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SKYBIRD: Dale Brown’s Ops Report
June 2002
Copyright © 2002, HDM Inc.

CCRR: Combat Crew Rest and Recuperation: Exercise Part Three

So what’s my exercise regimen? What do I do?

Because I’m packing on a bunch more blubber than I want, my primary emphasis is on fat-reduction. Notice I didn’t say “weight loss.” Don’t let the scales define “fitness” for you--do you want to be fit and healthy, or do you want to weigh a certain amount? If I could drop down to 15% body fat or less, I wouldn’t mind weighing the same or even more than I do now--in fact, I’m sure I’d be real pleased with the results. I’m sure my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels would be in the green as well. Using skin-fold calipers is just as important as using a scale.

[IMAGE] Adipose tissue, or fat, is simply stored energy. The way to get rid of it is by burning more energy than you take in--we all know this. According to WebMD’s “Diet and Fitness Journal” (, I need roughly 2,500 calories a day to operate--if I take in more, I’ll gain weight; if I take in less, I’ll lose weight, and if the two are equal, I’ll stay the same. This is my basal metabolic rate, or BMR--the magic number. This is based on my age and my general average activity level, which would best be categorized as Sedentary. Inactive. Sloth-like.

Hey--my job is to sit on my butt and write. It is mentally, and definitely not physically, rigorous. The only time I really get worked up is typing those dear little words on the screen: THE END.

It takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat, so if I want to lose one pound a week, I need to balance my intake and exercise to equal a net intake of 2,000 calories at the end of the day.

I can do this!

Using the Diet and Fitness Journal, you can see right away how many calories you take in, how many calories you deplete during exercise, and what the bottom line is every day. The trick is to be honest and complete in filling out the journal. It’s like cheating in solitaire--the only person you’re hurting by not doing it right is yourself. Enter every single thing you put in your pie-hole, even if it doesn’t have calories, or even if you sneak it. You’d be surprised at how many calories you consume by taking just one or two nuts out of that dish in the living room every time you pass by it throughout the day.

Do I still need to exercise if I’m only taking in 2,000 calories a day? Probably not--I know I’ll still lose weight. The objective is not “weight loss,” remember, but “fat loss.” The objective is to get fit and healthy by losing excess fat, not simply losing weight. Put another way: we want to look good underneath once all the fat is trimmed off!

As it so happens, according to the Diet and Fitness Journal, one hour moderate weight-lifting (not power-lifting, but not doing wussie rubber-band resistance workouts either) is equal to one hour of briskly walking fields and hills, which I equate to my treadmill’s “hill profile” (which varies the incline in ever-increasing stages). So calorie-burning wise, I’m good to go either way--I’m still working towards my fat-loss objective by doing one or the other; I can alternate days and keep moving towards my objective.

All the experts and books tell you not to do strenuous weight lifting two or more days in a row. The idea behind weight lifting is to tear down muscle tissue and allow it to grow back--when it does, the body will try to compensate by making the muscle stronger. So weight lifting with breaks in between works.

What about the days in between? The “experts” are divided on this: some say do nothing, others say exercising different muscle groups is OK. Again, listen to your body. If you’re too pooped out after one day of lifting and one day of cardio to do another day of lifting, then do something about it: add in a day of complete rest, reduce the time or intensity of lifting or the treadmill, or some or all of the above. Experiment. What works one month may not work the next, or your schedule may dictate which are your rest days. Most importantly: listen to what your body is telling you, and act on it.

Cardiovascular training days are pretty brainless: I turn on The O’Reilly Factor or ESPN, set the treadmill for one hour, and go. My treadmill starts with a slow, easy zero incline warm-up for three to four minutes, then automatically, randomly varies the deck angle from zero up as high as twelve degrees. I start the speed at twenty minutes per mile and work my way up to fifteen or sixteen minutes per mile, so I usually do between 3.0 and 3.25 miles in an hour. The machine tells me I burn between 500 and 700 calories.

If I had to start over with a new machine, though, I’d go for an elliptical trainer--those machines you usually see at gyms that make it appear as if the user is running in mid-air. There’s no impact, and the upper body gets a slight workout too. It’s also a butt-kicker--fifteen to twenty minutes on an elliptical trainer is a good solid workout. An elliptical trainer burns 40% more calories than a hill-climbing treadmill, so I might even go for shorter periods.

But what I really love is weight training.

Of course, you can just march into any gym, sit down on a machine, work it around, figure out how it works, and go for it. Yield not to temptation. It is surprisingly easy and shockingly painful to screw up your muscles, joints, or even bones by using a machine the wrong way.

The best way to learn to use all that equipment in the gym or all the different exercises on your Bowflex: hire a trainer.

Yeah, I know: those folks are expensive. They get paid a lot of money to watch you sweat. But like any other sport, it pays to get some instruction. Most public gyms have someone on staff who can teach you some basics for free. My advice: ask around or go look on the bulletin board, cough up the money, and buy ten sessions at the gym you will use, or have a trainer come over to your house to demonstrate on your machines or dumbbell rack. It’ll be money well spent.

If you live in the Antarctic and simply can’t find a trainer, get some advice somewhere: buy a temporary membership for an experienced friend and take him or her along; go online; go to the library and find a book; something.

If you can’t do some preparation first, at least don’t pile on too much weight until you learn about the machine’s proper operation.

My trainer is Johnny Morris, a former Marine and an amateur bodybuilder (talk about motivation!). Johnny spends twelve hours a day in the gym--two hours on his own workout regimen--and he abhors boredom. So Johnny’s first big thing is variety. I worked with him for almost two months, three times a week, before we began repeating any exercises.

Johnny’s second big thing is stretching--not just before a workout, but especially afterwards. Stretching is just as important to any exercise as the actual lifting--it restores circulation and helps the muscle recover.

Lastly, Johnny is a stickler for proper form, even if it means giving up some weight--you use less weight but maintain proper form, and simply increase the repetitions until the muscle fails. Don’t think you can get a good workout with a teeny-tiny twenty-pound dumbbell? Try doing three or four sets of twenty-five reps instead of two or three sets of ten to twelve reps, and do them ultra-correctly--your muscles will feel just as tired, believe me.

I’ve worked out with other trainers in the past too. Debra Fishman is also a certified fitness instructor whose style is very much like Johnny’s--proper form, proper technique, and stretch, stretch, stretch. Her husband Stu is a former hockey and boxing coach and believes that boxing and jump-rope are the world’s best conditioning and cardio exercises--going an hour on a bag and then ten minutes on a jump-rope can replace an entire gym worth of weights.

Don’t believe it? Try putting on a pair of eight-ounce gloves and, while keeping both hands up at chin level, hit a punching bag once every five seconds for three minutes. Rest for sixty seconds, then do it again, all the time circling the bag, for thirty minutes. You’ll see how incredibly tired your arms and shoulders get (and remember, you’re not getting hit back!). It’ll give you a whole new appreciation for the sport of boxing!

Want to know more? Want to give me your opinions, thoughts, experiences? Write to me at I’ll share your thoughts and ideas with the other subscribers. Thanks!

Next time: All this talk of exercise making you hungry? Not so fast!

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