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Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – Damascus Steel Vs. Cast Iron

Saturday, November 14th, 2015


As a career Marine it would probably not surprise anyone that besides being a PT nut, I’m a gun freak and knife whore. I own way more than enough of each, especially knives. I have a huge tool box full of knives of every size and description and with that I’ve done a fair amount of research into how different knives (and swords) are made. If you have a similar interest then you know about cutting tools made from Damascus steel. In a (very small) nut shell this is a complicated process of forging that involves folding and inserting different types of steel over and over. This technique produces a blade that is made up of layers and and layers of steel, like a car spring. When this method is preformed by a skilled craftsmen, the end result is a blade of extreme strength and resilience that has an unmatched cutting edge. Some Japanese Samurai swords have thousands of layers and despite being hundreds of years old, are pristine in appearance and are some of the toughest and sharpest swords ever made.

Now this concept of sword making relates in an important way to physical fitness, especially long term fitness. What i’ve observed over many years is that (most) people who participate in a wide range of different methods and activities to stay in shape, have much better success. I’ve found the opposite to be true with those that specialize in one or two activities. Most people that I’ve seen do very little other than hit the weight room and/or run, have inconsistent long term results and are also the most prone to injuries.

I think the reason for this In that your body is in some ways like a piece of knife steel. Meaning that different doing activities can provide different “layers” to your core fitness. Just as cycling can improve your running and weight lifting can improve your punching power, or Judo throws. Too many people like to just stick with what they’re good at, it’s human nature. When a young man finds that he can out bench press all his buddies, it’s hard to keep him out of the weight room. A girl that discovers she is the fastest runner in her class, will most likely develop running as her go to fitness activity. My thing was as a boxer was that I was a heavy puncher, so I loved to hit the heavy bag when lots of people we’re around to watch me. No doubt that I would have been a better fighter if I spent less time on the bag (showing off) and more time working on defense. Concentrating on one thing will condition just one set of muscles. This approach develops fitness thats more like cast iron. Yes cast Iron is very strong in certain ways, but it’s also relatively easy to break and over time it will rust out.

The point here is that in the long run you’re better off to widely vary your PT routine. Each of these different activities (when used in a balanced program) will act like a different layer, strengthening and conditioning a different set of muscles. Like the Damascus steel, this layering concept develops resilience and a great depth of conditioning you can’t get from just doing one sport. I also think it’s good for your attitude, as it keeps your outlook on PT fresh and motivated.

So mix up your PT, be like layered steel, not a piece of rusty cast iron.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Results Never Become Outdated

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Since I published my book Corps Strength I’ve gotten lots of great feedback. Hundreds of emails, book reviews and lots of comments to my monthly articles here on SSD. Most of it has been positive and I’ve heard many motivating success stories from those using my ideas that helped them get in shape and lose weight. However, at times I’ve been criticized by some for having outdated, low tech ideas, etc, etc. It’s no biggie, everyone has a right to their opinion, myself included. I will say in response to those specific type of comments, that I and those I’ve trained, continue to be living proof to what really works for achieving and maintaining a high level of useful long term fitness and overall health. People who know me, know I’m interested in actual results much more than than talk and theory, so I’ll share a recent experience as one simple proof source for you to consider.


During this past month of Sept, I was deployed to Africa to train some of their military. Myself and an active duty Navy Chief from the International School house here in Pensacola made the long trip to the small island nation of Comoros in the Indian ocean. We held class everyday for two weeks at their Army HQ, located in the capital city of Moroni. Our class was made up of 21 officers from their Army, Coast Guard and Gendarmerie. The subjects ranged from setting up training programs, to the Laws of Armed Conflict, Rules of Engagement and Use of Force. The classes went well despite the having to work through French translators. We had many good discussions on Peacekeeping and Anti-Piracy operations as many of the students had previously deployed to different parts of Africa with the African Union and the UN in support of various operations. I also had the chance to observe some of their enlisted training and was surprised their PT program to be much more robust than I had seen in other African countries. Especially in the rapid response units that they have in their Army and Gendarmerie. Civil unrest is always an issue there and they have the coup history to prove it.


Now before I deployed there I had heard of their active volcano: Mt Karthala, which measures just under 8000 ft in elevation. I had it in my mind to climb this mtn on a day off during my stay. I mentioned this to the Army Major who was our liaison there and he said that the army used this mtn for training all the time, with units doing force marches at least once a month up to the summit. He said that he would provide a couple of soldiers to accompany us on the climb, as parts of the carter were unstable and dangerous and you need to know the areas to avoid. So we scheduled to meet up with these guys at 0430 at a trailhead on the outskirts of the city. You have to start very early, as you needed to hike through the jungle canopy before sun up, as it is very hot and humid at the lower elevations. I say we, as I had talked my training partner; the Navy Chief into going with me. He was hesitant as he has very little experience with this type of stuff, but he was in excellent overall physical condition and in his early 30’s and I didn’t think he would have too much trouble. Not too much, LOL.

So at zero dark thirty that Saturday morning our driver takes us to a very remote part of the city to meet up with the army guys. They were there dressed in old school woodland type cammies, standard leather boots and carrying (lightly filled) ALICE packs. Chief and I carried only about 25lbs each in day packs, which was mostly water as there is no where to get water once you leave the city. The round trip was to take 10-12 hours and I know better than to go light on water. Our guides were a Sgt and two Cpls. They all looked in their 20’s. They had the rough edged look of infantry guys used to the field. They spoke no English, and after they gave us a quick and dismissive once over, we all geared up and stepped off. The GPS on Chiefs phone said that we were starting at around 1100 ft elevation. The point and last guy each carried dull flashlights, aimed at our feet as it was pitch black under the tree canopy and you couldn’t see shit. The trail was very steep, rocky and root covered. But it was dry and well used, so we fell into a fast clip without too much stumbling around. As I started my military life as a Marine Infantryman I knew five minutes in what was up. All training humps, especially climbing humps always end up being a test of manhood. Back in the day we always wanted to hump the old guys dicks into the dirt (more often that not they did it to us) and I could tell this was how this was going to go. No biggie, not my first bus ride people, step it out boys and don’t worry about this old Jarhead.


After about two solid hours we stopped briefly for a water break. We were all sweating like run away slaves as it was very hot and humid in the trees. Chief was struggling to keep up, and I could tell he wasn’t enjoying this, but I assured him that when we got higher it would cool off and I also had a hunch that these guys wouldn’t be able to maintain this pace. Just a hunch. After a few words of French between them and a sideways glance at me, a different guy took up point and stepped off at an even faster pace. I stayed glued to his ass for the next hour or so without a pause till the sun was full up and we were out of the canopy at about 4000 ft. When we broke into the open, the view was spectacular and you could see Chief and the other two army guys about 1/2 mile below. My guide decided this was a good time to take a real break and have some food and let everyone catch up. The fare was french bread, sardines, bananas, chocolate and warm water. You won’t find a bag of trail mix, power bar or bottle of Gatorade in the entire country. After everyone had some food and a little break, we geared back up. We were about 1/2 way to the summit and It was now open country, but still very steep in spots, with lots of sharp edged broken lava rocks from the last serious eruption in 2005.

Even though it was now very sunny, with the elevation and a nice breeze, the temp had cooled off to the low 70’s and getting cooler as you went up. Perfect for this type of humping. As I was feeling good and loosened up now, I thought that it would be the perfect time for me to take the lead. Two of the army guys went with me, but one stayed back with Chief (his knee was bothering him). I wanted to see what kind of shape these guys were in, so now I just put my head down and as my old squad leader would say “got after it.” I dropped the first guy in less than an 1/2 hour, the second guy stayed with me for about another hour before he just sat down on a rock, shook his head and waved me off. Not tired in the least I pushed on by myself to the edge of the crater (which is marked by a elevation marker at 7740 ft.) There I had a great view of the inside crater and of my companions far below struggling their way up the trail. It took me just under five hours to get to the top and they all caught up in about another hour. After about exploring the crater (like being on the moon) for a while we headed down at a leisurely pace. In all we went over 22 miles in just under 10 hours. The Army guys collapsed at the bottom and sat down in the shade till the truck came and got them. Chief said he was never hiking another mountain as long as he lived, LOL. To me it was the highlight of the trip, but that’s just this old, outdated, low tech Marines idea of fun.


The fact was that other than some sore feet I wasn’t really tired. Yes I know hard ass, we weren’t carrying shit for a load. Adding a 50lb plus pack with a weapon makes this little hike a whole different animal, been there, know this. However I still think that being able to do these type of things at age 55, anytime, any day without any trouble says something about my fitness and what I do to maintain it. I don’t spend hours and hours a day working out. I don’t eat special foods or take supplements. I follow the same plan and diet I outline in my book as I know it works, and works really well and has for years. It may not be high tech, or follow the latest fitness fad, but guess what? It stills works and for me, that is what counts.

Be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi


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