What The Army Taught Me About Working Out


Army working out

I feel the sergeant slide the ceramic plate into the back of my vest – I take a second and slide another plate into the velcro closed pocket on my chest.

My team is ready to rock. . .

We consist of my roommate who flunked the psych evaluation for sniper school, the 19 year old kid with scars on his forearms because he’s a cutter, our sergeant who was discharged from the Marines for a suicide attempt but the Army felt he was fit for duty, and the crazy guy who graduated law school and then enlisted in the Infantry and enjoyed Military Workouts.

Missed Workouts…

That last guy is me.

I take a full magazine from my load bearing vest and tap in on my kevlar helmet so all of the rounds are lined up pretty. I slap the magazine into my M-4, lock and load, and put the safety on.

My team members do the same. We’re all “hot” with live rounds as we enter the shoot house – a maze-like structure designed to simulate urban combat. We stack up “nut to butt” with weapons raised outside of the door to the first room in the shoot house.

On the sergeant’s command the first man in the stack, my roommate, kicks open the door and we all charge in guns blazing.


There’s the pop-pop-pop of the .556 ammo being discharged and the smell of gunpowder. Paper targets get punctured with jacketed bullets. We all yell “Clear!” one by one in our pre-designated sequence. We move to the next room. Wash, rinse, repeat.

We clear the final room and exit the shoot house. My teammates are high on adrenaline and exchanging high-fives and chants of glory.

I’m sitting on the ground eating a pound cake that I saved from an MRE. I’m not high on adrenaline. I’m not shaken up by the inherent risk of being in close quarters with four guys with live weapons who each have a legitimate claim at mental illness. It’s my final year in the Army and at this point I am detached. I have learned to let go of that which I cannot control.

It’s the classic Serenity Prayer from twelve step programs, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” The last thing I wanted at that point in my life was to be in a ten by twelve foot room with three other guys shooting live ammo; but at that point, I didn’t really have a choice. I had to let go. I had accepted that which I could not change.

Accepting what you cannot change can go a long way with your diet and training as well. Real life does get in the way.

If you have the misguided notion that you need to be in the gym for one hour per day everyday, but your job, your family, your LIFE does not permit such a training schedule – you have to let go.


We are all placed in situations where the dietary choices are less than ideal. In those situations you have to do the best that you can. And then let it go. I’m not saying to quit. I’m not saying to make excuses. I’m saying to accept the things that you truly cannot change. And to take control of the things that are within your grasp.

There are probably more things within your grasp than you realize. A little pre-planning can go a long way. Whether that’s scheduling your workout sessions in the early morning before the chaos of the day derails any chance of getting in some solid training, or cooking and packaging your meals for the entire week on Sunday – there are tactics that can minimize “the things you cannot change”.

A good test is to look yourself in the mirror and ask, “Am I doing the best that I can?”. If the honest answer is yes, let go of the guilt and accept the things you cannot change.

If the answer is no, make the necessary adjustments and keep moving towards your goal. Oh, and sleep with one eye open if you share a room with a guy who flunks the sniper school psych exam 😉

– Vic

What The Army Taught Me About Working Out
Article Name
What The Army Taught Me About Working Out
Missed Workouts, And What The Army Taught Me About Workint Out
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Gym Junkies
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  1. Sorry to be so pedantic, but military rifles use 5.56mm ammo (.223), not .556 which would amount to 14.1mm if it existed.

  2. Vic,
    This is probably one of my favorite posts that you’ve put up (and I’ve read them all!). Thanks as always. You’re getting my day started on an extremely positive note!

  3. A little piece of advice for anyone with less than ideal dietary choices. If there is much fat with your protein try the Anabolic Diet, and if its a mixed bag, try Intermittent Fasting. Most preferably Eat-Stop-Eat or Alternate Day Fasting.

    • I say try just about anything (within reason of course) for 30 days and then make a decision based on your results. I’ve heard good things about Intermittent Fasting but am unfamiliar with the Anabolic Diet.

  4. Awesome article Vic. You’re spot on when you say the best way to feeling good about yourself is when you know that you’re honestly doing the best you can, and some things are just out of your control. I 100% agree.

    Another positive with this attitude is it also forces you to actually give it your best before you say you can’t, at which point often times you’ll find that you really can succeed. 😉


  5. ” More things in our grasp than we realize” is a fantastic way to look at things. It’s positive without being at all judgmental. Planning and thinking ahead really go a long way in attaining things than we’d like to consider. This was a great article- humorous, honest and positive. thanks so much@Rosalie

  6. I always enjoy your articles Vic. I know in my family we have taken several to heart and revisit them regularly. “Honor the Trailblazers” is especially good. We have it taped to the bathroom mirror as a reminder every day.

    This article also reminds me of the idea of managing your weaknesses and playing to your strengths. See you later.

  7. Vic, great article a lot of great information. Thanks for your service to this great country of ours.

    I enjoy following your updates on twitter

  8. I love that 12 step program prayer. Only I didn’t know that that’s where it came from. I struggle with letting go of the things that I have no control over everyday. I think I struggle with it because my fear of regret and my fear of not giving 100% effort get misconstrued at times. Getting my workout in before the chaos of the day starts is the only way I can get it in. The great thing about it is, it gets me mentally, physically and spiritually prepared for the challenges of the day. Great post!


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