WL Gore & Assoc

Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – The Simple Truth

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Here at the International Training Center I work with a lot of very experienced professionals, retired enlisted and officers from every military branch make up about 90% of our instructor staff. As we are in the training business, training methods and course content are an ongoing subject of discussion and despite our varied backgrounds and regardless of the subject to be taught, the one thing that I think we all have in common is that we all strive to provide the best, no bullshit training possible. Useful training that provides measurable and sustainable results. I’ve learned a lot from these pro’s since I retired from active duty and I like to think I brought some of my own training expertise (what ever that is) to the table. However, every once in a while they will surprise me with something that seems 180 out from this normal mindset?

I had a conversation recently with one of our swim instructors, a smart and talented person who many years ago was at age 16, the youngest certified dive instructor in the state of Florida. He told me once he stopped logging his dives after #1000. Having observed him poolside training students many 100’s of times, he is one of the best swim and water survival instructors I’ve ever seen in action. A no nonsense and practical guy. So recently, he tells me about this new eating plan he was trying, which surprised me as he isn’t overweight and has always appeared to be in excellent shape. “It’s a vegetarian meal plan, you sign up and they send you all the meals. They’re organic and have no meat, no diary, no sugar.” He said it was pretty strict, expensive and they don’t taste all that great. So far it was ok, but somewhat a pain in the ass. I asked him; “What got you interested in this?” “You know, THEY say that for long term health; vegetarian eating is the way to go.” was his response. “Who are THEY?” I asked. “You know, THEY, the books, articles and experts out there” “Well, let me know how it goes” I said. “I will, but I doubt if I can stay on it for much longer.” He has since dropped it.

This is a very common example of something that I’ve seen a lot of over the years I’ve been involved in physical training; the quest for the perfect diet to help keep you healthy and fit. Vegetarian, Paleo, Atkins, Mediterranean, Slim Fast, The Zone, Vegan, Weight Watchers, etc. etc. The list is long and each has it’s own group of devoted supporters. They all have their share of amazing stories of weight loss and improved health on each of these diets. The problem with most (if not all) of these “plans” is that for a variety of reasons they are very hard to maintain long term, despite their very good short term results. The cost, the bother, prep time, boredom, lake of taste, etc. just make them unsustainable for most people.

When I’m working with someone on a weight loss and fitness program, the eating part is (by far), the hardest to get people to buy into. They normally have no problem following advice and guidance on an exercise program, but the eating plan? Never an easy sell and I think a lot of that doubt is due to all the options that are out there. People worry that they aren’t following the best (and easiest) plan out there. So what is the fix? Now as this is both my occupation and something I’ve always had a personal interest in, I’ve done a lot of reading and research over the years on this confusing subject. However, there is a couple of things that are absolute and proven and from that we can build a plan that works and works long term, for life in fact.


The first thing to understand and accept is basic human history (if you don’t believe in evolution stop here, this isn’t a religious debate). As a species we dominate the earth for two main reasons. The first is obvious: our brain power. Our advanced ability to think, to reason, to learn, solve problems, make tools and communicate with each other, allowed us to adapt and eventually dominate every region of the earth. It allowed us to hunt bigger, stronger, faster animals and survive in the harshest of conditions. That’s the big one. The second one is less obvious but no less important in our long climb to the very top of the food chain. It’s our ability to thrive on an extremely varied diet. If you study, and/or personally observe (as I have) the eating habits of people around the world you’ll see every thing and almost any thing being eaten, with the unique result is, that groups of people with extremely different diets, are still are pretty healthy and strong. I’ve also seen this in various militaries around the world. I’ve seen people who rice is the main food of their diet with very little meat. Then there is the opposite, lots of meat and almost no carbs. The Inuit people of the north traditionally ate a diet that was almost exclusively meat and fish. Yet they survived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth and they suffered almost no disease until they were exposed to the outside world. The same could be said of many other remote tribes around the world. The Zulu warriors of South Africa were some of the toughest fighters on earth but ate mostly a diet of vegetables. The stable food of Roman Gladiators was surprisingly: Barley? So much so that gladiators were called “Barley Men”. In our country alone there are differences in eating habits based on location and background. There are many examples if this variance. So what is there to be learned going forward?

The simple answer is that the perfect diet, in the sense of certain foods and strict guidelines does not exist. That has been proven over our history, but there are some very basic things that if followed will work. First, as with most things concerning health and fitness (or anything else) the more simple a plan is, more likely it will work and you’ll stick with it. Food closer to its natural state is generally more nutritious, more filling, reacts better with our bodies and certainly have less of the things that tend to make us eat more than we need like: Fat, sugar and salt. Go with regular food, not the prepackaged cardboard that makes up a big part of many modern diets. Second, I never thought that everyday people, even those who work in physical jobs, should should be on the 5-6 meals a day program, which is a part of many eating plans. To make that work you need to have very small portions that are broken down in a very strict way. These requirements make it something that very few everyday people can manage effectively. Besides, as I often say, we aren’t babies and don’t need to be fed every couple of hours like a baby. Three meals a day is a good place to start, limit snacking. With that I think that you need to give your body a break from eating for several hours between eating. IMO it’s a mistake and just a bad habit to be eating all the time. Third, don’t eat out so much. Make your own food at home, from good basic stuff. I take my lunch almost everyday to work, though I don’t always like to take the time to make it. It’s a far better option than buying fast food. With this people need to drink more water, much less soda, coffee, sweet tea, juice, etc. there is a lot of empty calories in most of it. I would also avoid a lot supplements. I’ve tried many over the years, with few real (lasting) results. I do think everyone should take a good multi vitamin as insurance more than anything else.

These things seem almost too simple to even mention, but as I said before while simple is almost always better, people tend not to believe it? Maybe as it’s boring and people want the flash and promises of quick and easy results that a complicated plan offers? I get that they’re looking for an advantage, an edge to help them with their fitness goals. While simple may not have much flash, I know it works and in the end what works is the biggest edge of all. Try it. In any case I hope everyone is a having a good start to their (very hot) summer. Take care and we’ll talk next month.

Be Safe Always, Be Good when you Can.

Senper Fi

Corps Strength – Tough Is As Tough Does (Thinks)

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Sorry I’m a little late this month guys. I just returned from the better part of this past month in Nepal, during which my youngest son and I made the trek to and from the Mount Everest Base Camp. It was a great experience, the views were beyond belief and to be honest, it was a little harder than I thought would be. The actual up and down climbing of about 25,000 total vertical feet, over about 80 miles wasn’t the difficult part. We had trained hard in the months leading up to our trip and actually had little issue with the actual hiking aspect of the trip. Our packs were less than 20 lbs and we only hiked 6-10 miles a day. The real issue was the altitude. We had never hiked over 10,000 ft before and during this trek we went to 18,000 ft. No, not the summit of Everest (I don’t have the money for that one, not yet anyhow) but pretty high. For reference the highest point in the lower 48 is the summit of Mt Whitney, which is 14,505ft, or about 3500ft lower than our high point of this trip. Like I said, pretty high.

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The basic plan for the trek was to climb about 1500 ft a day for two days, then have a rest day to help adjust to the altitude. On the rest day we would make a “training hike” of about a 1000ft or so, then return back down for the night. This is the well known altitude acclimatization method called “Climb High and Sleep Low.” It seemed to be working well for us, as we didn’t have any symptoms of altitude sickness. We powered through 8K, 9K, 10K, 11K, 12K and 13,000ft, without really any issue, other than being a little out of breath when climbing up the very steep spots, but that was to be expected. However, around a week into the trek, there was the day when we went from 14,000 to about 15,600ft during a long day of climbing up and down a steep ridgeline through a beautiful snow covered trail, which also took us above the tree line for the first time.

This new high altitude felt like the infamous “wall” (mile 20) of a marathon. But as an added bonus, you felt like someone was holding a pillow over your face. It was noticeably harder to breath without gasping and it took a lot more time to catch your breath when climbing up steep areas. Just bending over to tie your boots and then straightening up too quickly, made you light headed. You got tried very easily and our pace slowed considerably. As we moved up above 16,000 and 17,000ft, I completely lost my appetite and really didn’t sleep, for the three days we spent at those altitudes. During this time we met a young doctor from NC who was prepping herself for a Everest summit attempt (which she successfully did a week later). She had been in country for almost six weeks and during that time had been almost continuously moving up and down between 15,000 and 22,000 ft. She told me that physically you had to be at this altitude range for at least 14 days to change your bodies makeup and actually “adjust” to high altitude. She then flatly stated that as we were only going to be “up” for a few days, we would have to just “gut it out”. Which we did, but it was a real eye opener. Our small team made it to the Base Camp after 10 days without any serious physical issues, other than being tried from a lack of sleep and eating. However, we witnessed many sick people being brought down on horseback and more serious ones by helicopter.


Now, that was the foreign trekkers and climbers. The native Shepra porters, guides and other locals was a completely different story. I was constantly amazed by the heavy loads we saw them carrying up and down these steep mountain trails. The vast majority of these guys (while sporting some very muscular legs) were overall very small in statue. Almost all were shorter than myself (at 5’8”) and much lighter, I would guess their average weight was less than 140lbs. Yet they routinely shouldered loads weighing over 100lbs and we saw many times over 150lbs. More often than not they had just sandals, crocs or worn out running shoes on their feet and they also went very fast. “Sherpa Speed” was a real thing as we constantly had to move over so a tiny guy humping a huge weight could almost fly past us, going up, or down. They were paid by the kg and the job, so the more they carried and the faster they got to where they were going, the better the pay. For over two weeks I watched this never ending train of human pack mules, as there are no roads, no cars, trucks, or motorcycles there. I never even saw a pedal bike? Everything was carried by people, or animals. Which according to our guide, using the animals were very expensive (and slow). In fact many times we saw a guy carrying a bigger load than the mules, yaks and horses that were also every where on the trail.

Now having humped a heavy (well, what I thought was heavy) pack 100’s of times during my time in the Marine Corps, I found the load carrying ability of these people astounding. Especially considering their simple diet of mostly just rice and local vegetables and their poor foot ware. I was also expecting to witness at least one incident of these porters stumbling under their heavy loads. Especially coming down so fast on these very steep and rocky paths. However, I never witnessed it, not even once?

As we had a local Sherpa as one of our guides on this trip (you really need a local guide to work through all the required permits, language and other logistical BS of a trek there), I spoke at length with him and others about how these little people were able to do this ridiculous level of physical work? Especially at these high altitudes? His answer was simple, “It was their job.” The bottom line is it’s how they can make some decent money in this harsh land, that has few other opportunities. He told us that as far as altitude goes, it was more attitude than anything else. They grew up there and from a very young age had to carry things up and down these mountains 24/7, just to go to school, the market, etc. He did tell us that when Sherpa People left the mountains, they quickly got out of shape and often took ill. He related the story of a local girl, who after she had been at school in the much lower city of Katmandu for a few months, couldn’t even walk the couple of miles up the hill to her home. Her mother had to send a horse down to bring her up. So even genetics will only go so far.

I think in the end this is another example of what people can do, is a matter of what they think they can do. If you tasked the average, healthy, well built and physically fit, trained infantry Marine or Solider to hump a 150lb load up a steep mountain at an altitude of over 17,000 ft, (the porters carried many of these huge loads all the way to the base camp at 17,600ft) while wearing just sandals? He would balk at the mere suggestion of it and my guess is that many (if not most) would injure themselves in the process, if they attempted it. Physically we are bigger, better fed, better equipped and medically healthier than these poor mountain people. Yet, in something as simple and straightforward a physical task there is; Carrying a very heavy load up a steep hill, they are better at it than we are. How is that possible? BTW, I saw all adult ages doing this, from early teens to old men in their 60’s. Though our guide said most try to retire from this work after 20-25 years of doing it? 20 – 25 years??? My simple point of all this is that we are capable of doing much more than we think we can. To get into and maintain excellent physical condition isn’t really that hard, IF you get your mind around it first. To help you with this, I have attached a short video of a Shepra humping a massive load up a mountain. This is just one of many incredible feats I saw like this during my time there. This video was shot at over 13,000ft and our guide told us the guy (who he knew) was over 50 years old and this load was over 75kg. He was paid to bring these steel beams up to the top of a mountain where they were building a new lodge. Think about this guy when you start thinking you’re too tired to do an hour on the stair master. That should help you get motivated, it works for me.

Till next month: “Be safe always, be good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Motivation 101

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

One of the most common questions I get about working out, not only from readers of my book and students, but from friends and family is; How do you maintain the motivation to PT all the time? Well, there are several things that impact that and I’ll admit, not all point to perfect mental health either. But, one thing I’ve learned to use over the years is how to use goal setting combined with cycling my efforts, keeps both my body and attitude fresh.

Cycling is the process of varying the amount and intensity of your workouts. This is nothing new as it’s a tried and true method that professional athletes use for building up to a physical and mental peak that they need for a specific event, game, etc. There is a real art to this process, especially in certain sports that require an athlete to also make a certain weight limit, like in boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, etc. Timing a peak can easily mean the difference between winning and losing, as when a fighter mistimes his peak will, they say; “Left his fight in the gym.” It takes discipline, experience and planning to be able to do this right and the best athletes/trainers have this down to a science.

Now that’s professionals, what about the rest of us? Well, there are millions of unpaid, part time athletes that take their recreational sports very seriously. Just look at the huge numbers of people that participate in marathons, triathlons, bicycling, or those that play golf, tennis, softball, racquetball, etc. in tournaments. The same goes for amateur weightlifting, and body-builders. I have some female friends that complete in fitness competitions and are some of the most dedicated and disciplined people I know, especially when it comes to their diet. It’s a real commitment that takes long term, everyday motivation. But, for or the vast majority of people, who just want to keep their weight down and their fitness and health up, using the basic concepts of cycling and goal setting can have great benefits.

The first step is to fix on a goal, one that has a real date attached to it. Having a no shit day marked on your calendar to do something is very important. Like I tell students, the only difference between a goal and a dream is that a goal has a completion date. A dream is just out there, somewhere floating around. Nice to think about, but not real? Now this could be just about anything; the start date of any planned sporting event of course, or even something less physically specific like the start of your summer vacation, a wedding, or a class reunion. IMO the best time frame is at least 90 days, but you could go longer, or a little shorter depending on the goal and where you’re starting from. After you decide on a date and an event, come up with some tangible result benchmarks that you want to reach on your date. This could be a weight loss goal, a PR of some type, or it could just be to look your best and/or be in your best shape to fully enjoy the things you have planned. I think that training (and thinking) this way (for almost) anything increases not only the anticipation, but in the end the event itself. As you will feel like in a way, you earned the fun times ahead. I can’t explain the why of this exactly, but I know it’s a real thing.

Then divide the time into 1/3’s. You should plan to have a slow, steady improvement as you ramp up in the first third, a bigger improvement the second and then roll through with momentum the last 3rd to your goal date. I always plan to taper off and reduce my efforts in the last few weeks so that I come into my day: rested, loose and very importantly, uninjured. It’s not productive to beat yourself down right up to game day. Mentally and physically you want to be feel fresh and actually somewhat anxious to get to it. To make this work, you need to write this down either in a training log, or on your computer, phone, etc. You don’t need a major diary type thing, keep it simple. But, it’s important to keep track of your efforts and in its own way, will provide some additional motivation and interestingly when you write it down: I find it keeps me honest.

I’ve been doing this for years and for many different goals. Everything from boxing matches, karate tournaments, marathons and triathlons, to adventure races, mountain climbing and backpacking trips. The goals were different, but the process was the same. For an example I have attached my most recent training log. This is my training totals for our upcoming trek to Mt Everest. I keep the daily workouts in a hard notebook, but add up the monthly totals on a computer spread sheet. This trip will be 3 weeks of backpacking, totaling over 100 miles in altitudes from 4000 to just over 18,000ft. Not what I would consider epic, but no walk in the park either.


While I was probably in good enough shape to do this on Jan 1st, I used the upcoming event to motivate my training over the last four months. As you can see I worked up to decent level of conditioning a month out and now over the last 30 days I will level out and finally taper off a little to when we leave on the 28th. I expect to arrive in Nepal in my best condition, rested and ready to go. My level of conditioning will actually make this hike a piece of cake, so my attention will be focused on enjoying myself and the time with my son, rather than even the slightest worry about the physical aspects (I hope). After I get back, I will go back to a somewhat relaxed PT schedule for about a week or so, then I’ll find something in the upcoming summer to work toward. From that new goal I will slowly ramp up my training again. To me it’s a never-ending cycle, that has always produced excellent long term results.


The important point here is that by varying your efforts based on working toward goals, you will keep your body and mind fresh and motivated. Just trying to mindlessly pound it out every day, just to do it, will at some point burn you out. Or, at least make your workouts stale and boring. Find yourself a goal, YOUR goal and set your plan up around it. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just something that you want to achieve. Try it and you’ll be surprised how just having a that little something to work toward can get your lazy ass up and moving every day. Which like they say: Showing up is half the battle. Enough for now. We’ll talk again next month when I get back from Everest. Till then

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

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Raise The (Your) Bar

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

The recent release of President Trump’s annual physical caused quite a stir, (as everything related to the President seems too). The official result was that his overall health was rated as “excellent”. During the oral debrief, the doctor also said that the President had inherited some “great genes”. You can read the official report for yourself here: Trump Physical. After it came out, there was a lot of statements from various doctors and other medical specialists disputing the conclusions of those results. Many raised the opinion that rating the Presidents overall health as excellent was extremely optimistic, considering his being very overweight and less than ideal blood test numbers. There were many others who seriously doubted that he weighed in at the reported 239lbs and in fact was probably at least 250lbs, or even much heavier. I tend to agree there, having see him close up myself, as I thought he looks much heavier in person than what was listed. But, who knows, maybe they took off 20lbs for his wallet? In any case, no disrespect, I wish him a long life and best of health for him and our country.

Politics aside, lets just look at the facts (not alternative facts), that we do know. The President doesn’t exercise, though he does golf a lot. However, he always rides in a cart while playing. I heard him say once: “Walking on the gold course is too slow”. True, but riding in a cart does take away the only part of golfing you could realistically call exercise, which is the walking. On other hand his eating habits have been well reported (and boasted about by him), and are about as bad as it gets, with diet soda and fast food being the mainstays. On the positive side, the President has never drank alcohol or smoked in his life and those two good habits have no doubt gone a long way to keeping him as healthy as he is. Also, realistically compared to the rest of us, he’s had a pretty easy life, having never served in the military, or did any other manual labor. Plus, it goes without saying he’s never worried about health care costs, paying the bills, kids college, etc. Though, I’m sure he had plenty of other mental stress over the years running his business empire, especially when going bankrupt several times. However, to me he most interesting thing about President Trump’s health and/or fitness, is that while he makes no pretense of trying to eat right, or exercise, still brags about his great health and energy? Presidents Bush, Obama and even Clinton did demonstrate some actual effort (and a little humility) in that area. Remember the tapes of Clinton jogging to McDonald’s? I think this weird bluster on the President’s part speaks in part to what people actually think (and accept) of what’s considered excellent health and fitness nowadays. In other words, the bar is set pretty low.


I’m sure many people reading this would think, “Hey I would like to be as healthy as him when I’m 71”. Ok, but I’m not one of them, as I for one would feel pretty shitty if I was for all practical (and optical) purposes obese and was limited with just playing golf as my only physical activity. I think that the vast majority of people (even those like myself that aren’t rich or famous), can do better, and should expect to do much better. Take the example of Yuichiro Miura, who scaled Mt Everest at the age of 80. In fact he scaled Everest three times, all over the age of 70. Or 73 year old South African Otto Thaning, who became the oldest person to swim the English Channel in 2014. Or for a more recent example; Gary Patton (note the picture) who this past Dec set the world (over age 70) indoor mile record, running a 5:21 at age 71! Now these are extreme examples (there are many more) of some extraordinary physical accomplishments by people around President Trump’s age and older. I get that not very many people want to do those things (just like I never wanted to be president), at any age. I also get that playing golf, mowing your lawn and/or sitting in a soft chair watching TV is many people’s old age fantasy, but not everyones, certainly not mine. IMO there is a much better happy medium between the sedentary and physically limited old age stereotype, and extreme physical examples like those mentioned above and getting yourself to that sweet spot, is more about mindset and effort than just “great genes”.

My simple point here is not to be deceived that being very overweight and just being able to play a round of golf represents excellent health at age 71, or age for that matter. A consistent plan of REAL exercise combined with a diet made up of simple foods in the right amounts, can keep help you very healthy, get your weight right and ramp up your fitness to what ever level your goals may take you. We are all going to eventually take the dirt nap, as dying is as much a part of life as being born. However, rather than sitting around watching cable and tweeting about politics, I would rather go out like multiple marathon age group record holder Ed Whitlock, who after running a new world record marathon of less than four hours at the age 85, died six months later in his sleep. After living a long life, literally in the fast lane, he is now the perfect example of resting in peace. Till next month:

“Be safe always, be good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – New Year; Old problems, Better thinking

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I first have to apologize to everyone for being longer than usual between articles. Just before Christmas we had a death in our family and I needed to head home earlier (and stay longer) than I had planned for the holidays, add to that the recent storm and its been a tough few weeks up north. But, in any case, life goes on, as it must.

At the start of every new year people will naturally reflect on the past year and start thinking about the future. While the actual New Year’s day is just a day, like any other 24 hour period, it holds great symbolic status as a new beginning, a starting and/or finish line of sorts. In reality it’s just a calendar thing, but for many, it can be the perfect reason or excuse, to renew some old ambitions. Nothing like the jarring awareness of time passing to scare the shit out of us and help move your ass into action. Hence the infamous New Years resolution is born. I say infamous because it’s well known that people make all kinds of resolutions on Jan 1st that they very rarely follow through on. I recently read a report that 80% of all New Years resolutions have failed fail by February, meaning they last less than a month. Some of the most common are going back to school, quitting smoking, getting a better job and losing weight and exercising more. Now as a PT instructor I’m just going to focus here on the last two, but I think the whole process of attempting resolutions, especially how it influences success or failure, is fundamentally the same.

Now the simple fact people make a resolution to lose weight and exercise more tells me that they have at least some desire to improve their health. How much desire they have obviously varies from person to person and you may think that people who have the strongest desire to do so would have the least amount of trouble following through to losing weight and/or exercising more? However, in my experience this isn’t always the case. I have known many people that seem to have a very strong desire to lose weight, which is driven by a lot of anxiety from poor self-image, health issues, etc. But in many cases doesn’t seem to drive (long term) success. So what’s the disconnect here? First off I’m no physiologist, I’m just an old Jarhead who has had to solve problems at the dirt level all my adult life and as you could guess, as an enlisted leader the vast majority of these problems were people centered, or at least heavily people influenced. I dealt with a lot of overweight Marines and many others that had problems with the PFT over the years and to a certain extent I’ve dealt with the same issues with my international students and many civilians. So I speak here not from not with any real formal education on human behavior, just from long practical experience and first hand observation.

So, if you have a desire to lose weight and improve your health and fitness and decide the New Year is as a good place (or excuse) as any to start. The real question is how not to become part of the 80% who will fail by February? Yes, everyone and every situation is different but, IMO there are three basic things that if not seriously considered, will almost 100% guarantee failure, but on the other hand if they are worked out can go a long way toward success.

1) Set a clear goal. Not a dream, but a well defined GOAL. Like my old Gunny used to tell me; “If you don’t know where you want to go, your already there sports fan”. In other words, not where you want to be. You need to think it out and come up with a clear and realistic goal. Something like: Lose weight and get in great shape (forever) is just a dream, not a goal. A dream is too hazy, too ambiguous to really work toward. Dreams normally don’t have a date attached either, meaning no time line, no deadline. They’re just a nice fantasy, somewhere out there, to be achieved I guess someday? Yeah ok. To succeed you need a clear and well defined goal to work toward. Write it down, clearly see it in your mind. The timeline is important here also, IMO you need that pressure. You can’t make diamonds without pressure, nor will you reach goals with out some internal drivers, so a timeline is essential. What that goal is, is up to you. But just keep it real, at least at first. You can always ramp it up as you go forward, but setting something silly from the jump, can sabotage your efforts pretty quick. Baby steps people, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ll followed a serious fitness program. From your primary goal, set up shorter goals (steps) along the way. These also have to be clearly defined and have their own deadlines.

2) Develop a plan to reach that goal. This is important. Spend some time, do some research, get some help if you need it. Do what every it takes but, lay out a simple, direct, systematic and realistic plan to reach your goal. My book Corps Strength can help, as it’s helped many 1000’s of people, but if you have goals that are very specific and/or sports related, you need to get some specific guidance. Either from your own research, from others in the sport or even from a professional trainer. I have seen people obtain some great fitness and weight loss results when they engage a trainer. Not cheap, but for many people the best way to go. In any case don’t ever think these things just happen, the vast majority of time only thing that just happens, is failure.

3) Think about all this the right way. This one is the hardest. What is the right way? The right way is that you’re convinced that your goal is something that is both important to you, doable and you can see it clearly. You’re also confident (from the time and thought you put in) that your plan is well thought out and will succeed. With that accept the fact that you’re going to have good and bad days along the way, like everything else in life. However, have the confidence in yourself and your plan to allow you to gaff off the bad days and celebrate the good. Don’t let excuses creep into your head, they’re like a cancer once they take hold. When I was boxing, my trainer used to say that in a tough close fight, the fighter who was weaker mentally will start thinking about how to get out of the fight without looking that bad. His mind will be searching for excuses. He said you can almost see that guy “looking for a soft place to lay down”. Don’t let excuses creep in. If they do start to creep in, start thinking of excuses to succeed. With that don’t be afraid to revaluate your progress and make changes if needed. Adjusting your plan as needed is a good thing, but maintaining a clear vision of your goal as you do it, is a GREAT thing. So stop dreaming, set a goal, come up with a plan and get after it Dog, Quit fucking around, it’s 2018 already.

In any case good luck and God speed to everyone, what ever your goals are for 2018, I wish you all the best in the year to come. Till next month.

“Be safe Always, be Good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Stay on Balance

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Just the Facts

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

You know one of best things (there isn’t too many) about getting a few years under your belt, is that if you pay half ass attention and have a decent memory, you can build up a large data base of useful experience. This isn’t news, but as physical fitness training has been a major part of my life, both as a Marine and now as a contract PT instructor, I feel like over the years I’ve built up a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about fitness (far from it). But, from a lot of hard learned personal experience and even more first-hand observation, I’ll just say: I know what I know.

One thing I know for absolute certainty about maintaining a healthy bodyweight and keeping yourself in decent condition is that the vast majority people make it much harder than it actually is. I get that it’s never really easy, but way too many make it harder than it has to be. Accordingly, this is one big reason why so many people struggle with weight issues, (which in turn drastically affects their health) and sadly most will never get a handle on it. It’s also why it was no surprise to anyone that a recent study showed that almost 40% of Americans are obese. Obese being defined as someone who has a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 30.


Now I’ve heard all kinds or whining and excuses that BMI isn’t accurate? These complaints are usually paired up with some story about this guy, or that girl that has a high BMI, but they are actually in great shape, have a low bodyfat, look great, etc. etc. Ok got it. Now excuse me a second while I pick up the bullshit flag. Yes, there may be a few cases like that, but the overwhelmingly vast majority of people with a BMI over 30 are simply just overweight, most are very overweight. Don’t take my word for it, just go to the local mall, beach or sporting event and you’ll see with your own eyes what I’m talking about. Sorry, I don’t believe in “alternate facts” to try and make a problem seem less than it is. Give me the reality, warts and all, as the fact is you can only fix a problem by first seeing it clearly. As a country we are fat, out of shape and from those two things very unhealthy. The issue here is not about debating the problem (this isn’t politics), but coming up with a real fix.

The fact is there are many good diets and workout routines out there and most of them do work (to one degree or another), IF you actually follow them. The ones that do work all follow the same simple principle; Eat less, move more. There is no way around that basic mathematical process. However, the cause of their enviable failure is that 99.9% of them are unsustainable for the long term. The reasons that they aren’t sustainable are varied, but the main overall reason is that they just don’t fit well within a normal life of work, family, etc. The reality is that they become a pain in ass that requires too much money, time or planning and as time goes on, the motivation and/or self-discipline required is too much and that is the end of that. This is also why the fitness industry comes out with new workout routines and diets all the time, because after the old ones have had their run of success and failure, people start looking for something new. It’s a never-ending cycle in which the population gets fatter and the fitness industry gets richer.

Another thing I know for sure is that the only thing that I’ve ever seen that works long term, is the combination of a diet made up of “real food” in the right amounts and a consistent program of balanced exercise. IMO special diet foods and supplements are waste of time and money, if they weren’t, we would be a nation of Spartans, not food blisters. In the last year alone the diet food companies sold 100’s of millions of dollars worth of that over processed, cardboard crap. The same goes for the latest fad in exercise; “Hot Yoga”, “Animal Flow”, “Bokwa”, come on man? Based on my long experience the best activity that for anyone who is very overweight and/or hasn’t exercised in a while (or ever), is walking, followed by a good stretching routine. From there you can progress to running, biking, hiking, swimming and calisthenics to as high a level of fitness as you desire. Which can be higher than most people will ever need to have, or desire for that matter. The average person would be astounded by how fit you can become and maintain on an hour of the right exercise 3-5 times a week. That’s not a lot of time and actually doesn’t require super human effort either. It just has to be smart, consistent and balanced. In my book Corps Strength I lay out a simple and effective workout and eating plan that has helped 1000’s of people lose weight and get in shape. It’s not sexy, doesn’t require any special foods, equipment or supplements, it just works and not for just the summer or a few months, but for life. The bottom line is you have to decide if you want to live life at a staggering walk due to being overweight, out of shape and unhealthy, or you can take some simple steps to get better, a lot better. That part is up to you. The facts will take of themselves, they always do.

Till next month “Be Safe always, Be good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – When You Hit The Ground, Don’t Whine, Bounce

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

First off I apologize for being late with my normal monthly article. I was on leave in August doing some climbing and hiking in Maine, when I was asked to make a last minute deployment to Madagascar, (literally within 48 hours of getting back). The guy who was supposed to go, backed out at the last minute and that left only your favorite old jarhead to jump on that grenade for the sake of our company and school house reputation. Nothing new here, but it did put me out of country and very busy for the last several weeks. Hence why I’m late with this article. Sorry to all the great SSD readers (and some of my best critics), that have supported me and my book; Corps Strength over these past few years.


In any case, after a few days of great rock climbing and camping in New Hampshire, we rolled up to Baxter State Park (Literally the middle of F’ing nowhere), to climb Mt. Katahdin. This is the highest point in Maine (5267 ft) and the end (or start, depending on your direction) of the Appalachian Trail. Now I’ve have climbed much higher and steeper hills around the country (and world) and this didn’t seem like it would be any big deal, except for the infamous ridge line trail there called the “Knifes Edge”. Which was what me, my youngest son and nephew were really there to do.

The Knifes Edge is a very narrow and rocky ridge that is just over a mile in length. It is the most notable feature and most dangerous part of the mountain, accounting for the most deaths. From exposure in bad weather and falls, the Knifes Edge has claimed over 20 lives since 1963. For about 3/10 of a mile the trail is only (at best) three feet wide, with straight drops off of several hundred feet on either side. The Baxter State Park Authority closes the trail in any wind or rain and only recommends it only be hiked in the best of conditions.

So anyhow, the weather was cloudy and slightly foggy when we started up, so we decided to do the Knifes Edge on the way down, hoping the weather would clear up. We gained the summit easy enough in about four hours going up a steep boulder filled trail (Cathedral), that involved a lot of hand over hand scrambling. Nothing crazy, just a fun and challenging few hours of PT. However, just as we reached the summit it fogged over completely and started raining. At that point our pride got the best of us and we stubbornly decided to descend the Knifes Edge anyhow, even though the weather and conditions were getting worse. I mean it was only a mile and we had done longer, higher up and worse weather climbs/hikes. Those Ranger warnings must just be for the old and out of shape, right?

Well, the short answer to that is F NO. that pretty much says it. But, too make a long story short is was a pretty harrowing event. I would say the most dangerous hike (without any technical support), that I’ve ever done. We couldn’t see shit and the wind and rain was blowing like hell most of the way. There was more than a few very dicey spots. In fact, at the end of the ridge, a Park Ranger was stationed turning people around from coming up. Stunned to see us emerge from the fog coming down, he gave us an earful of (well deserved) profanity in a thick Maine accent. LOL. In any case, it was a stupid move, that as the senior guy I take the hit for. However, all was well until about ½ mile from the finish and with the trail very muddy from the rain, I severely rolled my ankle. In fact, I would have bet I broke it, as I swear I heard it snap. That last little bit to the truck was pretty painful, but thank Christ this didn’t happen up on the Edge, I don’t even want to think about that.


When I got back to our campsite I took off my boot and my ankle swelled to double it’s size. It didn’t stop us from celebrating our escape from the Knifes Edge with a bottle of Maple flavored rum, but it hurt like hell all night and the next day it was worse, but I had to get back to Florida and then off to Africa a few days later, I had no time for the doc.


Now, while I was in Africa I was determined to get some climbing in as there are decent little peaks all around our training area. So I used the tried and true RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate) method of rehab. I also wore compression socks on my 40 hours of plane ride over and every night. Slowly it got better and I started doing some walking every morning with as much stretching as I could in between.

Two weeks after my injury I taped it tight like an HS football trainer would and me and my training partner made a very steep 6000 ft. peak, without any real issue. I did go more slowly and carefully than I usually would, especially coming down. It was a little sore, but no biggie. The point of all this? Most injuries like this are just that, an injury not a permanent disability. By using your head and giving yourself some time to heal up you can bounce back, even at the ripe old age of 57. Too many people I know just roll over when they get hurt or even sore. To really live life means taking risks, and injuries are part of the deal. Just don’t let them give you an excuse to hit the couch. I do recommend seeing a doctor if you have an injury. In that part, do as I say, not as I do.


One of my oldest HS buddies heard of my injury and sent me a text saying: “Welcome to old age, maybe now you’ll wise up and slow down. In any case your ankle will never be the same.” Really? Sorry my friend, me slowing down is your fantasy, not my reality. I may fall (as I have many times), but I always bounce up. A little slower than I used to, but up just the same, because in the end it’s 90% like everything else; more about how you think about it. BTW, our training of (33) members of the Madagascar military was a complete success. Till next month;

“Be safe always, good when you can.”

Semper Fi