Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fat questions

Seidel asked some valid questions re: my weight loss post. I'll answer them here.

I was just checking through your blog and came across a random photo of Bekele (the 'weak' little long distance runner).

I just wanted to point out a few things and ask a few questions.

1) While Kimbo Slice is probably a better fit for most types of combat I am guessing that Bekele would actually be an excellent soldier physically. Not only can he run 5minute miles for probably around 40miles at a time (really) , but he spends ~3-4hours/week lifting weights and is extremely strong. I don't know his exact numbers, but I can say that I know several far inferior long distance runners who weigh 130-150 and can bench 180-200lbs.

What kind of strength do you think is most important in combat? In your experience do you find a certain type of physique is most useful?

2) 6-0 194lbs is not a long distance runner's build. Many people like to think they are 'strongly built' but they are honestly just fat. Someone who is 6-0 200lbs with 25% body fat would be stronger, have better endurance etc if they lost 40lbs and got down to 160lbs with 5% body fat and the same muscle mass.

Do you find many soldiers have body fat %s above 15% or so? What do you think of this?

3) I am curious about the kind of fitness routine soldiers typically follow, what kind of stuff do you guys do?

  • Yes, most soldiers are above 15% body fat.
  • In combat, stress burns fat. Fat stores water and helps insulate organs against heat and cold.
  • Fat is what the body converts to energy when food becomes scarce (Bastogne), or when the body can't keep food down--like when fighting dysentery.
  • I've never had to run one mile in combat, let alone 40. Sprints are often useful in combat, and we try to keep those to 3-5 seconds in length.
  • Ever seen a guy who is 130# try to carry 85 pounds of gear? They tend to drop from exhaustion in about an hour.
  • A 130 pound encumbered soldier wrestles with 130 pound unencumbered insurgent. Insurgent wins, usually. Hilarity does not ensue.
  • Fat has another great quality: it keeps you warm in harsh environs.
  • I give a tinker's damn what someone can bench--it's likely the WORST measure of fitness you can imagine.
  • The Army has revamped its physical fitness regimen to include a lot more core strength and conditioning vs just distance running.
  • 194 is the limit of my "allowable" weight. The target for someone my height is around 175-180. At that weight, I find myself constantly tired and hungry.
  • I am not built like a long distance runner, but can run long distances. Doesn't mean it makes any sense to.
  • Endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph, doesn't matter to me if the guy is a good soldier. Best tank driver I ever had was near-obese. Best loader I ever had was skinny as a rail. Soldiering is in the six inches between the sternum and the spine, in the heart.
  • Fat people are harder to kidnap.
Being built like you grew up on the Serengeti being chased by lions on your way to school doesn't do any favors for you when wearing a uniform. Being able to physically dominate your adversary, without needing a gun to do so, is critical. Hand to hand combat happens. When it's time to sink a bayonet somewhere between someone else's second and third rib, the sight of you charging at them, screaming with rage, should cause them to lose control of bladder and bowels. That doesn't happen if you are a svelte 140.


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