SIG Sauer Academy

Corps Strength – Using the Final Protective Fire to Stay Fit

Using the Final Protective Fire to stay Fit

As a young Marine grunt one of my favorite parts of field training was when we executed an FPF (Final Protective Fire), especially at night. To see all of our weapons firing at their maximum rate was always something to see, very motivating stuff. Now as most of you know the FPF is designed as a last-ditch effort to prevent the enemy from over running your position. Every weapon available fires into predetermined zones. If you’ve seen done it in person, it’s hard to imagine anything bigger than a cockroach surviving in those kill zones. The main thing is when that green flare went up it happened, automatically and instantly. No debate, no second guessing, through planning and training, the actions were predetermined and embedded in everyone’s head. It had to be to make it effective.

Now in the world of diet and fitness I think that everyone should develop and use their own personal FPF. No, I don’t mean shooting up a pumpkin pie, or case of beer to prevent you from over indulging, but having a solid fall back set of thinking about your fitness program. This is especially relevant during the holidays and right after the New Year when many people decide that as a resolution, they want to lose weight and get in shape.

As I often preach (to the point of nausea), the way you think about working out and eating is the most important factor in your long term success, or failure to meet your goals. Not a specific diet, workout or supplement but the common everyday thoughts that fill your brain housing group. Good habits in the form of consistent workouts and eating start and end with good thinking. Experts will give you many theories on how we form habits, how long it takes to embed them and why. I’m not formally trained in this subject, but I do know from long experience how these things impact our ability to maintain good fitness habits.

One thing I know for sure is that people who are successful in maintaining long term health/fitness by PT efforts and good eating, have a solid set of thought “defaults” that act as their own personal FPF. Meaning that outside of unusual circumstances, they make mental choices and from those thoughts act, in an automatic, predetermined way. Just like how an FPF works when put into action. By human nature these defaults can help provide good results and require little effort, or will power once you get them in place.

As a simple example of how this works. When you go to a restaurant, let’s say a Mexican place. These places typically have big menus with a lot of choices. However, if you’re like most people (not my wife) and this isn’t your first time there, you mentally have established a few favorites. From that smaller list you most likely have one entree that if forced to choose one, would be your pick. That is your default choice. You don’t have to think that much about it either, your mind goes right to it and from that you act. What I’m getting at here is that making choices about your fitness routine should start and be held up by a strong set of defaults. All of these defaults together establish your own FPF. Here are some examples of mine:

·       I workout every day, for an hour, first thing in the morning.

·       I alternate my workouts between cardio and strength training.

·       I always warm-up before PT and stretch afterward.

·       Water is my non-alcoholic drink of choice. Light beer is my alcohol go to.

·       I skip dessert.

·       I don’t eat between meals.

·       I don’t do seconds.

·       I choose fish over chicken, chicken over beef, beef over pork.

·       I don’t do fast food.

·       I drink my coffee black.

These are just 10, I have many more “default” settings like these in my head. I don’t think much about them. But they are always there, deeply embedded and they automatically help me make good choices when I need them. Not 100% of the time, but probably 75-80% of the time, which is plenty. Now you may say: “These are just thoughts, I need action.” My friend, all good action starts with thought. My point is that to make these actions a reflex, you need to establish a default thought process. When done so, they will just automatically come up when needed. As such they’re part of my own FPF. Predetermined and ready, no debate needed.

Now you may say how do I embed these defaults to the point where they become reflex? That is the tricky part. First you have to sit down and think it through and come up with realistic, basic and practical points. To try and set silly, or unrealistic thoughts into your plan is just a waste of time. Like:

·       I run 10 miles a day

·       I lift weights 3 hours a day.

·       I never eat bread.

Those are unsustainable long term and frankly silly. How about: I always park at the end of the row so I can get more walking in, or I skip an appetizer before dinner. After you come up with your own (feel free to use mine as they are pretty effective and general), Then post them on your frig, bathroom mirror, computer screen, smart phone, etc. Where ever you need to, until you have them memorized. After that it’s a matter or reps, mental reps till they become embedded and eventually reflex.

You will be amazed at how having these default thoughts can improve your chances of maintaining a long term fitness routine. I teach students this technique all the time and seen it help most of them. This may seem like a small thing, but there is nothing small about the power of the right thinking. Don’t underestimate its influence. Give it a real try it and you’ll see what I mean.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Christmas and New Years with friends and family. I’m off to do the northeast “test of manhood” winter climb of Mt Washington. (Weather permitting as I don’t plan to become a statistic). In any case say a prayer and lift a glass to our brothers and sisters deployed forward and our 1st responders who are working. It’s their sacrifice that allows us the freedom to enjoy the holidays. Till next month:

“Be Safe Always, be Good when You Can.”

Semper Fi


5 Responses to “Corps Strength – Using the Final Protective Fire to Stay Fit”

  1. SamHill says:

    I will admit that I haven’t read your articles for a while after that one article that was just full of ridiculously blatant slights on Trump, but it seems like you are getting back on track. I will play.

    I can agree that our thought patterns on things have a lot to do with it. I used to eat a bag of M&Ms and think “well, this one bag won’t make me fat” and that one bag wouldn’t, it’s putting that type of thinking into your every day routines that causes us to slip.

    In 2015 I quit drinking soda and every year my health has gotten better and better. Now :

    I do not drink soda
    I do not eat fast food
    I exercise 4-6 times per week
    I do not miss an exercise that I put into my monthly plan, no matter what.
    I burn more calories than I consume, generally
    I start every day off with 32 oz. of filtered water
    My coffee is black, no sugar
    water is my drink of choice
    Ultra light beer, if I even drink (lost my taste for it after getting off the sugar)
    I jog outdoors to keep acclimated to the changing weather

    Additionally, striving for physical fitness excellence has led to getting better in other areas.

    I keep up with my shooting skills via competitions and training
    I will keep myself morally straight
    No porn.
    I don’t waste my time on games (pro sports) or T.V. or pop music
    No more toys on credit, I am paying off all debt

    In the future I intend to add a regiment of reading books regularly, as well as getting good in a combative sport like jujitsu, even though I dislike it.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Matt on Oklahoma says:

    Consistency and the strive to be the best me I can be.

  3. Iggy says:

    Good article.

    My baseline;

    No added sugar
    Carbs relative to activity, not hunger
    No beer, whisky rarely
    Avoid regular sleeping hours
    Run off roads. 1:1 mixed with strength and power
    75% of training is doing what I train for
    Give up endurance training last
    Spend time around young people
    Exercise before breakfast
    Try most things
    Don’t believe any politician
    Laugh when I can

  4. TominVA says:

    Apologies. This is way too long for comments, but Sam’s reading regimen comment got me to thinking and out came this list. Enjoy!

    Common Sense Training by Lt. Gen. Arthur S. Collins Jr
    If your people can’t actually DO what you’re training them to do, you’re not training them. As a Marine in the 1990s, I was shocked by how much my experiences paralleled those of an Army officer who was issued a horse upon entering active duty. Collins would have been horrified by the tyranny of Powerpoint. This should be required reading for NCOs and above.

    The Hornblower Series by CS Forester (Back Bay Books editions)
    The (fictional) life and times of a tone-deaf British naval officer prone to sea sickness who would become one of the great heroes of the Napoleonic wars. For a long time I thought the Hornblower series was for kids. I was wrong. It’s all here: harsh discipline, relentless training, seamanship, politics, the prize system, and very bloody naval combat in the days of wooden ships and iron men.

    Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy by Max Hastings
    Far superior to The Longest Day, this is an excellent history of the Normandy campaign from high level politics down to ground level tactics. Somewhat unique in histories like this are the callouts featuring weapons and equipment that played crucial roles in the fight.

    Countdown to Pearl Harbor by Steve Twomey
    This is the only book I’m ever likely to read on Pearl Harbor, but it’s a good one. Twomey doesn’t pull any punches with respect to Admiral Kimmel’s decisions and overall responsibility, but to his credit he moves on to lay blame wherever it belongs, and there’s a lot of it to go around.

    Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall
    I came to Fall’s book via David Hackworth’s About Face. This study of the French defeat in Indochina probably shouldn’t be the only book you read on Vietnam, but it absolutely must be one of them.

    The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas
    The story of how six men, mostly ivy leaguers, shaped US Cold War policy. They’d probably be considered deep state operators now; I wish we had them still. This is a great look at how politics and personality work to make policy in our government. I never appreciated the connection between the gradual involvement of the US in Vietnam – first by supporting the French – and our strategy to bolster post-war Europe against communist influence. I do now. Isaacson is a fantastic writer. I’m going to read everything he has put out.

    What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
    A candidate for my re-read list, this Vietnam memoir of a highly decorated Marine is the most reflective and thoughtful book on combat I’ve ever encountered. It should be required reading at all levels of leadership. Of special interest (to me anyway) comes near the end with an argument for fair play on the battlefield. If the book has one flaw, it’s that Marlantes indulges his love of the humanities perhaps a bit too much for the average service member, but hey, it’s his journey. I forgive him, and you should too.

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    “Scrooge asks, “Are they yours?”

    “‘They are Man’s,’ the Spirit answered. ‘This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both … but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is doom.'” ?

    Night by by Elie Wiesel
    Maybe THE memoir of industrial-scale murder and one of the most thoroughly documented events in history – yet there are those who say it didn’t happen. Consider this one a moral obligation. For me, the worst, most sickening part isn’t the narrative of the camps, but before, when no one could believe the insane rumors, when they had a chance to run for it, but everyone was in denial. Also visit the Holocaust museum in DC if you have a chance – incredibly worth it.

    How to Get Rich by Donald Trump and Meredith McIver
    Throwing this one in especially for Sam. Back when The Apprentice first came on, my wife and I loved Donald Trump. Sure, he could be loutish and petty, but he was fun to watch, and we honestly believed he was a smart guy. No, really. I can barely stomach the man now much less anything his ghost writer puts out, but at the time, it was a fun, easy read. And it sort of does tell you how to get rich – be smart, work hard, and love what you do. Of course, what you do needs to be something people will pay a lot of money for, but hey.

    Note on the following: I know, I know, “Hey Tom, keep your religion to yourself.” Message received. But, even if you’re an atheist, I think these books are absolutely worth your consideration. Plus, you can talk down to believers who don’t even read their own stuff. It’ll be fun!

    Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
    This is arguably the foremost defense of faith in modern times. Lewis’ passing would have made headlines around the world had he not died the same day JFK was assassinated. Virtually every Christian writer of any stripe at some point references him. Lewis was on Oxford don and a brilliant thinker, and I sometimes struggled with his very English prose and some of his arguments during my first reading. The second time went much easier. A very worthwhile exercise.

    Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton
    This is a very accessible faith-based guide to one of the most widely published and least read books on the planet. Hamilton honestly confronts the challenge of making relevant to the modern reader a collection of documents thousands of years old and translated from languages we do not fully understand.?

    Ecclesiastes by Some Long Dead Jewish Guy but attributed to Solomon
    Remember the Byrds song, “To everything, turn, turn, turn….” It’s from Ecclesiastes. This rumination on the futility of pursuing pleasure and material wealth is arguably the most profound book of the Bible.

    Merry Christmas!