Tactical Tailor

Corps Strength – Stay on Balance

Over the years I’ve heard a lot debate about what is the single best physical activity for overall fitness, health and weight management? I’m sure most of you have heard these arguments. Like running is better than swimming. Lifting weights is better than calisthenics, etc. etc. Even within the various activities you’ll hear arguments like: Doing more reps and lighter weights are better than heavy weights and low reps in weight lifting.. Long distance vs. sprints and intervals when it comes to running. Then you have the whole Cross-Fit and Functional Fitness thing. The only true answer to any of these arguments is: It depends.


It depends on your need, your available equipment/time and for most people: what you like to do. The last part is probably the thing that has the most impact, as unless someone has a no shit physical requirement like in the case of a professional (serious amateur) athlete, military member or first responder. People will do what they enjoy 99% of the time. It’s human nature and I say IF it works for them, go for it. However, from my experience as a Marine, and personal trainer I know that for a high level of overall (long term) fitness you need a balanced routine that includes a mix of strength, aerobic, flexibility and athletic training. Now there are many different ways (in each of those areas) to get there, that’s another argument. But in the end, balance is the key.

I think that a balanced routine also has many other benefits besides performance. Obviously, it helps prevent the boredom that will set in with constantly doing the same thing over and over. Injuries are another issue that often occur with doing too much of any one thing. For a real life example; I have a buddy who recently deployed to Afghanistan for a year. He’s a pretty big guy, but when he deployed he was way over his best weight. He had set a goal for himself to lose the weight and get in great shape during his tour. Most of the time he was stationed in a small forward FOB that was about ½ mile around the inside wire. They didn’t have any weights or really anything you could call gym equipment, so he just started running and honestly did little else. He also put himself on a strict diet (having no beer helped). Almost every day that he wasn’t outside the wire, he ran around that little compound. Lap after lap. By the time he was ready to ship home, he had dropped 50 lbs. He was so thin that when he got off the plane his family walked right by him. He looked so different they didn’t recognize him. He told me though while he felt great that he lost the weight, he also felt weak and “too light in the ass”. (My thought was that at 6’ 200lbs he should have been strong enough to run through a brick wall). However, when he got back and was exposed to normal food and drink (and life), his weight started to creep back up. To try and combat this he started running more and more, till he was running about 40-50 miles a week.

So what happened? The inevitable. He injured himself physically from too much running, (Bad Shin Splints) and mentally burned out to the point where he just said screw it all and took a whole month off. During which he gained back 25lbs. This is about the point where we started working together. After some discussion and a lot of doubt on his part, he finally took my advice to balance out his routine. I got him on 2 days of strength training (calisthenics and ammo can drills), 2 days of running (about 9 miles total), 1 day of weight vest stair climbing, and 1 day of a sport, which was in his case: tennis. 1 day off. None of these workouts were longer than an hour and all included a through 10 minute stretching routine to finish up. He tightened up a little on his diet, but from what I saw, it wasn’t that strict. The result? After 60 days, no shin splints, his weight was back down to were he wanted it and he felt better both physically and mentally. Though he was now back to his previous weight (200), he no longer felt weak and “too light in the ass”. His upper body was much stronger as he went from barely being able to do 3 pull-ups to 10+ easy. He admitted that he never thought he could maintain his weight without running everyday. I wasn’t surprised by his progress or his thoughts, as this is a very common mistake people make.

The bottom line is that there is no single physical activity that will provide you with great overall fitness. It’s a zero-sum game that you have to mix it up and balance it out for the best results. So, if you’re feeling in a rut with your routine, give it an honest review and ask yourself is it balanced? Or are you just doing what you like vs. what you need? I’ve found that what people really more than anything else is good (lasting) results. Plus, you might find out you like something you never tried before. Not soccer though, I hate soccer. Till next month:

“Be Safe always, Be Good when you can.”

Semper Fi



3 Responses to “Corps Strength – Stay on Balance”

  1. Dev says:

    Generally agree, and having done most of my routines with weight added (pack or weight vest) I usually tell guys who get “bored” or feel like their workouts have outlasted their usefulness: put on a weight vest and see how it all turns out.

  2. Kev says:

    If you gain 25lbs in a month you need to fix more than not being able to run