Tactical Tailor

Canipe Correspondence – The Fitness Debate

I didn’t have a good title for this. I still don’t, and the one above this line kind of sucks. Sorry folks. I say this because I am not sure how there could ever be a debate. I regularly talk with guys who are weak, overweight, lazy, or make lifestyle choices that limit their lifestyle and performance. These guys don’t work at Best Buy, they’re not executives in an office, they’re Military and Law Enforcement “professionals.” I always get the same line at some point in the conversation, “I see a bunch of skinny guys that can’t do their job” or “You’re telling me you’d rather have an unmotivated stud that a motivated fat guy?” Well, I don’t know about that. Yeah, some fit guys suck at work. That dude can probably summon up some effort on demand if he had to. You can’t summon up a 6-month fitness program on demand though. Plus, I have to assume if a guy has a job protecting the public, his buddies on his flanks, our Nation and it’s way of life he should take that seriously. I’m not really sure what a motivated fat guy is, unless he’s injured. An otherwise capable guy with those responsibilities wouldn’t let him self be a poor physical performer if he had all that heart and motivation he speaks of. That logic bomb is pretty much a JDAM on the argument in most cases.


Why is physical performance important? Well, we (Military and LE) work jobs that at their fundamental level are physical. When the dispatch calls up that shots have been fired, or some dirtbag starts lobbing indirect fire on your platoon, it’s time to do your job. All the mandatory Equal Opportunity training or additional details you picked up probably won’t be at the forefront of your mind at that point. All those things used as excuses to not work out, or train combatives, or eat a decent meal that didn’t come in a bag, won’t seem that important. You’ll remember that you are a cop, or an infantryman, or whatever got you on the middle of this shit show. You’ll begin to move, and do what you know what you need to do. For the first few steps everyone will most likely feel like a world-class sprinter. And then, something magical will happen. All that hard work you put in at the gym, on the trail, on the bike, will allow you to stick to the plan and perform your job to the maximum of your potential. Or conversely, all those skipped training days, missed opportunities, and upsized value meals will come up and assist you in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Which one are you?

I know guys with legitimate reasons (not excuses) to be out of shape. Guys get injured, it’s common in these fields of endeavor. In my day job all of the 5 guys I work closest with have had on the job injuries while they were still in the military that took over 6 months to recover from. That was just to get functional again, and most aren’t 100% and may never be. Broken backs, shattered knees, gunshots, dislocated hips, all kinds of gnarly stuff. I know guys that get stuck in truly austere locations that don’t have access to equipment or proper nutrition, or work a schedule where they literally don’t have time to work out often. Guys attend schools or training programs that literally run 20-24 hours a day for 8-12 weeks. This stuff is legitimate, it takes away the opportunity to stay fit, and it’s not a reflection of an individual decision to let yourself go.


There are limitations during everyday life that can make this a difficult task. There aren’t a lot of 9-5 jobs in the military or law enforcement. It’s a tough sell to work 12-16 hour days in the rear or on shift and then take 2 more away from the family to go run or go to the gym. It helps me out to just plan on that being a part of my work day, to mentally accept that I don’t exercise before or after work, I work out as a part of work. I don’t go to the gym after work, because work isn’t over until my workout is complete. There are also a number of good programs that aren’t as time consuming. I’m not a huge Crossfit fan because I think Olympic lifts for time are a recipe for disaster, and that their benefit is in proper execution rather than rapid execution. That said, the concept of group workouts, competing against yourself and others, and a culture of striving to gain higher levels of performance is pretty motivational and it warms my heart to see all the formerly fat people outside my local Crossfit gyms. Most of these workouts from Crossfit, Gym Jones, or similar programs aren’t that time consuming and there is usually a facility and good coaches to support them in every town. It’s fun, like going to the bar with your friends, only instead of Miller Lite you get kettlebells and pull-ups. My buddy Pat McNamara at TMACS, Inc. offers a great functional fitness class in addition to his firearms and tactics classes. For a military or LE guy wondering what direction to go to improve, that’s a great place to start or refine you current routine. He’s a beast, and is proof that after destroying your body for over two decades, getting older, and getting opened up by ortho surgeons a bunch of times that you can still crush 20 year-olds in the gym daily if you understand the importance of physical performance and apply yourself accordingly.


Try eating right also. I live on the road now, and that’s the hardest thing of all for me. Sometimes, it’s just easier to eat a cheeseburger and go to bed and I fall victim to that more than I’d like. All calories are not created equally. Get yours from the foods your body needs for function, not what it needs to get rid of to function. Fortunately, most restaurants are good about offering healthier choices now. If they don’t advertise them, just ask and they can usually help you out. If they can’t, go somewhere else. Check out the Paleo diet, or the Eat This, Not That books for some easy ways to improve your diet. You’re giving up performance in your diet that no amount of exercise can replace. Take some time to do the research and eat healthy. You’re buying food anyways, you might as well buy good food.

I know starting a plan to workout and sticking to it is pretty demoralizing initially. Get over that initial discomfort and check the ego of not being the baddest dude in the gym. The improvement happens so rapidly that after a couple of weeks you’ll be recovered by the next day and ready to shoot for that next goal, max rep, 5K time, or target body weight. Utilize a coach or partner as your honest broker, sanity check, and motivator. Most importantly, get out there an do it so you can be ready when it’s time to perform on the job. It’s something we can all do, and it improves your quality of life in every aspect.


Jon Canipe served on Active Duty with the US Army as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant at 5th SFG(A) and was a Senior Instructor at the JFKSWCS, training SFQC students in planning, unconventional warfare, small unit tactics, CQB, and advanced marksmanship. He is a veteran of multiple combat tours, and still serves in the Army National Guard’s 20th SFG(A) in addition to working as an industry consultant and small arms instructor.


33 Responses to “Canipe Correspondence – The Fitness Debate”

  1. Jess Banda says:

    “I’m not a huge Crossfit fan because I think Olympic lifts for time are a recipe for disaster, and that their benefit is in proper execution rather than rapid execution.”

    Great observation, that’s my main issue with “bootcamp” style training programs. I’ve seen and treated numerous injuries from high rep Olympic lifting programs.

  2. Stick says:

    Please tell me that picture is photoshopped, otherwise there is an entire chain of command that needs a boot in their @ss.

    • majrod says:

      That was the first thing I thought also. So effing sad. This is where you fire BDE commanders on down if they saw and didn’t ask questions.

      Units like this make the whole Army look bad.

    • SSD says:

      That’s a real photo. It made the rounds a few years ago.

    • Chester says:

      He screwed up his bavk on a jump in the 82nd and was on permanent orofile. The 81st HBCT deployed him but he couldn’t do missions because of his screwed up back. He helped train his peers before deployment and did admin work in the FOB. How many of you would have done the same instead of ETSing and collecting 30% or more…much more sitting on the couch crying about the pain. That is a motivated fat guy.

      There are also fat dudes that pax, and score high on the APFT. Some can’t run but the 70 pounds of gear doesn’t slow them on patrol while the PT stud is crying for a break. Then you have the dudes who can run 2mi in 11min but are too stupid to use a map, much less do anyrhing with an op order.

      • majrod says:

        “There are also fat dudes that pax, and score high on the APFT. Some can’t run but the 70 pounds of gear doesn’t slow them on patrol while the PT stud is crying for a break.”

        They don’t look like this guy and while I applaud his patriotism it’s the excusitus that deploys folks that shouldn’t deploy that blows my mind. This is the ARMY right? BTW, this guy isn’t taking the PT test, he’s on permanent profile.

        There’s an article in foreignpolicy.com where an academic makes the case that we shouldn’t focus on recruiting young strong men because warfare has changed. She makes a similar case. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/27/no_army_for_young_men

        • Riceball says:

          I just read that article and man is that woman delusional, a true dyed in the wool bleeding heart liberal who has no understanding or appreciation of the military and what we do. You ought to post that link up on SOFREP, I’d love to see the comments on it there.

      • Steve says:

        Sorry, that’s a bullshit excuse. I broke my back 15 years ago, crushed my spinal cord and am now a T12 complete paraplegic. No feeling, no motor control from the waist down–completely wheelchair dependent. Five days after being released from the rehab hospital I was wheeling my ass the mile and a half from my quarters to the company area and back every workday. I swim, push, lift (upper body), use a UBE, xc ski and successfully do a host of other “alternative” exercise to try to maintain fitness. While I’m certainly not in the body composition shape I was when I was on active duty, from the posted pic I’m no where near the size of that guy (52″ chest, 38″ waist).

        By the way, I would have LOVED to have been allowed to stay on active duty and worked admin and training jobs. Somehow, I didn’t end up on my couch crying about the pain, though. There’s always a solution if you look and are willing to work hard enough, rather than how hard you think you should work.

  3. Muddyboots says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I agree with your observations. I really want more individuals and organizations to look at this problem. It’s just shocking sometimes that people can create such intricate supports for their denial.

  4. Aaron says:

    Well there was also a charlie at sick call that was floating around Facebook…however, having been a heavy guy and having had to fight against my metabolism. Diet is everything when you do not have the time to work out regularly, and I have a sweet tooth, so the guys that I work with that are out of shape piss me off because it’s a personal problem if they don’t take the time to take care of their bodies.

  5. Matt says:

    I am a firefighter, and the same principles and self control apply. I could not agree more with you. Thank you for posting this up as my reminder today to continue to kick ass an motivate my brothers to do the same.

  6. Nick m says:

    I’ve noticed the last couple of these seem to get the title borked up by spell check with canine and now canopy…

    • Jon C. says:

      You noticed that too huh? I have this feeling it will be something new next week as well…

    • SSD says:

      Yeah, whatever the iPad decides to do with it. Sorry about that Jon. I get them mid morning on Saturdays and am usually doing weekend family chores so I post them using the iPad. It’s weird, one time it will change Canipe to Canopy or Canine and the next time it won’t. I take it for granted all is well and then come back in the evening and its fubar.

      • E, don’t worry, I got your back, I’m gonna start billing you for editing fees, but I think there are others who watch out for you too.

        Jon, great write up, keep the knowledge and observations flowing.

  7. AcidGambit says:

    Good read John. To all the ” Motivated Fat guys” out there- Your hours on the flat range should be spent in the gym. The first step in being a warrior is Physical fitness. There isn’t any fancy shooting drills taught in Basic courses because there needs to be a baseline. The holy trinity of SHOOT, MOVE, COMMUNICATE applies, and the Move part is very much reliant on your General Physical Preparedness. The reality of combat is that you will probably shoot very little but you will move around with a 70# vest on in an extremely physical environment. Up and down the hills and ducking in and out of little doors, dragging stuff, carrying stuff, climbing and jumping down, walking and running on uneven ground under NODS. The un-fit guys who wear all the multicam and think they are badass on the Flat range are Fu$%#ng delusional. So hell yeah, I would rather have a fit guy that will actually make it to the target without falling out than some fatty with and ego. Above all, be honest with yourself and start doing the deed instead of talking about it. If you can get better at something, get on it, barring any injuries. If you are hurt, heal yourself.

    Sorry for the Rant. I usually write these responses out and then delete them without posting, but sometimes I say screw it and let fly.

  8. hitower says:

    “I know starting a plan to workout and sticking to it is pretty demoralizing initially.”

    This is so true. Once you get into it, and start to really enjoy it, the reverse is then true. I absolutely hate missing a day in the gym.

  9. skeet says:

    I agree 100%. Need to do olympic lifts for time? Do the kettlebell variations, that’s what they are fucking there for. Leave the oly lifts to heavy ass weights that have to be dropped and cursed at.

  10. Tom says:

    When I was rooming with Jon I remember quite a many nights that we sat and each ate a tube of cookie dough or triple stack burgers and chocoloate milkshakes from Cook Out. Damn those were the days! But we would also at impulse get off our ass and run 10 miles. Those were even better days.

  11. Matt says:

    The fatty is belived to be “Timmy” of a certain CONUS security gig fame.

  12. INF says:

    Not fat by any means – but – coming off two different shoulder injuries really makes you feel like shit when you get back to the gym LOL.

    But it’s true and pretty simple – when your job depends on your level of physical fitness you better get off your lazy ass and just fucking do it.

    Don’t talk about it, be about it.

  13. Matt says:

    That pic of you in the XXXXXL combat shirt is flattering and we all appreciate your hard work and enthusiasm to maintain a body physisic of Mr. Costa and Mr. Haley but we understand no ones perfect ;-). Keep up your hard work Holmes. We all truely love you.

  14. killslowly says:

    I got fat, I got out. I felt like a hypocrite. I tried losing the weight to no avail. Could I have tried harder? Yeah, probably. One thing I must say though is: getting fat is a life changing event. It’s a downward spiral. Kind of like that part in Austin Powers when Fat Bastard is explaining why he is fat. It is depressing to see yourself changing so much. Your entire wardrobe changes, the way you more and relate to things drastically modifies you conduct your daily life… Don’t get fat guys.

  15. killslowly says:

    And if you are going to be fit, don’t do it for your job or your career. Do it for yourself. When push comes to shove, you can be the fittest, yet they will downsize your ass regardless. Do it for your own mental and physical health.

  16. Al says:

    I would like to share my story I have been in the reserves for awhile now and also did some mob time. During my mob years I got out of shape and age caught up to me. My diet was bad and I had no motivation to work out. I am also a firefighter in the civilan world. With that said fitness is big in both parts of my life. In Feb of this year myself and one of my firemen crew decide to start the paleo lifestyle and crossfit. To date I have lost 55+ lb and went from a size 37″ waist to 32″. I like crossfit style workouts because they change it up. I dont alway do the work out for time or weight. I do all the reps and a weight I can do without losing form. I know this lifestyle wont work for everyone. You just have to work to find what works for you. And never quit

  17. TR1 says:

    Thanks for the article, Jon and SSD. A lot of good insight in there that can help you get on the path to where you need to be. Keep the posts coming, I’m already looking forward to the next one.

  18. Ed says:

    How about using some of that “Motivation” to push the fuck away from the table! That too will do wonders.

  19. Nick M says:

    The fat motivated thing doesn’t fly with me either and it usually shows a lack of discipline (to put down the fork and go to the gym…)

  20. Marc says:

    I’ll tell you that age and injuries will make it difficult (not impossible though), and having a life outside the job also has an impact. It slays me that at 46, there are Soldiers who are the same age as some of my kids that can’t hang with me and I’m no stud. I admit that I am not in as good a shape as I want to be (or potentially could be), and it does take a little longer to shuffle off Sicily DZ than it used to, but as others said competence and motivation are also important factors.
    All you young guys will see your metabolism start dropping off when you hit 34 or so; come back and talk to me when you hit 40 if you don’t think so. It is easy to have high expectations as a single twenty something gym rat; not so much once life has its say. YMMV

  21. Brian says:

    Great article. If you are a sailor, soldier, LEO, firefighter, or EMT there are people lives counting on all aspects of your performance, this includes physical.

    I’ve had my battles in the past with motivation, injuries and obesity. But I’ve conquered them all with structure, physical therapy and proper nutrition. No way in hell will I ever give up on gaining strength to serve others.

  22. subchasr says:

    I knew guys in reserve aircraft maintenance that were pretty big. Can anyone share if reserve units have different fitness standards than regular ones? Just wondering.

  23. Brian K says:

    I’m currently training for the police academy. What are your opinions on other popular “group exercises” like P90x and Insanity?

  24. 2006Attack7 says:

    You must master the box before you start thinking outside of it!

    Too many folks can’t see past the ‘sweet guy’ factor at all these days!!!

    You’ll get a nasty understanding when you and your outta condition/shape unit members are caught in restricted terrain, East Paktika, at 7K+ with two initial casualties from ACM’s initiation of fire!!! This isn’t 2004, they don’t run away anymore, so your flat range 3 min drill will expire very quickly!!! Plus they’re at 400-600ms, no one taught you that one at the last course. CAS/CCA are not inbound for 33 minutes, you’re stuck! The bought gear you wear at your flat range course is only half the equipment you’re wearing now in combat, welcome to TPE!!! Oh, and your leaders think it’s cool to reduce the MG team from 3 to 2 men (carrying the same equipment and basic load of 7.62= another jackassery move from the war…….a MG team is 3 people for a time tested reason)! One of the casualties is from the MG team, so who now has to fill in for him?

    Being unfit for Combat is Jackassery lesson number 1!!!

    I always taught my units this, Master these five things and we’ll dominate everything we encounter as a unit and our people will do the same as individuals:

    1) High level of functional fitness
    2) Combat Marksmaship, Mk19 to M9 (Day and Night)
    3) Battle Drills/stop bleeding medical task (Day and Night)
    4) Discpline
    5) Communications

    Time tested you add any more than these 5 tasks and a unit becomes overwhelmed with tasks, which is the current state of most units today!

    PT is the first event of the day! Don’t master it and you’ll lose the power base you think you deserve because of your rank! I can go on and on, but this is what makes great units great, proper military leadership within an organization! Like another article said, not really a secret, but it’s a secret because people don’t know! It’s sad you have to learn this on a forum from a guy who served in a unit with a three letter acronym! It should be taught in our courses, but some people don’t value these time tested methods! It’s not new, they used to call it Dynamic Leadership traits back in the early 90’s!

    As for the young man in the picture, yep, true story! He was a Cav Scout in 5-73 Cav, lost all the weight to enlist, and his Thyroid went haywire during 3/82’s 15mos deployment to the DRV in 2006! He was not removed, but was allowed to ETS. I arrived to the unit and this picture was found on the internet during our 2008-09 deployment and many staff O’s and NCO’s knew who it was and couldn’t believe he was now in the guard and much bigger (let alone he was allowed to wear a ‘sexy body shirt’)! Leadership failed twice.

    The world according to Attack7, everybody doesn’t play!!! There are too many parents out there finding out the secrets of their fallen loved ones every damn day, I won’t have to explain why I couldn’t man up and make the right, hard call about their son or their son’s units members! You either Paratroop or you get out! No options but to be what ‘Merica and her enemies see on the poster!!! I have no sympathy for those of you who believe you can stand in a combat unit’s formation as a member or leader, hurt, unfit, and not ready to run off the seats of a C-141 at Oh-dark-thirty with a 65lbs ruck hangin’ from your waist, and fight once you hit the airfield!!!

    Hats off to those who are kitted up right now, near Route Trans Am, basic load plus, SAW gunner, MOLLE ruck with 4DOS!!! Sua Sponte, H-Minus, Attack!!! Swing the sword, men!!!!

    “Somewhere there are men preparing for the day your two units will meet…..what are you doing”? -unknown

    “these new Americans seem strong” -ACM radio intercept near Spera, Afghanistan