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Corps Strength – Hard Time

The Naval Air Station in Pensacola is one the best-maintained military bases in the world. What most people here don’t know is that the majority of the beautiful grounds and historic buildings are kept up by federal prisoners from the minimum security penitentiary up the road (These guys are all non-violent offenders and are closely supervised by civilian guards while working). Putting prison reform and other judgement’s aside for a minute, there is one thing you notice immediately about this group of men; it’s how fit and healthy they look? We recently had a group doing some maintenance work on our Leadership Reaction Course, and I had to be there to supervise some of the work. I found them easy going, respectful and hard working. More than anything else they seemed very grateful to be away from the prison (even to work in the heat, for 75 cents a day, yes that not a type O. 75 cents a day).

During the course of the work, I asked them about their living conditions, their workout routines, what they ate. They live on an old military base in converted barracks and ate in old chow halls (three meals a day of “boring chow”) Like most federal prisons nowadays they have no access to weights, but they do have a large exercise area that has some basketball courts, a running track and a place where they can do calisthenics. Lights out at 2200, 0530 wakeup. (sounds a lot like boot camp).
This group was in their 30’s to early 60’s, and you’d be very hard pressed to find a group of men in that age group (civilian, military or otherwise), that are in as good physical condition, especially the older guys. We have a pull-up bar there and during a break we had a pull-up contest. One guy in his late 40’s (who looked like an NFL tight end) did 27 perfect pull-ups. The majority did between 15-20, the least was 10 and a guy that was 62 did 14. These guys were in work clothes, wearing heavy work boots, not PT gear. (My sorry ass took 3rd with 23) As you might guess if you took any average group of 40-60 year olds in the U.S. you would not get this type of fitness, and most would be overweight. None of this group were even close to being fat, and I might add they were a mix of white, black, and hispanics from all different parts of the U.S.

So what is the point? Get yourself throw in federal prison to get in shape? Not hardly. The point is the real example this group provides. These guys have been forced by their own past misadventures to live a simple (healthy) lifestyle. It’s a proof source of what I talk about in my book Corps Strength; That getting and staying in great physical condition is not that complicated. People make it much harder than it has to be. These guys don’t follow “scientific” workouts, no weights, no PX90, Cross Fit, Paleo Diet, or supplements. A diet of everyday foods, a simple routine of calisthenics, no drugs (you hope) or alcohol, plenty of sleep and days consisting of light physical work (over the long term) yields some pretty impressive results. It was especially obvious when you see these guys standing next to the guys guarding them? Big difference. Like I always tell people, Keep it simple. It works. Be safe and stay out of trouble.

Semper Fi



10 Responses to “Corps Strength – Hard Time”

  1. Gino says:

    I get the message you are sending and I think it was a good article, but as a LEO I take it the other way. Don’t let your guard down when dealing with con or ex con, they have nothing to do but train. Everyone who is doing cross fit or functional work outs…guess what these guys do it all day long.

    Those of us, all of us, its too easy to get complacent with our fitness, we rely on “tools” on our duty belt to save the day. Train hard cause he is too.

  2. John says:

    NAS Fort Worth has a federal women’s prison on base doing the same thing. Bunch of overweight, out of shape, and poor work ethic here.

  3. Stefan S. says:

    Looking to a con for inspiration? WTF over?

  4. Ash says:

    “A diet of everyday foods, a simple routine of calisthenics, no drugs (you hope) or alcohol, plenty of sleep” -There are LOTS of drugs in jail/prison, and hooch is common, too. The Black Muslims may stay away from intoxicants, but most inmates party (at least a little bit).

    Simplicity is awesome, but these guys are training all the time because they’re in a dangerous environment. If you took all LEOs off the streets tomorrow, I bet plenty of “normal” people would suddenly see the benefits of being strong enough to fight for themselves.

  5. Dan says:

    Maybe if the average Joe had all day to workout, have his meals provided for him by dieticians, free medical, free fitness equipment (no health club fees), and plenty of time to sleep he would be in better shape too.

  6. MGunz says:

    I knew when I wrote this that some would wrongly try to make this some type of discussion on the prison system, which it isn’t. As I said in the very beginning: “put prison reform aside for a second.” But as I know many guards there I can correct you all on a couple of basic things you got wrong in this case. First off they don’t get to workout all day, the rec area is only open for a couple of hours in the evening and every inmate in this facility must work during the day. If they get caught with any drugs, or cause any trouble they are sent back to a regular true shit hole penitentiary. I’m not defending them but, these guys are trying to transition back to being productive citizens when released, which is not just to their benefit but ours also. They have ZERO fitness equipment unless you count a basketball court and pull-up bar (which were already there when they turned it from a navy base to a prison). I’ve been by this place many times, its not some type of resort, and I don’t think any sane person would want to be there, and its even more silly to think that they’re in any way better off than the “Average Joe.” (free person). You may think that free crappy food, routine medial care and living in a squad bay with other convicts is some thing to be jealous of, or that you would give up your freedom for? I don’t. Get a grip. they’re in prison? The whole point of the article was that the anyone can get in good shape without all the special foods, supplements and equipment. They are good test group as they don’t have much choice as to their routine, or diet. To a certain extent like a military boot camp, but actually a better test group as they are of all different ages. Lastly I personally don’t look to cons for PT (or any) inspiration, but I guess many 1000’s do as “Convict Conditioning” type PT books always sell well?

    • Matt says:

      Well said, and the whole post is spot-on. I met a guy who told me he once turned himself in after an unspecified domestic violence happening (I didn’t ask) against his wife. (FYI, they’re happily together again, w/children).

      Anyways he met a 40something yr old who he thought was in his 20’s. He described as the epitome of fitness. All sorts of bodyweight exercises got him in the best shape of his life – doesn’t matter who you learn from.

  7. Reverend says:

    I understand what you’re saying, and agree that ANYONE can get into shape. You’re correct, it’s a perfect example of just having the motivation, and dropping the excuses.

    • JohnC says:

      “just having the motivation, and dropping the excuses.”

      Yes, the desire to not be gang-raped or shived is a seriously stronger, life-and-death-y motivator than just wanting to be the best at exercising. Although — leg-shackle-snapping freaks aside — the desire to *look* tough, plus the availability of gear, means there a lot of “looks like Tarzan, Plays like Jane” Strauß Beine types (viz. ).

      Fun fact: Russian SF combatives were honed on the reality-based theory of, “Why let our angry, perfectly healthy death-row inmates go to waste?”

      Neat! Thick grips!