Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fit for Combat

I had a few minutes to kill today and finally picked up a copy of J.D. Johannes new book, Fit for Combat: When Fitness is a Matter of Life or Death. For those of you not familiar with J.D.'s work, he is a former Marine, filmmaker and war correspondent covering Iraq and Afghanistan. For the book, he teamed up with professional fitness athlete, Nita Marquez, who is an expert in mental conditioning, fitness and choreography. She certainly looks the part of a professional fitness athlete.

Anyway, the book is obviously about fitness and how to follow a system of training and diet that will put you on the path to being, if not ripped, at least looking good in a bathing suit. But the main point I gained from the book was that if your current system of diet and exercise is not getting you where you want to go, you have to change it, and that change is hard. The book has some good tips for overcoming these mental obstacles as well as detailed information for mapping out a system of diet and exercise that is right for you and that works. It's a great motivator if you are trying to get back in shape. So, though I doubt I will ever need to be fit for combat (though you never know), I would still like to be fit enough to get through life. I think this book can help.

Update: Jules Crittenden has more on the book as part of his "live forever" series.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing what to do has never been the problem.

6:38 PM, September 30, 2009  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

"For those of you not familiar with J.D.'s work, he is a former Marine, filmmaker and war correspondent covering Iraq and Afghanistan. "

Tsk, tsk... There's no such thing as a "former" Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. (With the sole possible exception if one's last name happens to be "Murtha".)

6:40 PM, September 30, 2009  
Blogger Doom said...

"So, though I doubt I will ever need to be fit for combat (though you never know), I would still like to be fit enough to get through life."

One way to look at combat and life is this. Combat, for those in it, is no more than what you say, a means of getting through life.

I may have to take a look at it. Hmm, are you endorsing the book or merely mentioning it? With your training, do you see the techniques as functional? Hey, you started it.

10:38 PM, September 30, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


I think the book is good for someone who is healthy and can use these techniques to get in shape. There are many exercises and some of the diet that I cannot follow due to heart problems. I would recommend it to those who are healthy and need some motivation. The book tells you how not to be "the guy" or "the girl" who sabotage their workouts by repeating the same mistakes such as women who keep repeating that they do not want to get big muscles and thus, fail at their workouts. Or the guy who uses the same techniques and diet over and over without getting results. The book tells you how to take it to the next level and Ms. Marquez has some good tactics on how to overcome these obstacles.

4:57 AM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger navytech said...

"the book is good for someone who is healthy and can use these techniques"

That definitely leaves me out(stroke). I have finally, at the age of 53, found something that CAN work for me. I've just lost 65 pounds and feel great. In fact, I'm back to my boot camp weight! It was maddeningly easy too. I HAD resigned myself to never being able to lose weight again and was merely attempting to preserve some kidney function when I stumbled on this way to curb my APPETITE. (It was fish oil (20g/day) and very dark chocolate 100g/day)) It took about 7-10 days for the effect to take hold.

9:10 AM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Ern said...

It would be just fine with me if you provided links to pictures like that more frequently. I'm fortunate in that I don't have a problem with fitness (I've bicycled more than three thousand miles this year, and look like it), but those picture were very, uh, inspiring.

11:01 AM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger rowsdower said...

Ern said..."It would be just fine with me if you provided links to pictures like that more frequently....those picture were very, uh, inspiring."

See that? Proof that 'all men are pigs' ;-)

11:54 AM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


Funny! But I think that rather than being seen as a "pig," we can just agree that Ern has good taste.

12:00 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger vivictius said...

Those pics are just good for our health.

12:05 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes, apparently men can extend their lives by 4-5 years that way.

12:20 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

i don`t know about extending one`s life...more about the quality of what we have.

i feel badly for men and women who suffer from being overweight, but what can one do?

people`s lives are stressful and the time constraints on most people preclude time to train and to eat properly and rest sufficiently to keep up with a work-out intense enough to be effective.

i have stopped directly answering questions about my work-out routines as most people get tired just hearing what it takes, never mind actually doing the workouts, eating properly and visualising etc...

my belief is that, entering into my fifties, that i can preserve a strong ahtletic body so that i can enjoy my soccer and cycling and look for ward to the next decade, and the next...and so on.

2:10 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Topher said...

"i have stopped directly answering questions about my work-out routines as most people get tired just hearing what it takes, never mind actually doing the workouts, eating properly and visualising etc..."

This is the problem - most people don't want to hear it or spend the time and energy it takes to be in top shape. I understand where they are coming from. I have lots of other things to do than get obsessive-compulsive about my fitness. If you have a few extra pounds that's not a serious problem, *but* if one is obese how does that not significantly bring down your quality of life?

2:34 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger goy said...

Speaking of new books, any thoughts on why this one is currently at #10 on Amazon? Seems like a really strange selection to get that high on the list.

2:49 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

topher, i understand also, but many who ask are athletes who want to get more out of thier game.

many times the questions are merely part of the flow of conversation, but occasionally peopple will come and train with me, only to make excuses after a few sessions.

i think the obsession i have is internal, not one driven by images and videos of athletes. i think that sort of motivation only lasts for so long, then something else has to support the activity.

for me it`s wanting to be on the field, in the game, contributing, and winning more than losing....and scoring one more goal.

3:36 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

It's true most people(excl people like Dr. Helen with heart conditions) don't have what it takes to eat right and do intense workouts involving HIIT and weight training. And by weight training I mean compound exercises(deadlift, squats, chest-press, pushups, shoulder press, row) with progressively heavier weight. Not stuff for sissies. Oh and working out heavy does not give you a license to pig out.

But as they have always said - NO PAIN NO GAIN.

4:14 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

then there`s the eating.

i eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, followed by coffee and an oatbar at starbucks.

a bagel (plain) and a coffee at lunch followed by a bag of trail mix throughout the afternoon.

supper is usually salad and soup with the girlfriend or, yesterday and today we made roast sirloin and vegetables in a slow cooker which we share with her son.

week-ends with my boys, we`ll have spaghetti or maybe perogis for supper.

i have put on a few pounds this summer living in the country, but i still get 100 km or so a week on the road bike, two games of soccer and keep my body weight around 210.

the trick is to not eat the processed stuff that is full of salts and preservatives and chemicals that mess with your bodies idea of when it`s full. oatmeal slowly releases sugars into your bloodstream so you never get that overwhelming hunger that sends people right for the fast-food outlet where the cycle persists until you weigh 250 pounds.....

oh yeah, and even though i`m 210 i am guessing that my body fat is still 9% or less. (abs still visible)

three years ago when i was stressed and down to 185 i was around 6% or less and so i had an eight pack.

not healthy to be that lean for long though.

4:40 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

dr. alistair - how often should one consume a high-carb meal(like pasta) a week? Am I sabotaging my fat loss if I do it once a week? Or maybe only once every 2 weeks. Now I don't mean a gigantic bowl, but a normal-sized portion with vegetables on the side.

4:43 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


That is strange. However, the APA manual new edition just came out and is probably being purchased by students for college classes. Perhaps this is why the rank is so high.

5:13 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

from a pragmatic standpoint, one meal out of the twenty or more that you may consume in a week won`t effect your body at all.

a number of questions come to mind when a question like this arises though.

firstly, do you need to eat pasta at all?

what are you looking to achieve with your diet?

to simplify, i suggest a person become thier own lab experiment.

restrict calories until you notice weight loss and evaluate whether you can sustain normal activity.

(normal being what you usually do)

if you can comfortably live your life while losing weight, continue until you reach where you want to be.

and remember; you can`t out exercize your meals. if you want to lose weight, you have to re-assess meal sizes and frequency.

and also; your body is the expert. you cannot follow an arbitrary plan and expect it to work. you have to adapt your program to how your body responds.

our bodies reflect the last six to eight weeks of diet and exercise, so be patient and determined.

i suggest a person looking to change thier body has to look to the next eight months to a year to establish a routine and lifestyle that will allow the changes you want and have them be permenant.

5:20 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Skip said...

I saw this book blurbed on blackfive, thought 'I need to start working out again, and this would support someone I like', and bought it.

It's a pretty interesting read. The workouts basically boil down to 'whatever you do, do more next week than you did this week', and the diet ideas basically boil down to 'don't make radical shifts, just eat slightly better next week than you did this week'. And then there are ideas about what to do when you hit a plateau.

Oh, there's more there than that, but that's the core of it all, and it does make sense. Whether or not they will work on someone like me who needs to lose about 80 pounds and is grossly out of shape is an open question. I guess I'll find out.

6:16 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Skip - I agree with the idea of increasing intensity/weight for a while, but only for a while. At a certain point you reach an acceptable level of fitness and you can keep the intensity or lower it. At least that's my plan. There's no way I'm going to just keep increasing it forever.

6:17 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

As a fit person who eats right, exercises regularly and has no bad habits I find it a huge waste of time to answer questions posed by the unfit about my food intake and exercise regime. Everyone knows what they need to do to achieve health, if they aren't doing it it is because they don't want to eat right and exercise. It's really that simple. Telling me that one can't do it because of "stress" and their busy work schedule is considered a backhanded insult to me. These folks seem to think that they are busier and their work schedule and obligations are more important than mine. You make choices you are free to live with them. Someone should really look into the psychological motivations of people that buy hundreds of books on fitness and nutrition, spend all day talking about exercise yet never seem to do anything about it.

8:49 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Cham - it's because eating right and exercising are HARD and PAINFUL. Most people want to avoid pain and maximize pleasure. It's perfectly understandable. But you should get all self-righteous about how mentally superior you are to the rest of us. I am a proud fatty mcFatty and I will eat my Double Whopper with pride!

8:52 PM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:06 AM, October 02, 2009  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

"The workouts basically boil down to 'whatever you do, do more next week than you did this week'

Until you hurt yourself due to overuse and you have to stop.

7:06 AM, October 02, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

i have noticed that there are some who believe, possibly unconsciously, that they can do what they want and that there will be a pill or procedure that will fix them when they break.

very much a newtonian materialistic viewpoint and one that, for those entering our fifties, is really becoming clearly false....and for many, too late.

and this goes back to the push for universal health-care.

"now i can eat and drink all i want honey, obama says it`s ok!".

there is a commercial on tv that exemplifies this form of thinking. it features people bloated from over-eating who reach for a bottle of pink liquid and pretty soon they are ready to eat more.

and they do.

even our tv commercials are giving us covert commands to gorge ourselves.

stop watching tv.

it`s the first thing i suggest to my clients if they want to lose weight or quit smoking, or generally make improvements in thier life.

9:57 AM, October 02, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

oh and are correct about the expectation of improvement in your work-outs. over time there is a diminishing return because the system adapts.

the trick is to know when the adaptation phase has begun, and change the routine.

my body signals me in a number of ways.

fatigue, minor runny nose, not feeling like cranking it up, not wanting to spring out of bed....

and we ignore those signals often because the mind is stronger than the body, and we refer to the spreadsheet and see that we have two more weeks of the program left....and so we do the redbull and bear down on the bars, and the endorphins kick in and we feel great.

but i`ve learned that rest is training.

it`s not missing a work-out, it`s recovery.

it`s healing.

it`s re-charging to go like hell again.

10:03 AM, October 02, 2009  
Blogger Skip said...

And in fact, that's what the book recommends - when you hit a point on an exercise where you can't improve on either the number of reps or the weight, stop doing it and swap in another exercise.

Oh, and dr.alistair, from your posts you seem to be under the mistaken impression that people who are overweight can just eat less and exercise some and that's all they need to lose weight. It doesn't work that way for the vast majority of people. I'll use myself as an example - I'm 5'9", and weigh about 265.

I logged everything I ate for the last week in preparation for another attempt to lose weight, and it turns out that I had intake of about 2700 calories a day on average. All the books say that 3500 calories is about a pound, so theoretically if I dropped my intake to about 2000 calories I'd lose a pound every 5 days.

And with just diet, I would. For about 3 weeks, and then it would stop as my metabolism adjusted, and then at a 2000 calorie intake I'd be losing nothing.

Now, throw in exercise. I can tell you with much experience that a decent exercise regimen, and reduced intake, at this weight, that I'll lose 25-30 pounds fairly quickly, like over about 3 months. Then over the next 3 months I'll lose about 7-8 pounds total, and then the weight loss will just stop. I'll keep improving in strength and stamina, but I won't be losing much, if any weight. It happens every time, and I've gone through 4 cycles of this. So sooner or later, since you're not making any progress, you stop.

The diet idea in this book is different, which is why I'm very interested in trying it. The idea is that you log everything, and next week you try to eat slightly better than this week, slowly cutting out carbs and unhealthy food. So eventually you end up at something approximating an Adkins diet induction phase, and you really can't go any further. At that point you reset back some, and start it again.

The idea is that if it's constantly changing, your body can't adjust to a new normal level.

Will it work? I have no idea, but based on previous experiences in dieting I have great hope.

11:54 AM, October 02, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

i certainly don`t want to argue with you because i think we are still saying the same thing.

one has to adapt to the bodies ability to adapt to changes in stress applied ot it. it has to work this way, otherwise we would die.

homeostasis is the bodies natural desire to remain the same. this for bodymass, bone density, blood pressure, heart rate, etc.

and i have some expertise ibn the area of personal weightloss as i was almost 250 pounds for a while in the early 2000s.

the body does some remarkable things when we try to make short-term changes. one of them is to store fat while catabolising muscle while we try to diet and exercise at the same time.

the signal the body gets when food intake is limited is to rest. when we persist in exercising (hunting) the body eventually goes into protection mode and stores fat to protect sesitive tissues such as the liver and kidneys until the threat passes.

this is why you found that, eventually, you stopped losing weight.

and why i recommend making a plan to meet a weight loss goal in six months as opposed to six weeks....

and yes, over time, one can lose fat without exercise. take the anorexic for instance (an extreme example, but illustrative) this person drastically limits food intake to the point where he or she becomes, well, anorexic.

the myth is that the opposite is also true, that one can exercise and eat what one wants.

the truth is that to lose weight one has to know one`s body and calibrate the changes and have a plan to address those changes as they occur.

in my case i rapidly went from 245 to about 210. that took about six months. the next year was more intense as i took to road biking and more soccer. i went from 210 to about 175 at the lightest..due to the stress of a seperation.

i am at around 210 now and recovering from a knee strain thathas persisted for 3 months. my training intensity and frequency has diminishes substantially, but thankfully in the last two weeks the strength and stability has returned, encouraging me to begin to train harder once again.

to lose the first 35 pounds took a change from eating anything that wasn`t nailed down to small meals of meat and cheese with no carbs whatsoever for about six months.

and lots of coffee.

now i eat mostly oatmeal, a bagel with nothing on it and pasta and steaks on the week-ends with my children.

and a little less coffee.

12:28 PM, October 02, 2009  

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