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Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – Best in Show or Man’s Best Friend?

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

My oldest son, the very successful business guy, called me from his office in Denver the other day. He called to catch up on family stuff but also to tell me that he had hired a personal trainer to help get him into better shape. Now my oldest son has always been a skinny kid whose main interest in sports was X game stuff: snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, climbing, dirt bikes that type of stuff, still is. He was never really a gym guy. However, as he is now 30 years old and has been working 24/7 running his very successful business (SnackCrate), he started getting a little pudgy. We all spent some time together this past summer climbing and hiking out west where his brother and cousin made sure they pointed out his new weight gain every chance they got. Now you would think that having a father who is a Marine, a fitness author and trainer I would be his go to for advice and help on this, but he decided to seek outside help. One reason was that he can be a real lazy ass when it comes to doing regular PT and he needed someone actually with him to put a foot in his ass to work out and push him when he gets to the gym. I got that, however the other thing he told me took me a little by surprise. He said, “Dad, I’m not interested in getting ready for a war, what I care mostly about is looking good.” “Well” I said, “Myself or the people I train don’t exactly look out of shape?” “No”, he replied, “But I just want the abs and all that, plus I don’t want to do your stuff, it’s too hard”. Really? That got me thinking about that appearance vs. performance debate that has been around a long time in the fitness world.

He’s right that my training during my time as a Marine, the program in my book and what I personally have followed for decades was developed with the main intent to prepare people for military service. It also provides the collateral benefits of great fitness for sports and recreation, weight management, robust health and a trim athletic appearance. But make no mistake, it was designed primarily for performance, to improve what you can actually do, not how you look. However, in today’s viral social media world the value of appearance over performance has reached new levels of desire. It’s very common for any fitness program, supplements or gear to be promoted with the dynamic picture of the “Ab guy or girl.” I get the appeal, but most people don’t realize that the person in the picture is a professional body model, that utilizes a combination of genetics, a very strict diet, full time PT program, a lot of supplements (and no doubt PED’s), to achieve that ripped look. The point being is that they aren’t a realistic representation of what the average person will be able to obtain (and especially maintain), even with a lot of hard work and discipline. Not to mention that there are a lot of photographic tricks used to make these people look a lot better than they are in person. Just like they do with professional fashion models. It’s an image business, based on fantasy not reality.

I’m not saying by any means that being in a lean condition is a bad thing, I’m just saying that having it as your primary goal of your fitness program may be misguided, as it isn’t realistic, sustainable, nor particularly healthy. As an example, track the long term health of many famous bodybuilders and you’ll see what I mean. Interestingly, another place you can see this play out is in the dog world. Now we all have seen the dog shows on TV. The dogs in all the different breed categories are judged solely on their appearance and how they fit into certain physical standards. Many years of careful breeding are used to develop a show dog champion, but too often these lead to genetic issues that can cause serious health problems and short life spans in show dogs. Plus no one worries about if they can run fast, put up with harsh weather or other outdoor conditions, or get along with kids, it’s all about appearance. Plus, these dogs require special diets, medications and are groomed and pampered 24/7 to maintain their appearance.

Now look at dogs that are working dogs like: labs, beagles or hounds that are used for hunting, police/military dogs, or herding dogs used for cattle and sheep. These dogs are usually rough looking, way out of show standard but can handle anything you can throw at them and keep going. Bad weather, sleeping outside, regular dog food, doesn’t matter; they just go and go, doing it all with tails wagging the whole way. When I was a kid, I had a dog that was ½ pit bull and ½ beagle. Whiskey was all of about 25lbs, marked like a beagle but funny looking with an oversized block head mounted on her little body. She had a decent nose and a weird note when flushing rabbits, but that little dog was the Rambo of our neighborhood. She could climb trees like a cat and loved to swim. She was notorious for chewing up our hockey pucks and digging up yard moles for a snack. But the thing she really loved to do was go down a woodchuck hole and drag a woodchuck out by his ass. It was something to see and when the fight moved into the open it often seemed she was overmatched and out of her weight class, but despite often being bit up from head to toe she was never beaten. She followed us on our bikes all day long and lived to be 12 years old, at least 12 as she went outside the wire for her normal morning patrol on a very cold winter day and was never seen again? Fueled by table scraps (and stolen chicken eggs), she never went to the vet and always slept outside on the porch (my dad wouldn’t let dogs in the house), no matter what the weather. Yes, I did sneak her in my room when I could.

I share this story about a little mutt that I loved and was my constant companion as a young boy to illustrate my point. That being that in my opinion it’s more important, more healthy and in the end more satisfying to focus your training on what you can do, rather than how you look. Focusing mostly on appearance will require a routine similar to what the show dogs use and IMO yield similar problems. It will be very hard to maintain and could lead to health problems. The first thing the trainer gave my son was a big list of supplements he wanted him to start taking. The recommended diet was strict, boring and time consuming, it’s your typical broiled chicken breast, steamed broccoli and plain oatmeal routine. The actual workouts (IMO) are pretty weak, 30-45 minutes of light weights and cardio. Certainly nothing I would recommend to get into, or maintain top condition. But I know the goal here is to just get his metabolism going and with the low carb diet and supplements, get his body into Ketosis, to burn body fat. I told my son no doubt it will work, you will lose bodyfat, but you’ll be miserable, hungry and tired. I also know he’ll quickly grow bored of all the meal prep, limited food choices and supplement routine. My guess is he’ll last a couple of months, lose some weight and dump it. I’m not being negative, but I’ve seen this movie a 100x. It’s an old story with the same ending.

Based on my experience if you train for performance you also need to eat for performance. Being in Ketosis is not a high-performance state, it’s actually the opposite. When you are training hard you need real food and frankly lots of it. A wide variety of quality whole foods, not protein powder, branched chain amino acids, creatine, fat burners, recovery drinks, etc, etc. Those things do work (to a certain extent) but what are you going to do, take that stuff for the rest of your life? I’m not and despite most of the advertising, hype, video views, likes and IG picture shares most people won’t either. The fact is most of us do not have the genetics to look like a fitness model. Just like we don’t have the genetic talent to play professional sports, drive formula 1 race cars or do rocket science. However, the vast majority of us can maintain a fantastic level of useful fitness, health and energy that will allow you to live your life in the fast lane. BTW, princess I will also guarantee that when you get there, you’ll look pretty good too. Till next month:

“Be Safe Always, Be Good When You Can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Do Anything Condition

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

When I was a kid Joe Namath was one of my first sports idols. Being from NY and seeing Joe Willie win the first Super Bowl I ever watched and then later seeing him dating Rachel Welch, made a big impression on my puberty scrambled brain. I followed everything he did. I remember reading a story that when he was in 6th grade he went to a local fair and at the arcade, won every stuffed doll they had in that old carny game where you knock over the weighted milk bottles with a baseball. There was also the story that before the days of it being popular, that he used to dunk a basketball routinely during HS games. His college football coach, Alabama’s famed Paul “Bear” Bryant, said Namath was the greatest athlete he ever coached. Coming from him, that’s quite a statement. I think all this was the root of my long interest in cross training. I always found the thought of being an all-around athlete much more appealing than just being good in any one sport, still do.

Throughout my life I’ve tried almost every sport you can think of and was incredibly average in all of them. I had some standout moments in weight lifting and boxing, but for the most part I was pretty unremarkable. However, I enjoyed them all and I especially enjoyed the training, as it was all different. Which fit my five-minute attention span perfectly. Later when I became a Marine, I learned another type of physical training. Then after I retired from active duty and started training international military people, I gained additional training insight, as most internationals don’t grow up with the same sports and recreation that we do in the states. They also (for the most part) didn’t have the assets (money) we did for sports. This is certainly true in their military training. It was all good and along the way I built up quite a data-base of different training methods and experiences.

From all this I’ve come to realize that for the vast majority of us concerning sports, we share a similar experience. That being is while we were never going to become professional athletes, we enjoyed many different sports growing up and even though our serious athletic careers are mostly over by the time we left HS or college, we still want to enjoy sports and other rigorous recreation. With that being said IMO to really enjoy a wide variety of these things, you need to maintain a very good, (if not great) level of all-around health & fitness. What I call the “Do Anything Condition”. A 24/7 level of fitness that will allow you to handle almost anything at a decent level and if desired, provide a solid base to build on for something more specialized, like running a marathon, mountain climbing, or any other specific sport or activity. Now you may be someone who just likes to golf or fish, but I’d suggest that any recreation short of just sitting and watching will be enhanced by better fitness. This enhanced level of physical wellness also provides a lot of other collateral benefits also like: better sleep, more energy, better sex, better overall attitude and outlook on life. There are many more. You could even become more productive at work? LOL.

So how do you get there? Get there without a lot of complicated bullshit and a big -time investment? First realize that this standard of condition is somewhat subjective, meaning it will be a little different for each person, which is based on their needs and goals. However, I think that at a minimum, it’s based on achieving and maintaining a few basic physical standards:

1) An ideal body weight, which is ideal for your height and frame.

2) Strength, expressed your ability to effectively manipulate your bodyweight plus an additional 33-50% (of your bodyweight).

3) Endurance, perform a wide variety of repetitive tasks for an extended time without undue fatigue, this also includes the ability to recover from such tasks quickly.

4) Flexibility that allows a wide range of motion. Important in injury prevention.

5) Robust health that provides a high energy level and a strong resistance to injury, sickness and fatigue.

The key to achieving these states is a program that is properly balanced and flexible. Now, obviously I can’t lay out a lot of detail in this short article, but I can provide a basic training outline that has been proven effective over many years of trial, error and observation. It’s also a basic plan that I have personally followed for many years and with great success.

Monday – Strength

Tuesday – Endurance

Weds – “Active” Rest

Thursday – Strength

Friday – Endurance

Saturday – Specific Sport or Activity Participation

Sunday – Endurance or “Active” Rest.

Now the actual make-up of what you would actually do under these broad headlines depends again on your individual goals. However, Monday – Friday sessions are generally around an hour (workdays), while the weekends can and frequently are much longer. The workout options within this basic outline are literally endless. I lay out many different routines in my book: Corps Strength. It goes without saying that to make this work you need to support it with a sound eating plan. I also give a lot of practical guidance on that subject in my book. Again, nothing complicated, just sound principles that I know work.

Another great “Bennie” of the Do Anything Condition is the ability to be spontaneous with your recreation. This opens up a world of opportunities. It was a normal way of life as a young Marine on liberty around the world and something I still enjoy doing since I retired. Traveling for work I’ve entered road races of different lengths when they came up locally, like the 10k I ran through the Jungles of Sierra Leone with some Canadian and Brit military people. I climbed an active volcano (over 7000ft) in East Africa with some of my students and went free diving to spear lobster and grab conch in over 40ft of open water in Trinidad. I did all of this without a second of any specific preparation. It was all a blast and I had no problem with any of it physically. The point is where-ever I go, I’m physically ready to do whatever fun may present itself. Plus, do it well enough to have fun and not to break myself or be completely worn out afterward.

The reality is that 99.9% of us aren’t going to play professional sports, or date a movie star (shit). But it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a lot of sports and recreation, IF and that’s IF we keep ourselves in decent shape and ready to go. The fact is it’s not really that hard either. It just takes a good plan, some consistent effort and a little discipline. It’s well worth it in the end, especially when you’re able to experience these things with your family and friends. Don’t wait, get ready now and remember when you do:

“Be Safe Always, Be Good When You Can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Take Charge, Yeah I’m Talking to You Sports Fan

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Sorry for the longer than usual time in between articles guys. I had a death in my immediate family this past month I have spent a lot of time over the last month working through those issues and trying to work in the Covid world. In any case I hope you all are staying healthy and as upbeat as possible during these challenging times. 2020 has sure been one for the books (so far). Hang tough, it will pass. Looking forward, people who have followed my articles here on SSD and/or have read my book, know that I am a big believer in the mental aspect of heath and fitness. IMO it’s actually more important that sets/reps, eating, etc., when trying to get and stay in top condition. The body always follows the mind in the success, or failure of anything. With that aspect I have come to learn (the hard way), that there is another part of all this that is very important and all too often overlooked. That is understanding who is fundamentally responsible for your health? That would be you and if you don’t take charge of it, it could lead to some bad outcomes, or at the least prevent you from achieving your goals.

Now on the surface this may seem obvious, but it isn’t that obvious to everyone and in my own case it really wasn’t until recently. In some past SSD articles I have shared a little of my own battle with TBI, not a lot as I don’t come on here to complain about my own (reactively minor) health issues, but to share my experience and information that I think could help people with their weight loss and fitness goals. Plus, I know fellow services members with much worse battle field injuries and chronic service related conditions than mine. I learned many years ago, when you start to feel sorry for yourself, look to your left or right and you’ll see someone who has it worse. So suck it up buttercup.

However in the spirit of trying to help others through my own experience I will share a little more today. For some background info, a little over a year ago I started having these weird headaches. They weren’t really what you would call a headache, but more of a dizzy, lightheaded thing. Out of nowhere, they would sneak upon me, when I was teaching a class, trying to do some computer work, driving, or even just watching TV? My balance was affected sometimes too. It would just happen and there was never an apparent cause? At first I thought it was an ear problem, as I’ve been prone to ear infections, especially as I travel a lot and when I climb above 10,000 ft, which I had been doing a fair amount of. So after trying my usual denial and just gut it out for a few weeks method, it only got worse, so I went to see a doctor.

As I’m retired military I have Tri-Care and go the hospital here on base. Which over the last 10 years has been fine. The fact was it was just like I was still on active duty as I would go and see what ever Navy doctor (or Corpsman) was on duty that day. No problem. Yearly physicals, flu shots, tests, blood work, etc., it was all good. So I go to the doctor this time and take a bunch of tests and the young female Navy Doc tells me that she can’t find anything wrong with me? But this thing was just getting worse, I felt like I was severely hung over 24/7. The only time I actually felt good was when I sweating, like during PT or climbing. However, as soon as I would stop and settle down, it would come back. So she set me up with a Neurologist.

So to make a (very) long story short with this part, I go and had a whole series of MRI’s, soft tissue, with contrast, etc. etc and I go to a ENT. Again nothing, but after a lot of discussion with the Neurologist and his review of tests and my service medical records he tells me that he is 99% sure I have some level of TBI. Ok, I get it, that figures, now what? He says medication is the answer. Now at age 60 I have never been on any long term prescription medication, for anything. So he prescribes me something and I go get it. My wife (who is a nurse) looks at it and tells me that it’s an anti-depressant, something commonly prescribed for PTSD? I call the doctor and he tells me that’s true, but it has been known to help people with TBI and he also thinks I may have some underlying PTSD. Huh? Really? However, as I have always trusted doctors without question, I start taking this stuff as directed.

Right away this shit makes me nuts. I couldn’t sleep with crazy nightmares and it had me ready to cut my own F’ing head off as my TBI symptoms actually got worse. The doctor tells me to just hang in there as it takes awhile to get into your system, call him back in two weeks. After after two weeks and I’m about ready to go active shooter he decides that it’s not right for me and he prescribes something else. My wife looks at this new stuff and tells me that this is high blood pressure medicine? Huh? I don’t have high blood pressure, never have? So like before I call the doc and he says, Yes, it’s for high blood pressure, but it has been known to help people with TBI. Now my blind trust in doctors is starting to fade, but there’s still enough to do what he tells me.

This new medication isn’t as bad as the first, I stopped having zombie nightmares and homicidal thoughts, but it really wasn’t helping the original problem either. After a few weeks I call the doctor and he wants me to try another, different drug? This is where I decide just throwing drugs against the wall (my wall) to see what sticks isn’t going to work, not for me. Thanks, but no thanks. I stop taking the drugs (and actually feel a little better) and my wife sets me up with a civilian doctor, which I’m seeing in a few weeks. In the meantime, I started doing my own research on TBI, PTSD and the medications that are associated with with their treatment. There is a metric F ton of information out there and much of it is written by people who suffer with these problems. The point is that now that I have taken charge of my issue by educating myself about it, as i’m in a much better position to decide on how I want to try and fix it, (if possible). Does that mean I will not listen to doctors and do just what I think is best? No, of course not. What it means is I’m better informed about the potential consequences of different treatments and medications before I buy into it. It helped me look my situation in a better more informed way and will help me discuss this better with a doctor going forward. I was too trusting and frankly lazy about this and it bit me in the ass.

It’s the same thing with something like losing weight and getting your health and fitness on line, you need to take charge of your own situation. Do some research and cut through all the slick marketing and media hype that promotes new workout routines, equipment, supplements and diet plans. Keep in mind that the bottom line is the #1 purpose of any of these products is to make money. If they actually help people is secondary. Now before you say anything, I don’t give a shit if I ever sell another book, the little money I have made from book sales wouldn’t add up to minimum wage when you add up the hours I’ve invested in. It’s always been more about talking to others about a subject I love than making money. The fact is I actually wrote my book at the urging of other Marines that followed my program and advice and it helped get people in better shape for their career. Yes, I’ve sold a lot of books. Way more than I ever thought I would and certainly a lot more than my publisher thought I would. LOL However, I think it’s only sold so well over time is because the advice is sound, honest and timeless. It doesn’t not work because some time has gone by or it’s some new high tech break through. It just works, that’s all.

But forget my book and any other book and take charge of your own health and fitness by doing your own research and figure out for yourself what makes sense for you. The fact is only you know what’s best and will work for you.

Till next month: “Be Safe Always, Be Good when you Can”.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – A Body in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Every person that exercises and tries to eat right has their own set of fitness and health goals. These are unique and personal to each person, with no two being exactly alike. Most are basic stuff like: achieving/maintaining a healthy body weight, improving performance for a sport/occupation, adding some muscle/strength. Under those very general objectives it can get as specific and detailed as your own ambition and imagination can take you. However, there is one common goal of everyone’s fitness program whether they actually say it or not. That is having an abundance of energy, both physical and mental energy, which are completely interrelated.

When you really think about it, energy has driven the human experience. We needed a lot of energy to survive, to hunt, to explore new lands, to build amazing structures and form nations. The fact is tired, exhausted people did not build our country, win our wars or develop the greatest economy in history. Our people did this with incredible physical energy and mental drive. Now in today’s modern world it’s not usually as dramatic a need that our forefathers had to contend with, as technology has made many parts of life much easier. But to be successful in just about anything you want to do, you still need a lot of energy. I know as a trainer that one of the things you often hear from people trying to get in better condition is that they’re tired, worn out. That at the end of the school or work day they have very little energy left to do anything but collapse, let alone exercise. I found this is even a common issue with younger people who have sedentary jobs. Needless to say, it’s hard to convince exhausted people that giving up some sleep to get up early and exercise will actually provide them with more energy, not less. But in most cases it does work exactly that way.

It’s been my experience that increasing activity (the right way), will provide you with more overall energy than a little more sleep, or sitting around will. It tends to build on itself in which the more you do, the more energy you have. It kind of works like interia. However, of course, this theory has a tipping point, where you do too much and the physics takes over and it goes the other way. But I think people can do a lot more than they would think. As a simple example the other day I got up at my normal time, my alarm is set for 0430, but 99% of the time I wake up before it goes off. Within 30 minutes, I’m up, drinking coffee and listening to the news as I put myself through a pretty intense workout in my garage for an hour. By 0730, I was finished, showered, had breakfast and headed in to work. From 0800 – 1400 I taught classes, attended a staff meeting (the most tiring part of my day) and had lunch. At 1400 I took my class of International students for an hour of PT. Standard military PT nothing crazy. After PT I finished the work day with prepping for the next day’s classes and answering emails, etc. Around 1600 I was driving home and noticed that the ocean was calm, with low boat traffic. Arriving home I quickly changed, loaded my kayak and fishing gear onto my truck and was on the water within an hour. Two hours of paddling and fishing yielded me one keeper (a nice slot Redfish, note the picture).

I got home around 1900, cleaned my gear and fish, which I grilled for our dinner. A hot shower and a cold beer had me ready for the rack around 2100. Was I tired? You bet and I slept like a baby with the intent that it would start again around 0430 tomorrow. That was last Tuesday and pretty much a standard day for me. No, I don’t always go fishing and for sure don’t always catch fish when I do. However, I almost always PT early and do something else physically active in the afternoon, a bike ride, climbing on my bouldering wall, some home maintenance, something. The one thing I very rarely do, is park my ass in a chair and stare at the TV or computer. That would exhaust me. People who follow me on IG or FB often say where do you get the energy to do all that crap? Well, habit for one, I’ve been doing a version of this routine all my life. But I do and more importantly don’t do certain things that greatly help me maintain a high level of usable energy. IMO, outside the assumption that you are following a good workout routine and are eating a decent diet, these are the five most basic and effective things that anyone can do to increase their energy levels.

1) Keep your body weight down. This should be obvious, if you’ve overweight (even a little), your body has to work harder to move that weight around, using energy that you could put to better use. If you’re really overweight, it will drain your energy reserves pretty quickly. Not just your muscles, but your organs will be stressed trying to move that extra weight you around. 10lbs doesn’t seem like a lot, but try just carrying a 10lb dumbbell plate around all day, it would become a pain in the ass quick.

2) Don’t eat large meals. Meaning a lot at one sitting. Now, there is no doubt that eating right; The right foods in the right amounts by itself is a huge part of the fitness puzzle, but for now let’s just assume you are eating pretty well. The point is that digestion, especially when processing a large meal, requires a lot of energy. Again, this is a pretty obvious thing, think about how you feel after you’ve had your typical Thanksgiving sized meal, you’re ready for a nap. You are much better off eating smaller meals and if you need more fuel add some nutritious snacks in between. Especially at night as having too big a meal at the end of the day can seriously tap out whatever you had left in your tank.

3) Get better sleep. This is a big one and for many people a very hard one, myself included. The world of today is a 24/7 affair and we all tend to overload our brains with the non-stop input of smart phones, social media, the internet, etc. etc. This all can make sleeping, getting to sleep and then sleeping soundly very difficult, if not almost impossible. I have this issue myself, always have. There is a lot of information out there that can help you with this. Though I know it’s a popular solution, I would try to avoid prescription sleep aids. This can be a complicated problem and you’ll have to do some research to figure out what works for you, but you can’t maintain high energy levels without good sleep.

4) Don’t smoke and don’t drink too much: When I was in the field, on guard duty or drinking with my buddies I smoked way more than my share of cigarettes. I luckily never developed the 24/7 habit and gave them up completely about 15 years ago. The nicotine will give you a quick boost, but in the end, you’ll pay a heavy price, not only in your energy levels, but your overall health. The years of research in this area is beyond dispute. The same goes for drinking too much, a few drinks can be a good thing. Getting slam drunk a few times a week has only one outcome. This can sneak up on you. Many years ago, I was on a two-month det in Thailand. I got in the habit of drinking Johnny Walker Black, as it was tax and duty free at the base package store for $5 a bottle! I drank a bottle just about every night for about a month, before I started to realize maybe I was developing an issue. Needless to say, I was pretty tired all the time too, but being young and in Thailand brings its own energy.

5) Manage/reduce your stress: Easier said than done, I get that. But stress is a huge energy killer. Sweating the load over work, family and social issues will tire you out more than running a marathon. Exercise is a big way to help burn some of this off, but that often isn’t enough, not for me. I find that spending some time doing something relatively mindless works even better. Bike riding, kayaking, fishing and just walking my nutcase cattle dog can go a long way for me. Find something without a bar to jump over, a little hobby. I know many high-octane people who have little hobby’s that they seem to live for, not because it makes them any money, or other tangible benefit, but just for the peace of mind and simple joy it brings them. Grown men that collect comic books, fly model airplanes and I even know a retired Marine Officer that makes appearances as an Elvis impersonator? (He’s actually pretty good too). The point is you can’t work, PT or travel 24/7. I enjoy them all, but I know they all can get old and wear you out. They say that you should think about what you used to like to do when you were 10 and try a version of that again. When I was ten, I lived on a sting ray bike, played sports and ran around the woods like a little wild animal. So it’s no surprise that hiking, bike riding and playing sports are things I still love to do. Don’t disregard the benefits of a simple hobby, it will recharge your battery.

Having more energy has many benefits, too many to list. But maybe the best one is that after the day’s battles are fought. After you’ve done all the things you have to do, you have some steam left over to do something you want to do, things you like to do. At some point you need to pay yourself, life is too short. Protect yourself and hang tough as we all work through this rough patch. We’ll talk again soon, till then:

“Be Safe Always, Be Good When You Can”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Day in and Day out

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

As a PT instructor and fitness author, one question I’ve been asked many times is: What do I think is the most important factor in staying in shape and maintaining a healthy body
weight? Diet? Workout routine? Attitude? Lifestyle? The fact is that achieving and maintaining a high level of health and fitness has several different components that all need to come together for long term success. However, when asked to name the most important factor I always give the same answer: Consistency. Consistency specifically in this case means the ability to follow a fundamentally sound (but not necessarily perfect), exercise routine and eating plan. To follow it not for a few months, a summer, a deployment, etc. but for life.

People who follow me on Instagram, know that I post my workouts: THE DAILY BEATDOWN”. It’s like a training log for me (helps keep me honest) and I also hope it provides some motivation to those who follow me. Based on the feedback I get, it does. The fact is I follow others on IG for the same motivation. Some are fitness professionals, military people, gifted athletes and other various mutants that are doing things physically I couldn’t do on my best day, but my favorites are just everyday people who work hard at staying fit. Their true life stories and efforts always give me inspiration to work toward my own goals and I’ve learned a lot from their practical experience. With all that, the main point I try to get across with the picture of my G-Shock showing the time I roll out for PT is that just about every day, day in and day out, rain or shine, home or when on the road, working or off, cold weather or hot; I put in the work. I punch that PT time clock and I have for over 40 years now. I’m convinced that my blue-collar, enlisted Marine approach to this has been the biggest key to my long-term success. I’m also convinced that just getting up and getting it done can overcome a lot of other less than perfect aspects of any program.

Now am I saying that you need to get up at 0430 almost every day and PT like I do? I could say that, as it has worked great for me and it might for you too. But for most people, it probably wouldn’t work, not long term anyhow. The point is that when I help people on their fitness plan and achieving their goals, it’s about finding out what works for them, not me. However, whenever you figure out what routine works best for you, the most important point is that you actually do it and do it on a regular basis. Regular in my opinion means daily. My simple rule on work out frequency is that I plan to PT for 1 hour, first thing in the morning, every day. I’m not foolish about it though, as I will take a day off when I need to, but I do my level best not to go two days in a row without some PT. On average this comes to a day off, every 4-5 days. With this mindset must also come with the understanding that to do this type of every day routine, you must widely vary the intensity and variety of your training to keep your mind and body from burning out. There are some (many) programs that preach the opposite mindset. Meaning that you should take a lot of time off for recovery and then when you do train, train at a very high intensity. In my experience that is a sure recipe for injury and burnout. Both of which lead to long periods of doing nothing. BTW, doing nothing is the easiest habit to develop and one of the hardest to break.

So how do you maintain the long-term motivation to workout and eat right (most of the time), almost every day? Well, it helps to have a high pain tolerance and somewhat OCD personality like myself. But for everyone there are positive and healthy ways to ingrain the long-term exercise and eating right habit. First, you have to figure out how to make this part of your life, not your life. Contrary to popular belief, as much as I like to PT, my life doesn’t revolve around it, it’s just part of my life, like sleeping, eating or dropping a deuce. Just a natural part of my day, not something I consider forced, or a hill I have to climb over to get to my life. The fact is great health and fitness allows me to do the things I like to do: climb mountains, hike, kayak, rock climb, mountain bike, play many different sports and do it all at pretty intense level. Not by any means what you would call a professional level, but at a level that allows me very few limits as far as participation goes. What I mean by that is while I may not be able to speed climb Mt. Rainier, I did successfully climb it without requiring an extreme effort, or suffering any injuries. I also had to do very little specialized training to prepare. My normal everyday routine was really all I needed. Plus, even at age 59 (and being the oldest member of our climbing team by 15 years) I was able to enjoy it. Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy, but not by any means a real physical struggle.

Just as getting good sleep supports your ability to work, play and stay healthy. You should think of PT the same way. Nobody would consider just not sleeping? Well, you’d say that’s not your choice as if you try to go without sleep you’ll just collapse at some point. True, and it’s just as true that if you go without regular exercise and good food your health will eventually collapse also. It will take longer and may be less dramatic, but have no doubt, your health will collapse. On the way to that collapse you will slowly be able to do less and less, and feel more and more like shit. Hey we all get old, sick and die, that’s life. You’re born and at some point, you die. Same for all of us. However, the different is what happens between the two, which can be vary greatly by our own efforts and habits.

The keys to developing the fitness habit, is really the same with embedding any good habit. First you have ease into it with small but consistent changes. Then over time slowly ramp up to the level that will get you to your goals while remaining sustainable. This is maybe the most common mistake that people make in this area. They try to do too much, too fast. It overwhelms their body, life style and mental state and they quickly fall back to nothing. You have to figure out your goal first and then from there design a solid (and simple) plan to get there. The plan needs to consider many different things in addition to your end goal, to include the time you’re giving yourself to get there. This is very important. Goals, both long and short term need a time line. I learned a long time ago the only real difference between a goal and a dream is a time limit. I want to earn a college degree in 4 years is a goal. I want to get a degree someday is just a dream, a fantasy. Your goals need a time limit if you’re serious about achieving them. However, if you aren’t that serious and are happy with just dreaming about great health, fitness and getting your weight right, have at it. That’s easy to do, but remember it’s just a dream, not real and not ever likely to become real. It’s just the way this stuff works.

Of course the mechanics of how to structure your workouts and eating are very important also. The surprising thing though is that this part really isn’t that complicated, certainly not as much as people make it. There is more good information out there on eating right and working out than you could ever need, like my book for example. But, it will take some trial and error to get it tailored for you, but that is the same in any endeavor like: running a business, a military unit or sports team. As they say about combat: The best plans can quickly become useless and have to be adjusted as you go, but prior planning is indispensable. Start with a simple basic plan and adjust as you go. Having no plan and just trying to wing it will fail. Again it’s just the way this stuff works.

The bottom line is getting and staying in shape requires goal setting, some planning, a little experimenting and above all else consistent long-term effort. However, it’s not rocket science and certainly doesn’t require nowhere near the time and effort as the most important things in life do: like earning a living, getting an education, or keeping a family together. However, I will contend that every minute invested in a sound fitness program will pay you back many times over in your health, your mental state and in your life overall. In fact it’s one of the best time investments any person could make to improve their life. I know this not only from my own life, but from witnessing this in an untold number of others. So do yourself a favor and invest a little time and effort in yourself every day, you’re worth it.

I hope everyone is staying safe and we are all over the hump on this pandemic and we can all get back to work and our lives soon. Till next month:

“Be Safe Always, Be Good when you Can”.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Diet Merry Go Round

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

The little video I included with this article is to illustrate a very simple point. That being that the never ending stream of “new, great, ground breaking and fantastic eating plans” are just like a merry-go-round and like the big guys in the video, no matter how many times they go around, they’re still as overweight as ever. As a fitness trainer and author I’ve been saying this for many years, as it’s always been true and it probably still will be for as far as the eye can see. The recent popularity of “Intermittent Fasting” is just the latest in this trend. It’s all the rage now in the diet/fitness world, on the internet and I personally know several people who are on it. I’ve been asked many times, or should I more accurately say that I’ve been “briefed” about this new eating plan. I say “briefed”, as what really happens with these new things is people who know me, know that I’m into fitness, working out, etc. and when they want to relate to me their newest eating, or workout plan (the latest of many), they often go through a sales pitch of sorts. Telling me about the studies, the celebrity and pro athlete testimonials, internet articles, etc, etc. I always feel that they’re looking for some validation or encouragement. Of which I always give the latter and almost never the former. In any case, I wish them the best of luck, which I sincerely mean. However, long experience tells me that after some initial good (often very good) progress, their long term results will be minimal, actually probably non-existent as they will most likely gain back all the weight they lost and like being on a merry go round they will end up right back where they started; Looking for the next “new, great, ground breaking and fantastic eating plan”. Which have no doubt, is right around the corner.

My wife gets on me sometimes about being negative about new stuff. The fact is I’m really not a negative person about new things, I never have been one of of those people who wish they were back in the “good old days”. However, neither am I someone who is easily buffaloed by slick marketing. That comes from a long career as a Marine and especially as a non-commissioned officer you become naturally skeptical of initial appearances. Probably as we’ve heard every bullshit story, excuse and false promise made by professional bullshit artists for years and tend to rely more on hard earned experience and our own eyes and ears than anything else. It’s actually an astonishing thing that the fitness and diet industry can go from promoting one extreme to the other without so much as a shutter step, and even more astounding is that people will buy into this stuff without any hesitation. Do I need to remind people that just a few years ago the absolute gospel on eating properly was “grazing”. That you had tp eat every few hours to keep your metabolism up? People had all these little meals set up so they could eat constantly. Now the almost complete opposite is the new truth, that you should only eat between certain hours and not at all otherwise. If those aren’t complete 180 out thinking, I don’t know what is? It’s the same thing with the way things have bounced around the Zone, Paleo, high carb, low fat, high protein, Atkins, The Med, Weight Watchers, Keto, Vegan, Flextarian, DASH, etc, etc, etc. There are many more, too many to list.

Though all these plans are different (some very different) in some ways, both big and small they do all have three main things in common.

1. If followed closely they will help people lose weight.
2. They are about impossible to follow long term and will be eventually dropped by 99% of the people who try them.
3. Their main purpose is to sell products: food, supplements, charts, apps, etc.

Over the years I have watched people try all of of these plans, I even tried a few myself and like I said they all can provide good results, if and that’s a big IF you can stick to it. The cold hard fact of it is that very few and I mean VERY few people can stick to these programs long term. What do I mean by long term? Well, for life is what I mean, as I have zero interest in (like I have said many times) short term (30, 60, 90 day) fixes. I’m into long term results meaning everyday, every way fitness and of which maintaining the optimum bodyweight is a crucial part of this. They don’t stick to them because they don’t work, most do work. They work because, in the end they simply reduce calories, though they just do it in different ways. They don’t work long term as they are either too complicated, too expensive, too boring or the most likely, just an overall pain in the ass. Too hard to fit into a busy life. We all have better things to do than figure out our protein, carb and fat ratio for each meal, or spend our Sunday’s doing meal prep for the week. No thanks, eating (and PT), is support for my life, not my life. That baseline thinking is a big reason why my program has worked great for me (and those who try it) for decades, not just for a few months. The real solution to getting off the diet merry go round is to first understand that this is the last thing the diet and fitness industry want you to do. There is no money coming in from people that maintain a healthy body weight. Those people have figured it out and have no need or a new plan, supplement, app, foods, etc. No money in that. So stop relying on the latest “break through” it’s mostly just a sales pitch. Next, we need to understand that the human body has not changed that much in many 1000’s of years. What has changed is our habits, namely our food and lifestyle. This a very long subject, much too long to cover here, one I’ve spent many years studying and observing. However, just on this latest subject of Intermittent fasting I have some thoughts.

I have always felt and advised people that not eating (at least not much) between meals was a good thing. I have always thought that you need to give your body a rest between meals. Unless you’re doing some extreme training, or other high output activity like mountain climbing, backpacking, military ops, adventure racing, etc, you’re not a baby and don’t need to eat every few hours like one. Additionally, eating, processing and digesting food takes energy. It’s why you get tired after a big heavy meal. That energy could be better spent elsewhere. There is a balance between eating the right foods, in the right amounts and at the right times to give you maximum strength, health and energy and eating too little or (more likely), too much that doesn’t provide energy, it drains you. There is also an important cultural aspect to eating. Having traveled widely, I see the differences in how different cultures eat and its a big part of the social fabric in their country. The United States in no different as such this shouldn’t be disregarded. I heard a friend the other day talking about how he was trying to get his mother to alter her Thanksgiving meal time, to accommodate his intermittent fasting schedule? Come on man. I guarantee that if your eating plan is that extreme, it is on it’s way to the island of misfit diets.

The solution to all this isn’t that complicated, but it does take some personal understanding, some discipline and patience. I have worked with some very healthy and tough military people from all over the world and in many cases their diets vary widely. Yet they all are able to preform at very high levels. You see the same wide variety in how military people and athletes eat here in the U.S. I have known some seriously fit and tough people that eat like shit snd their bodies just turn most of it into fuel. (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’ve been blessed with some of that myself). On the other end I know people who have been obsessing over their diet for years and never seem to get a handle on it. In any case, this all simply tells you that the absolute perfect performance eating plan for everyone doesn’t exist, as there is a wide variance of what will work. There has also been a lot of studies done lately about “genetic eating” and that people’s DNA may result them in getting better results from different diets. It makes sense, just as some people (like myself) are lactose intolerant, which is a DNA thing. But, we don’t have to be scientists to figure out what works for each of us. I know pretty quick after drinking a glass of milk that it’s not going to work for me.

The best place to start on figuring this out is to start with the basics and adjust as your lifestyle, goals and personal tolerances require. Eat simple, natural foods that are close to their natural state. Limit highly processed food, I.E. foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (fast food). Start with three balanced meals a day, limit in-between snacks. Don’t eat late at night and have a light lunch. When I say light, a good rule of thumb is too aim for a meal that is approx. 1/2 the size and calories of what you would consider a full meal. On days that you are going to share a big meal with friends and family, (like on the holidays), eat very lightly before and after. BTW, I hope this goes without saying that a balanced and consistent PT program is an important part of all this. In my book Corps Strength I go into more detail on how to do it, but it’s not rocket science by any means. Nor will you need a new plan in a few months because it has worked, still works and always will work. On the other hand it’s certainly not rocket science to constantly ride the diet merry go round thinking that if you just ride long enough, eventually you’ll grab the brass ring. That’s the diet industry’s fantasy to keep you riding, not reality for success. Try getting off and find the right path that takes you to long term success in keeping healthy, in good shape with your weight under control. As a hint, that path is probably a lot simpler (not always easy), than you think, as like most roads to success for everything are; Simple, but not easy.

I hope ever one is having a good start to their holiday season. Enjoy your friends, family and the time off from work. However, please remember our troops serving far away from home in dangerous places so we can enjoy this time (and all times) in peace.

God bless them, you and yours.

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

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Pound for Pound

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Many years ago before I found my place as a Marine, I had lofty dreams of being a professional fighter, a boxer. Big money, fame and a non stop parade of hot girl friends was all part of the fantasy. This was long before MMA was even thought of. So to make any real money as a little guy in professional sports, there was only boxing. How I got started in boxing was kind of a weird story, as I came from a weightlifting background. However, once I got started, I was hooked and dove in head first (more like face first), into the sport. From the very first I loved the workouts, though as you could guess, they were completely different from lifting weights. Right away I stopped lifting completely and quickly shed 10 lbs off my already small frame. I had been doing pretty well in both Olympic and Power lifting, competing in the 148 lb class (usually weighing in around 143-144), so I wasn’t very big to start with, but pound for pound I was very strong. I could easily squat over 300 lbs for reps and Clean and Jerk almost 250. However, boxing has a completely different skill requirement and the workouts to get there didn’t include weights.

My trainer was an old school guy who ended up with a couple of world champions. He had a wealth of boxing knowledge, which also included training and diet. He told me right off the bat that being just under 5’7”, I was always going to be fighting taller people (he was right and in all my bouts, I never fought a shorter guy), so I had to develop a style that would minimize that disadvantage. Think Roberto Duran, not Sugar Ray Leonard. Not that I could actually imitate any champion, far from it, but that was the idea. With that style you need extreme levels of conditioning and punching power (and a good chin), to beat taller, faster boxers. The problem was that when I dropped lifting and lost weight, I felt weak. I was naturally a pretty good puncher, but as some time passed I felt like I was losing strength. I spoke to my trainer about it and thought maybe I should add some weight lifting back into my routine?

He said what I needed was some time to adjust to my new sport and more importantly, an understanding of how this all works. (He was also big on the mental aspect of boxing). He asked me if I thought any weight lifter, bodybuilder, or football player of any size, could punch harder than Rocky Marciano could at 185 lbs? No, I didn’t think so. What about a smaller fighter like Marvin Hagler, at 160 lbs? Probably not, I said. Neither of those two guys ever lifted any weights. So, what is the deal, is it just a natural thing? Well, that’s part of it, as some people can puncher harder, just as some people can run faster, but not all of it. What Marciano and Hagler developed through training is how to transfer their weight into their punch. Think about it this way. If the biggest weight lifter in the world was walking down the street and a 135 lb bag of sand fell out a 3 story window and landed on his head, what would happen? He would be knocked unconscious at least, probably worse. The training that your doing is focused on getting you to do that with your 135 and not just once, but over and over and over. You feel weak now, because your used to a different kind of strength, but as you progress, you’ll get your weight matched correctly to your height and learn how to transfer that weight into your punches. From there you’ll discover a new kind of power, the kind of power you need for boxing. It made sense, so I dropped the idea about going back to weights.

He was right and over the next few months, Though I lost even more weight, I felt much stronger and developed KO power with either hand. I was also very surprised to find out that I could actually hit harder with a left hook, though I was right handed? It was all about using speed and leverage to transfer weight. In any case, looking back, I could hit harder then at 135, than I every could before, or frankly since. The end result was that in all my fights but one, I stopped the other guy. Unfortunately, in that fight (my last) I was stopped by a very tall, very skinny guy whose punches felt like I was being hit by a baseball bat? That fight made me realize that getting punched in the face (a lot), just wasn’t my thing and if you can’t come to terms with that, you will never take boxing to a high level. The bottom line was, while the money and fame of boxing was very attractive, the health risks weren’t worth it to me, so that was that.

So what is the point of this nostalgic sea story? I share this as I got a lot of feedback on last months article when I commented on the current issue of overweight people in our military ranks. Many people pushed back on my take that most of these people are just overweight and the new weight standards are making it worse. What I got specifically was that the body fat measuring methods used aren’t accurate (which I agree with to a certain extent) and that being bigger was actually better anyway. That being heavier isn’t a hindrance, but an advantage. That I don’t agree with at all, not for our military, or 99% of other occupations that require a physical ability and certainly not for the average person.

This is a common misconception that you need to be bigger, to be able to perform better. I’ve heard this a lot over the years trying to help people get into shape and lose weight. Which brings me (finally, I know right) to the point, the conflict between body weight, strength and conditioning. IMO these three things are completely interwoven and cannot be separated, nor do they need to be. However, many people have this baked in idea that they have to be bigger to be stronger, and then train and eat (with lots of supplements, of course), themselves to just being overweight. Gyms and the military are full of these “Joe Bulky” guys. Now if they were bigger in the sense that they were carrying mostly lean useful muscle, that would be one thing, but in the vast majority of people that isn’t the case, they’re just carrying too much weight for their frame and that will end up decreasing their overall physical ability, energy levels and in the longer term, their health.

Yes, it’s simple physics that if you’re heavier, you have a bigger base to push things around, but that by no means proves your in great (or your best) overall condition. For an extreme example, look at NFL offensive lineman. They are huge guys, that are certainly quick and athletic, but most are carrying a lot of extra body fat, some carry huge amounts of extra fat. But in their role on a professional football team, that pure weight is an advantage, as a defensive player has to try and move that weight (or get around it). But the average person is not an NFL offensive lineman, (though many look like it) and doesn’t need that weight. BTW, former NFL offensive lineman sadly have the shortest average lifespan of all positions. No doubt the extra weight they carry for years has an influence on that. I doubt anyone would say that an NFL offensive lineman is an ideal build for our military people, or for any other occupation, except with maybe a bodyguard or bouncer? The goal for the vast majority of us should be to develop a high level of useful fitness, health and energy for our occupation, recreation and our lives in general. To do that we need an all around, balanced type of conditioning and an important part of that is a body weight that fits your frame properly.

To use a motor sport analogy; what you want is a powerful and efficient engine, mounted in a resilient, tough and lightweight frame. Genetically your frame (height) will determine the right size engine required for optimum performance. The point is to fine tune the right sizing of frame and engine. Not to put a powerful (but small) motorcycle engine in a dump truck frame. You may think that dump truck looks big and strong, but in the end it’s slow, burns a lot of fuel and as it’s engine isn’t the right for it’s frame size, it will probably break down a lot and wear out quicker. Your body is the same way. Some people will say to the answer to this problem is just build a bigger engine, more muscle. That works to a certain extent, but the physics of it will take over pretty quickly and you become inefficient on the other side of it. Look at bodybuilders for the perfect example of that. They are an example of an engine that is too big for it’s frame, as they have as much pure muscle packed on their frame as possible, with extremely low levels of body fat. But other than lifting weights can do little else, certainly nothing else at a high level. Not to mention that the diet, workout routine and lifestyle required to get that much muscle is harsh and all encompassing. Plus, it’s an even harder thing to maintain. In any case, it’s infinity better to fine tune the muscle and frame balance and also much easier to maintain.

From long experience and observation I have developed my own system on how to figure out (approximately, as there is a range) what your optimum performance body weight should be for your height, of which I’ll share in a new book I plan to publish next spring. But for now I can say this, it’s a lot lighter than most people would guess, but not extremely so. As the skin and bone build of a elite marathon runners is no where near the ideal either, no more than the NFL offensive man is. The bottom line is that it’s easy to chow down, hit the weight room, bulk up and fool yourself that you’re at your best and for many people that’s good enough. I get that and if that’s your thing have at it. However, if you need, like our military needs (or just desire), great overall physical performance, great long term health and high energy, you need to take a different road to get to a different and IMO, much better place.


Just for one quick real life example. With this article I have included a picture of Lu Xiaojun. Lu is a Chinese Olympic and World Champion Olympic weightlifter and is also a world record holder. IMO Olympic lifting is the best example of dynamic strength, as the Olympic movements require high levels of athletic ability, balance and flexibility as well as extreme strength. Lu is 5’8” inches tall and weighed here at 169 lbs, which puts him 11 lbs under the maximum weight for his height by Marine Corps Standards, (max for 5’8″ is 180 lbs). His weight and height are an almost perfect match for his sport, actually he is statistically a tad on the tall side (by an 1”) for his weight class of 77Kg. In this picture he is clean and jerking over 450 lbs! Notice he isn’t wearing a lifting belt, no knee wraps, no “lifting suit” like you see in power lifting. I would estimate that 99.9% of the world’s population can’t lift 450 lbs off the ground, let along take it from the ground, to overhead. Yes, he is a world champion, with the rarest of genetics and years of hard training, but the point is that he represents how much dynamic power that can generated from a relatively small, lean person. I’m not saying that his weight/height match is perfect for overall fitness, using my formula he is about 9 lbs over the optimum target wgt for a man that is 5’8″: 160lbs. However, I have no doubt if he balanced lifting with a serious program of aerobic conditioning (which I’m sure he does very little of presently), he would probably be pretty close to that weight. In any case, he is obviously within the right range. BTW, how many 300 lb plus NFL offensive lineman do you think can take 450 lbs from the ground to overhead? My guess, is very, very few, if any. Who do you think would look better in a military uniform and perform military duties better? Think about it. I have for years and I’m devoting a entire chapter in my new book on this subject and there I will explain my take on all of it in much more detail.

In any case take care till next month and as always:

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

Semper Fi

Corps Strength – When Standards get lowered, Performance is sure to follow

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Recently a DOD study revealed some disturbing facts about the physical condition of our active duty military. You can get all the details here at:

While there was variance between the services, with the Navy being the most obese at 22% and the Marine Corps the least at just over 8% (which as a Marine I was disgusted, but not surprised by). The bottom line is that too many of our troops are seriously overweight, with the average of all branches being over 17%. That’s about 1 out of 5 being obese, not overweight, but obese. (The overweight number adds another 30%!) Obesity here being defined as a person with a body fat measurement of over 30%, and/or a BMI of over 30.

Now, many people will rant and rave about the BMI and other measuring methods not being accurate and in some cases they’re not. The fact is that all measuring methods have an accuracy variant. But it can work both ways, as I’ve seen some obviously very overweight people get under the body fat limit, mostly only because they have a big neck measurement. The most accurate way to measure body fat is Hydro Static weighing, but this isn’t something that everyone has access to. I had it done once about 20 years ago and it said my body fat was 13% and strangely enough the tape method used by the Marine Corps then had me at 10%? So, in at least my case, the tape method was more forgiving and my observation of many others being taped, is that would probably be the case also.

Putting the debate about the body fat measuring techniques aside for a minute and based just on a lot of personal observation made over many years. There is no doubt our service people are bigger and frankly fatter than ever. As a Marine I know my own service and spent a lot of time around the Navy, both aboard ship and on shore. Now since I’ve retired from active duty and work as an contract instructor for international military people, I’ve had a lot more exposure to the Army and Air Force than I had on active duty when I take my students to many different bases around the country. During these visits I’m often shocked at how many grossly overweight people I see in uniform. It’s actually jarring to see and is both officers and enlisted. The weird thing with all this, is that the PT programs of today’s military are much more sophisticated, scientific and widespread than we ever had when I came in, way back in 1981. The military gyms today are state of the art on bases and even aboard ship. Most bases have civilian personal trainers, nutritionists, counselors and classes are offered on everything from Yoga, to Cross Fit and all types of nutritional guidance. So why is the number of overweight people in the military ballooning? (Pun intended).

Well, to start off with the military is and has always been a reflection of the overall American society. In some cases it’s worse than what’s happening out there, in some cases it’s not as bad, but it’s never 180 out. As a few simple examples; Drug use was big in the civilian world back in the 70’s and 80’s, but I never saw as much drug use as I saw when I first came on active duty. I never saw cocaine, or hash in my life till I saw other Marines using it. Pot smoking was almost as common as drinking then, even on guard duty. Thankfully urinalysis testing and the zero tolerance policy put a quick end to the vast majority of drug use in the military. Not all, as there is still some out there, but nothing like it was. Racism was another thing I never really experienced until I came in the military. Gangs made up of different ethnic groups were common as was black on white, and white on black violence. For the most part that went away with much of the drug use and the much stricter enlistment (moral) standards that started in the 80’s and really tightened up in the 90’s. However, we all know racism still exists, but it’s much less than it was.


Now today, we have this epidemic of overweight people in the military and it’s another reflection of society, which in case you haven’t noticed is busting at the seams with obesity. The CDC puts the average obesity rate in the U.S. at around 38%. In 1962 that figure was 23%. Why the dramatic increase? There are many reasons, not just one. More fast food and snacks, less overall activity, more sedentary work, computers, less walking, etc. etc. The list is long and it’s not a simple issue to unpack. However, with all this I think there has been a bigger, more dangerous change, it’s the change in our thought process. It’s the norm today (in the United States), for people to just be fatter. Overall kids are more overweight, as are their parents. Frankly, it’s very common to see whole families that are very over weight. Don’t take my word for it, go to any Wal-Mart or Buc-ee’s truck stop and take a look around. However, it’s now something that you’re not supposed to comment on. It’s not politically correct and with so many people now overweight, they’re having their own influence on everything. Airlines make bigger seats, restaurants bigger chairs and most major clothing manufactures have lines of clothing to accommodate for the overweight people. Overweight models are a big thing now too, recently a famous fashion magazine had a very overweight model on their cover to make that very point.

Besides the business world, with all this comes many different health problems that are national crisis and not only health wise, but dollar wise. I read a recent report that stated: “Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States. Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.1 In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually and with lower productivity while at work, costing employers $506 per obese worker per year”. So, with this fundamental shift in not only our physical state, but in the thinking that surrounds it, how do we at least stop the increase and then begin to reverse this alarming trend in the military, correcting the civilian world is a whole other and much more difficult issue.

Obviously, it’s not a matter of information, as the internet alone has more free information than anyone could ever need on the subject of exercise, diet and weight loss. Plus, like I stated earlier, the military is very supportive to help people lose weight and get in better condition, as unlike the civilian world, health and fitness are a requirement of service and frankly a matter of national security. IMO, the first big thing that must happen is the head shed must stop making excuses for our service members. Though the higher ups won’t admit this, but they do and have been doing it for many years now. But, they do it in a somewhat sneaky way. The way it’s done is to slowly relax standards. Supposedly to take into account today’s “bigger service members” Which frankly is bullshit, as hard science tells us that the human body hasn’t changed much in over 100,000 years. It’s just a way (excuse) to enlist/retain people who are overweight. Back in the day we just had hgt/wgt charts. Which despite popular opinion (around buffet tables), were very fair. However, if you felt you just physically had to go over this, you could submit for a wavier. This wasn’t an easy process, you had to go to medical, where a doctor did a real evaluation of your overall body fat, health, body type, fitness level, etc. The command also weighed in based on your overall job performance, appearance in uniform and PFT score. If approved, you got a wavier to an alternate higher weight and this could be pulled in a heart beat if your military appearance, or fitness level degraded. It wasn’t handed out very often, or easily, so most people just got off their ass, PT’ed harder and ate better to maintain the weight standard.

About 20 years ago they started the policy of adding a simple, alternate body fat % to the hgt/wgt charts. If you were over the chart wgt, you got taped. You didn’t have to do more than that and if you were under the body fat %, you were gtg. What you saw was a lot of people quickly learn how to manipulate the inherent inconsistency of that system and without any fanfare, the standards were now lowered. People who before worked hard to stay within the hgt/wgt chart, now had a lower bar to clear. So in response, they just relaxed and soon they were struggling to make the new lower standard. Any NCO knows that troops always push the limits of rules and regulations, the weight issue is no different. If you say the hgt/wgt chart is too hard (unfair), then 18% quickly became too hard and unfair. Soon 21% will be too hard and not fair. This is already happening.

Fairly recently the body fat standards were raised again with the new pretense being that it was now “performance based” Meaning if you could score a little higher on the fitness test, you could have an even higher body fat %. Again, the standard was lowered and people just got more overweight. It just became more the norm to be overweight as the lower standards now reinforced this warped thinking. This trend will continue as the young service members become even more overweight as they age, there will be more relaxing of standards to allow mid-career people to stay in. As that’s only “fair” right?

Another myth associated with this is that we have a recruiting, retention problem that forces the military to lower standards. Meaning, if we don’t allow overweight people to come in and then stay, we won’t meet our manpower goals. As a former recruiter I know the pain and suffering that goes into finding qualified people, (who want to enlist). As we have no draft, an all volunteer force will always have this problem in one form, or another. I heard the same thing about only allowing HS grads to enlist. That not allowing drop outs in, we shrink the pool of otherwise qualified people. Maybe the bigger fix is that we need a much smaller, but better qualified and motivated force overall? That is something I’ve always thought, but that’s another and much bigger issue.

However, the key to current weight problem is to just stop with all the new (and supposed improved) fitness tests and (relaxed) hgt/wgt standards, As even with all this new stuff, people are getting more and more overweight. Get back to training and evaluating people in the tried and true basics of PT and eating. At the same time, come up with the right weight standards. (Which I have my own theory on the best way to do this, which I will include in a new book I’m working on). Then apply leadership and consistency in enforcing them. Which BTW is how I learned to solve almost every problem I ever faced as a military leader and this problem is no different. The only thing that’s different is the way we’ve been thinking about it. Which obviously isn’t working.

Hope everyone is experiencing some cooler weather and stayed out of the way of the recent storms. Till next month:

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

Semper Fi