing her little sister…which is why she stepped in to compete…but not before making sure her family was taken care of by friends and members of the town if she were to die.
Once inside the games, Katniss again goes out of her way to protect and help Rue, a young tribute from District 11, while also spending quite a bit of time protecting and taking care of her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta.
What we can learn from Katniss: If you have people that depend on you, whether it’s your wife/husband/children/elderly parents/grandparents, it’s your responsibility to do your best to help them whenever possible. And I don’t mean that you get to use them as an excuse to NOT take care of yourself. You’re not going to be much help to them if you are in the hospital for another heart surgery or always sleeping on the couch because you have no energy.
It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself so that you can help out those who can’t help themselves.
“While I am thin, I am strong. The meat and plants from the woods combined with the exertion it took to get them have given me a healthier body than most of those I see around me.”
Katniss spends her days hunting out in the woods, tracking and trapping animals, fishing in ponds, foraging for plants and roots, hunting with a bow and arrow to take down deer, and carrying all of those things back home. While the other tributes in the game have to rely on the food provided to them at the start of the games, Katniss survives by hunting and finding her own food in the wilderness.
What we can learn from Katniss: Katniss is a prime example of a paleo eater, built for optimal functionality – sure she indulges by eating bread every once in a blue moon, but for the most part she eats what she can catch, capture, or grow. Now it’s your turn.
You might not need to go out in the woods and hunt things this afternoon, but it doesn’t mean you can’t eat natural foods and avoid the processed stuff. As Michael Pollan will tell you, “eat real food, mostly plants.” The more real things you can purchase (or hunt, or grow) and the more you can learn how to prepare food for yourself, the less reliant you will be on outside sources for sustenance (drive through windows, instant meals, microwave dinners) and the better chance you’ll have at surviving for a long and healthy existence.
Even before entering the Hunger Games, Katniss had to deal with the threat of death, capture, or starvation on a daily basis. If she didn’t find any food while out in the woods, she and her family would go hungry. If she was caught by authorities while exploring outside of the safe confines of District 12, she would be captured and turned into a slave. On top of all of that, she faced plenty of other dangers as well including wild animals, broken tree branches, and so on.
Because Katniss was constantly on edge and fighting for her survival, spending weeks at a time living in the woods during the Hunger Games wasn’t any different for her – the stakes were higher, but she wasn’t completely out of her element – she knew exactly what to do and how to do it, which allowed her to survive and thrive in the wild.
What we can learn from Katniss: Train as if YOUR life depended on it, because it does! Spending three hours on a cell phone while doing bicep curls and a couple leg extensions does not count as a workout, and it does not prepare you for real world situations either. If you’re going to train in a gym, focus on big compound movements that utilize multiple muscle groups at a time (squats, deadlifts, pull ups, push ups, etc.). Want to get creative with your workout? Carry heavy sand bags, run sprints in the park, put your kid on your shoulder and go for a long walk – whatever it takes to challenge your body to work hard.
If you have any plans to play any sort of sport or compete in any competition, train like you’re going to compete! If you’re going to run a Warrior Dash or Spartan race, spending all day indoors on a treadmill won’t prepare you – go run through the woods, climb over big rocks, climb a rope, vault over picnic tables. If you want to start playing Ultimate Frisbee, sitting on a stationary bike while watching Big Bang Theory won’t help – get your ass outside and train like you’re going to play! Toss a frisbee with your dog, make cuts back and forth while sprinting in the park, and push yourself!
We humans are born and bred to exercise and MOVE.
Find a way to do something every day that pushes you and your body to the limit. If you are ever in a situation where you need to push yourself or are in a panic filled situation (your house is on fire, you need to chase somebody down a street, you lift something heavy off of somebody), your body is prepared and ready to take on the challenge.
Most people in Panem, specifically District 12, sit around waiting to die.
They take their daily rations (which are never enough), hoping that things eventually get better. They go to jobs they hate to provide a meager existence for themselves and their families. They are absolutely miserable and do absolutely nothing about it.
Katniss, on the other hand, proactively works for a better life for herself and her family – hunting in the woods, gathering plants and animals, bargaining for the best deal on the black market, and more. Sure she doesn’t have a glamorous existence, but she did whatever she could to improve her predicament rather than settling for what was given to her.
Inside the Hunger Games, Katniss continues to be proactive – rather than hiding, getting scared, and waiting for the others to lose, she establishes a “base,” sets traps to capture animals, and more. Towards the end of the story, she understands that going on the offensive is her only chance for survival compared to continuing to hide and evade…so she takes a deep breath and gets after it.
What we can learn from Katniss: Stop waiting around for somebody to make your life better for you, and start making your life better for yourself! If you don’t like your job, spending every afternoon complaining about it while drinking beers won’t help – start working on your own side project after work. Don’t like how you look? Feeling sorry for yourself while eating ice cream on the couch doesn’t work – get off your butt and go for a walk!
We’re not owed or entitled to anything simply for existing – it’s our responsibility to WANT a better life for ourselves and our family, and then its our responsibility to work hard to make it happen. As I’ve learned from my favorite movie, hoping for a better life is a great start, but ACTION is required to actually make it happen.
“I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”
The Hunger Games take place on a yearly basis for the Capitol to show the citizens of Panem who has total control. Katniss and Peeta (her District 12 companion in the Games) continually do everything in their power, seemingly against all hope, to show that they still have some control, no matter how little, over their lives. When the Capitol decides to change up the rules halfway through (and again at the very end of) the Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss defiantly chart their own course and prove that their fate is not in the hands of others.
They are in control of their own destiny.
What we can learn from Katniss: Make your own epic destiny – the future is not set in stone! No matter how old, out of shape, in debt, and/or unhappy you might have been yesterday, today is a brand new day. So be thankful! Make a commitment to yourself that today is the first day of the rest of your life. With each small victory and tiny lifestyle change, your outward appearance will start to line up with your inward attitude.
May the odds be ever in your favor!