Military Podcast Series

The Military Series

What does military fitness entail? How does the military best prepare its service members for combat? What physical demands do different military jobs present to service members?

This series examines these questions from different perspectives, discussing different aspects of military fitness culture across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. Ultimately, the military must physically improve combat readiness, and these podcasts explore how to best do this.

Join us, as we share service members’ and veterans’ stories; explore leadership & resilience; look more closely at the different cultures, tests, and combat demands of the different services; and consider how strength training can help all service members.

Ep 1: One Marine’s Story

Matt and Niki talk to Colonel Scott Conway, a Marine Officer, who shares his experiences of service, leadership, and combat.

Scott wanted to serve since he was a kid, and ultimately decided to become a Marine and attend the Naval Academy.

The Naval Academy emphasizes leadership, academics, athletics, and time management. It throws many big fish in little ponds into the ocean, so to speak, and produces many of the officers who end up serving in the US Navy and United States Marine Corps.

Scott shares his experience going through the Naval Academy, some of his service in the Marine Corps, and the experience of going through an ambush–and the emotional dump afterwards. 

Scott ultimately turned to endurance during his career to bolster his fitness. He found benefits from this, but more recently combining strength and conditioning has led to a greater control than he’s ever had. 30 years older than his students, he can lead by example and garner respect when he walks in a room by his image and presence. 

“If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.” 

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the United States Government.

Ep 2: Leadership & Resilience

Matt talks to Colonel Scott Conway–this time about leadership and resilience, and how strength training–and physical training in general–can make people better leaders, managers, and parents and help them better face difficult situations and events.

Scott discusses his early experience through the Marine Corps’ schools to screen and develop officers–Marines given the rank and position and authority to lead and command other Marines. He also discusses returning to some of these as a leader, evaluating and helping shape leaders.

Officer and leader development pushes officer candidates to adapt in stressful, difficult situations. The candidates will fail and make mistakes. They ultimately have to prove up to the task of leadership in duress while falling short of making the “perfect” decisions. You have to learn, you have to keep pushing forward and take the burden and run with it.

As an instructor–something that seems easier often–you must be constantly “on,” because the candidates are looking to you as the example while also–despite their inexperience–being able to identify when the instructors are falling short of their espoused ideals–the Marine Corps’ standards.

Ultimately, as leaders, and employees, and managers, as parents–as human beings–we should become wiser as we experience more and reflect and learn from our experience–success and failures. Despite this, we can’t rely on our past successes or our resume. In whatever position we find ourselves, we ultimately get evaluated by what we offer now. 

The experience of being a junior officer is in some senses both unique but also relatable to leaders in many situations. You’re new to the military, yet entrusted with authority and rank. You have to make decisions and lead, but you also have to learn and rely on the experience and recommendations of those around you. You have to accept the responsibility of leadership put on you, but you can’t let it go to your head. You likely feel like an imposter as your experience and authority seem at odds, but you can’t be racked by doubt. Many people can relate to suddenly being thrust with power and responsibility and authority–parenting anyone–and not feeling up to the task. People experience being new to a job and feeling like they’re not prepared, yet they have to ultimately go forward and do the job. 

Scott shares the experience of falling short of his own expectations for himself as a junior Marine officer. He did not fail the test, but he knew he could do better. He ran often and far to overcome this. Eventually, he found CrossFit, but CrossFit was painful. Finding strength–as a senior Marine–restoked the fire of fitness while lessening the pain and stress of running and CrossFit.

Finally, Scott & Matt commiserate about their shared experience of being “exceptionally mediocre” and “painfully average” as athletes. 

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

Ep 3: Air Force, Space Force, & Pilots

Niki talks to Colin Slade, Air Force Captain, about physical requirements, physical training, and physical fitness tests for the Air Force, Space Force, air crews, and pilots. 

The demands for Airmen and Guardians differ greatly between jobs and from day-to-day. While people tend to think of pilots when they think about the Air Force, pilots represent a relatively small percentage of people who serve in the Air Force.

Pilots–especially fighter pilots–face extreme physical requirements from the speeds and demands of “pulling Gs.” The Air Force has created technology to help pilots meet those demands, but physical readiness can help the service member meet the demands.

There is a growing recognition that the “industrialize PT model” isn’t working, and many services are bringing in license physical trainers to help plan and lead physical training programs. 

And, what is the 1 MED change Colin would make to the Air Force PT program? Listen to find out!

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

Ep 4: The Army & Military Fitness Challenges

What kind of training are we talking about? ARMY TRAINING, SIR!

Niki talks to Nikki Burman, Barbell Logic’s Director of Client Experience, and Jerett Burman, Military Police Major in the United States Army National Guard, about the physical demands of the Army and the challenges of staying fit–at home and while deployed throughout the world. 

Jobs in the Army–as with all services–put different physical demands on service members, but almost all Soldiers will have to pick things up and carry heavy loads, and, of course, all Soldiers must prepare for the realities of combat, including “putting things in certain places.” 

Nikki & Jerett share the experience of seeing a cultural shift occur in fitness centers and gyms on Army posts. For a time, Jerett served in Kansas, and from the time he arrived to the time he left, both Jerett and Nikki saw more people training with barbells, as the realities of the new Army Combat Fitness Test, and the Army’s new fitness program, changed how Soldiers had to prepare for not only the test but also how they improved combat readiness.

One common they see is Soldiers misunderstanding programming, so–without guidance–many Soldiers go SUPER HEAVY immediately, leaving little to no room for progress. Furthermore, the spirit of competition creates an urge to immediately beat the person next to them, when the more intelligent method would be to add weight over time. 

Niki asks Nikki & Jerett how they would change Army PT, and they give their answer. They would incorporate the big compound lifts–the squat, deadlift, bench press, and press, along with some other supplemental and accessory lifts–and prioritize shorter sprints and intervals over longer, slower runs. 

The other consideration, however, is the need to perform event after event. To some degree this is endurance, but it may be better be called stamina. The need to go from event to event and perform, and then, potentially, perform a watch or a desk job while sleep deprived. It’s not so much the same things as continuing to run during a marathon, but the ability to keep going despite the sleep deprivation, food deprivation, aches and pains, and other growing fatigue and exhaustion. 

Often times, Soldiers can train better and more consistently when they are deployed, though that is not the case in more expeditionary situations–where Soldiers and units cannot return to bases with gyms. 

“You’re either getting better or getting worse, there is no staying the same.”

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

Ep 5: Navy & Fitness On a Boat

We’re on a boat! Niki Sims talks to CJ Gotcher and Andrew Jackson–Barbell Logic staff coaches, full-time employees, and Navy Veterans–about their experience with the Navy and the physical demands of the Navy, including how you squeeze through tight spaces. 

The Navy–and any organization that involves service on the water or out at sea, such as the Coast Guard–puts some unique demands and challenges for its service members. Sailors have to train while serving on a ship at sea and train while preparing for deployments on land. 

Living accommodations on a ship are jam-packed, and for many Sailors the challenges are not carrying heavy loads for long distances, but the combined stress of sleep deprivation, long periods of time standing, and navigating a ship. 

The initial tests to enter the Navy or Naval Academy include medical requirements, evaluated with a physical, and events that generally aren’t tested again and bear little relation to everyday physical demands of a Sailor: duck walks, ball throws, and broad jumps.

Things going wrong in the Navy looks a little different than it does for the Army or Marines. A major concern–the thing all Sailors must be able to quickly combat–is a fire on the ship and flooding of the ship, such as if a missile hit a ship. 

The physical culture in the Navy really different from ship to ship, and even on a ship the culture can change dramatically with a different commanding officer. Generally, however, it was expected that Sailors needed to not fail and not be borderline. Expectations for officers were higher. 

CJ, Andrew, and Niki discuss the point of the physical readiness test in the Navy–and really in the military at large. Ultimately, it’s a screening tool. It serves to screen out Sailors and service members who are utterly unprepared for the physical demands of the job. 

One aspect they talk about that seemed to help with preparing for not just fitness but combat readiness and proficiency was thinking of the general purpose–combat readiness–versus loading tasks onto people. See the forest, not the trees, so to speak. 

CJ also let’s out some pretty good ones: “let’s not forget pilots” & “carriers are bougie,” and “BLOC Busters.”

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

Ep 6: The Marines & Ground Forces

Matt talks to Marine Colonel Scott Conway about the physical demands of the United States Marine Corps and ground forces in general–those service members whose fight on land.

The Marine Corps have a philosophy–and way of training Marines–that involves the idea that every Marine is a Rifleman. Every service has a similar concept–when things go wrong, everyone must be able to react competently, regardless of their primary job in the military and their particular branch of service. 

Strength decreases rates of injury and benefits other physical attributes. Clearly, Soldiers, Marines, Special Operations Forces, and all ground forces need conditioning. A greater emphasis on strength, however, paired with conditioning–being “fit and strong”–would most benefit ground forces, preparing them for the rigors of combat and improving their readiness. 

Some misconceptions about strength training and aerobic endurance persist, despite evidence to the contrary. Strength training can build camaraderie while also providing the appropriate amount of stress for each service member. 

If service members run together in formation, the pace can only be as fast as the slowest person can run. If, however, a group of service members train together they can adjust the weights while building esprit de corps through shared hardship.

A key point of the podcast is when Matt asks Scott about what he would do differently for his physical readiness if he could go back to when he first started his career. Not only would he include strength training, he would have consulted a coach to help with form and programming. This, of course, comes from someone with a history of marathons and triathlons, who also dabbled in CrossFit.

Strength training not only benefited his physical performance, but limited everyday aches and pains and helped reduce overuse injuries that had plagued him. 

Really, Colonel Conway’s advice flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Strength training is healthy, not deleterious, to your joint. Strength training doesn’t make you too big or bulky or lessen your athleticism, but–with proper nutrition and conditioning–facilitates improved conditioning and aerobic endurance performance. 

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

Ep 7: Military Fitness Culture

What the lifetime fitness arc of service member look like? How can the military shifts its physical readiness training to better prepare for the demands of combat? Matt explores these topics with Colin Slade.

The first hurdle any service member must overcome is the basic requirements to enter: which include bodyweight & bodyfat, medical, and some basic physical fitness levels. Following entry, however, Colin discusses how the military really fails to develop its members fitness.

Readiness is key. Readiness is preparedness for combat–however that looks for the different services and the different jobs and roles and ranks in each service, including the unexpected. 

Even for members who sit at a computer–who can do their job without leaving the United States–physical fitness enables these people to do their job better mentally and prevent injuries from limiting time on the job. 

So, how do we change the culture? Individual service members certainly need to take ownership of their own physical preparedness, those around them, and–for leaders–those under their leadership and potentially command. 

At a larger level, the military needs to acknowledge it does not have the subject matter expertise, that the expertise is found outside the military, and that experts–such as the coaches of Barbell Logic–can provide better programming to prepare for combat and improve military readiness. 

The views expressed do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or the US government.

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