When service members go to basic, all the people who weren’t fitness addicts or athletes are excited about how fit they can get in just a couple of months of training. But, it’s not like the training cadre had magic wands. They made the recruits work for those muscles.
Some veterans forget these lessons and a lot of civilians buy into the fitness industry’s hype about gym memberships, diet shakes, and magic pills. But vets, think back to basic and to active duty. Did you platoon sergeant bring you smoothies in the morning? No, they just instilled these 7 lessons in you:
1. Set goals and increase them as you get stronger
The military loves the cliche of “crawl, walk, run.” While literally crawling may be a bit of a slow start to a workout program, it is good to start low and build up. Veterans who have let their standards slide shouldn’t jump straight into the hard stuff.
Try making two lists. The first is aspirational, everything you want to be able to do or do again one day. Run five miles without walking, do 100 pushups in two minutes, whatever. Then list everything you’re pretty sure you could do right now. Jog 0.5 miles, 5 pushups, whatever. Finally, start setting weekly goals to get from the second list to the first list. You can adjust these later if need be.
The second list, what you can do right now, is “crawling,” the in-between goals are “walking,” and “running” is when you tear up the aspirational list and make a whole new set of milestones to go after.
2. Anything is a weight
Soldiers and Marines conduct ruck marches with packs weighed down by actual gear. They practice buddy carries by carrying their actual buddy. And, they often use sand bags or water jugs for resistance during squats and lunges.
Similarly, you shouldn’t feel limited at home by a lack of special equipment or gym membership. Load a backpack with dense objects for a more strenuous run. Do curls with a toolkit or light luggage. Complete squats or lunges with a gallon of water or another object in each hand.
3. Make a course
During PT runs, the instructor may designate specific points the formation has to sprint to or a distance they have to lunge across instead of run. While it’s easiest to do this at an athletic field where yard markers or bases can be used as reference points, it’s easily done anywhere.
Try sprinting past a set number of telephone poles before jogging past twice as many, then repeat the process 9 more times. Or alternate between lunging and jogging, changing exercises every time you pass a mailbox.
4. Change up your movements
The Army has about 9 different versions of crawling (low crawl, high crawl, bear crawl, gator crawl, etc.), a dozen variations on walking (range walk, crab walk, ruck marching, etc.) and a few unique ways to run. Each of these changes works different muscles in different ways and the novelty helps break up the monotony.
Try the same thing with your workouts. Don’t just go for a jog every day. Do a five-mile run one day, sprints another, and alternate between lunges and jogging on another. Change gator crawls in for pushups some days or try calisthenics on your normal core workout day.
5. Workout with a buddy
Troops may go on a run or hit the gym every once in a while on their own, but they’re usually there with others dudes from the squad or platoon. And every morning they work out as a unit, running in formation or doing muscle failure exercises and calisthenics as a group.
So pick a buddy with similar goals and get to work with them. It’ll help you stay accountable (more on that later) and will make it something to look forward to, not just a dreaded task.
6. Do actual, physical work (or fake it, if there’s no work to do)
Service members spend at least 30 percent of their time just packing and unpacking connexes or inventorying gear. While many soldiers think this is a horrible waste of time, it’s actually a secret program to make troops super strong.
Moving furniture yourself, working in the yard, or even taking the stairs can help you incorporate exercise during the day. If you don’t have any work to do or stairs to climb, you can incorporate a little “fake” work. Dig holes and fill them back in, chop wood, or just re-organize your room or bookshelves.
7. Use accountability and consequences, not just discipline
Look, no one who isn’t a fitness addict wants to spend all their time in the gym and be super diligent about dieting. Even in the military, a lot of people would love pizza, beer, and sleeping-in as opposed to hard work and dieting. But the military has NCOs who will destroy people who skip formation because even disciplined people can give in when other priorities create conflicts.
The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is here, and no one is really sure what that means. Since the changes were announced last fall, there have been more questions than answers about what the new ACFT is going to look like and, well, how hard it truly is. Hint: It’s pretty freaking hard.
How it started
Old school soldiers are all very accustomed to the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) that involves running, sit-ups, and pushups, and even if all you did was PT with your unit, you could probably muscle through well enough to pass. Now, that’s not exactly the case.
Back in 2013, senior leadership began exploring the physical demands of “common soldier tasks.” This review, along with an examination of a study funded by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, showed that the old APFT standards were super outdated. Not only was the APFT based on age and gender, but it also didn’t take into account the actual job functions a soldier might perform with their unit.
The study’s final conclusion revealed what lots of soldiers have known for a long time: a tanker’s on the job requirements are much different from a 68-series soldier. The new ACFT aims to change that.
The ACFT is a six-event test, and it’s tough. Senior Army leadership says that the revisions to physical standards will help increase combat readiness and ensure a more highly trained, disciplined, and physically fit military. The new ACFT has been designed to improve soldier and unit readiness and transform the Army’s fitness culture from fringe to mainstream.
Not only are the events different in this new version, but the scoring has changed as well. Revised standards show scores for each of the six events up to a max score, and highlights the minimum score a soldier must meet based on MOS, categorized by how physically demanding jobs are. This is a nod to the Marine Corps fitness standards testing that tests based on MOS.
The New Events and their standards
The new ACFT includes the following six events in this order:
The old APFT gave soldiers a max time of 2 hours to complete the testing. Now, the new ACFT has a strict time limit of just 50 minutes.
The challenge for many soldiers and units is the training that’s required for the new ACFT. In addition to needing a strong deadlift to get a high score and serious throwing power for the Standing Power Throw, the new version requires a lot of discipline and focus as well.
New Challenges Emerge
It’s no secret that recruitment is down right now, and one of the biggest hurdles facing the Army is the ACFT. In the pursuit of combat-ready soldiers, some have argued that the Army has placed new barriers on success, especially for non-combat arms MOS.
After all, the new ACFT came in part from former SecDef Mattis’ push for a more lethal force in the Army and a wider attempt to take a harder stance on obesity. Of course, physical fitness needs to be at the foundation of military culture, standards, and bearing. It’s part of what sets the military aside from the rest of the population.
But some are asking if that means that the best soldier needs to be the fittest soldier. As the ACFT rolls out and testing begins Army-wide, more revisions may come from on high. For now, most units are just continuing to train.
Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.
These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.
(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.
Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.
Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”
Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
(Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.
What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.
Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”
Ketogenic, South Beach, and Atkins are a few of the most well-known diet plans that countless people from around the country try in hopes of shedding unwanted pounds. Since most troops in the military can’t be as selective with their food choices as civilians, finding a healthy way to shed body fat before your next physical assessment can be tough. After all, those MREs aren’t exactly low-carb.
Today, intermittent fasting has become extremely popular within the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without taking in a single calorie.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to control two essential chemicals in the body: growth hormones and insulin.
According to Dr. Eric Berg, growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. On the contrary, insulin blocks the benefits of growth hormones and causes weight gain.
So, how can troops, specifically, benefit from patterned eating? Well, we’re glad you asked.
We all know the simple formula: If you eat more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. First, people looking to drop pounds start by cutting their calorie intake by lowering the amount of food per meal — which is an excellent start. But every time you eat, even if it’s something healthy, your insulin levels spike. In the presence of too much insulin, you simply cannot lose weight.
The solution is to follow a pattern of intermittent fasting. To do so, Dr. Berg recommends waiting at least four hours before eating your first meal of the day. Follow this meal with another two or three within an 8-hour window. After this window closes, don’t eat anything for the following 16 hours — until breakfast the next morning.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
Troops who undertake morning PT should set their alarm so that they’re awake long enough to begin their eating period immediately after exercises come to a close.
Since the availability of chow in the field is continuous, controlling your fasting isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Food is available for intake within your 8-hour window, just remember to cease fire on the consumtion once that window has closed.
During your fast, make sure to drink plenty of water. You can also add some apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice to help fill up your tummy after reveille plays bright and early.
Check out Dr. Eric Berg‘s video below to get the complete breakdown of this exciting health trend.
Chantae McMillian Langhorst is an Army spouse of two years, currently stationed in Georgia while her husband trains to be a helicopter pilot. She’s also a mama to one-year-old Otto, Olympic athlete and just won the coveted title of “Titan” for the central region on NBC’s the Titan Games, hosted by “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.
She’s just a little busy.
Even before her husband decided to join the Army, Langhorst’s life was already deeply rooted in the military. Both of her parents were in the Army when they met, while stationed overseas in Germany. They would go on to serve and retire after 20 years each. Langhorst shared that she absolutely believes being a military kid helped her become more adaptable and independent. She knows those experiences served her well and helped mold her into the person and competitive athlete that she is today.
Langhorst graduated from Rolla High School in Missouri as a track and field athlete. She was also selected as a Nike All American. She received a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and began competing in the heptathlon. During her time in college, she received the coveted title of All-American five times while competing. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art, she was approached by a coach who suggested she continue competing.
This time, in the Olympics.
“One of the best times of my life was learning about myself, how hard I could work and being able to dig deep and figure things out,” said Langhorst. In 2011 while training to compete in the Olympics, she suffered a devastating injury to her patellar-tendon in her knee during a high jump. Although she would never want to go back to that time in her life, Langhorst believes pushing through to heal from that injury to qualify for the Olympics made her a stronger athlete in the end.
Despite that injury, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Although Langhorst didn’t medal, she credits making it to the London 2012 Summer Olympics was one of the greatest achievements of her life.
In 2014, she found herself in Ohio training for the 2016 Olympics. Langhorst became a track and field coach at the University of Dayton. She also met her future husband, who was a sports trainer at the time. In 2015, she was selected for ESPN’s famous body issue. Although she didn’t make it past the trials for the 2016 Olympics, she didn’t give up. Langhorst began exploring the winter Olympics but stopped once she was faced with a surprise.
She was pregnant with little Otto.
Langhorst’s husband had begun the process of joining the Army and knowing that little Otto was on the way, they were even more excited for their new journey. They married in 2018 and he went off to Army training in 2019. After his graduation, they were stationed in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he began helicopter pilot training. Then, Langhorst received an interesting phone call.
The Titan Games wanted her to try out.
They flew her out to Los Angeles in January of 2020 for a combine. A few days later, she was told she made the cut and would need to get to Atlanta to start filming. For 20 straight days she was involved in competitions twice a day and filming 12 hours a day. Langhorst describes it as an amazing experience but also exhausting. She also shared that there wasn’t much food. “I look so shredded on TV because I was eating like a bird,” she said laughing.
Langhorst became a Titan, swiftly eliminating her competition in the first episode.
“I hope I can inspire people,” she shared. Langhorst said that she understands how easy it is to get lost in being a military spouse and putting the service member’s career before your own. She found herself doing it before that call from The Titan Games. “Spouses need to know that they can still achieve a lot – even with a kid,” she explained. Langhorst said that having Otto gave her more purpose and the fuel to work even harder to make him proud.
These days, Langhorst is training for the Olympics again with the goal of medaling. Even with her super athletic abilities and tunnel vision goals, she’s absolutely human. She loves donuts, although she doesn’t indulge often. Fun fact: She loves training barefoot. Langhorst is also an artist who loves to paint and still searches for four-leaf clovers, something she always did with her dad who passed a few years ago. Now when she finds one, she feels him with her.
Langhorst has come a long way from the young girl who had her goals written on her bedroom ceiling. She hopes that her story of persistence and drive will encourage others to live their purpose. Langhorst has achieved so much in her life already, but she isn’t done yet. She’s just getting started.
To learn more about Langhorst, check out her website. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook as she takes you on her journey to the Olympic trials.
Current times can’t quarantine the hustle of one Long Island-native who continues to embolden thousands of Peloton enthusiasts up the leaderboard.
Senior instructor Alex Toussaint is known for motivating riders with his no-excuses brand born from years of training at a military school. The child of a sailor and nephew of an airman, he exudes the discipline needed to formulate a workout that can help someone PR while entertaining them with a Biggie-versus-Tupac track battle. He tailors each class to be its own individual vibe, whether it’s a HIIT ride, intervals & arms, or pays homage to a specific decade — and crafting that experience requires precision when sculpting message, music and song placement.
“Depending on what class it is, the prep can take anywhere from an hour to the entire day, honestly. … I always start with the playlist and that may require me to sit down and be like, how many hills do I want to have in this playlist? How many flat roads; how many recoveries? And that will determine the style and the music that I go for. Once I lock the playlist in, then I have to figure out the transitions and how everything flows because I’m very, very critical of, you can have a 10-song playlist but if song 2 and song 8 are in the wrong placement, the playlist can sound terrible.”
Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.
Toussaint’s meticulous nature was instilled in him at military school in Missouri. His parents enrolled him for grades 6 to 11 in response to behavioral issues he experienced as a kid. He said his dad thought the discipline and structure would be helpful, and in fact, he has leaned on the principles ever since.
After graduation he pursued audio and video production — skills that also proved useful as he climbed the ranks of the fitness industry.
“I was that kid that graduated high school and went to college just to buy time and to please my parents, knowing that wasn’t really the general direction I wanted to go. But then again, I had no direction — I had no idea of what I wanted to do. While I was up in school, my car was stolen and I kind of went through this weird, dark depression stage that eventually had me come back to East Hampton,” he said.
He was introduced to the bike when he started working as a maintenance worker at an indoor cycling studio. Toussaint says he approached the owner about an opportunity to audition.
“I would listen to the instructors teaching through the door and literally get inspiration based off their playlist and based off what they were saying. At the time, I was never even on a cycling bike. So, I walked into work and asked the owner, who is now my life mentor, I asked him, ‘hey, can I be an instructor?'” Toussaint said.
Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.
The combination of training from military school and years in the marching band made him proficient at formulating a script for classes, attributes he said would tie all of his capabilities into one useful package.
“I literally went from one week mopping floors to the next week teaching a class,” he added.
That was in 2013 and he has since taught around the U.S. and opened a studio in Dubai before landing at Peloton. And now he finds himself among an elite group of instructors pushing onlookers through the current COVID-19 pandemic. As people were forced into isolation, Peloton became a gathering place for novice and advanced riders to bond over a common need for connection. The company also offers yoga, meditation, and boot camp, among other classes.
“Honestly, it’s that discipline over distraction mindset. It’s that military mindset which has honestly pushed me through this. It’s essentially the people who are on the frontlines — medical workers, police officers, things like that who are on the frontline right now — I kind of view what we’re doing as a service to the people. Because everybody’s at home, I feel like I’m obligated as an instructor and as a person in a position that can provide light to others, that I must,” he said.
Though Peloton is structured as an in-home program, instructors logistically perform workouts from studios in New York and the United Kingdom. That is until the coronavirus impacted operations and its team had to get creative on how to deliver its live programming. Toussaint and his fellow instructors are now offering classes live from their own homes, or through a pivot he would describe as adapting and overcoming.
“Throughout these tough days there’s absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. We’re going to get through this together. We just have to stick together as a family, as a unit, and I think that right now, more than ever, you just have to really have hope. The support from one another will be a strong enough foundation to make sure we get through this. We will come out stronger on the opposite side,” Toussaint said.
Ready to lock and load? Follow Alex Toussaint on Instagram for messages of motivation and check out Peloton’s range of classes including the 90-day free trial for new users who sign up by April 30.
Popular culture has taught us that tough guys are born tough, winners win, and badasses are, well, badass. Maybe I’m not all that tough, but I’ve spent most of my life competing in the sorts of sports that should come with frequent flier cards for the ER, and it’s been my experience that dominating the competition doesn’t tend to come with very many valuable lessons.
In fact, if you really want to know how to winfights, the best thing you can do while training is lose some.
After doing well in events like pugil sticks and being considered “tough” by my friends, I mistakenly started to believe that I was a tough guy. It didn’t take long to learn otherwise.
(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)
While I already had a long and illustrious history of being a mouthy punk before I joined the Marines, it wasn’t until my second year in uniform that I formally entered into the world of fighting. I had earned my brown belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and had some scholastic wrestling behind me that had helped me dominate the competition in my unit and my circle of friends. As far as I was concerned, I was one tough bastard… that is until I walked into the training facility for Fight Club 29, nestled in a disused hangar in the deserts of Twentynine Palms, California.
As I walked into that bustling training environment that Coach Mark Geletko, a retired Marine Sergeant Major, cultivates through sheer force of enthusiastic will, I immediately made the most egregious of rookie mistakes: I was intimidated by the skill and athleticism in the room, so I squared my jaw and put on my best “tough guy” face. I was intent on proving to the team that I belonged there by showing off how badass I was… and silently, I promised myself I wouldn’t tap out a single time that day.
The thing is, I wasn’t badass. I was a tough guy from the block in the company of men that had dedicated themselves to the craft of fighting. Everyone in the room had at least one amateur fight under their belts, a few even had professional ones, and I fancied myself their peer from behind a handful of bar brawl stories and a knack for high school wrestling.
I was bigger, stronger, and fitter than some fighters I squared off against in those early days, but if your plan is to overwhelm experience with muscle, you’re in for a bad day.
As foolish as it seems in hindsight, I see that same look on the faces of new fighters all the time. Some are so lost behind their tough-guy facades that they can’t break through, and ultimately, they have to leave the sport behind. Others, like me, have to learn that “tough” doesn’t always mean winning, and guys that always “have to” win rarely have the skills they need to get out of a jam when they’re in one.
In the months leading up to my first fight, I began training with our team’s premier fighters in the weight class above and below my own (at 185 pounds). That meant standing and swinging with the bruising power of guys that fought heavyweight at 205+, before hopping onto the mats with the lightning quickness of a 175-pound Jiu Jitsu stud that knew more about submissions than I do about… anything.
And boy did I lose. Some days it seemed like all I did was lose. At one point during my first week, one of our best heavyweight strikers named Nate landed a powerful (and quite high) pump kick to my midsection, raising alarm bells from my small intestines all the way to my brain, all blaring in unison that if I didn’t get my ass to a bathroom, I was going to have an awfully embarrassing mess in my pants. After the emergency had passed, I half-limped my way back out of the “porta-john” outside our hangar and stumbled back into the ring, ready to get beat again.
The only really effective way to learn not to panic in a choke is to spend time getting choked. You’ve got to learn to fight back from a position of disadvantage to be a capable fighter.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Samuel Guerra)
Losing teaches you a lot of things about yourself and about the craft of fighting. Do it often enough, and you begin to understand the difference between a sloppy choke that makes it hard to breathe and a good one that makes it impossible. You start to recognize the differences between punches that could put you to bed, and the ones you’re willing to eat while you set up your next move. You start to accept the hurt to avoid an injury and to be comfortable in a submission that used to scare you. Most importantly, you stop being afraid of getting knocked out, choked out, or losing in front of your peers, and in that freedom, you’re finally able to find out what you’re really made of.
I went undefeated in my short semi-professional fighting career, though I never won by knock-out or submission. I’m still not the toughest guy around, but in the years since I transitioned from competitive fighting to simply training, I’ve learned to let go of my fear of losing and embrace the satisfying hurt of learning new lessons from skilled peers.
I may not be as quick as I was when I first got into the fighting game, but unlike that young buck, I’m not afraid to hurt, to grind, or to lose if I have to. And if you ask me, that makes me a much more dangerous old man.
A general assumption is that in order to lose weight, gain muscle, or get in better physical shape, you have to work more and work harder. While it’s true that the body must be put under stress in varying degrees for muscles to grow, what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of not working — the recovery process.
Anytime you deadlift, squat, bench press, or exceed the normal limits of daily activity, your muscles experience micro-tears. In response, your body releases inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the muscle. Your body triggers delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — that dull achy feeling you may experience 24 to 48 hours after the activity.
DOMS are local mechanical constraints. It’s your body telling you to stop using the muscle group and to start recovering the affected area.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
When deciding which recovery techniques to use, various factors must be considered, such as age, gender, physical fitness level, and the activity that was performed.
There are a growing number of techniques being used by athletes; however, proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration are key.
Sleep is a vital aspect of muscle repair and growth. While you sleep, your body goes into full repair mode. As you enter the N3 stage of non-REM sleep, your pituitary gland releases human growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair. Not only does sleep replenish the muscles, but it also recharges the brain — allowing for productive workouts the following day.
Exercise causes the depletion of glycogen stores and the breakdown of muscle protein. Consuming both carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes of your workout can improve recovery. Carbohydrates refuel your body, allowing you to restore lost energy sources, while proteins help repair and build new muscle cells. It is recommended that you consume .14 to .23 grams of protein per pound of body weight and .5 to .7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Proper hydration is imperative both during and after your workouts. During strenuous exercise, your body sweats to maintain temperature, causing fluid loss within your body. You can find your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after exercise — then replenish your body by drink 80 to 100 percent of that loss.
Additional recovery techniques can be used in conjunction with the basics.
By reducing the weight and volume, weightlifting becomes active recovery.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
Active recovery is a way to flush out the by-products produced by exercise. To do this, choose an activity and lower the intensity to just above your resting heart rate. Some examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, and weightlifting at lower weights and volumes.
Hydrotherapy — such as cold water immersion (CWI), hot water immersion (HWI), and contrast water therapy (CWT) — is a common technique used by many athletes. Studies have shown that CWI is significantly better than others in reducing soreness and maintaining performance levels.
The easiest way to reap the benefits is to fill your tub with ice, run some cold water, and immerse your body for six to eight minutes. Ice baths can be painful at first, but they get easier with time.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt Chris Gabayan, left, and Air Force 2nd Lt. Rhett Spongberg talk about how they each pushed each other to conquer the course while they recover in an ice bath after the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Debbie Aragon/U.S. Air Force.)
The fascia is a thin connective tissue that covers our muscles. The purpose of myofascial relief is to break down the built-up adhesions and decrease muscle aches and stiffness.
If you’ve entered a gym in the last five years, chances are you’ve seen a foam roller — one of the most basic techniques to reduce muscle stiffness. In addition to foam rollers, sports massage and lacrosse balls have also been known to provide short-term increased range of motion and reduce soreness.
It’s easy to muster up an hour of motivation. Just turn up the music, scoop some pre-workout, and chalk up your hands. What’s not so glamorous is the time spent outside the gym — the 23 hours between training sessions. But it’s that time in between that determines your long-term results. Work hard — but recover harder.
The trap bar deadlift isn’t a true deadlift. It’s somewhere between a squat and a deadlift. As a hip hinge stickler. it’s hard to watch just about every video I’ve seen of soldiers conducting this movement. There’s too much knee flexion most of the time.
The trap bar deadlift DOES use more knee flexion than a traditional deadlift. BUT it doesn’t need all the hip flexion you guys are giving it.
The reason there’s more knee flexion is because the handles on the trap bar are closer to your center of gravity than the bar is during a conventional deadlift. This means you don’t need to hip hinge as far forward with a trap bar.
But you still need to hinge.
You should only be bending at your knees, and hips for that matter, as far as you have to in order to reach the ground. If any part of your body is moving, but the bar isn’t, you’re wrong.
It’s a little bit like a squat and a little bit like a deadlift.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
It’s not a true squat
This may seem like a weird statement. It’s called a deadlift, not a squat so obviously, the trap bar deadlift isn’t a true squat. Hear me out though.
Lower body movements are generally broken into two main groups:
Knee dominant movements
Hip dominant movements
The king hip dominant movement is the deadlift. The king knee dominant movement is the squat. The trap bar deadlift isn’t wholly a hip hinge like the conventional deadlift, and it isn’t wholly knee dominant like the back squat.
It’s somewhere in between the two.
Which if we’re being honest is how you should ideally pick something up. The trap bar deadlift assumes that you’re getting the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible, and you’re recruiting the most amount of muscle as possible (quads, hamstrings, and glutes).
Your hips should be lower and your knee angle should be smaller.
SO…It’s a hybrid
This is actually good. It means you can get more quad involved in the movement than a conventional deadlift. It also means you can get more hamstring involved than a traditional squat. This means you can be stronger in the trap bar deadlift…if you train for it properly with correct form.
The handcuff hinge is the go-to movement to teach a hip hinge. We are taught by people who don’t know what they’re talking about to fear lifting with our hips, often because lifting with the hips is confused with lifting with the back.
Your hips AKA your hamstrings and glutes can be the strongest muscles in your body if you train them using hip hinge movements like the deadlift or good mornings.
Use the handcuff hinge to help you commit the hip hinge pattern to your neural matrix. Check out the video above for specifics on how to perform it.
This is a really basic way to prep for this test.
(I made this.)
How to train: 3 MONTH PLAN
Because the trap bar deadlift is a hybrid between the squat and the deadlift, it’s super easy to train for. You should simply break up your strength days into three main lower-body movements. It can look something like this:
Monday: Conventional or Sumo Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
Wednesday: Back Squat 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
Friday: Trap bar Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10
Your rep scheme should change every 4-6 weeks. Let’s say your ACFT is Jan. 1, I would break up your rep scheme to something like this leading up to the event.
Oct 7- Nov. 2: Sets of 10 reps
Nov. 3-30: Sets of 6 reps
Dec. 1-28; Sets of 3 reps
You’re busy; don’t waste your time doing Alternate Staggered Squat Jumps or Forward Lunges. They lack the ability to load heavy enough and are unilateral movements that require a balance component that’s completely irrelevant to the trap bar deadlift. If you have a plan that uses these movements, throw it in the garbage.
Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cool.
This article is intended to give you some basic information on the trap bar deadlift. It is by no means exhaustive. Respond in the comments of this article on Facebook or send me a direct message at firstname.lastname@example.org with your sticking points, comments, or concerns on the trap bar deadlift.
I’m also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven’t yet joined the group, do so. It’s where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.
You might recognize Kelsey De Santis as the Marine Corps martial arts chick who invited Justin Timberlake to her Marine Corps Birthday Ball, but did you know she also owns a gym in Florida?
Military Muscle Gym is located in Davie, near Miami, and boasts workouts that look a lot like a combination of Cross Fit and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program with a little bit of boot camp sprinkled in.
And it’s too badass for you.
Why? I’m glad you asked:
1: It’s the Marine Corps and if you’re not a Marine, you’re probably going to break yourself. De Santis started the gym with three other Marines, two of whom are former infantrymen and one a former artilleryman. Their PT game is stronger than yours. Of course, you could try to prove me wrong here, in which case…
2: You might cry when the Marines wandering around the gym walk up behind you and “motivate” you to work harder. In fact, if you’re not crying by the end of your workout, you’re going to cry the next day when you wake up sore as hell.
3. You don’t want to get beat by a girl, and Kelsey is as hardcore as they come. Check out the video below, or the Facebook page for more info and pictures on what exactly is happening at Military Muscle Gym, and you’ll see just how awesome she is. Of course, if you do end up going, it doesn’t break you, you don’t cry, and you don’t mind being out performed by a girl, the teamwork might be a challenge.
Think you have what it takes to take on Military Muscle? Go try it out, and let us know what you think.
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!
We talk with the Marine and Creator of the MightyFIT Workout plan about Promotions, Happiness and Freedom Hair.
Most Marines can remember their best PFT score. A solid performance can earn you bragging rights, a line on the promotion list or maybe even signifies a personal goal (yeah, I still remember my first twenty straight pull ups, twenty years later). Yet, there is something much deeper in the those numbers…happiness.
You can argue with me all you want, yes Marines can be happy, but that doesn’t mean their life is going to be easy. At some point, Marines are guaranteed to be covered in mud, zombie tired and cleaning a piece of gear for the ten thousandth time. Despite what life may throw their way, either in training or war, Marines are still the most happy when they are fit and ready for a fight. And that means tough training, physical fitness, and confidence.
After my first deployment to Iraq, I was back at 29 Palms getting ready for a second, possibly more dangerous deployment. We trained every day and most weekends in a hot, nasty desert. That spring, I ran the fastest PFT of my life and I’ve never felt happier (17:54…just saying…). Despite the stress of the world around me, being in that kind of shape was one of the happiest points in my life. I was a trained, fit Marine and that feeling has stuck with me to this day.
Now, if you’re reading this, then you at least have some interest in the military and you don’t have to be a Marine to understand that feeling fit and healthy is a good thing. That being said, even those of us who a maxed out a PFT at some point still have trouble finding a workout plan to meet the chaotic, unexpected and sometimes even lonely challenges that come after we take off the uniform.
Ladies and gents, let me introduce to Marine Michael Gregory, the creator of the MightyFIT workout plan and owner of Composure Fitness, whose sales pitch is “wanna make gains and look great naked?”
Michael doesn’t need to sell himself, he resume does it for him. An economist by training who first put his analysis skills to work as a Marine intelligence officer, Michael is one of those guys who could fit right in on wall street but he’s also tough. Like really tough. One of his first assignments in the Marines was with the MACE, Martial Arts Center of Excellence, think Spartan training in modern times. So what does a badass Marine martial arts instructor with a ten pound brain decide to do after he leaves the Marine Corps?
He moves to Bali and begins his next chapter helping Marines and others find their peak physical performance and dare I say it…happiness.
So when it came time to develop a workout plan for We Are The Mighty, we asked Michael to do what he does best and the eight week plan is pretty amazing. I recently had the chance to catch up with Michael and his thoughts on fitness and happiness didn’t disappoint.
(Michael Gregory being promoted on Iwo Jima.)
Michael, it’s great to chat with you. Before we dive in, tell me, what’s the craziest thing that you did in the Marine Corps?
MG: I was promoted on Iwo Jima.
MG: Yeah it was cool. And not planned. My commander was like, “Hey there’s a C- 130 going to Iwo. Get on it, find whoever is the senior officer and have them promote you.”
Ok, that pretty badass, what drove you to the Marine Corps?
MG: Yeah. so I joined out of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the military. It was the height of the wars and everyone was going to the Middle East to fight. I didn’t even know Asia was a thing, but they sent me to Japan. I got to work with almost every Allied country in Asia and it was it was good for me because I was always the kind of Marine that was on my own little plan. I always had long hair.
Dude, your hair is pretty crazy now.
MG: It’s my freedom hair.
Freedom Hair. I love that.
MG: I haven’t had it cut since I got out. That’s my freedom.
What set you on the fitness path to where you are right now?
MG: [Fitness] was always something that I cared about. I studied economics in college and I had to work out to keep my sanity. But when I got in the Marine Corps I was lucky enough in one of the “in-between times” between schools. I got sent to the Martial Arts Instructor Course in Quantico.
The MACE is no joke. What was it like as a brand new a Second Lieutenant?
MG: It was actually like it was cool because it was my first experience working with enlisted Marines. But in the schoolhouse we’re all getting trained to be instructors. We were equals there. So we all got along and I learned a lot and I actually took a lot of that with me when I was with my unit and my first Marines. It was eye opening. And that was some of the best organized training I got.
So where did you get the fitness knowledge to build a plan like the MightyFIT?
MG: In Japan, I had a pretty good fitness routine going on. I was kind of training myself. And studying. I would print out fitness stuff and bring it into the vault because nobody would talk to me there. I read a lot about nutrition, the body and exercise programs.
And when did Bali come into the picture?
MG: After the Marines, I decided to take a break you know and figure out what I want to do with my life. My wife convinced me to move to Bali for six months to just decompress a little bit and figure out a plan. And you know, we’ve been there for two and a half years.
(Because when you’re a fitness guru in Bali, front flips in the rain are just a part of life.)
So you started training Athletes and even other Marines?
MG: It took some time and it was all based on the results. I have a guy that I work with who is a Captain. He was afraid that he couldn’t make gains and still perform on the PFT. We developed a plan for him. Now, he’s squatting and lifting more than he ever had in his life and he’s at a lower body fat percentage while still running a 295 PFT. It’s my clients that have helped me grow. The word of your former clients is the most important thing that I have as a fitness professional.
How is fitness like firing a weapon?
MG. You know when you go to a civilian firing range and see somebody with the nicest weapons but still doesn’t know what there doing. They lack a foundation. They haven’t mastered the basics of marksmanship and they wonder why they can’t hit the target.
I do. It’s scary.
MG: You can see the same exact thing walking into any gym and see people with great physiques but no foundation. Your body is your weapon. Just like a rifle, you need to zero it in with the basics to become efficient and effective for other activities. The fundamentals cross over into all different workouts. You can go on to do Crossfit, run Marathons or whatever you’d like. That’s what the Mighty FIT plan is designed to do. It uses eight weeks to build a fitness foundation. It’s your zero.
Ok, how does this plan work for a guy like me with knees that are beat up and a back reading from a decade of body armor? Won’t I just hurt myself?
MG: The plan is designed so that really anyone can do it. You obviously need to listen to your body but none of these movements are inherently dangerous. I’m not asking anyone to do anything outside of a normal physical range of motion or at an explosive speed. In fact, a lot of people hurt themselves during explosive exercises. They think they’re athletic but lack a solid foundation. And what this plan does is prepare people for anything without being potentially dangerous by using a safe rate of perceived exertion.
A safe rate of what?
MG: Haha, the rate of perceived exertion. It’s simple. 80% effort is the goal and the weight is irrelevant. That’s the base element of the Mighty FIT plan. I’m not dictating weights for anyone right now. I tell people the exercise and the number of sets and reps. And you stick to your own weight. So if you feel like shit one day at 80% and it’s 30Lbs less than it was last week. That’s OK. Just do what your body perceives as 80% exertion even if that means that you’re starting off point is just standing up out of a chair, then just do that. There’s really no barrier to entry as long as you’re willing to adjust and don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Just be happy.
But I want to clarify, is happiness the overall goal here or is it something different?
MG: Happiness is the overall goal in so far as this plan will allow you to do whatever you want to make you happy.
That’s a Bali- Eat, Pray, Love answer.
MG: [He Laughs]. If you want to work out like a maniac then these eight weeks will prepare your body to work out like a maniac. If you just want to play with your kids, this will allow you to pick up your two year old son without feeling like you’re going to split your back.
(Michael Gregory training in Bali.)
So as I was reading the plan I know that there’s going to be soreness. Can you kind of quickly walk me through what DOMS is?
MG: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Which is just a fancy way of saying, you’re going to feel the workout the next day. It’s just what happens when people reach a threshold of physical output that they’re not used to. When we work out, we’re literally tearing our muscles apart so that they can be rebuilt into stronger muscle fibers. The body must then recover from the inflammation so all the good blood cells rush to that part of the body which is where the soreness comes from.
Is there anything I can do to prevent the soreness?
MG: The research shows that if you stick to the 80% threshold that I already talked about there shouldn’t be any issues. You should be able to get up and walk around the day afterwards. Usually when people push past that 80% threshold that’s when you get someone walking around like a zombie for a couple days.
If you feel like one of the sessions is particularly hard especially on the legs, then just hop on a stationary bike for 15 and 20 minutes at the end of the workout. An ice bath is another great alternative. But if you’re going to go for the ice bath, wait one or two hours after the workout because what it does is it kills inflammation altogether and inflammation is actually good when we’re trying to build up some muscle so if you kill it right away it has a tendency to stall the gains.
Before we transition off the plan, is there anything else you think people need to know?
MG: Well you know, just take week one as what it is… week one. Do the whole eight weeks before you cast judgment on whether or not you liked it or if it was effective or not.
What do you think is your biggest enemy to happiness? And do you even think like that?
MG: Yeah, I do. I’m obviously living in Bali. So, I have been doing more meditation and self reflection than I ever thought was possible. And honestly my own worst enemy is myself. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. I easily talk myself out of things that I make a commitment towards or that I know are good for me. So finding consistency with myself is one of the hardest challenges and it was something I didn’t realize in the Marine Corps because you kind of don’t have that option in the military. There are constantly other people that you’re responsible for or that are holding you accountable.
And now you’ve built your business, Composure Fitness obviously you’ve got the launch of the Mighty FIT Plan. What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?
MG: Growth. You can only work with so many people at one time. I’m excited about getting my voice out there with good fitness advice and building something more sustainable that reaches more people at once.
I’m excited about starting the 8 week Mighty FIT Plan.
MG: Have fun with it and Semper Fi.
Oh, I will brother. Semper Fi.
Check out Michael Gregory’s blog @ComposureFitness and download the Mighty FIT plan HERE.
Most of us know that protein is the building block of muscle. Our bodies break it down into amino acids and then use those amino acids for muscle repairing and rebuilding. But protein does a hell of a lot more than just build muscle. It is essential to just about every function in the human body.
The fattier the fish, the less protein is in it. Salmon comes in around 20g of protein per 100g.
The protein you eat makes compounds that help digest food, known as enzymes. Contrary to popular belief, your stomach acid can’t dissolve everything you eat as if it were a body in a 100-gallon bin of hydrofluoric acid–it needs digestive enzymes for that. Without an adequate supply of protein in your diet, you wouldn’t be able to properly digest the nutrients in things like milk or carbohydrates.
Chicken! It’s finger licking good at about 31g of protein per 100g of boneless skinless breast meat.
Most of us think the only way our body tells us it’s full is when our stomachs literally fill up, which is the stomach stretch response. But there is so much more going on to tell us to be done eating. We have certain hormones that send signals to tell our brains to eat more or less, and these hormones are made out of protein. The hormonal response happens even when you eat foods that have no protein in them, but you need protein in your diet in order for the hormones to work properly.
Eggs are basically a perfect food. About 6g of protein per large egg.
Eating adequate amounts of protein will make you smarter and happier.
Tyrosine, one of the amino acids in protein, prompts the brain to create more neurotransmitters that make us feel good, like norepinephrine and dopamine.
You’ve probably heard of dopamine before. It’s what you secrete when you do something highly enjoyable, like graduate basic training or finally get that DD214 you thought you wanted your entire career.
Norepinephrine is also called noradrenaline; it’s one of those neurotransmitters that increases alertness. Its most notable claim to fame is in the fight or flight response, where it is often talked about with its partner chemical, adrenaline (epinephrine).
In other words, eating protein can help you feel rewarded, charged, and ready to perform physically.
Tofu… It won’t make you grow breasts, contrary to popular belief. About 20g of protein per 100g.
The part of your immune system that actually kills and disposes of foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria are proteins.
Keeping an adequate amount of protein in the diet ensures that your immune system is chock full of troops ready to search and destroy anything that doesn’t belong inside you… including things you inserted on a dare.
Nuts get a lot of love… they shouldn’t. Almonds, at about 21g of protein per 100g, also pack nearly 50g of fat. That’s an extra 450 calories that will almost guarantee a caloric surplus on the day.
Okay, so this list is four things protein does do and one thing it doesn’t do. Eating higher amounts of protein does NOT cause damage to your kidneys. This idea was a hypothesis that has been fully debunked. Studies have been done where very high protein intakes were observed. In one study, a 185 lb person consumed nearly 240 grams of protein per day. In terms of lean steak, that’s over 2 lbs every day. That’s a lot of steak! No adverse effects on otherwise healthy kidneys were shown.
Sashimi is a meal of basically pure protein. Especially when it comes to leaner fish like tuna at about 3g of protein per piece of sashimi.
The recommendation for protein changes based on you. There is no one right answer; that’s just the nature of being human. You will have to do a little math. The best starting place is to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean muscle mass you have.
If you are 200 lbs and 20% body fat, then you are 160 lbs of lean muscle. So 160 grams of protein is how much you should eat each day, spread throughout all of your meals.
In practice, that can look something like the following: assuming you eat 3 meals per day and have at least one protein shake as a snack throughout the day (don’t lose your mind over nutrition timing):
Chickpeas, AKA Garbanzo beans, have 19g of protein per 100g serving, but also come with over 60g of carbs to be aware of.
That’s 164 grams of protein intake just including lean sources of the nutrient. You will be eating even more with the vegetables and complex carbs you eat with your meals, so much so in fact that you probably don’t even need the shake.
Milk has a modest 8g of protein per 1 cup serving. It is an excellent substitute for water if you are trying to put on weight.
Protein is not just for muscle-bound meat-jerks: it makes your brain, immune system, blood, energy systems and more, all work much more efficiently the way they are intended. It’s just a nice added bonus that it also helps you look much better with your clothes off.