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Corps Strength – Tail Wagging the Dog?

Monday, September 7th, 2015


In my mind and yes, I’ll admit it’s this is just an old Jarhead’s mind, there are some weird things in the fitness industry. Now, when I say “fitness industry” I’m talking about the vast array of exercise equipment, nutritional supplements, workout systems, etc. that are out there competing for your time and money. Diet and exercise books are a big part of this too, which makes me and my little book a small (very small) part of this huge thing which was valued at over 3 billion dollars last year. Obviously not all of these things fall under one company or person, but if you watch the “industry” you see that they all tend to all get in line with the latest trends. The bottom line with this is money, as everybody is trying to sell you something, so they’re always are looking for something new. Which is the exact opposite of myself, who is always looking for old stuff that has proven to have actually worked over the years. What normally happens is the whole thing rotates around and every few years they repackage the some stuff from a few years ago and resell it as new. I’ve seen this process go through many cycles, too many to list here.

Now there is something that has become a big thing over the last few years and from what I can tell it’s kind of original, as it’s not just another cycle repeating itself. That is the WOD, or Workout of the Day. Far as I can tell it mostly came from Cross Fit (which is another story). Most people who workout are familiar with this, it’s a combination of movements (weights, calisthenics and maybe some aerobic stuff) that you would go through and shoot to complete the required number reps in a certain time limit. Many gyms and trainers will post their WOD on the boards in gyms and on line. I’ve done many of them and posted many others of my own for my students.

In my case I always looked at them as just another way to motivate myself and others and a way to achieve and sometimes, measure specific fitness levels. However more and more I see that the WOD has become the end game? How you do on these things has a life of it’s own. The very popular Cross Fit games are really nothing more than extreme WODs when you get down to it. Which brings me to my point. That is how well you do in your workouts (what ever type they may be) should be focused to help you improve in some sport, activity or your overall fitness, which includes getting and keeping your weight in check. The WOD is like the tail wagging the dog, where the workout is the focus, where it is supposed to take you is not really a consideration. So what you say, fitness is fitness? If you just do these WODs you’ll be in great shape. IMO, this isn’t true when your focus is to maintain health and fitness for life and/or improve in any certain aspect of your life. I’ve seen many people in the last few years that are injured and/or get burned out and quit working out after a period focusing on Cross Fit/WOD stuff. Most of these workouts are not designed to improve any particular sport, but are designed themselves be the focus. This is backwards and in the end the vast majority of people will either hurt themselves or quit because of it. Seen it too many times, especially for older people or those trying to get back into shape from a layoff.

The key to long term fitness is to follow a program that is designed for you and you goals, not focused on just completing a certain amount of Burpees or Power Cleans in under a certain time. Like say in my book and tell everyone I’ve trained, our goal is “long term results, not short term fixes.” The WOD is just that, a short term fix, a workout of the day. For your life you need real goals, not something dreamed up by someone for that day. A tail can’t wag a dog, it will break first, same concept here.

Next week I’m off to Africa to train some of their Army guys for most of Sept. Till then train hard, be good when you can and stay safe always.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Diet Vs. Exercise

Saturday, August 1st, 2015


When I was stationed in SC, I used to go to the big gym on base every morning when we didn’t run unit PT. Almost from the very first time I went there, I noticed that there was always a very overweight woman walking on one of the treadmills. Though I didn’t know her, she was a very nice person and was always motivated and friendly to everyone, even to my grumpy ass 0500 version. As far as I could remember she never missed a day, at least not any day that I was there. She always walked hard and fast for a solid hour and it was obvious that she was determined to lose some weight. You couldn’t help but admire her efforts.

Not long after I got there, I deployed to Iraq for a year. When I got back, I went to the gym early one morning. There, walking hard and fast on the treadmill was the same woman. However, it didn’t seem to me that she had lost an ounce during all the time I was away? She looked just as big as ever. After some small talk (I didn’t question her about her diet, just mentioned it was nice to see her again, etc.). I had no reason to believe that she missed any gym time during the time I was away, so I was pretty sure her problem was the same issue I’d seen many times before and since: That being that despite her everyday workouts, she didn’t follow a good diet.

The fact is many people who exercise on a regular basis mistakenly assume that because they exercise a lot, they don’t have to really watch what, or how much you eat. At times I have been guilty of this myself. Yes, lots of exercise allows you to eat more and not gain weight, but it’s been my experience that most people will overestimate the amount of calories that they burn during exercise and greatly underestimate the amount of calories that they eat. Add to that the way exercise stimulates your appetite and it’s no wonder that even people who work out a lot can’t lose or maintain a healthy body weight.

For example the amount of calories in a McDonalds Big Mac meal (Big Mac, Coke and Fries) is approx. 1200 calories. To burn that off by running, the average sized person would have to run a ½ marathon, over 13 miles. Very few people can (or will) run that much on a regular basis and that’s just one meal. Not to mention that a fast food meal like that is very poor nutritionally. Another aspect of this that if you develop the habit of eating a lot, when you stop or reduce your exercise to any great degree, you will have a very hard reducing your big eating habit along with it. This is a very common occurrence in the military when people come off periods of hard military training like: Boot Camp, Ranger school, ITS, etc. They eat like escaped convicts during training (as they need it), but after they graduate they will often continue this habit and gain unwanted weight. It’s an old story in the Marine Corps for an overweight kid to lose 20-30lbs in boot camp and graduate looking great, then gain half of it back during boot camp leave?

The bottom line is that in the battle of diet vs. exercise, diet will always win as it’s much easier and takes a lot less time to eat a big meal, than it does to exercise it off. Like they say; “You can’t outrun a bad diet”. The point of all thus is that while exercise and a good diet are both very important for health, fitness and maintaining an optimum bodyweight, eating the good food in the right amounts is more important. Especially for people who rely on their bodies for their livelihood. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good hard hour of PT every day is a free pass to eat non-stop for the next 23. When I was in the Infantry the motto was Lean, Mean, Green and Hungry makes the Grunt fight harder. Still makes sense.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Sitting Is The New Cancer?

Saturday, June 13th, 2015


Recently while promoting his new watch, Apple CEO Tim Cool remarked that; “sitting was the new cancer.” Well not quite, as comparing cancer (a disease), with sitting (an activity) isn’t accurate. What he was really doing was trying to make a case for you to buy his new watch, as it can be set up to vibrate and remind people who have desk jobs, to get up and move around at least once an hour. Now I’m not going to buy an Apple watch in any case, but he makes a good point about the adverse effects of too much sitting on your health. In today’s world more and more jobs are becoming less physical, and many are just about sitting behind a computer. Even in my job as an instructor, while I’m on my feet a lot teaching class, or running PT with my students, I still spend way too much time shining a chair with my ass. Email, developing curriculum, doing research on the internet, etc. it’s the nature of the beast, but it adds up to hours every day and I know many people who sit almost their entire workday.

Many studies have been done linking an increase in cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity to an increase in the amount of time people spend sitting. Sitting too much has even been linked to increased depression in women? An article by Runner’s World magazine sited a study that showed even people who exercise regularly run the same health risks as those who don’t exercise at all, IF they sit as much during their non exercise time. The simple fact is that your body is not designed for sitting, it’s designed for movement. Ok, that’s sounds great and makes sense, but what if your job requires many hours of seated work at a computer, or doing other relatively sedentary tasks? Well, according to other studies, taking frequent breaks to get up and move around are very beneficial, even if it’s just for a few minutes. The bottom line is get your butt up and take a walk, at least once an hour, even if you’ve got your PT in the day. If I have to put in a long stretch at the computer I always get up and stretch out a little and take a walk around the building at least once an hour, actually once every half hour works better for me. It gives your body and your mind a minute to re-boot and can go a long way to keeping you healthy. Try it.

Be safe always, good when you can

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Drugged, Dazed, And Confused

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Over the years I’ve known many Marines with physical problems. I’ve pretty much seen everything from combat injures (with PTSD) to a wide range of more common service related problems like being damn near deaf (like myself), joint and back issues, sleep apnea, etc. Considering everything, I was very lucky and I retired after 28 years with what I would consider very minimal physical problems. Recently however, I did have a first hand experience with something that I’ve seen many times in others. To make a long story short a few weeks ago I had a pretty bad ear infection, bad to the point where I was dizzy and out of balance. So reluctantly, I went to sick call and the Navy Doc gave me some antibiotics. Now I hate taking any meds, not even aspirin, but, I didn’t ask what they were, I just did what I was told and took the pills for the full directed 10 days. My ear infection cleared up in a few days, which I thought was the end of it, not.

After the 10 days were up, a few days went by and I started having chest pains. Something like I had never experienced before. I still kept running every morning and going to work, but they got worse and worse. So one morning, I felt I must be having a F’ing heart attack or something. So I had to leave work and go to medical. They did all kinds of tests and came back and told me that my heart/lungs/blood pressure were fine, great in fact. However the pain was coming from a serious GI track inflammation from the previous antibiotics? So the cure for that? A different drug for another 8 weeks. So now I need another drug to counter act my last drug? WTFO?

What is the point of all this? That I think that we all should be very cautious about what drugs we are prescribed to “fix” what ever problem we may have. It seems that is the first thing that many doctors do nowadays, is throw some strong drugs at any problem. I think that’s one reason that we have so many service people (and others) addicted to pain killers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to your doctor, or take medicine when you need it, but I think we all need to be mindful of falling onto this prescription “Merry-go-Round.” I’ve seen too many others on this ride and it isn’t pretty. I once worked for a LtCol that was on so many pain killers for a bad back, he would hold multiple meetings with the same people on the same issues, as he couldn’t remember having the previous meetings? No thanks.

Along with eating right and exercising, your relationship with your doctor is an important part of the health and fitness equation. With that doing your own research into your medical situation is very important also. If I had read up on this drug I would have known to ask some questions about its possible serious side effects, and maybe asked for a alternate solution? I don’t know, and that is the point. I was lazy about it and suffered for it. Get your own info and ask the hard questions. It can’t hurt in any case. On a lighter note; After I got back to work from medical and told my retired Navy Capt boss what happened, he said. “Don’t sweat it, this new drug will probably give you an ear infection.” No shit.


Take care and be Safe

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Looking Back To Move Forward

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Corps Strength

The other day I came across this video making the rounds on Face Book. This is a video about the old PE program at LaSeirra HS back in the early 60’s. It was part of an initiative by President Kennedy to improve the health and fitness of our youth. I guess even then there was some concern about our kids getting soft. I remember this program when I was in grade school. You did some calisthenics and if you did so many of each, you got a certificate, I think we also did this program at the Boys Club, as far as I can remember it was gone by the time I got to high school.

As I watched this video I was shocked by the level of fitness displayed by these high school kids. This could be a video of Marines getting ready to graduate boot camp? Imagine going to any HS across the U.S. today and trying to find a group like this? This isn’t their football or wrestling team, it’s just PE class! We need this program (or something like it) back in our schools now, especially with the more sedentary world of computers and video games. I think many schools have done away with PE all together. In my two son’s high school, if you were on a sports team, or in the band you were exempt from doing PE. BTW, there were a lot of fat kids in that school and a lot of discipline and drug issues.

The problem is before that could happen, you would need a major shift in the attitude of the parents. They would have to support a real PE program in their schools. My guess is that it would be like when the First Lady tried to improve the school lunches a few years ago, just whining, complaining and politics. when that happened I couldn’t believe how many people came out against getting better food for their own kids in school? Then again I could, as people are so bent on making everything a political issue nowadays, common sense and the greater good goes out the F’ing window. In fact one person commented on FB that this video of the La Seirra HS PE program had “Socialist Overtones” WTFO?, good health and fitness are now a socialist plot? Give me a break genius, the back bone of a free people is good health. A socialist government wants weak, unhealthy people, who are easier to control. I hope that one day this country will wake up and realize that the strength of it’s nation is based on a population of strong healthy people. No country has ever survived when it’s citizens are weak, sickly and unhealthy and it starts with our kids. Sometimes it seems like we are evolving backwards?

Take care and be safe.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Get Out In It

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

No doubt this has been a harsh winter, for snow and cold, one of the worst in many years. Now obviously the northern states, especially the northeast has taken the brunt of it, with cold weather records being broken almost daily. The fact is it’s been a cold year all over the country, even down here in the Florida Panhandle. Morning temps for the past few months here routinely have been in the low 30’s, and with the wind coming off the ocean, it’s pretty nippy. This is my favorite time to run, 0 dark thirty, cold as hell and windy. Just something about it motivates me and (after I get going) a great workout.

However if you listen to most people around here, the thought of doing anything out in the cold is equivalent to low crawling through broken glass. No way, not happening. The attitude is unless it’s perfect weather out, I’ll hit the gym. This speaks to something that I’ve noticed as a society in recent years, that we’ve kind of fallen into this “Goldilocks” syndrome, where everything has to be “just right.” It just seems that now-a-days many people seem hyper sensitive to outdoor weather and indoor temps also. My students here at the school house will complain in a hot second if the temp in the classroom is just a few degrees above or below ideal.

With that, it seems people are sick more than they used to be. Here at my work there is always something going around, someone is always coughing, or going to the doctor for something and then always returning with a big jar of meds. My own personal opinion on this is that people spend far too much time in climate controlled “bubbles.” Far fewer people work out of doors and much less recreation and sports are played outside also. Seems that life itself has moved indoors? We go from the AC in our home, to AC in our cars, to the AC in the office, etc. It seems that we can’t function in anything but this sterile environment. The same goes for gyms. Which not only have to be climate controlled, but also have more alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer than an Ebola crisis center? At times they seem more like a hospital than a gym. I think all of this has lead to a weakening of immune systems, both the physical and mental aspect of our ability to deal with anything less than perfect conditions. That is a issue, as the world isn’t always the perfect place.

As a counter to this I think we all spend enough time shining a chair with our ass and need to get outside as much as possible, and that especially goes for exercising. I have ran and done other workouts in extremes of both hot and cold, and if you prepare yourself properly (clothing, hydration, etc) you can have a great workout, IMO much better than indoors, both physically and attitude wise. So don’t let a little snow or cold scare you, “get out in it” when you can. Like your mom used to tell you, go outside and play. Its good for you. Take care and be safe.

Semper Fi

Corps Strength

Corps Strength – The Price of Fitness

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

During a recent early morning drive, I was on my way to the base gym to PT before work and oddly enough, there was a news story on the radio about gyms. The story was about how large numbers of people will sign up for expensive gym memberships, with the sincere hope of losing weight and getting in better shape, then they almost never go. This is really nothing new. In the 90’s when I was on recruiting duty in upstate New York, I saw this first hand. I was assigned to an area that was a long way from any military gym. So I had to lay out a few bucks for a membership to a local civilian place. I luckily found a little gym right near my office that had everything I needed. Now this place was one of those old brick store front type you see in a lot of small towns. It was probably an old drug store, or something like that when it opened decades earlier. It was very small, they just had a few treadmills and stationary bikes in the main room and some free weights in the basement. No sauna, no aerobics room and not even a real locker room, just a small bathroom to change. I went there almost daily for over a year and never saw more than a handful of people at once working out. I’ve actually seen a few home gym setups that were bigger, and better outfitted than this place. However, as it was never crowded, close by and opened at 0500 during the week, it was perfect for my purposes.

Corps Strength
So one day after my workout I was speaking to the owner, and I asked him how he managed to keep the place open with so few members? “So few members?” he said with a smile. “You may not believe me, but we have over 500 paid memberships in this little gym.” 500?, I almost didn’t believe him. Yes, he said. What happens is that people sign up for a year’s (paid in advance) membership, and after a few visits, are never seen again? The fact was, that for fire safety purposes, that gym was only rated to hold 80 people at once. According to the owner, he had never seen even 50 of his 500 plus members in there at one time. So this is nothing new.

However, I was surprised to read in the article that many gyms now actually try to attract people that they know won’t go. To do this they set the gyms up to look more like coffee shops and bars to attract people who aren’t serious about working out. These “non users” actually keep the cost down for those who do go. On the surface it’s seems a very weird thing for people to fall for, but many people think that if they sign up, and spend money in advance, it will some how motivate them to go and workout. The fact is, that (as the article bears out), rarely happens. The reason is simple. The desire to lose weight and/or improve your physical condition has very little to do with how much money you spend, (BTW, there are a lot of overweight rich people). It has everything to do with how you think about it. I know this from long experience training myself and others. That’s why in my book: Corps Strength I talk so much about the mental side of this. To maintain a successful (long term) fitness program, you have to get your thinking right before you even lace up a sneaker. It’s by far the most important part of any fitness program. Without the right thought process, you’re doomed before you even start, and it can also end up being a big waste of money. So do yourself and your bank account a favor. Get your head screwed on right before you lay out your hard earned cash on a gym membership, or for expensive home workout gear. Your attitude is not only the most important part of your fitness program, it’s free.

Semper Fi