*Editors note: Photos and article have been shared with the permission of AMTAC Shooting.
Anyone that has trained with me knows the emphasis that I put on fitness. If you are not in good shape is much more difficult to sprint up two flights of stairs, then across a parking lot and make a life or death decision. It is also more difficult to make a hard shot or win the fight of your life if you are not in good shape.
Difficult physical training is beneficial on many levels. First of all, if you are stronger you will be able to physically control more people. When asked to define strength, a good friend of mine said “it is the ability to hold another man down at will”- Northman.
In fighting it is not the only skill that wins, but it is also a combination of skill and strength. Simply put strength matters. Next, you will have a better quality of life if you are in shape. If you are grossly overweight it is very difficult to play catch with your kid or to go on a hike.
As of this writing, I am 41. I cannot train or eat the way I did when I was 19. In the early 2000’s my workout’s consisted of high mileage heel strike running and bodybuilding type lifting routines. This type of routine led to my first major back problem when I was 23. Since then I have had to continuously learn and modify my training. Here are some of the things that I have learned and that I am currently implementing:
The first thing I had to do was reevaluate why I was working out and what my priorities were. My workout goals shifted from wanting to have a higher number on my bench press or squat, to being healthy/ strong enough to do my job. The order of priority for me now is as follows:
- Stay healthy. If I am injured or broken it is hard for me to protect my family and to do my day job.
- Maintain a high level of mobility. Running, rucking, sprinting, skiing.
- Be strong. Pull myself over obstacles and pick up heavy things.
Here are some of the specifics that I am now doing. In each of these disciplines, I would highly encourage you to seek competent instruction.
Kettlebell work. One of my old teammates, John Fass RIP, introduced me to kettlebells in the mid-2000’s. They are a phenomenal tool for gaining/ maintaining strength and endurance. The primary KB exercises I do are swings, snatches, presses and turkish get-ups.
- Body weight exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, dips and knees to elbows
- Barbell squats and deadlifts
- Macebell swings (thanks Tom Kier)
- Barefoot style running
- Rucking (I vary my ruck weight between 30 and 80 lbs)
- Backcountry skiing
This is how I am currently breaking up my workouts:
Two runs per week. One long run (right now between 6-10 miles) and one sprint workout or tempo run.
One to three rucks/ skies or snowshoes per week. These will vary from 1-5 hours in length.
One to three strength workouts per week. These are normally a circuit of 3-5 of the above-mentioned exercises with 45-60 seconds of active rest in between each exercise. During my active rest, I will dryfire, strike the Bob, work templates etc…
On most of my workouts, I follow Pavel‘s advice of wanting to leave the gym feeling strong and like you can conquer the world. This is very different from my younger years of trying to “leave it all in the gym”.
Changing my eating habits has been much more challenging than changing the way I work out. Culturally the ritual of eating a large meal with friends, family and teammates has been something that I have enjoyed since childhood. I went through the later half of my 30’s not changing anything and slowly gaining a couple of pounds.
When I started training for the Sniper Adventure Challenge race two years ago (thanks Chainsaw), I started paying attention to my diet. First change I implemented was “salad for breakfast”. I didn’t really like eating salads so it was easy to not overeat and adding a can of sardines gives a good mix of healthy fats and protein.
Next change has been the intermittent fasting (thanks MC). I get up in the morning and only drink water and black coffee until between 12 and 3pm. My first meal of the day will usually still be a salad. With dinner, I try to keep things sort of paleo, but generally, I eat whatever is being cooked. On Sundays, I get up and have a big breakfast with the family.
Probably the biggest takeaway on the subject of food is to change the way you look at things. Change your mindset/ eating habits, don’t diet. Don’t be beat yourself up when you screw up, just pick yourself up and continue. To truly be effective any changes that you implement should be indefinitely sustainable.
To summarize, as we get older it is imperative to train “smarter not harder” and to change our diets to reflect the slowing down of our metabolism. If you are serious about protecting yourself and your family through your entire life you have to adapt. Most importantly continue to train and improve yourself every day.