Working out for Weaklings: A Primer from LCpl Durden

Introduction

It's like this.

The Marine Corps is well known for its physical fitness, and things being what they were, I kind of didn’t fit in. For those unaware, I spent most of my life as a shut in, neck-bearded closet nerd trolling GameFAQs and other online forums. Ferdinand is quite hard on places like these – and justifiably so – but they taught me a lot of lessons which applied later in life…but I digress. The point here is that becoming a Marine had been a childhood pipe dream of mine – the way kids dreamed about being President or an astronaut or what have you, I thought of Marines as super heroes (perhaps because my grandfather had been a retired Lieutenant Colonel who survived the battle of Iwo Jima; look it up, get learned).

Suffice to say, the adjustment from a sedentary life to the rigorous demands of the Marine Corps was a rough one. I struggled to keep up but mostly I struggled not to be a burden on fellow recruits during training and later my fellow Marines in the fleet. When I first went down to my recruiter, I was a “triple threat,” which meant that I could not pass a single event on the IST or initial strength test – which is kind of embarrassing. All it required of me was to perform two dead-hang pull ups (I went down to boot camp without being able to do a single one and in the three months only managed to get up to three just by the skin of my teeth), 44 crunches in two minutes, and run a mile and a half or something like that in some paltry slow time. (I don’t remember exactly.) Point is? I was out of shape – I wasn’t fat, I just wasn’t fit.

Throughout the course of my career I worked really hard to get to just below what is considered a “1st Class” physical fitness test score, and I also scored the bare minimum for 1st class on the newish Combat Fitness Test. I was able to accomplish this thanks in huge part to the mentorship and guidance of several of my peers who had previously been body builders and personal trainers – in particular, one who goes by the nickname Julio and another who is still serving as a Corporal out in Okinawa. They have continued to provide me instruction and guidance in physical fitness and overall health, which I have found a much superior alternative to managing my condition as compared to “doctor’s orders.”

I have refined a routine that I think could work for anyone who is self-disciplined and believes they can benefit from my system. I am sharing it here, free of charge, in the hopes that it gets tested and I get word whether it works for others or not. Physical fitness is a key component of Game, as well, so if you’d like to do well with the ladies, you’d do well to be in shape. I’ll be talking about three key areas of fitness and my strategy for managing them. First up…

Technique

Technique is super important when it comes to working out effectively. Amateur enthusiasts get caught up in the lust for lifting heavier and heavier weights. Some manage to get a degree of success with this strategy – even having “sculpted” bodies – but often their bodies are useless. Pretty trinkets with no real strength. But I digress. Technique is absolutely essential. If you’ve never trained with a personal trainer or someone who knows the proper form for performing the exercises you are attempting, make sure you do at your earliest convenience. Even if you only work with them for two weeks in order to perfect your form, this will pay you dividends in the long run.

One key is to “mentally trigger” the muscle groups you are supposed to be using during the exercise. Imagine that you are using your chest to push the weight when you do a bench press, instead of your arms. If you get caught up in the lust for more and more weight, this is an easy pointer to miss. Mentally triggering helps activate your muscles and moreover is a sort of mental device for helping ensure your body does the exercise properly. You can tell if you’re doing it right because you will feel it in the muscle groups you’re targeting.

I cannot stress enough that you should start out at low or no weight (ie body weight – maybe less, depending on your capabilities – there is no shame, we’re all different) exercises in order to master your technique. Once you have mastered it you can work on upping the weight and the investment you put into mastering the form will pay off in spades as you sky rocket ahead of people who did it all backwards.

Frequency

Most research (and all of my friends who are in very good shape corroborate) indicates that training to failure is stupid and should be avoided. An ideal work out regimen should be designed around doing small sets, if you can, all throughout your day. For example, if you are training to increase your pull ups, the best idea is to get a pull up bar installed in your home, and then every time you go to the bathroom, do a small set of pull ups that doesn’t tire you out. Or so the wisdom goes.

Unless you’re a professional body builder who really knows what the fuck you’re doing, you probably want to stay away from training to failure, otherwise known as training until you’re dead fucking tired. It’s far better to keep your work outs energizing and fun. That being said, there are many ways to make sure you don’t overtrain; a commonly cited technique to break up repetitions is called the “pyramid” method. What you do is set a target number of repetitions to perform without stopping – say, 10 – but you start out by doing only one, and then taking a break to recover. Then you do 2, take another break, do 3, and so on. When you complete 10, you go back down to 9, then 8, and so on.

The mind is easy to trick. If you count to ten, it seems like you’re doing an awful lot of work. If you break up your counting, you can trick your mind into thinking you are doing less work; so I prefer to count my sets in threes. For example, my first “block” so to speak, using the pyramid method, will go 1, 2, 3… If after 3, I feel tired, I go back down to 2, then 1, and stop. If, however, I still feel fresh, I commit to another set of 3, and I go down and count “1, 2, 3, 1…” Then “1, 2, 3, 1, 2…” Then “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…” In this way I can continue to assess whether I should continue my pyramid and abort. Sets of three are good because the extra two or three repetitions isn’t really enough to push you over the edge too much if you do commit to them, and counting in sets of three is pretty easy to keep track of.

Nutrition

Your body is some 80% water. Go buy a BPA free water bottle (such as a nice camelback one) and carry it with you wherever you go. Drink as much water as you comfortably can and refill it every chance you get. You will piss probably once an hour, or maybe once every other hour, and if your piss isn’t clear as water you aren’t drinking enough water. Seriously. Drink water. You will notice you have less of an appetite and more energy. Just drink water. Avoid soda unless you’re treating yourself. Juice is okay from time to time. Milk is a good source of calcium. And I drink alcohol socially. But stick to water.

Your diet, unless you are super careful, probably won’t give you all the nutrition you need. So you might need supplements. My friend recommended a very good basic set, which consists of a good multivitamin, basic 100% whey protein, and a thermogenic. Brand name wise, I went to GNC to get all this shit, and got the Mega Men Ultra Sport multivitamin, some kind of GNC generic brand protein shake mix, and “Refine” was the thermogenic. Wake up, take your vitamins and thermogenic, wait thirty minutes, then go hit the gym. Afterwards, drink your shake and have breakfast (I usually just have something light like cereal and some bananas).

I eat a lot of fish, rice, pasta, and chicken. I try to avoid beef but it really doesn’t matter. Just try to eat protein and stay away from obviously unhealthy food. It’s pretty simple really. Anybody can do it. If you follow through with an exercise routine but you aren’t properly managing your nutrition you are shooting yourself in the foot and you won’t see the benefits. Drink lots of water, eat right, and consider basic supplements. It’s pretty easy.

Conclusion

People come up with every excuse under the sun to not start working out. “I can’t figure out how to fit in in my schedule” or “I’m not sure what my goals are” or “blah blah blah.” Truth is, if you start doing it and you do it right, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll figure out a way to fit it in. You increase your testosterone levels which are awesome for your health, you’ll start feeling more confident, you release endorphins, and you’ll overall just start feeling great. But if you sit there convincing yourself there’s no point, and you don’t believe you can do it, then you’re never going to do it. Physical fitness is very much a mind over matter situation, so stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop making excuses, and just fucking do it.

Originally published at The Spearhead on March 20, 2011.

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16 thoughts on “Working out for Weaklings: A Primer from LCpl Durden

  1. Interesting news for today is that former Israeli president got sentenced to 7 years for “rape”. Perhaps he did do it but this sentance basically makes it very suspicious for me…

    http://www.eutimes.net/2010/12/former-israel-president-faces-4-years-in-jail-after-being-found-guilty-of-rape/
    “According to the indictment, the rape charges dated back to April 1998 when Woman A alleged he had first raped her at the Tourism Ministry office and later at a hotel in Jerusalem.”
    She magically appeared in the hotel in the same hotel room… right.

  2. About the ‘frequency’-part: when you want to perform 10 successive repetitions, you do 20 sets? First a set of 1, then 2, then 3 etc. until you get to 10 en then a set of 9, a set of 8… Don’t really get it.
    Also, isn’t just drinking water when you feel thirsty good enough?

  3. @Thewalrus

    While there are individual differences, our thirst generally isn’t a good indicator on our fluid balance. It works more as an emergency warning “Need water now!”.

  4. As a former lard ass, I’ve given up almost all resistance-based strength training and adopted bodyweight calisthenics for strength training. Now the only equipment I use is for grip strength training and that’s almost all homemade.

    Bodyweight strength-building calisthenics simultaneously works multiple muscles with nothing but your own body, gravity, and technique. It also works the associated tendons/supporting muscles/etc, cuts down on the wear and tear put on the joints and best of all it costs nothing except the price of a few books. Google it and you can read some forums, but the basis of my workout comes from “Convict Conditioning” (stupid name for a good book – buy it from the publisher’s website if you want it because amazon’s price is insane) for most things and John Brookfield’s books for hand strength.

    Prior to all that I’d been doing the standard resistance training for ten years with gym cardio and stretching. I’d lost a net of over 100lbs while packing on a lot of muscle. But even with all the stretching, nutritional supplements, and good form age began to take its toll and my joints aren’t what they used to be, so I switched to a less stressful alternative.

    And if you’re not drinking enough water you’ll know for sure as soon as you get your first heat cramp. I sweat like a madman when I workout and I enjoy working out in heat for some reason, so I cramp up really easily unless I take electrolyte supplements (with no calories), drink water constantly, and keep some quinine pills handy.

    Trust me, it only takes one or two nice heat cramps to remember to drink a lot of water because they hurt like a sumbitch, although I get a perverse joy in watching every muscle in my leg contract. It’s interesting and inspiring to watch them all gloriously pop at once (I work my legs hard) but it’s really painful. I know my body well enough now that I don’t get heat cramps because I make sure I don’t.

    Old school bareknuckle boxing (or even modern sport boxing – at a real boxing gym that only teaches the sweet science and nothing else) and ye olde strongman strength and cardio training techniques are interesting and usually free alternatives to modern training techniques too. There are old period manuals on each that you can find online that are out of copyright if you hunt around the boxing/martial arts forums and the other “physical culture” forums.

  5. i’ve stuck to the Mehdi’s Strong Lifts routine (stronglifts.com) and have seen epic results.

    Amen on drinking lots of water. I hit 1.5 gallons almost every day.

  6. Hey Deezee when you were in DEP what were your run times like?

    I find myself doing well with the crunches and pullups (I almost always get 100 crunches and my pullups are at 13-15 right now so I’m doing fine) but I fucking bomb my run getting about 3 minutes over a passing score of 12min, sometimes more…It’s a combination of shin splints and the fact that I’m just not naturally that fast.

  7. Good primer. Every man should make a serious effort to get in shape. If you don’t know how to lift, hire a personal trainer to get you started. A consultation with a nutritionist won’t hurt, either. Proper nutrition is at least 70% of the battle.

  8. I used to live about a mile from that 24-Hour Fitness. I don’t know if it’s still there.

    About the ‘frequency’-part: when you want to perform 10 successive repetitions, you do 20 sets? First a set of 1, then 2, then 3 etc. until you get to 10 en then a set of 9, a set of 8… Don’t really get it.
    Also, isn’t just drinking water when you feel thirsty good enough?

    Get this and this and forget about what you read on the internet. The internet is the greatest source of anti-knowledge and broscience that ever was.

  9. IMF,

    If i’m not mistaken, that is 24 hour fitness in Point Loma, San Diego? Could I find the infamous IMF working out there?

  10. Rather than work out at a gym, isnt it better to mow your lawn(no not with the lawn mower you can sit your fatass on),chop some trees(with an axe not chainsaw),paint your house,clean your gutters,get on your knees and scrub your floors,swim in a natural body of water …colder the better.Sure , you may not need to do those things everyday on your own house but you can help others or volunteer …even at a construction site!Do all that and suddenly the monotony of a desk jockey become bearable as there is some sense of masculine accomplishment.

    Also play sports like basketball or football, even non contact sports like tennis will do the trick.

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