Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

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


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

Saturday, July 15th, 2017


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

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

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


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

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

“Well, it can be.”

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

“Well, I run a bit also.”

“No weightlifting?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Why is that?”

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

“How old are you?”

“53, how old are you 40-45?”

“I’m 57,”

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

“I see”.

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

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

“Yes, I go almost every morning.”

“How’s that working out for you?”

“Great, I really like it.”

“Are you tiring to lose some weight?”

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

“Has it helped?”

“Well, not really.”

Why is that?”

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

“How long have you been in the class?”

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

“Sounds like it.”

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

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

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

“Ba Safe always, Good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Back To Basics

Saturday, June 17th, 2017


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

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


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

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

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

“Be safe always, good when you can.”

Semper Fi MGunz

Corps Strength – “Running and Gunning”

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Fi


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

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Fi