Friday, May 23, 2014


Through StumbleUpon, I've get to read over a dozen new fitness routines everyday. Each of these routines range from body-weight only routines to the latest fads in lifting.  I kid you not, many of these will offer 10 or more different ways of doing a routine to "lose weight" or "killer cardio" or "toughening your core".

Let me offer my thoughts as someone who got into running and lifting due to the military.  I was not an athlete in high school so I didn't have a strength and conditioning routine to use to get ready for military service.  I did it like most people, through trial and error.  I found lifting and running to be my favorites so I read up on those as much as I could (and still do).  Here is what I've discovered of my 30 plus years of physical fitness training.

Most of the routines you read about are written by personal trainers who get to spend all day in the gym  (and get paid for it).  Unless you are a personal trainer or intend to make a living from displaying your physique, forget those routines.  Look at what the old time athletes, bodybuilders and strongmen.  They did not have the luxury of today's athletes, they still had to have regular jobs to subsidize their athletic endeavors.

As recently as the 1970s, NFL players would hold summer jobs!  A Cincinnati Bengal remarked how during the off season, he spent the summers digging swimming pools!  Not only did this keep him from developing any poor habits (drugs, booze, etc), it kept him in fine shape for football.

Many of the weightlifters and bodybuilders from the 40s and 50s held, or at least came from, manual labor.  They only went to the gym maybe 3 or 4 times a week because they still had to work.  When they got to the gym, they had to make their time count so they worked on the basic movements (squat, cleans, overhead presses, deadliest) to build their physiques.  It helped that they came from a time when physical education in grade school and high school including things like rope climbing, broad jumps, pull-ups and workouts and gymnastics.

Most people today have to work and hit the gym either before or after work.  They can't spend hours in the gym and very likely, lack the conditioning of their tendons and ligaments to handle the type of routines the personal trainers dream up.  They would do better if they focused on the basic lifts and lifted heavy.  If you are able to press a certain weight 10 times, you need to add more weight.  If you are able to only press a certain weight a wobble 2 or 3 times you need to reduce the weight.  I find the 5 X 5 (five sets of five reps) to give the best results.

I see a lot of guys go to the gym and then jump in the cars and drive home.  They miss the other thing the old timers knew.  Leave the car at home.  Walk or ride your bike to the gym.  The old timers did very little cardio because they did so much manual labor and rode bikes or walked everywhere.  You don't need to take that spinning class!

I love power tools as much as any guy but if you are training to be strong, ditch the power tools.  Try chopping that tree or bush down with an axe.  It will get in shape faster than spending time on the elliptical machine and it will cost less than a gym membership.  It will also help keep you conditioned for emergencies.

I like using the "zombie apocalypse" to help get people to plan for catastrophes.  What they always forget is the need to be in shape.  The time to start training is not when zed shows up at your door looking to feast on your brains.  Get in shape now and be able to walk, run and lift under the type of conditions that you may face during the zombie apocalypse.  Or simply when mother nature delivers a tornado or earthquake that renders our comfortable lifestyle mute.  Will you be able to get yourself and family to safety?  Can you get them out of the basement after the tornado has exploded your home?

One last thing about fitness.  Stop worrying about diets.  It is important to eat good food but when you start trying to cut our carbs or limiting fats or eating only what cavemen ate, your missing the point.  Look at many of the prisoners in our correctional facilities.  They have the worst diets imaginable and limited time in the gym yet many possess physiques that border on the unbelievable.  Sure some may have access to steroids or other performance enhancing drugs but not all.  What the prisoners get that most don't is you need to workout.  Stop talking and planning about it. Stop trying to find the next fad that will give you what you want in half the time.  Get to the gym and lift!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reflections on the knife

"We've got to resist this temptation to discard tried weapons until something better is proven.  The principles of warfare don't change that much.

Even today, with atom bombs, rockets, and all of the frightening new things, we haven't discarded man's oldest weapon - the knife.  And I don't think we ever will.  It is still the basic weapon of warfare.

The man with the knife is the one who does the conquering. Bombs and rockets can soften up Nations, but it requires the man with the knife to go in and actually take the country.

Warriors exhaust every other weapon but always retain the knife.  The knife - be it sword or bayonet or dagger or scimitar - decides the ultimate fate in battle"

Rear Admiral T.D. Ruddock, Superintendent of the United States Naval Gun Factory, Washington D.C.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Michael O'Machearley made the leather sheath for my Natchez bowie after seeing the cheap, Kydex sheath it came with.  We both wondered why Cold Steel insists on selling this classic, 19th Century knife with a 21st Century sheath.  I believe, besides cost, it comes down to myth.

Going back to the earliest days of the Cold War, people who wanted to prepare for attack inevitable sought out military surplus.  Early on, it made sense since the military were the only ones producing gas masks and shelf-stable rations.  Sometime around the Vietnam war, the gold standard for any item meant for when the SHTF became "mil-spec".  Your firearm, compass, knife or blanket wasn't the best unless it meant mil-spec standards.

But if you stop and think about that for a moment, mil-spec really means "lowest-cost bidder manufactured to the lowest common-denominator that can be purchase in bulk".  There is nothing magical about mil-spec.  The first M-16 rifles jammed frequently and it was only through civilian aftermarkets that the true potential of this rifle was finally realized.  Mil-spec GPS are clunky, overbuilt pieces of tech meant to be abused and lost by young troops in the field.

Kydex is the worst offender.  It does not protect your knife or sidearm as it fits to loosely allowing the elements easy access to your weapon.  It's also noisy as the loose fit means your knife or pistol sloshes around letting other people know that you are around.

I admit that at nearly 52 years of age, I'm old school but a properly fitted leather holster or sheath for your weapon cannot be beat.  It holds your weapon snuggly, protects against the elements, is silent and best of all looks great!  The sheath Michael made for me is lined meaning the inside won't scratch the finish on the blade.  How many Glocks and Sigs have you seen with holster wear?  If we are dealing in a SHTF situation, I don't want my weapons getting marred up anymore than necessary.

That brings to one other issue about the mil-spec mythos.  Every mall-rat ninja wannabe has to have a knife with a black blade.  They will claim some shit like "that's what the special forces carry" or "because it doesn't reflect light".  Really, well if you are an assassin or special operator go for it.  Otherwise you are just kidding yourself.

Every black blade I've owned likes to get scratched or the finish begins to wear off.  That part of the blade then becomes prone to rust.  All of this before I've ever had to "deploy" one at night time.

On the other hand, ever plain finished knife I've owen has maintained its finish.  Even for those stuck in a drawer, a little time with some oil and fine steel wool and its as good as new.  I've also learned recently the importance of someone actually seeing your knife.  I was training a student on some basic knife techniques.  The big shiny blade kept the student's eyes focused on the blade and not the attacker. Deception and distraction are much more useful to me than stealth.

So beware, mil-spec is not a silver-bullet.  It is mainly a marketing tool and often better, less expensive options are available.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Exercise for when the SHTF

Preparing for when the SHTF has became one of the niches for reality TV shows.  What amazes me is how much some people are willing to spend on shelter and weapons but give nary a second thought to the most basic; fitness.

No matter how well prepared your domicile may be, it does you no good if you can’t get to it.  How many disasters or emergency situations can you think of that will conveniently happen while you and your loved ones are safely nestled in your fortress of solitude?

Or let’s say you are simply someone who wants to be prepared for something less than the end of the world but more substantial than heavy rain storm?  How will you get to a point of distribution (POD) if roads are impassible or your vehicle doesn’t work?

As I’m writing this, we are experiencing the coldest winter in decades.  Since the Christmas break, none of the school districts in southwestern Ohio have had a full week of school.  It caused me to evaluate our own preparation.

Food and water have been something we’ve worked on since the Y2K scare.  Weapons have always been a hobby and my family is well versed in their use.  We are not hardcore preppers but have the means to deal with most emergencies (especially after the wind storm of 2008 left our town without power for over a week).

The one thing that I’ve personally have been working on more during these frigid days is maintaining a certain level of physical fitness.  In milder temperatures (read anything in double digits), my workout consists of going to the gym 3-4 times a week.  The rest of the time is tai chi, yoga and martial arts in the backyard.  The last month has forced me to change this pattern.

I’ve been focusing on push-ups, exercise wheel rollouts, and wall squats.  Push-ups are the standard for assessing upper body strength in the military.  They don’t require any equipment and you can easily measure your progress.

Exercise wheel rollouts are for strengthening the core.  Another carry over from the military, having a strong core is necessary for a variety of tasks during a SHTF scenarios (such as climbing over debris).  Finally the wall squats are an easy way of keeping the legs in shape for walking. 

Normally I’m a advocate for walking regardless of conditions but slipping in front of oncoming traffic doesn’t appeal to me.

All of this has caused me to go back into my training journals and I’ve rediscovered what I believe is the ideal exercise for preppers…the farmer’s walk.  I forgot how this simple exercise strengthens all of the major muscles of the arms, legs and back.

Grab two heavy weights (dumbbells if you have them, if not fill some ammo boxes up with sand or metal tools) in each hand.  Now walk with you head looking forward.  Your grip and forearms will feel it first.  You back and thighs will start to burn. 

It is the ideal exercise for preppers, if the SHTF you will have to be able to carry heavy stuff for long distances.  You can this indoor or outdoors.  Climbing some steps or hills to really work everything.