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Corps Strength – Excuses Are Like Ass****s, Everyone Has One And They All Stink

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

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I’m sure you’ve heard that old line before as it’s well used, especially in the military. IMO it’s accurate too and pretty universal, as it applies to just about any subject. However, I will contend that more excuses are used around the subject of weight loss and fitness than any other area. Over the years I’ve heard an untold number of excuses from friends, family, students and my fellow Marines (who came up with some of the best ones), for being overweight and out of shape. “I’m big boned, I don’t have time. I have a slow metabolism, I can’t afford good food, etc, etc.” The excuse list is way too long to post here. Addressing those is a whole other article.

The other odd thing about this category of excuses, (set aside the fact they are all at least 95% bullshit), is how many people will follow a workout routine and/or diet that yields very little positive results, yet will stick to it, defend it and make excuses for it, to the bitter end. Over the years I’ve heard many people enthusiastically defend their favorite diet and workout program, even through it’s obvious it hasn’t worked for them, at least not very well. It’s a very weird, but very real thing.

I experienced this again just the other day. Several years ago, outside the main gym here on base they constructed a nice elevated workout platform with several pull-up bars attached, and there are some sand filled ammo cans and tires out there to throw around. A few times a week I do an early morning PT session there that usually takes me about an hour (if I kick it). Now, this platform is located right outside the gym’s “cardio room” I can see in there through several big floor-to-ceiling windows and when I get going around 0600, they seem to always have an exercise class going. From my casual observation it seems to be made up of active military, retirees and dependent civilians. The class itself appears to be a mix of calisthenics, those rubber band things, light dumbbells and stretching. Of course everyone has their mat, water bottle and I hear loud workout music playing and the female instructor yelling out what to do.

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The class also has a wide range of fitness levels, with many that are overweight. Now, this is nothing new except for what happened the other morning. I was outside, doing my thing when a man, (who I don’t know, but I had seen a few times in the exercise class) came walking up to me and spoke:

“Hey man, that looks like a tough workout you’re doing”

“Well, it can be.”

“I see you out here all the time.” Is that all you do?

“Well, I run a bit also.”

“No weightlifting?”

“No weights like you’re thinking, but I do throw around these some ammo cans and tires a little.”

“Huh, I figured you lifted weights?” (Apparently I’m lying?)

“No, No weights, no inside gym at all unless it’s really bad weather.”

Then we got down to cases. (I knew what was coming).

“I don’t think that your routine would work for me.” (Keep in mind I didn’t suggest it).

“Why is that?”

“Well, I’m too old, that stuff is more for you younger guys”

“How old are you?”

“53, how old are you 40-45?”

“I’m 57,”

‘Really? Huh, well, I’ve had issues with my back and knees, I can’t do a lot of what I see you doing out here.”

“I see”.

“Plus, I really like the PT class they have here in the morning.

“Yeah, I think I’ve seen you in there.”

“Yes, I go almost every morning.”

“How’s that working out for you?”

“Great, I really like it.”

“Are you tiring to lose some weight?”

“Yeah, I want to lose about 25 lbs, I started this class to help me.” (IMO 30-40 lbs would be better)

“Has it helped?”

“Well, not really.”

Why is that?”

“I don’t know exactly, I think my metabolism has slowed down? but it’s a great class. A real workout!”

“How long have you been in the class?”

“Since, I retired from the Navy, hell, almost five years now. Great class. It’s the best PT class I’ve ever taken.”

“Sounds like it.”

The point is here is not to make fun of someone, (well, maybe a little) but to point out something that is critical to the success of any PT program; That you have to decide if you really want results out of a exercise routine and/or diet plan. Or, that you just want to do something that makes you feel like you’re trying, but in the end not really have to worry about achieving any real results. I get that it’s great to go to a class, get some sweat on and feel good about it. However, for me and the people I train, results are what counts, feeling good is important, but secondary. As in the end I contend that people will feel the best about achieving their fitness goals, not just trying.

When I work with someone on weight loss and improving their fitness it starts with a (realistic) goal, a comprehensive plan to get there and then constant observation of progress to ensure the plan is working toward that end. If not, adjustments are made to get on track. What I don’t spend a second on is making excuses for things that don’t work and worse, continue on that path. Everyone is different, but things either work or they don’t and there are no shit reasons for both. This isn’t rocket science, but sometimes people make it much harder than it is and excuses don’t make it any better, or easier, (Other than just in their mind). The fitness/diet advice I layout in my book and in person has always been based on results, not bullshit to make you feel good, but real honest results. Results gained through consistent, long term effort. Results that will last and you can be proud of, and BTW when that happens, excuses aren’t needed. My old boxing trainer told me something many years ago about excuses; “You never need an excuse for winning, only losing.” Something to think about.

Taking some leave to climb a few rocks up north, We’ll talk next month. Till then:

“Ba Safe always, Good when you can.”

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – Back To Basics

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

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Way back when I first enlisted in the Marine Corps (1981), AKA the “Days of the Giants.” I worked for some real hard asses. Now for the most part these weren’t spit and polish Marines, though they could clean up when they needed to. The fact was back then, just about every Staff NCO and Officer from Major on up, was a Vietnam Vet. Many were highly decorated and had been wounded. They were some crusty SOB’s for sure. I recall even our company admin chief (a Gunny) had a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. One time over a few beers at a unit picnic he was asked; Gunny, didn’t you ever learn to duck? He answered, “I got shot three times and I killed the bastard that did it every time.” OOOHH – F’ing – RAAA Gunny. I learned a lot from those Marines, things I used my whole career and even to this day with my international students. Yes, they were different than us, not better than our warfighters of today, just different.

They dam sure were different when it came to PT. These guys weren’t big on running and they never lifted weights, or did anything you could call “Cross-Fit” Most couldn’t give two shits about a PFT either. I remember at one of my first PFT’s holding my Platoon Sgt’s (lit and unfiltered) Pall Mall, so he could do his pull-ups. They tended to think about PT like they did about everything else, no bullshit. I had a Sgt Major (who served as a Capt in Vietnam), tell me the three most important things you need (physically) in combat were: The ability to suffer pain (hunger, thirst, cold, heat, injury and fatigue), the ability to dig a hole (fast), and the ability to hump a heavy pack (and carry gear), up and down hills, through the mud, etc. From my own experience, I think that’s still accurate. I would add to that list from my own experience, the ability to move your ass (with full gear), up and down and over obstacles in a GD hurry, is a good thing also.

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Setting the first two aside for now, the ability to hump (ruck, hike, whatever you want to call it) a pack over varied terrain and for many miles quickly, is still a fundamental physical skill for any combat arms military people. I am also of the opinion however that it is a desired ability in anyone (military or civilian) who wants to achieve and maintain a high level of useful real-world fitness. There is just something about it that toughens and strengthens your entire body. It’s benefit is hard to duplicate by any other single exercise.

Now if you’re not in the military, (or a Wild Land Firefighter) you don’t need to take this to an extreme level to gain some real fitness benefit. I typically do 10 miles, with my 45lb training pack, 2x a month. This, along with my normal PT keeps me in very good condition to easily handle the field training I do with my students and to tackle any outdoor activities my sons and buddies come up with for us to do off duty. In fact, myself and my two sons have signed up to do the Mt. Everest base camp trek next spring. There we will be hiking roughly 100 miles from 4000 – 18,000 ft in elevation, over three weeks. I have no doubt my own (minor) “Force March” training will have me in good stead for that trip.

For general fitness get a good pack and add 20-40lbs of weight. You can get a used ALICE pack with frame at most military surplus stores for less than 50 bucks. Wear good boots (not running shoes) and hike 3-10 miles 2 x a month over varied terrain, the pace is up to you. This is plenty to gain some real fitness benefit. You can wear a weight vest if you like, though I prefer a pack, as I’d rather have all the weight baring on my back vs. my shoulders, but both will work. I like to do this early on Sunday mornings. My wife comes with the dogs and we have a nice couple of hours walking together, (she doesn’t carry a pack however). I think that 2x a month is enough, but you could do it every week if you don’t overdue the weight, distance or pace, but I think that these type of workouts can be tough and you need time to recover. The bottom line is this isn’t a cool, sexy or what you would call “cutting edge” fitness, but it works and if there’s nothing else I learned from my old Vietnam era mentors, it’s to go with what works and skip the bullshit. This works, and it’s no bullshit. Give it a try. Till next month;

“Be safe always, good when you can.”

Semper Fi MGunz

Corps Strength – “Running and Gunning”

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

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One thing I’ve learned in working overseas with international militaries (one of many things), is that no matter how many different countries you deploy to, you’ll be surprised by something you see. My latest trip to Trinidad was no exception. Having had almost a dozen senior enlisted people from Trinidad attend our resident Leadership Course here in Pensacola over the last few years, I did expect to see a professional outfit; I did and that was no surprise. Their ships, weapons, bases and other equipment were in excellent condition; professionally maintained and their people were also professional and well trained and I saw a lot of it up close during my stay.

During my two week’s there we held class daily with about 30 senior enlisted of their Army, Coast Guard and Air Guard. Like most places, the students were like sponges, anxious to learn, with non-stop questions, again no surprise. We had some great discussions during Rules of Engagement, Force Protection and Maritime Security classes. As you could imagine being just 10 NM off the coast of Venezuela, those are all hot topics there nowadays. It was an all-around great training event. I especially enjoyed watching the recruit training of both the Coast Guard and Army, different than ours (British model in many cases), but still pretty good. Especially when I compare it to some other countries I’ve been too.

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I was billeted on the Coast Guard station, which was one very steep hill away from their largest Army base and where they conduct recruit training. I had some great PT with the steep hills and the outdoor workout equipment they had on that base. Almost every morning I ran over that hill and while I got my own sweat on, I got to watch them train. Not just the Army, but many Coast Guard people who also ran over that F’ing hill every morning. Of course, I saw more people dragging ass (like me), than hauling ass, as those hills are no joke and that was no surprise either.

However, every other day or so, I saw a group of Coast Guard people (men and women), that were obviously a notch up on the PT scale. They all looked about 6ft tall and flew by my old ass on the hills without a backward glance. A couple times I saw the same group in Army camo, carrying weapons as they ran. What I found out later is that this was a small boat outfit, kind of a SWAT team on the water. Their Coast Guard fills a Navy, Marine and LE role, depending on the mission. Which at any time (or all at once), can be Drug Enforcement, Immigration Control, Firefighting, Anti-Piracy, Search and Rescue, etc. They are pretty much ready for anything, driving some kick ass high tech ships to help them. They get a lot of training from us and from what I gathered, some from the Brits also. If you’re wondering, it’s a very robust natural gas industry that pays the tab for the new high speed ships and gear, (Not our tax dollars).

In any case, I learned that once a week this unit executes a ½ swim, followed immediately by a 4 mile run over the mtns, and ends with a full round of CQB shooting, with MP5’s and SIG 226. I spoke to one of the team members and he stated the shooting after the swim and run was the most important part. “As we have to practice on how shoot well when breathing hard and fatigued”. There is a shooting qualification standard they have to meet every time, it’s not just for practice. That was a surprise, not that he isn’t 100% correct, but that most international militaries don’t train that way, even in the U.S. only certain units in our military do this on a regular basis. The fact is that most of the time, movement on a range is tightly controlled as the focus is on safety and shooting from a fixed point and rested state, especially when qualifying for a shooting badge. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I know there is “running and gunning” training conducted here, I’ve done a lot of it myself. However, I will contend that we need to do more of it, a lot more, as that’s the real world. Just like I’ve always said we should do more, (if not all) of our PT training in boots and Utes, not running shoes and shorts. It was also a surprise that they recognized the need for continuous practice and training in this type of shooting. As we all know, bullets cost money and shooting a lot, wears out weapons, which is more money. However, they understand it’s a necessary investment that they’re willing to make.

The point here is that military PT has a special and specific primary purpose, that being to prepare people for combat operations and make them harder to kill. Not as many people think, that it’s to prepare you for a fitness test, so you can get a good score for promotion. Yes, getting a good score on a PFT/PRT is important, but not the most important. I also realize that different units have different missions and from that different levels of physical readiness and shooting ability are required, and trained for. However, we all have to shoot and maintain at least a basic level of fitness, so I contend that we should combine these two important aspects together much more often, and for everyone that carries a weapon, not just for Combat Arms outfits. Enough bitching for now, busy summer ahead with lots to talk about. Till then, be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – Crossing the “T” (therapy) Off Your List

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Anyone who has read my book Corps Strength, or follows my articles here on SSD, knows I’m not big on supplements. Not that I haven’t tried them, I have. I would say that up until about 10 years ago I seriously tried just about every different fitness supplement out there; Mega-Vitamins, all types of protein, fat burners, creatine, etc, etc, etc. I wish I had all the money back I wasted on that crap over the years, I could get the new truck I want with cash, instead of a loan. In any case live and learn, as I’m just as hard headed as anyone in having to try something for myself. Plus, I get the strong attraction of getting better results from our PT efforts, so I realize in the end people will try just about anything for some gains, no matter what this old jarhead says.

However, there is something I’ve seen a lot lately that goes beyond the normal hype you see in (mostly) harmless supplements. That’s the heavy advertising you see for Testosterone therapy for men. I’m not taking about the (worthless) over the counter stuff, but prescription drugs. It’s advertised everywhere; TV, radio, magazines and on the internet. This past weekend myself and my son took in a Yankee preseason game in Tampa and along the way I saw a big billboard advertising testosterone treatments. Of course they have a picture of a seriously jacked older guy as a proof source. I think this is misleading at best and dangerous at it’s worst.

Testosterone levels in men is serious business. If your body doesn’t produce enough you will have a range of problems. Fatigue, depression, fat gain, and the big one: lack of sex drive and these are just a few, there are many. Too much testosterone has its problems too, we know about this from bodybuilders who take immense amounts of steroids to increase their T levels to crazy high levels. Without getting too far into this, ideally your T level basically falls in a range of between 300-1000, depending on your age. Now it’s natural that your T levels will fall as you age, thats life stud. However, other than a serious medical condition or injury, IMO you can maintaining a healthy level (for any age) is possible, and you can do this without relying on drugs. The fact is a recent study of T therapy for men has indicated that it isn’t the “fountain of youth” that the ads make it seem. You can read the results of one study (there are lots of them out there) for yourself here: T Therapy.

There are many simple lifestyle things that will reduce your T levels; being out of shape and overweight are two big ones. Not getting enough sleep, stress, smoking and drinking too much, are others. On the opposite side a healthy lifestyle, exercise, maintaining a lean bodyweight, getting enough sleep and a good diet can have the reverse effect. For this I’ll use myself as an example (as I’m prone to do). When I retired from active duty I was 49 years old and I had the big retirement physical as we all do. One of the things you have done (which I never had before), was to have my T level checked. At my final out brief with the doc he asked me if I was taking any T supplements as my number was 702, which was the high end of my age group and still high middle for the for any age. (No, I wasn’t taking anything) Now last year at age 56, I was tested again and mine actually went up to 733 (to my wife’s horror). I think it went up because since I retired and left New Orleans, I drink much less and get a lot more sleep.
The point here is that today’s culture that likes to throw drugs at every issue, as an instant cure is not only dangerous, but (as the study points out) in many cases, doesn’t provide the desired results. I still stubbornly think that when it comes to our health, we can do a lot with just some honest effort in PT, some restraint at the table and the bar and some common sense to manage our stress. At least before turning to a drug, give it a try. Plus, the fact is once you start on it, you pretty much have to continue it for life, I say F**k that.

In any case I’m off to Trinidad next month to train some of their people, I should (as I’m prone to do), see something there worth talking about next month. Till then be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – It’s not Exercise, It’s Therapy

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

I’d say that it’s a pretty safe bet that the vast majority of the people reading this have a Military, Law Enforcement, or other 1st Responder background. It’s also a safe bet that we come from every location, color, race, size and shape on the charts. However, as different as we may look, we have many things in common. As a group we entered these occupations knowing that making a lot money wasn’t part of the deal, nor did we go this way because we thought it would be easy, inside work. So why were we looking for something hard, something different, something most people wouldn’t do? Why did a dangerous, arduous life appeal to us? Hard to say exactly, but if you ever tried to explain this to someone who doesn’t get it, you know what I mean. This stuff either appeals to you, or it don’t. I say all this just to point out that most of us who do these things, have a part of our DNA strand that is just wired a little different than most folks. I’ve heard it called the “Warrior Gene”. Some studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. People with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but they are more likely to respond aggressively to threats and conflicts. We also tend to have high expectations from people (ourselves especially), a low tolerance for failure and bull shit excuses. Then there’s the very common short fuze when we encounter people (or a system), that stops us from accomplishing something. Generally speaking, it’s at least one explanation to why we don’t always play well with others, especially when we’re thrown into the general population.

This mutant gene isn’t just about being an obnoxious prick, it does come with some good stuff too; A high pain tolerance and a stubborn ability to keep going when most others would have quit, a strong set of personal values, like extremes of loyalty and reliability are some, there are many more. I say all this as I think everyone who feels they have may this gene, may want to consider adding an activity to your current workout routine. Not just for health and fitness, but for sanity. That being some type of “combative”. Now we all know that PT helps lower stress, it’s one of the biggest benefits other than just health and fitness.

However, I’m talking about something on the next level of stress relief, that being some type of martial arts training. Over different times in my life I’ve been seriously involved in Karate, Wrestling, Judo and Boxing. I’ve also trained in the basics of Krav Maga with some Cop buddies and of course I put in my time with the Marine Corps Martial Arts program when I was on active duty. From that experience, I think that there is something about participating in those types of activities that provides an outlet for stress like no other. It really gives you a way to vent, without the serious injuries and legal issues that can come with; as one old Gunny I worked for called: “Going Half Apache”, when your pissed off.

Now I haven’t seriously been involved with any of these sports for years, as having the extra time for that in my life has passed for the most part, However, there is one way I do get my combative fix, it’s with the big heavy bag hanging in my garage. At least 2-3 times a week I get it even with the world by just pounding the shit out of that bag. This is something I’ve done since I was in high school and for pure stress relief, there is nothing that matches it. I like to say; it’s therapy not exercise. Beyond the obvious exercise, it very quickly takes the edge off your attitude, I’ve always thought it’s kept me out of jail more than once over the years too, as besides not hitting back, a heavy bag doesn’t file charges.

Plus, there is no doubt that a few 10-15 minute (more if you need it), sessions a week will add some real benefit to almost any PT routine. It builds a certain type of strength and endurance that you really can’t get any other way. If you have no experience with hitting a heavy bag, get someone who does show you how to execute the basic punches properly. Besides a quality heavy bag, you need to get some wraps and gloves to protect your hands. Yes, It’s a few bucks up front to get some quality gear, but after that with very little care, it will all last you many years. My heavy bag has survived about a dozen PCS moves. I even had it smuggled in and out of Iraq to help keep me sane there. You could also join a gym that has a bag you can hit, but IMO it’s better to have it at the house, where it’s ready to take a beating 24/7.

To add a new twist to your PT routine (and help keep you out of trouble), it’s well worth the investment. Give it a try.

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – A New Year, Needs A New Plan

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

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This past week I was up at my parents in New York for the holidays. As fate would have it, a bunch of friends I hung out with in high school were having a get together and I was invited. I hadn’t seen many of these guys since I enlisted in the Marines, so it was a good time to see them and catch up over a few beers. At one point an old buddy took me aside and told me that he had heard about what I do for a living and asked for some advice on losing some weight and getting in better shape. He had gained quite a bit of weight since the days we were on our HS wrestling team together and a lifetime of construction work gave had given him some injuries and health issues also. We talked for awhile and I got his address to send him a copy of my book, to help get him started. We had a good conversation and while I’m hoping for his success, my long experience tells me otherwise. Not to be negative, but I’ve seen this movie too many times and know how it normally ends.

Now, New Years resolutions aside, there is one main reason people fail to achieve their fitness goals and it’s probably not what you think. It’s not because people are stupid, lazy, weak willed or really aren’t serious. The main reason is that they set themselves up (unconsciously) to fail before they even get started. How? No (real) plan and unrealistic goals. “Lose weight and get in shape” isn’t a goal. “Eat better” isn’t a plan. A plan is what you’re going to do daily. When? Where? With what? How are you going to specifically change your diet? How you are going to measure your progress? You have to think about these things and honestly they aren’t all that complicated, but they do require some thought and must be done if you expect to succeed. This is especially important if you haven’t exercised in a while. With that your plan also has to first be developed around real goals and if your goals aren’t realistic, your plan is dead on arrival.

Now, what do I mean about an unrealistic goal? First off, I will never be one to tell anyone they can’t do something, as over the years I’ve had too many people try to tell me I couldn’t do something. Setting high goals in of itself is not really the issue and I find most people understand that. Fitness goals range widely from person to person in any case. The issue is the unrealistic expectation of how quick people think they can reach a goal, is the real problem. People who have hardly done any serious exercise for years, will often set out with very lofty goals (and expect quick results) for themselves. This is especially true of former athletes and military people, who have fond memories of their glory days as athletes and hard charging young troops, and feel that with just a little effort (and short time) investment and they’ll be right back to that. I get that confidence, trust me. But, I also know from long experience that is not the reality. The fact is this is a very common trap that people set for themselves, the trap of instant results. To be truly successful you have to think long term and give yourself much more time than you probably think you need. Have some patience bro, what’s the rush anyway? I’m sure the vast majority of you reading this don’t have a PFT/PRT in your future. The point is that you do eventually get there and then; stay there. As I always say “Long term results, not short term fixes” is the only successful mindset for maintaining fitness and a healthy weight. It doesn’t matter what your goals are either. It could be to run a marathon, lose 25lbs, hike a mountain, or all of those. They all require a plan that is broken-down into daily effort and evaluation. Legendary football coach: Vince Lombardi said that “Our character is formed by the small choices we make everyday”. Your health and fitness are formed the same way, small everyday efforts made over the long term, a lifetime in fact. Sit down and come up with some real goals and a detailed plan that supports those goals. Give yourself a break on the amount of time you need to get there and then just get to work, one day and one meal at a time. This isn’t as hard as people make it, IF they don’t make it so. My book can help you get started, but in the end it’s up to you. Step #1 is to change your thinking and the rest will follow.

I hope the start of the New Year finds everyone healthy and ready to kick off 2017. Needless to say 2016 was one for the books and 2017 looks to be more of the same. So buckle up your chin straps people and get some!

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – “Get it done.”

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

It was one of those perfect Southern California winter days; Sunny, warm and crystal clear. Dec of 1981 and I was just another young Marine PVT in the 2nd or 3rd week of Infantry Training School (ITS). My platoon was busy digging into some C Rats after a fast ten mile hump out to one of the many training areas on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Our main instructor was a young Cpl, a sadistic prick (who later retired as a Sgt Major), but at the time was only a year or two older than most of those in his charge. We were there that morning to participate in one of the many live fire exercises that we would do during our month long course. I was just about to break open my own can of “Beef and Rocks” when I heard our Cpl’s familiar bark. “Where’s my Donkeys at?” This was a signal to me, my best friend and a couple of others (that he had singled out early in the training cycle), to come forward and “volunteer”. In most cases this meant we were going to have to carry, or go get something for him; like his folding chair, coffee thermos or ice cooler. In any case it wasn’t something that was going to be fun, but honestly the “Donkeys” were kept off the real shit details and every time we humped his cooler of beer, we always got one.

Anyhow, this was going to be different. In front of us were about 50 new, sealed ammo cans of 5.56. “We got the duty” He laid out, as he spit some tobacco juice on the ground. “We (meaning us) need to get that ammo to the top of that hill.” He pointed to a very steep, sandy and rocky hill that was about 200 yards to the top. When I looked up at the summit, I could see some other instructors up there already. I figured we would be shooting from one hill to another as another platoon ran below us to get to an assault position. In those days our training consisted mainly of just three things: (not counting the nonstop field day of the squad bay), humping, running and shooting, most of the time in combination (it was great). There were four of us assigned this task. We looked at the pile of cans, the steep hill and the rest of the platoon enjoying their chow. Sensing what we were thinking, our fearless leader dropped into his folding chair and added: “Donkeys eat when they get done working, get it done.” We each grabbed two cans and started up. It was hard work and took about 4-5 trips each. I was in outstanding condition having recently maxed the Marine Corps PFT and was pretty well used to those hills at that point, I could hump a heavy pack all day, but I never had to do this particular task before. I didn’t have a real problem, certainly not as hard a time as some of the others. But I never forgot how hard that hour was lugging those heavy ammo cans up that hill. I was also surprised how tired I was afterward and sore the next day? It was a real introduction to what they call now: Functional Fitness. Or should I say a lack of it. It made an lasting impression on me that being in top shape was more than just running, or doing pull-ups.

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From that point on I almost always included some type of training with ammo cans. Mostly with two .50 cans. Fill them with sand they are about 30lbs, with rocks almost 40. Funny thing is that now many years later, this is standard training for Marines and part of the Combat Fitness Test, (CFT). However, I’ve been using them for over thirty years and still do. I use them and train my international students with them. They are an inexpensive, versatile and effective training tool. You can get them used for about ten bucks each at any military surplus store and if you don’t dump them on concrete they will last though many years of hard use. In my book Corps Strength, I lay out several ways to use ammo cans in training. They can be used by themselves or in combination with other types of functional training (like with a weight vest) for a real ass kicker. This type of training isn’t bodybuilding, or sports conditioning, but for toughening and conditioning your whole body to handle real world stuff, especially your back, legs, grip and shoulders. Plus, there is just something motivating about throwing around some ammo cans for PT, at least to me. So if you want to add something different and effective to your workout, without spending a lot of money. “Get it done” with a couple of (filled) ammo cans. You’ll find them to be a great training tool and always will be.

Till next month,

“Be safe always, good when you can.”

Semper Fi

MGunz

Corps Strength – Living Poor and Feeling Rich, or Living Rich and Feeling Poor?

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

First off, I apologize for being a little late with this month’s article. I just returned from a month’s deployment to East Africa: Comoros and Madagascar specifically. As part of my job here at the International Training center, a couple times a year we take our show on the road to do some training in other countries. While the travel is sometimes long (almost 25,000 miles for this trip, as I no shit traveled by plane, train, automobile, rickshaw, horseback and on foot), I still enjoy the experience. Mostly, as I think I learn more from my students (and their countries), than they learn from me and this time was no different. We held training every day on different bases, but I had a lot of opportunities to observe their own training and see a lot of the country. It was a busy month to say the least.

As I usually do on these trips, made some time to PT with my students. Their PT routines were the standard issue for Africa that I’ve seen for years; lots of running, calisthenics and soccer. The infantry guys also do a lot of humping with packs and running with weapons. We even humped a couple of mountains together. There are no weights, no cross fit, etc. type training to speak of. For the most part, they are in pretty decent condition, good runners especially. Tough, lean guys for the most part, this is nothing new.

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Now as a trainer, I also take an interest in what they eat. Needless to say there are no special diets going on here. Many of these countries are only a few short steps from starvation, so eating isn’t thought about the same way as it is in the United States. Supermarket type places to food shop are far and few between, and are priced for rich tourists and a few high placed locals only. Everyone else gets their chow from open air markets. Very little refrigeration and NEVER any ice here; Fresh fish, butchered meat, vegetables, fruit and everything else is just piled on tables for sale. Loaves of bread are stacked like firewood. Rice and flour are measured out of the sack and there are plenty of live ducks and chickens for sale. If you’ve ever been to one of these markets you never forget the sight and smell of it. In other words this isn’t your local farmers market that sets up in your hometown square on Saturdays in the summer. This is everyday life and it’s as raw and un-sanitized as you are now imagining.

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Now you think with these unfiltered conditions and simple diet these people would be on deaths door? I found the opposite to be true. Most of the people I saw were healthy, thin, muscular and hard working. Most doing serious hard physical labor every day to make ends meet, including the women and children. Not much of a welfare program here, you work or you don’t eat is the basic idea. Just for one example; Madagascar has one the largest brick making industries in the world, due to the rich clay that is everywhere. I saw tens of thousands of small brick making operations going on and with that I saw a conservative estimate of several million bricks, all of which are made completely by hand. I watched people of all ages making, stacking, curing and carrying these bricks. It’s no joke back breaking work, no shade either.

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Their simple basic diet of real food fuels all this work, as I saw very little processed food of any type. The butter and milk we saw was all full fat and the sugar was raw brown. There was no fast food, other than soda, which is very popular. Even in the huge capital of Antananarivo (over 1.5 million people), these open air markets are the norm for the vast majority of the people. They do use plenty of local (hot) spices to jazz up the simple fare, but little else. We pretty much ate like the locals the entire trip and we didn’t get sick, nor get the shits the entire trip (we only drank bottled water, I’m not that brave, or stupid). Our rep from the Embassy told us that when local people eat processed food, and sleep in AC they get sick. They know this from when they hire locals to work at the embassy and the hotels.

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The funny thing is that you also see very few overweight people. I saw lots of older people working, walking and carrying heavy loads along the roads with everyone else. The roads are very crowded with people walking and riding bikes. The other thing you notice when you meet the people is generally how happy they are? Families are together all the time, working, eating and living. They don’t seem to be burdened with stress and worry, even though their circumstances would be considered dire by any standard that we go by. They value family, their faith (I seen all faiths there) and enjoy the simpler things in life as most have no TV either. Now you could say that they are just ignorant, simple peasants and aren’t smart enough to know any better. So I guess you need to be educated and have 300 cable TV channels to be miserable? Ok got it.

After a few weeks you kind of take all this for granted, then I got on a plane backs to the states, landing in Atlanta. As soon as you land the first thing you see is the over whelming number of obese and obviously stressed out people in the airport. Not a few, but frankly a large majority and of course every few yards is another fast food place, most with a long line of fat bodies waiting to get their fix. It’s a sad fact that we are the richest people in the world money wise, but in many ways we are the poorest. Maybe we could learn some simple lessons from some of the poorest countries in the world. Stay active, if you don’t have a physical job, get some regular exercise. Eat real food, simple food from the earth, not a plastic box. Along with that relax a little and try to keep things in perspective, in the end nothing is more important than your family when you get right down to it.

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Now before you say it don’t give me this crap, that if its so great move there? I’m not going anywhere, not for money, free beer or virgins. I’m an American, who has fought for this country all my adult life and I continue to serve. I’m staying regardless, even if I have to the last man standing holding the flag. My point is that with all our wealth, all our greatness, I feel sometimes that we are rotting from within, and we could do better as a nation, starting with our health and attitude. Enough ranting for this month.

Be safe always, Good when you can.

Semper Fi
MGunz