Coffee gets credit for a lot of miraculous effects, whether deserved or not. It’s not going to stunt your growth, it won’t dehydrate you, and slamming coffee after a night of binge drinking won’t sober you up. Not even a little bit.
No matter what “researchers” continually seem to find on the internet, there are some true facts that make coffee an important part of a balanced breakfast, like staying alive in a world that’s constantly trying to kill you.
In a 2013 study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that consuming more than one cup of a caffeinated beverage every day had a protective effect on the drinker’s risk of suicide. The public health professionals’ caffeinated beverage of choice was an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
A sample population of more than 200,000 logged their food consumption in previous studies conducted by the school. Every four years over the span of 10 to 16 years, food use frequencies were tracked and measured. With a stunning 95% certainty, researchers found those who drank two to three cups of coffee every day cut their risk of suicide by almost half. Those who enjoyed four or more cut their risk by 53%.
It’s important to note that while Harvard chose to track all caffeinated beverages, it singled out coffee and decaffeinated coffee in the study, likely because the most common source of caffeine in America comes from coffee. But coffee studies have a long and troubled history.
In 1991, the World Health Organization added coffee to its list of possible carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances. If you need an idea of how much anyone listens to the WHO, just look at the spread of COVID-19. Or consider the fact that the very next year, half of Americans over 10 were drinking at least one cup every day.
Though one researcher was brave enough to tell the medical community they were wrong in 1992, coffee wasn’t exonerated until 2016. The WHO was forced to reverse itself and report that it may, in fact, be beneficial. Apparently the original study forgot to account for coffee drinkers who were also smokers.
“When these studies originally got started, back in the ’50s and the ’60s, it would be difficult to find an adult in this country that didn’t start their day off without having a cigarette and a cup of coffee,” Dr. Roy A. Jensen, the director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, told the PBS show Nova.
Coffee drinkers everywhere are still waiting for the apology.
When it comes to cancer, the prairie-dogging caused by your first cups of the day is coffee speeding up the digestive system and cleaning out carcinogenic substances in your colon. Antioxidants in coffee ease inflammation, which is a risk factor for many kinds of cancer, especially in the liver.
The same antioxidants protecting your liquor processing unit are at work in the brain, increasing alertness and acting as a natural antidepressant. In fact, drinking coffee was found to decrease the risk of an early death by as much as 16%.
There are possible emotional side effects to drinking too much coffee, of course. The caffeine in coffee can leave you jittery, anxious, and rambling like an idiot after a point, usually after the average drinker’s fifth cup.
So skip the decaf, stop at two to five cups, and enjoy the miracle of modern medicine.
This is it, part 3. There’s some weird stuff on this list, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking something or you may miss out on that “1 weird trick” to more gains than you ever thought possible. I’m only partially joking, I give a very clear recommendation to help boost your own endogenously produced free testosterone…check it out below.
If your workout is typically less than an hour you literally don’t need this supplement.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright)
Intra-workout (AKA something you need to take while training)
I’ll sum it up for you one more time just to really beat this horse harder (I hate horses after all).
If your workout is less than 90 minutes, it’s probably completely unnecessary.
If your workout is 90 minutes or longer a simple beverage of ~40 grams of fast carbs, like Gatorade, ~15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (AKA salt and potassium) like those provided in a Gatorade every hour at and after the 90-minute mark should satisfy your need.
Maybe there’s an intra-workout that satisfies that need more simply than some fruity flavored protein powder and a Gatorade. I’m not sure, I haven’t looked that deeply into it recently. If you have one that you like, tell me in an email at email@example.com, and I’ll include it in a future article on the best intra-workout supplements.
The one that seems to be purchased the most on bodybuilding.com contains no carbs and costs nearly dollars. That’s a bullshit product that completely misses the point/purpose of an intra-workout.
How to Increase Testosterone Naturally | Science Explained
This is a good time to talk about blends, proprietary recipes, and trademarked ingredients. If the supplement you are considering has any of these in them, DO NOT buy that supplement. These terms are just clever marketing and, more often than not are an excuse to hide the fact that the supplement is completely ineffective.
The specific testosterone support supplement I looked at in my bodybuilding.com search didn’t contain half of the vitamins/minerals that have been shown to have the most efficacy in boosting testosterone. It did have a bunch of unverified nonsense and herbal remedies in it like fenugreek, maca, and boron. I wouldn’t spend any money on this or any similar product for testosterone support.
If you truly have a testosterone deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting a no kidding testosterone cycle to help your medically recognized deficiency.
If you are simply trying to increase your testosterone because you think that’s good then try taking these with a dietary fat containing meal for at least a month to see if things change for you:
zinc (10–30 mg)
magnesium (200–350 mg)
vitamin D3 (50–75 mcg / 2,000–3,000 IU).
Buying those three should be much cheaper per serving than any nonsense that is 15 ingredients mixed together.
Of course you could just get this one from your diet.
Before I even get into Omega-3s ask yourself why you’re taking it. If it’s for joint health, then continue on. If it’s for heart health, stop and have a more in-depth conversation with your doctor. It seems that even though Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on triglycerides and blood pressure they don’t actually seem to prevent cardiac events.
As far as joint health goes, the rule is simple. You want to be supplementing with 3 grams of combined EPA and DHA to get the effect you’re searching for. If the supplement you’re looking at has that serving size and no other nonsense in it, go for it.
Alternatively, you probably don’t need to supplement if you are eating fatty fish like salmon a few times a week. Make the decision for yourself. If you have access to salmon regularly, I don’t know why you’d waste your time taking more pills than you need.
Pssst… Tryin’ to get a pump?
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky)
WTF is this/why do you need it? Seriously, I want to know. If you take something that is specifically designed to give you a pump, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me why.
The pump stimulator I looked at had two ingredients that seem to be intended to do something:
Glycerol: It’s supposed to help your muscle cells to hold on to more water and therefore increase output. I found one weak paper on the topic. I’m not convinced. It will probably make you feel like you have a bigger pump since it’s allowing more water to be stored in your muscle…the only group I can see caring about this is bodybuilders. But even then, it may inhibit vascularity due to the increased water retention. TLDR: Meh.
A proprietary blend of something containing nitrate and who-knows-what-else. Stay away from trademarked or patented combinations like the plague. They lack evidence and efficacy (translation: it’s someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes.)
If you choose to achieve said calorie surplus using a mass gainer, then go ahead. All a mass gainer typically is just a butt-ton (or is it an ass-load? I always get them confused) of carbohydrates… Guess where else you can get carbohydrates. In just about every delicious food!
If you prefer the mass gainer over all other foods, I guess go ahead, weirdo. In my own personal experience of anyone, I’ve ever seen purchase mass gainer is that it sits on top of the fridge 80% full until it expires. Pretty sure that’s the definition of a waste of money.
Those are the 12 most commonly purchased categories of sports nutrition supplements purchased on bodybuilding.com. Chances are you’ve seen them in your local supplement store/megastore and considered purchasing one or all of them. Hopefully, this guide has shown you where to spend your money and where to save it.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.
If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group, post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
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.
Your living room makes a convenient gym. There are no membership fees. There’s not a talkative sweaty dude or ripped body-shaming wannabe trainer. There’s just you, maybe the kids, maybe some clutter, and just enough floor space. But is a workout at home one that can get you in ripped-and-ready-for-the-world-without-a-shirt shape? Without question.
Home workouts become real sweat sessions when you turn off the television, crank some motivational tunes, and give it your all. Here are 5 hardcore workouts that require the willpower and fortitude — but no equipment and minimal space.
Workout #1: Simply Squats and Pushups
This workout has two moves, and seems too simple to be sweat-inducing. To that we say, go ahead, give it a whirl.
Here it is: Do 21 squats, then immediately do 21 pushups. Rest and repeat with 15 reps each, then 9 reps each. You get two minutes of rest in between sets. That’s it.
There’s one caveat for this workout: Your pushup and squat form need to be perfect throughout. That means on the squat you stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend knees and sink down and back like you are about to sit in a chair, aiming to get quads parallel to the floor. In the pushup, you keep a perfect plank in-between the pushups and bring your chest smoothly to the floor and back up without breaking the plank. Sound easy? Sure. Good luck.
Workout #2: 4 Moves, All Out
This workout hits it all in an easy-to-remember 4-move sequence where you give each move your all, rest one minute, move on to the next, and then, you’re finished. Make that a laying-on-the-floor-in-fetal-position type of done.
Push-Ups: Maintaining form, do as many as you can, as fast as you can, for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Go again for 20 seconds. Complete 8 sets of 20 seconds hard/10 seconds rest.
Twist Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and drop into a squat, twisting your torso and arms far to the right as you do. Release arms and torso back to the left as you jump in the air and do a half-rotation to the left. Drop, twist right, jump left again. Do 20 seconds of twist jumping right to left. Rest for 10. Do the next 20 seconds of twist jumps in the opposite direction. Switch sides two more times for 8 sets total.
Reverse Pulses: Start sitting on the floor, legs in front of you, knees bent, feet tucked under a heavy chair for support. Pull your gut toward your belly button and lean back about 45 degrees. Stretching your arms in front of you, begin to pulse up and down as fast as you can, aiming to lean a little further back with each pulse while keeping your abs contracted. Go for 20 seconds. Rest for 10. Do 8 sets.
Mountain Climbers: Get down on the floor in an extended push-ups position, engaging your core and holding your upper body still while you raise one knee to your chest. Then jump it back in place while raising the other. Alternate legs and “jog” your knees to your chest as fast as possible for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Do 8 sets.
Workout #3: Climbing Burpees
Here’s another simple two-move workout that will absolutely crush you. The idea here is to do as many of this combination as you can in five minutes, rest one minute, and repeat.
Here it is: Start in a pushups position. Jump your feet towards your hands, then jump your whole body vertically in the air and back into a crouch. Jump feet back into an extended pushups position.
From this position, hike one knee high toward your chest, keeping your hands planted on the floor. Jump it back to the start position, hiking your other knee up at the same time.
Continue this alternating pattern of moves for five minutes. Rest one. And repeat. Try to do this three times. Then four. When you can do this five times, well, let’s just say you’re in pretty damn good shape.
Workout #4 The Full Living Room Routine
This 11-part routine is for those days when you’ve got some time to spare and want to mix it up. This is all based on time, so maybe have a smart speaker handy. By the time you’re nearing the end, you might not be able to catch your breath enough to tell Alexa set the timer. That’s a sign it’s working.
Lunges: Warm your body up with lunges — front knee over toe, back leg slightly bent without letting your knee touch the floor, then push back up to standing and repeat with opposite leg. Two minutes total.
Squats: Stand, bend knees, drop seat, resume standing. Repeat. Two minutes.
Jumping Jacks: Get that heart rate up. Two minutes.
Triceps Dips: Find a chair or couch and sit, placing your hands on the edge of the seat. Slide your butt forward until it is off the seat, your weight supported by your arms. Bend and straighten elbows. Three sets of 10 dips.
Wall Sit: Place your back flat against a wall, feet about two feet in front of you. Bend your knees until your quads are parallel to the floor. Stay there for 90 seconds.
Side Plank: Lie on your side, propped up on one elbow and push through your feet to raise your hips off the floor, creating a straight line from your shoulder to your feet. Hold 60 seconds. Switch sides.
Mountain Climbers: Get down in the extended push-ups position, bend one knee to your chest, then straighten it back as you hike the other one up. Continue “jogging” in this fashion for one minute. Rest a minute; do one minute more.
Sit-Ups: Quick on the up, then slowly roll back down. Give us what you’ve got for two minutes.
Calf Raises: Sit in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Lean forward and press down on your quads with your hands. As you do this, rise up onto the balls of your feet. Lower back down. One minute.
Side Push-Ups: Straighten one arm out to the side so that your hand just touches the wall. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your elbow and lean into the wall. Push away and back to standing. Do one minute on this side, then find the wall on the opposite side of the room and repeat on the other.
Modified Burpees: Start in an extended push-ups position, do a super-fast push-up, then jump your feet towards your hands and stand up tall, feet shoulder-width apart. From here, let your arms drift in front of you while you slowly bend into an easy squat. Hold five counts. Lean forward, drop your hands to the floor, and jump your legs back into a push-ups-ready position. Go again. Two minutes.
Workout #5: The Murph
This classic Crossfit workout pushes the boundaries of living room workout (not to mention fitness sanity). It’s more of a challenge than a workout. It forces you to run outside. It requires a pull-up bar. But if you’re looking to take your workouts to the next level — to get serious about your fitness in a way you haven’t done since high school football — this is your way in.
We suggest trying this out at home and timing yourself for the first few times (spaced out by a month or three; yeah, you’ll need that much recovery) and then working your way up to a public display of the challenge, heading to a CrossFit gym on Memorial Day weekend for The Murph Challenge, where a bunch of loons go head-to-head with this challenge in honor of LT. Michael P. Murphy, the workout’s worthy namesake.
Run 1 mile
Do 100 Pull-Ups
Do 200 Push-Ups
Do 300 Air Squats
Run 1 mile
Note: You don’t have to do this in order. In fact, we suggest that, especially for beginners, you divide it into blocks of, say: 5 pullups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. Be sure to keep a tally on a chalkboard or paper. You will lose track.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.
He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.
All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.
“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”
Former Army Spc. Matt Holben, Capital Beltway Warriors assistant team captain and defensive player, hits the puck up ice during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional Hockey Challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.
Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.
“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”
Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.
Retired Maj. David Dixon, president and executive director of the Capital Beltway Warriors, makes game notes while coaching players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.
“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.
Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.
“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.
He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.
“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.
Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.
He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.
“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”
Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Martell, Capital Beltway Warriors team captain, takes a shot during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Spreading the word
Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.
They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.
They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.
They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.
Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22, 2018, pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.
There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.
Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro serves as referee for the charity exhibition game between the Capital Beltway Warriors and a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.
“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.
After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.
“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.
“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”
He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.
“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.
“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”
About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.
Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.
“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”
So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.
David Dixon, coach of the Capital Beltway Warriors, provides tactical advice to players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
Dixon was coaching little league baseball when he was approached by his son’s hockey coach, Bobby Hill.
“He said he really liked the way I worked with the kids and he could use my help on the ice coaching,” Dixon recalled.
Dixon told him he did not skate, but Hill said he could take care of that. He got Dixon out on the ice and taught him the basics of hockey.
Dixon went to adult learn-to-play sessions Wednesday evenings at Ashburn Ice House. He participated in adult pick-up games after helping coach his son’s youth team.
He eventually took over as head coach of the Ashburn “Honey Badgers” peewee hockey team.
In the meantime, however, he heard of the USA Warriors hockey team and the effects it was having on disabled veterans in Maryland. He thought it would be great to bring the same benefits to veterans in northern Virginia.
Matt Holben (No. 19) of the Capital Beltway Warriors, and Joey Martell (No. 21) take the puck down ice with three members of a Congressional hockey challenge team not far behind, during an exhibition game Dec. 16, 2018 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
The warrior hockey program aims to provide purpose, education and camaraderie that veterans miss after they separate from the service, Dixon said.
The team creates an environment that in some ways simulates being back around a military unit, said Matt Holben, alternate team captain for the Capital Beltway Warriors.
“It feels good, because you’re back with the guys, you’re back with the unit,” he said.
“We’ve got members with both physical and mental disability,” he added. “It’s hard for them to share their story, but when you talk to them, it’s just that little bit of relief they get when they’re in the locker room and on the team.”
“We’re helping each other,” Vaccaro said. “And half of the guys don’t even realize we’re helping each other, but that’s what we’re doing.”
The help is not limited to the rink either, Dixon said.
There is another part to the program that informs veterans of benefits available to them and helps with issues.
Anything from service dogs to getting help building a house, to loans, and more is available, Dixon said.
“We don’t do it all ourselves. We reach out to other veteran service organizations to get the help and education these guys need,” he said. “We have a whole network of VSOs that we can tap into.”
Vaccaro summed it up: “It’s veterans helping veterans.”
It’s almost beach season! That means it’s time put on those colorful tank tops and get your feet sandy. However, before we sizzle in the sun, many of us want to get our arms jacked so that we can give out free tickets to the gun show.
So, how can you get your arms pumped up before summer? Well, at this point in the year, it’d take a miracle — but now is always the best time to start.
The biceps are composed of two muscles: the long and short head. To bulk them up, you’ll also need to include some work on the triceps — which is made up of the lateral, medial, and long head.
If you’re ready to get that daily muscle pump going, then let’s go.
Straight barbell curls
Note: Don’t get these confused with EZ-curls, that’s something different.
This exercise requires a tight grip on the bar, keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart with your elbows placed in front of your hips. With your wrists straight, lift the bar up and feel the squeeze in those biceps.
Then, lower the bar slowly, focusing on the negative motion. This movement should take approximately three seconds to complete. Go any faster and you’re probably not getting the full rep.
While using an adjustable cable machine, take a solid step backward, set your feet, keep a slight bend in your knees, then push down and breathe out. After you push down, slowly raise the bar until your elbows return to a 90-degree bend.
Seated incline bench dumbbell curls
Similar to a straight bar curl, seated incline bench dumbbell curls are a great way to shoot blood into your biceps and achieve that epic pump. While in a seated 45-degree position, have workable weights in both hands — which should be hanging down by your sides.
As you start the rep, bring the dumbbells up and squeeze the bicep at the peak of the rep, then, lower that sucker back down slowly. The key to this exercise is to keep your back firmly on the bench. Lifting off the inclined bench could result in crappy form, and we don’t want that.
Laying flat and using an EZ-curl bar with a proper amount of weight, start the rep by lowering the bar toward your forehead. Keep your elbows pointed inward and you slowly bring the bar to touch your forehead.
If you mismanage the rep, you can smack yourself right in the forehead. We don’t want that, but that’s why they call it a skullcrusher.
This exercise focuses on expanding the width of your bicep and forearm. Once you’ve grabbed a manageable set of weights from the rack, hold them down by your side until you are ready to begin.
Now, raise the weights up by bending elbows at a 90-degree angle and squeeze that sucker at the peak. There are many ways to complete this exercise correctly. You can alternate hands and which direction you decide to move the weight: toward your chest or out in front of you.
Overhead tricep extension
This one is the opposite of the tricep push down. Once you’ve chosen a legit dumbbell weight that you can handle, bring it over your head with two hands and stretch it back behind you. Make sure you don’t hit yourself with the weight as you begin the rep, extending your arms straight overhead.
Once you slowly lower the weight down, remember to breathe and halt the weight when your elbow reaches a 90-degree angle. Then, bring the weight back up. Easy day, right?
Note: These exercises should be done with a spotter or a fitness professional. Have fun getting buffed out, but don’t get hurt out there.
I used to think the distance run in the Marine Corps PT test was BS, antiquated, and pretty useless. Seriously, how the hell was a 3 mile run in go-fasters supposed to prove that I would be able to operate in combat with a full kit of more than 50 lbs of gear?
What does the distance run even measure, and is that actually relevant to the demands of the job of someone expected to perform in combat? Is aerobic fitness really what we think it is? Should the same standard be expected of all service members?
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe Boggio)
What the test measures.
The distance run on the military PT tests is “designed” to measure aerobic endurance and by proxy cardiovascular health.
Aerobic endurance is more difficult to measure than you think though. The faster you run, the more energy you need to fuel that running. That means your body needs to be more efficient at using oxygen to create energy, since that’s what aerobic exercise actually is, movement fueled using oxygen.
If your body isn’t used to using oxygen to create fuel to run at a certain intensity, it will begin to switch over to anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration occurs when you’re running so fast that the body can’t adequately use oxygen to make fuel. That’s what the “an” in anaerobic means: ‘without’ oxygen.
You know you are in the aerobic zone if you can still speak in short sentences while running, AKA, the talk test. You’re in the anaerobic zone if you can’t. Pretty simple right?
Using this logic, a PT ‘distance’ run that requires you to run so hard that you can’t speak at all, let alone in short sentences, is not a test of aerobic endurance. It’s a test of anaerobic endurance and lactate threshold.
A true test of aerobic endurance would be something like a run that measures heart rate or administers a talk test periodically to see when someone switches from aerobic to anaerobic. Something similar to what doctors do when testing heart rate variability.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Carlie Lopez)
How does this translate to real life?
The main thing that aerobic endurance tells us is the efficiency of the heart at getting oxygen into the bloodstream so that it can be used to make energy. We find that level of cardiovascular fitness at the aerobic threshold. This is a very important thing to measure, especially in a world where cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death.
From the aerobic threshold on the run is showing how much lactate a person can handle. The body’s ability to handle that burning feeling in the muscles that occurs when you’re in an anaerobic state is very important. That’s what the 880m run in the USMC CFT measures as well as the Sprint-Drag-Carry in the Army CFT. Will someone have to move many miles as fast as possible in a combat scenario? Most definitely. Will they ever have to do that same thing in go-fasters and silkies? That’s doubtful.
The mere fact that the PT run isn’t done in boots means that it doesn’t translate very well to job-specific tasks. Especially for troops that are expected to be combat ready.
The expectation is entirely different for those that work in an office all the time and will never be expected to go to combat. For those troops, aerobic endurance is more important since cardiovascular disease is more likely to kill them than incoming mortar fire (that you may need to run away from as anaerobically quickly as possible.)
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)
Use the test to measure what you need to train.
Which category do you fall in? Combat or non-combat?
The answer to that question should dictate how you train for the distance run portion of your PT test.
If you’re training for combat, get great at operating in a high-stress, more anaerobically dominated environment in a full combat kit.
If you’re training to not die from heart disease train to up your aerobic threshold to make your heart better at pumping oxygen.
TO ANSWER THE HEADLINE QUESTION: Yes, your PT run matters; it just depends on how.
Even though all members of the DOD have vowed to protect the country, that doesn’t mean every member will be doing that in the same exact way. For that reason, it’s foolish to expect everyone to train the same way with the same end in sight.
If you’re trying to figure out how to train in order to get better at your job or just get healthier check out the Mighty Fit Plan!
One aspect of military life that is so attractive for so many is the intense fitness regime and the opportunity to engage in physical activities that you wouldn’t normally engage in. The downside of that is that military injuries are extremely common. It’s very rare to meet a member of the armed forces who has not sustained an injury of some sort at one time or another.
Some of the most common military training injuries include knee injuries and musculoskeletal issues that result from heavy impacts and the weights the armed forces are required to carry. But there are also other common military injuries that you might not necessarily expect.
In this guide, we’ll introduce some of the most common military injuries and what you can do to prevent them. We will also look at the experiences of those who are overcoming them, as first told in this To Better Days pain story.
1) Patellar Tendon Injury
The patellar works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend the knee when running, jumping, and kicking. A patellar tendon injury is caused when the tendon connecting your kneecap to your shinbone is damaged or torn. This type of injury is common in sports that involve frequent jumping, such as volleyball and basketball, but it’s also very common in the military.
How to prevent it:
Avoid jumping and landing on hard surfaces such as concrete
Wear knee support when doing fitness tests or playing sport
If you do suffer a patellar tendon injury, there are some natural sources of tendonitis pain relief you may want to try. Andrew, who serves in the British Army, uses To Better Days Active Patches to relieve his pain. He had the following to say:
“In my job, we have access to physio and rehabilitation. On top of that, I had shockwave therapy to recharge and rest the tendon, but when I started using To Better Days patches there was an improvement overnight. I can’t describe it any better.”
2) Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains are the most common type of musculoskeletal injury in the lower limbs and also one of the most common military injuries in active-duty soldiers. Although an ankle sprain might be the least of your worries during Hell Week or some other form of rigorous army training, sprained ankles are extremely debilitating and take time to heal. Often, military personnel do not give ankle sprains the time the ligaments need to heal properly. This increases the likelihood of future and subsequent ankle sprains.
How to prevent it:
Always wear boots that provide proper arch support
Stand on one leg while performing light upper body exercises to improve your balance and increase the strength of the muscles surrounding the ankle
Be mindful when exercising and running on uneven surfaces
Use an ankle brace or tape to provide additional support during exercise
Osteoarthritis is a disorder rather than an injury, but it’s important that we include it in our list due to its prevalence in the armed forces. One in four veterans suffers from arthritis. It’s one of the main causes of medical discharge from the army. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions your bones wears away. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it’s most common in the knees, hands, hips, and spine.
How to prevent it:
Reduce the risk of joint injuries by warming up and warming down before and after every exercise session
Listen to the pain — if you have joint pain that lasts one to two hours or more after exercise then you have done too much
Get an assessment by a physical therapist to learn the best exercises you can do to protect your joints
Maintain a healthy diet and control your weight and blood sugar levels
4) Shin Splints
Shin splints is an injury that often results from running with improper form or ill-fitting shoes. High mileage running is unavoidable in the military, which makes shin splints a common condition. Although shin splints can be very painful, it’s not usually serious and there are a number of things you can do to treat it.
How to prevent it:
Exercise on softer surfaces whenever possible
Stretch your calves and hamstrings before and after you exercise
Strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot, e.g. use your toes to pull a towel closer to your feet while you’re sitting down
Buy shoes that have the proper support and features for your running style
This condition has nothing at all to do with physical training but it is one of the most common military injuries. Tinnitus is a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears. It is usually caused by prolonged exposure to the loud noises present in training and combat. Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating for serving soldiers and veterans, so you should take every possible step to prevent it.
How to prevent it:
Use ear protection in situations of prolonged exposure to loud noises
Stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue can all contribute to tinnitus, so get plenty of sleep and take steps to treat emotional distress
Get regular checkups from your doctor and tell them if you are concerned about hearing loss or tinnitus so they pay special attention to your ears
Take supplements such as N-Acetyl-Cysteine and magnesium, which may help to prevent tinnitus.
Be Aware of the Risks
Unfortunately, even during peacetime, soldiers are at a higher risk of injuries due to the physical nature of their jobs. However, whether it’s short-term injuries or persistent, chronic injuries, prevention is always better than a cure. Being aware of the early signs of a problem and taking the necessary steps to reduce the risks are the best ways to stay injury-free.
This article was written by Jacques Deux, a writer with over 10 years of writing experience. He specializes in content about the military, physical fitness, health, and natural ways to relieve pain. In his spare time, he enjoys working out, spending time with his dog, and keeping up with the latest military news.
Marine veteran George Hood held a record-breaking abdominal plank for more than five hours while also raising money for a veterans’ charity in 2015. Then, in 2020, he shattered his own best by several hours, holding it for an insane 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds.
In 2015, the then-57-year-old held the plank position for five hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds to break the Guinness World Record previously set by Mao Weidong of Beijing, China, in September 2014 at four hours and 26 minutes. Hood, who is also a fitness instructor, dubbed his achievement “The People’s Plank,” which doubled as a fundraiser for the Semper Fi Fund for injured service members, according to CBS News.
“There are injured Marines that come back from the fight, who have suffered life-altering injuries and the discomfort that I feel right now pales in comparison to that which they feel,” Hood told NBC while in mid-plank position. “They’re my heroes, they really are, every one of them.”
Watch Hood during his record-breaking plank on YouTube:
If this is a question you’ve ever wondered, look no further. I’ve provided you with all the information you need in order to make the smartest decision for your unique situation, even if that situation is fat loss.
First, let’s look at the pros and cons of each movement.
A more horizontal back angle means more back involvement.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
The conventional deadlift is the answer to the question that asks: “Which movement allows me to move the most amount of weight with the most muscle mass over the longest range of motion.
It tends to work the hamstrings, back, and spinal erectors more than the sumo due to the more horizontal back angle of the starting position. Your hips are moving further, so the hip extensor muscles have more work to do.
If you have weak hamstrings and/poor hip flexibility, this movement will be harder. But that shouldn’t stop you from training it, The conventional deadlift will make you stronger in your hamstrings and more flexible in your hips over time.
The sumo deadlift takes a lot of stress off of your low back due to the more vertical back angle that you start the movement with. If you’re trying to get more leg work in your training, but your back is smoked, the sumo deadlift may be the way to go.
The wide-legged stance of the sumo deadlift artificially shortens your leg length. This allows you to bend at the hips less and bend at the knees more than in the conventional deadlift. That’s why there’s much more quad involvement in the sumo deadlift.
You should think of it more like a skill that you must practice. The sumo deadlift tends to take longer to set up, especially if you want to be good at it. The goal is to get your hips as close to the bar as possible so that you can take your back out of the movement as much as possible and shorten the distance the bar has to travel to lockout as much as possible. Those two things are achieved through proper form of the skill of sumo deadlifting.
That’s over 550 lbs lifted thanks to a strong posterior chain.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)
The conventional deadlift is in a category of its own.
The deadlift, which is a hip hinge exercise, is uniquely designed to work the muscles of the posterior chain. Those muscles include the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, lats, traps, and even calves. Those are the muscles you want to target when hip hinging.
In contrast, the sumo deadlift has a lot of quad involvement.
Often I’m asked if people should squat or deadlift. Conventional deadlift vs. sumo deadlift is a very similar question. Both the squat (especially high bar back squat and front squat) and the sumo deadlift recruit much more quad than the conventional deadlift.
This leaves the conventional deadlift in its own category. It lights up the entire back side of your body much more efficiently than any other lower body exercise. Especially if you perform it perfectly…
Make no mistake the sumo deadlift is still difficult.
Also, don’t forget to start training with the Mighty Fit Plan (It’s got plenty of deadlifting included by the way.). There are some big changes coming to the Mighty Fit Plan very soon, and you’ll be the first to hear about them by signing up now!
There are a lot of reasons for back pain. Many of them are real, and nearly all of them are 100% treatable without a doctor.
What I’m giving you here is the exact protocol you need to be doing in order to relieve your low back pain once and for all.
Whether it’s your disc, your muscles, your tendons, your actual spine, or some combination of them all, there is still plenty you can do to treat your pain yourself.
This is about taking control and responsibility of your body. You’re a Grown Ass Human who shouldn’t be dependent on someone else to treat your issues.
I’m gonna give you exactly what you need in 5 simple steps that you can do every morning with nothing but your body weight and those little eye crusties still hanging out on the corner of your ocular cavity.
“Low Back” Pain Morning Routine | 30 DAYS TO PAIN FREE
When you walk around, you have a tendency to ‘hang out’ in one of these positions.
If you’re overly anteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing forward.” This usually means you have weak glutes, weak abs, and tight hip flexors.
If you’re posteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing backward” or level (slight forward/anterior tilt is considered normal). This can mean that you have tight glutes, tight abs, kyphotic posture (a rounded upper back), or all three. I’ll get into kyphosis in another article. For now, this article on posture should satisfy your kyphotic curiosity.
BUT, for most people, these words mean nothing. Maybe you’re one of those people. That’s what this first ‘exercise’ is all about: building awareness between your mind and your hips.
It’s especially easy because you can just crawl out of your bed on your hands and knees and never have to actually stand up. This is a great bonus for those of you who are especially lazy in the morning.
A cat/cow sequence is how we are going to achieve that awareness. Check out the video for exactly how to flow through cat/cow.
Perform the sequence for 1-2 minutes or until you feel aware, and your hips are “awake” daily.
JC is a savior for many of us in the fitness industry. I’m talking about Jeff Cavalier over at Athlean X, of course. He has consistently put out amazing high-quality fitness information for years now. He is one of the few Fitness Youtubers that is truly above reproach. I aspire to be like him.
Down to low back pain business…
JC has provided us with an exercise that is going to provide you with some immediate relief. By starting each morning with the JC Low Back Relief Sequence (JCLBRS for you military nerds that love acronyms), you’re going to get pain free and gain more awareness.
Specifically awareness of how to use your glute medius, which is the weak glute causing your low back to take the brunt of your weight and in turn, causing pain.
Time to take that newfound glute, hip, and low back awareness and apply it to some movement.
Elevated bridges are the perfect way to do just that. You’re going to be teaching your glute medius how to operate under a horizontal load (like what happens when you walk, run, or hike). You’re also going to learn to properly concentrically contract your spinal erectors, without hyper extending them. Lastly, you’re going to train how to posteriorly tilt your pelvis to get a maximum contraction in your posterior chain.
Flutter Kicks rely heavily on engagement from the hip flexors. AVOID them and other exercises like crunches and sit-ups if you have tight hip flexors and/or low back pain.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)
Step 4; Core strength: Side plank
Time to work your abs. Why? Because that’s how you attract a mate. Everyone knows that core definition is the singular way that most people choose a life partner, so of course, we need to do them every morning.
The real trick here is to choose an exercise that’s great for your core stability and building a shredded six-pack without working your already overactive hip flexors and potentially neutralizing the effect of the previous three steps. So don’t do the crunches from your PT test.
You’re going to do that with the side plank. But a real side plank, not that shit I see checked-out field grade officers doing during PT (looks like they’re just hanging out waiting for retirement.)
Watch the video for exact form cues. You’re going to:
keep your hips stacked,
keep your abs actively flexed by shortening the distance between your lowest rib and the top of your hips, this will also keep your spine in a neutral position
Keep your hips neutral/slightly posteriorly tilted by keeping your glutes engaged.
BONUS: abduct your top leg AKA lift your leg for additional core stress and some more glute medius work.
Perform 1-2 sets of 75% effort on both sides each morning. This is about training proper movement and muscular engagement, by staying at the 75% effort threshold you won’t push so hard that your form breaks down and potentially makes your low back issues worse.)
(Courtesy photo by the Indian Army)
Step 5: Spinal decompression: Hanging out
Time for some relief. Hang from your pull up bar or a door frame and decompress your spine.
This is something you should do whenever you have a chance. We spend all day with gravity compressing our spine together. Your low back ends up taking most of that pressure. By decompressing at the end, you are taking an opportunity to “reset” your spine each day into the proper posture and form that you just spent the last 5 minutes training.
Perform this for 1-2 sets of a max hold. (You’ll get some bonus grip strength work here as well.)
You need to train in what you want to be good at… that includes not being in pain.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout)
When the results roll in.
You’ll start to feel relief almost immediately, but it’s going to take some time for all your pain to dissipate. That’s why this routine should be part of your life for the rest of your life. Consistency is key here.
We use our bodies every day, so we also need to treat/correct our bodies every day. That’s all this is.
If you want to feel something you’ve never felt before (like pain relief), you need to do something you’ve never done before.
Send me a message anytime to let me know how this morning routine is working to help relieve your low back pain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget to join the Mighty Fit FB Group to surround yourself around like-minded people who also want to get strong, lean, and pain-free.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.
Whether you just got back into working out after a long hiatus or you’re just switching up your game, everybody has one thing in mind when it comes to fitness: results. Improvement is the name of the game, but along the gradual transition from flabby to fit, it’s not always easy to see how far you’ve come with the naked eye. That’s why we big-brained monkeys prefer quantitative measurements of our progress: something with numbers that change over time. For many of us, that means making regular stops at the scale… for better or worse.
We tend to think weight is a reflection of fitness, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook)
The thing is, your scale isn’t all that good of an indicator of how well you’re doing. While keeping tabs on your weight is never a bad idea, it’s important to remember that your weight will fluctuate quite a bit throughout your weight loss journey. There are a number of variables, for instance, that can affect a person’s level of water retention throughout the week — causing your weight to fluctuate up and down and really taking the wind of your proverbial fitness sails when you’re reveling in every pound lost.
And of course, there’s the long-held truth that muscle mass weighs more than fat, despite taking up considerably less space. If you haven’t worked out in a while, chances are good that you’re not just changing the shape of your body, but also it’s physical makeup (to an extent). As you burn fat and develop muscle, your body simply isn’t composed of the same ratio of materials it was the first time you stepped on the scale–really sucking the value out of a comparison measurement.
Think of the human body as a 200-pound pile of clay sitting on a scale. Someone lowers a curtain so all you can see are the numbers on the scale. Behind that curtain, someone removes thirty pounds of wet clay and replaces it with thirty pounds of marble. From your vantage point on the other side of the curtain, nothing has changed, but in reality, there’s been a dramatic shift in the body’s makeup.
The way 180 pounds looks on you may be different than how it looks on professional body builder and Senior Airman Terrence Ruffin, but to the scale, you’re one in the same.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
The scale isn’t a measurement of body makeup, it’s simply a measurement of weight. As your body makeup changes, the scale may not reflect your hard work… but that doesn’t mean you’re not making progress.
For the sake of your sanity, try to limit trips to the scale to once a week or fewer–just often enough to keep tabs on your weight as one metric of your progress, and most importantly, don’t get down on yourself when the number doesn’t keep shrinking week after week (when weight loss is the goal). Instead, if you really want to get a sense of how far you’ve come, there’s one old gym rat trick that has served me better than any scale: an old, familiar tee shirt.
Pick one of your old-standby tee shirts, the ones you wear when hanging out with friends or lounging around the house. The more used to the shirt you are, the better. Then wear it for a day, wash it, and set it aside for a month. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s really as simple as that.
The most important physical improvement I made in my twenties was losing that stupid necklace.
After a month goes by, put the same shirt on and feel how differently it hangs on your body. That’s progress. Your shoulders may have filled out, your midsection may have shrunk down, and the way you stand may even shift slightly as you gain strength and confidence. The scale may only say you lost five pounds this month, but the way your shirt fits will tell you that you’ve made some significant strides nonetheless.
Now, if you’re a numbers-driven type of person, qualitative measurements might not sound all that appealing to you. Of course, this method isn’t intended to replace body fat measurements (when done properly), performance figures from your workouts, or even that dreaded scale… but at its heart, fitness really is about how you feel. It’s about feeling healthy, feeling capable, and feeling like your hard work is paying off.
You can’t get that from a scale, but you can from that old Voltron tee shirt in your drawer.