McRae TerrAssault 2

Corps Strength – The Mirror Man

The other day at the schoolhouse, I had a student (mid level Naval officer), approach me for some advice on how to lose some weight. He wasn’t really overweight, but he wanted to shed a few pounds before summer. When I questioned him about his present routine, he gave me the typical international PT program of mostly soccer, and a little calisthenics. My simple advice was that he probably just needed to up his cardio a little. More soccer, or even better; do some running. I told him that would be the quickest way to drop the extra pounds he wanted. Well you would’ve thought I’d suggested he run a marathon everyday? “Oh no, I hate running!” He then added with a look of true horror. “I don’t want to get too skinny, and look like one of those African runners!” This was funny coming from him, as he looks like a typical middle aged white guy? Like an Eastern European version of Alan Bundy.

Corps Strength - Mirror Man

However I really wasn’t surprised by all this, as I’ve heard this type of reaction before. No, not about African runners, but the weird fear that many people have toward certain types of exercise, and what it will do to them. When it comes to PT people almost always tend to do what their good at, and avoid what their weak in. Meaning good runners like to run, not lift weights and visa versa. It’s human nature, and that’s fine if that’s what you’re happy with, and you don’t have an occupational requirement otherwise. I used to see this all the time in the Marine Corps; Great runners that can’t hump a pack, or climb a rope, and on the other end of it, big super strong guys that can’t meet the weight standards, or run very well. The solutions to these weaknesses may seem obvious, but suggest to a hardcore weight lifter that he needs more running, and to eat less chow to lose weight and he’ll look at you, like you have two heads. A skinny person will tell you; “I don’t want to lift weights, I don’t want to get too big.” While it sounds silly, these weird attitudes are common. Like the picture below, people don’t always see what’s really looking back at them in the mirror. Especially someone who was once overweight, or a small kid, its hard for them to see beyond that mental image and that in turn can lead to problems.

I have a good Marine buddy who is big into the weights, he is a decent runner also, but he had once failed a weigh in and was put on weight control. This put his future career as a Marine in serious jeopardy. I told him more than once that he needed to pull his head out of his ass on this issue, but he had this powerful fear (he would never admit it, but it was obvious) of reverting to the skinny kid he once was in HS. Which was ridiculous, as he was a tank at about 230lbs. After many years of this nonsense he came up for promotion to Gunnery Sergeant. He was very worried that he would be passed over because of his history of weight issues. Using a potential promotion as motivation, he finally bore down on his diet, and increased his running. Over about four months he lost over 30lbs, however his PFT score improved to a 290, (out of a possible 300), AND his weight lifting didn’t suffer in any noticeable way. He was a Fing beast at about 5′ 9” and 195lbs (12% body fat). He was still pushing almost 400 on the bench press, looked great in uniform and got selected for promotion. After which, even he had to admit he looked and preformed much better at 195lbs, than he did at 230. Getting him to realize that he needed some balance in his fitness routine was 100% mental. He had to see what was really in the mirror.

The bottom line is for your best overall fitness, round out your routine and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to do it. In the end life is about maintaining a balance, and IMO the same thing is true about your PT. In my book Corps Strength I always preach for a balanced approach to fitness, which will require many different types of exercise to achieve. You may not look like Mr Olympia, or run like an African track star, but in the end you’ll preform at YOUR overall best. Try it.

Semper Fi



9 Responses to “Corps Strength – The Mirror Man”

  1. Felix says:

    Thanks for the article MGunz!

    I have to admit I had the same problem as I was once skinny and a runner and then started lifting weights as i joined the army. I got bigger and quit running.After that It took long time to show me the right balance in strenght, endurance and weight. And it took even longer to get along with the mirror 😉

    What I’d like to add: In germany we have the saying: Sprinters are born and runners are made!

    It means that people who are strong have in fact to be cautious with running, cause over the years they will lose power that they will never get back.

    Also “born” runners very often get “addicted” to running. They will run almost every day and lose even more strenght and muscle.

    Regards, Felix

  2. jellydonut says:

    ‘A skinny person will tell you; “I don’t want to lift weights, I don’t want to get too big.”’

    Show me a skinny person that says this and I will show you how to turn seawater into vodka.

    What kind of skinny person doesn’t want to get big? Or at least normal?

    I’ve wanted it my entire life..

    • Jon S says:

      I guess you don’t know any women, sad.

      • JohnC says:

        Yup, although by “too big,” they usually mean “too masculine” (plus worries that the “muscle might turn into fat” someday). The LW O-lifters look fine to me. The reality is, until she’s really lean, there’s an equal loss in body fat for every kilo of muscle gained.

    • sean s says:

      Heard this all the time. Seen army guys who couldn’t bench 135 say this. It’s just them not wanting to work out or denial.

  3. JohnC says:

    “What kind of skinny person doesn’t want to get big?”

    You do get — though far less than you did 15+ years ago — lean athletes who think kinda along these lines, especially runners, tennis players and golfers, pitchers/middle infielders, soccer players, goalies, sport climbers, grapplers and weight-class athletes, and the like (plus the same 60 y/o H.S. football coach who told you “DURR, biceps are beach muscle”).

    More importantly, the last 15 years of elite sports training has pretty much crushed that canard that getting “bigger” is a bad thing. Seriously: O-lifters = QED that lifting doesn’t make you “too big” (viz. bulky, inflexible, and slow).

    A random side note: ‘Functional’ is to training products as ‘tactical’ is to gear. Making “functional tactical training” the phrase I hate most in the world.

  4. Rob Collins says:

    I’m 43, 5’9″, 195, run a bit, bike a bit, do a mountain century a year, backpack, and seriously doubt I could EVER push anywhere near 400 lbs on bench. (285 was my max, when I was 215 and powerlifting, never did max on squats, but liked squats, cleans, better than bench, I’d guess 550 was squat max then) 60 pushups now, no problem. 23 chinups in highschool at 155, last summer, did 16, (at 185) now I’m at about 13.

    I drew an elk tag in Colorado, besides loading a pack and carrying it on hills, what suggestions do you have to get a summer (not spring) chicken better able to tote a 100+ lb pack full of meat out? I’ve got a bench, squat rack, bike, but don’t care to waste my time or tear myself up.

    And, btw, I’m type 1 diabetic, 22 years of that, insulin pump, cgm, so I can control crashes before they happen. 7 hr bike rides are good practice for managing that, but I don’t have THAT kind of time.

  5. MGunz says:

    Hey Rob, Email me at [email protected].