Get. Your. Ass. In. Gear
Recently SOFREP, published a very insightful article from the Military Times naming the fattest military service to date: The US Army. Now I didn’t look into the numbers because I can’t math, but I don’t care if it’s proportionate to the amount of service men and women in each service. It’s true, for the most part the military is fat as shit. Now whether that’s due to multiple deployments where no one does PT or lack of unit morale, troops are jaded from something and no one is leading the way. Fair warning, do not let that slip into your life when you get out and transition over to wearing civvies everyday. Slip away, Airborne. Slip away.
There is no excuse to be a fat, lazy slob after your military career. Maybe you were a fat, lazy, slob in the military and it just carried over. Chances are, you probably weren’t and had a decent level of fitness. The good news is, you can turn your life around and get in better shape than your military career had you in, even if you were a quartermaster.
I see you out there right now. You’re buying tactical shirts with backwards flags on them, spending thousands on AR builds, posting up at the bar alone with your velcro hat ( I admit I do have one, well two – the other is at a girls house, if you’re reading this please return my beloved hat ) telling war stories about how you were a hard nosed, skull crusher 10 years ago. You talk about how you’d slap the dog shit out of ISIS with your 10 inch manhood. You probably go to Anytime Fitness or another $15 a month cookie cutter gym doing squats on a smith machine or impatiently waiting in line for the only squat rack in their 14,000 sq ft pristinely mopped, treadmill house-of-worship.
And yet you can’t do a single pull-up and get winded from running half a mile.
It’s ok. At least you’re trying. And trying is, well… half the battle or something.
The point is, you’re probably not doing yourself service to the cloth from which you are cut if you’re sitting around wondering why you feel fat, sick, and lazy all the time. I was in that sinking boat for years until I realized how much I’m not kicking my own ass on a daily basis.
“You Can’t Dry Hump Your Way To Success”
It’s way too easy to walk into a regular gym and just “workout”. Getting a little sweat going is not going to get you major results. You may increase your lifts here and there but I can guarantee, if you’re going solo you’re purposely skipping out on some type of workout because no one is pushing you. Falling into the habit of sticking to your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses is a slippery slope. For many, we need someone to call us out on our blind spots. If you’re not lying on the floor gasping for breath, soaked head to toe after a workout, do a gut check. Are you really pushing yourself or settling for mediocrity?
I used to run upwards of 10 miles a week at Ft Bragg – sometimes more. Shoes would last only 4 months and it’d be time to go pick up some more. We ran all the time. We rucked all the time. Cardio was a big focus in the 82nd. We were in great shape. One thing we lacked, at least when I was in, was strength training. As a squad we rarely hit the weights and instead worked on chin-ups, pull-ups, pushups, buddy carries and climbing rope. I never got into lifting until I got out the Army sadly. And to make matters worse, somehow I quit running, became fat and unattractive after leaving Bragg.
I slipped into a dark place when left service like many veterans. I neglected the gym and my body suffered. I drank every night and partied heavily in my twenties. My gut took me to 260 lbs of soft marshmallows at my heaviest. My relationships got even worse. I lost a great relationship with a woman that deserved better; both mentally and physically. Who the hell would want to date a lazy, slob that talks the talk but can’t walk the walk?
Last fall I decided to pick up the pieces. I had enough of being overweight and miserable. I set a goal to get back into shape. And by that I mean beyond my previous level of fitness in the Army. Here’s what the plan I’ve followed for over a year now:
- Quit Alcohol Abuse – I stopped drinking for two months straight to get my head right
- Ditched Sugar – I cut out all sugar in every form possible for two months. No carbs, no soda, nothing that ends in -tose.
- Strict paleo diet – caveman meat and plants. Myargggh!!!
Went from 260lbs to 248lbs in two months. Clothes started to fit better and scored some sweet dates with brunettes. But more importantly, my head was finally screwed on straight again.
- January 2016 I started cardio every day. Combination of rucking with 35lbs or jogging up hills in my neighborhood every day.
- Reintroduced moderate alcohol and carbs back into the diet (because who can’t live without beer and donuts?). I’m a happy American for it.
- Started strength training at a cookie cutter gym and played ice hockey at least once a week.
No weight lost, maybe down to 245lbs at best. Started to make some strides in strength but wasn’t tracking nearly as well as I should have been. I needed more of a challenge. Wait for it…
- Started Crossfit in July and ditched the machines. Normally 5 times a week with no travel.
- Continued to play hockey every week.
- Diet now consists of meat, green veggies, moderate beer (unless the Panthers are losing, Thanks Cam), and a cheat meal once a week.
Crossfit has been a game changer for me. Both in the social aspect of how it’s organized and the variance of workouts each day. I haven’t been this challenged in exercising in a decade. The last time I remember hating life so much was being smoked at the Ranger Indoctrination Program at Ft. Benning after 1000 in cadence jumping jacks. And I sorta of miss that kind of thing. Current weight 233lbs and the abs are coming back just in time for winter. FML
Let’s Talk Nutrition
If you don’t know already, Derek Weida is a fellow 82nd Airborne infantry veteran. He was wounded in Iraq in 2007 and has now made a name for himself in the media and the Crossfit community, garnering him a wealth of followers on his youtube channel and Instagram. He’s also teamed up with Matt Best from Article 15 Clothing and made a handful of hilariously viral videos.
You don’t have to be a paleo adherent forever. Hell I know I couldn’t do it indefinitely, but it does work. If you can live without delicious beer and pizza, be my guest. But that is a life I do not want to live. There’s nothing like going to a brewery after a workout and drinking beer with the same people you just finished working out with. Diet does make a difference. You can’t expect to be cut out of granite and keep eating twinkies and drinking Mountain Dew the rest of your life. Not to mention the impact that crap will have on your brain and mentality. Use it sparingly if that.
For my personal goals and diet, I cut out carbs throughout the week aside from one night where I’ll indulge on a delicious pepperoni pizza or two. I have found a harmonious balance with beer and pizza still in my life with my activity level. 5 days of Crossfit and an hour of intense hockey allows me to eat pizza and drink beer and still lose weight. Not everyone wants to work out 5+ days a week or has time for it but you have to find that balance yourself and adjust accordingly.
I’m not going to link to a product I could sell, or really give too much in depth advice since Derek has laid out the foundations of exactly what foods you should pay attention to if you want to lose weight. You go, Airborne. You go.
Functional Fitness Vs Chest Day
Here we go. The big debate that spurs comments, arguments, and bitterness around the internet. I can’t say that Crossfit type programs (SOFLETE) are better than 3 days-a-week body building. It all depends on the person. If powerlifting is your thing, you do powerlifting and kick ass at it. If bodybuilding is your thing, go get your curl on. If Crossfit is your thing, then make sure your camera is charged, you’re dressed properly (wearing mostly nothing), and you have tons of chalk on hand.
For me, Crossfit is great. It’s got me doing things I sucked at the in Army but I’m getting better at now. What drew me to it in the first place, though, is the community and camaraderie. It’s not a cult, despite what others will joke about. Fine it is. Whatever, the Kool-Aid is tasty. I’ve met new people and friends where I live since joining. That’s a hell of a lot better than the gym I was going to previously. Yeah it’s expensive compared to your $15 Planet Workout LLC in the strip mall, but it’s worth the cost hands down. Invest in yourself and you’ll pat yourself on the back later.
Our Crossfit “classes” usually start with everyone shooting the shit for 15 minutes and stretching followed by a warm up exercise for another 10-15 minutes. The first half of class is usually geared towards strength and conditioning or working on a particular skill, whether that be front squats or muscle ups. The latter half of class is the workout of the day. Yes, you know it as WOD. The WODs always vary every day, working different muscle groups and focusing on either cardio, olympic lifts or a combination of bodyweight exercises.
The great part about Crossfit are your coaches, in my case a former MARSOC Operator and owner of the local affiliate in town. Very experienced and certified to instruct, these coaches help beginners get in the know and feel comfortable with a very professional approach to teaching everyone how to do shit properly. Yes properly. Not many programs will offer that. If you’re going to a traditional gym, you’ll pay extra for a personal trainer that may or may not give a shit about your success. With Crossfit, and other programs, you are coached, but there’s the pressure to perform at your highest when everyone else is doing the same thing. You compete with others and against yourself everyday.
Other Worthy Workout Programs For Veterans
SOFLETE (Die Living) – SOFLETE stands for Special Operations Forces Athlete. Initially created for individuals in the military to prep for BUDS or SF Selection, SOFLETE is primarly a self guided functional fitness and power lifting program. No gym is provided although there are a few around the US. Most participants rally together to workout at a predesignated gym in their area. SOFLETE is heavily community based off their Facebook page and the private team room which you’ll need to be accepted in to. Having a working knowledge of Crossfit lingo is helpful so do your homework before hand. Learn more about SOFLETE here.
Before you go out there and join a gym or box or whatever is right for you, get your diet together first. You can’t fuel any workout if you’re not feeding yourself properly. Stick to a 2 month duration of just getting all the crap out of your diet and drinking nothing but water. It’ll provide you with a great base to build off of and incorporate training later. Cut out alcohol and sugar 100% for 60 days. You can do it. You’ve done harder things. Willpower is something you’re going to have to learn. The discipline you can instill on yourself is only going to help you look for harder challenges. I quit drinking when I was living in a house of 3 younger guys during college football season. Talk about a challenge.
Give it a shot. If you’re a fat, lazy veteran – take action now. Turn your life around. Plus, you’ll look better in your tactical t-shirt, you operator, you.
Burpee the fuck on.