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.