Rehab, Physical Training & Diet: A Personal Testimony

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    • #83635

        I thought it might be useful to put down some experiences, thoughts, mistakes and realizations that I have been through in the last couple of years. We all need to work harder to gain and maintain our tactical readiness and I hope that these experiences of mine will help you, even if the exact circumstances are not mirrored.


        I had spinal fusion surgery in August 2016 (lower back L5 / S1). This was as a result of a parachute landing fall. As an active person and tactical trainer, this was almost show stopping. I had expected to be in a three-month to fusion / recovery situation and had planned for additional coverage for classes running during that period. If anyone recalls at the time, I was there with a walking stick and I flew Chris in from WA to run classes with Scott. For whatever reason, I was not ultimately declared fused until 1.5 years later. I went through a long period restricted to lifting 5lbs only, then I went to 20lbs. I could walk, but for a number of months was wearing a very restrictive surgical back brace. Thus, my core and abs were totally shot.  The long recovery time almost destroyed the business, if you knew the amount of lifting and physical work that is involved in the preparation and conduct of each class. As time progressed, I had Tommy and John come out and literally lift targets for me at class. That was a hard one, having to stand by and watch people lift things for me!

        The result of this was that my physical fitness, my core and lifting ability, were destroyed through restrictions and inactivity. For his own reasons, the surgeon refused to have me do any physical therapy. I understood his reason for the spine to fuse i.e. leave it alone to fuse, but I am only now reaping the repercussions of never having done any kind of physical therapy even after the spine was declared fused. Be aware that the live fire demo Max Talk videos that I have made recently, were done after the spine was fused, but still while I was in poor shape, overweight, and lacking in proper fitness training.

        Physical Training:

        As time went on and restrictions began to be lifted, I was allowed to do more. Although the spine was heading towards being fully fused, the purpose was not to move it too much or to do anything to pull out or disrupt the hardware in my back. It is amazing what will affect your lower back. Usually anything that has any sort of moment arm out from the body, will send that pain right down to the surgery site.

        I started by walking, then progressing to the stepper. Bizarrely, the recovery from the back has been overlaid with a knee injury that came on while walking DOWN hills at the VTC in my plate carrier and battle belt with the SF teams. I have no rhyme or reason for that, other than it just came on after years of abuse running down mountains with rucks on. When I was cleared to 20lbs, I started to do exercises that I figured would not affect my back. So, hanging pull-ups and dips etc. Whether they did or did not affect the back, they did not cause pain, and the hardware remains in place with no pull-outs from the screws. But it took me 1.5 years to fuse, not the three moths the surgeon told me, so go figure.

        Once I was cleared, I hit the gym with a vengeance. But not in the right way. I was still nervous of my back (see above about no physical therapy) so I was self-restricted to the machines in the gym, no free weights or cables. I never trained legs, other than on the stepper. I only recently started to do crunches after realizing that my abs were totally shot. And they were: totally shot. I was basically doing two types of weight session: heavy push day and heavy pull day, but secure on the machines so not involving any kind of balance or core stability work. This was usually on a Monday and Tuesday. On the days I have class, I usually head up to the VTC on Wednesday, so that cuts out any gym work for the rest of the week. But when home for the week, I had nothing to do but go back on Thursday and Friday and repeat the same training, which meant I was hitting push and pull heavy twice in one week, which meant over-training.

        Recently, I have found a hard realization but also a solution for the future. I have been to two sessions now with personal trainers at a gym running sessions called ‘explosive performance.’ What this effectively is is rehab/ flexibility/ strength / core work all rolled into one. It is basically athlete training / injury prevention. I trained the first two sessions and between them was following the exercises they gave me. I first approached the trainer after seeing the sessions happening in the gym and seeking advice about how to get back into leg training and rehab the knee. They do nothing specifically for the knee, but everything around it, which is healing the knee. What I mean by that, is that I was absolutely humiliated, rolling around on the green area in the gym, realizing that my core and legs were shot. This is from the same guy who walked with ease from the team cabin all the way up to the ridge wearing my full belt and plate carrier with ease at CLC a couple of weeks ago, to join the squad at the ORP. Or so I thought.

        I realized after a few short stretches and basic exercises on the mats that my hamstrings, core etc were just rubble. There is hope though, because I can already feel myself getting better and coming back. But in all my career I have never actually done this sort of training. This is scientific athlete training, not running over mountains with rucks! The thing about it is though, it makes you feel absolutely humiliated and destroys you in the moment, but it feels amazing. I have already started to break out my normal weights routine into the cable area, still not so much the free weights, but adding cable exercises that use the core as well as the push / pull. Thing is, there is something about this that just activates you, and makes you feel amazing. Maybe just the endorphin rush! So it is hard to describe the benefits, but I cannot recommend  it enough.

        Yesterday, he had me doing ‘Turkish get-ups’ as one exercise with the kettle bell. Basically from laying on your back holding the kettle-bell up in the air, to standing, and back down, all while holding the weight above you. By the third set he had me at 26 lbs. He told me that the male standard is 56 lbs. Oops. Many goals to get to!

        Why might this be relevant to you? I have no idea who you are reading this, but I urge to you take a good look at your overall fitness and flexibility / core strength. You may, like me, be a little overweight and think you are doing fine, but the chances are, you may well not be, and you could benefit from this type of program. You don’t even need to sped money on a personal trainer, there are books about core / bodyweight type exercises. You can also get advice and tips from JohnnyMac on the MVT Forum (which is free to join), who often writes about this type exercise, and until now, even I had not idea where he was really coming from. This is really going to help in a real way to injury-proof your body and make you a better, more resilient and more effective tactical athlete.


        This is where the fighting begins. Diets are like religion or politics and everybody has one and all the data and examples to back it up. I had put on a significant gut after my time without proper exercising and I have been working on it for several months now and the gut is dwindling.

        What have I been doing?

        Absolutely no special diet at all. All I do is restrict carbs and eat normally. I don’t eat the processed crap and don’t drink sodas. I took to getting unsweet tea anywhere where I might have got a soda / diet soda before. If I end up getting fast food with the kids, I’ll just eat a burger, unsweet tea, and leave the fries alone. Wendy’s Baconator? I’ve eaten a few of those on the way home from the gym, great stuff!

        It is really just about moderation and not eating the portions / processed sugary crap that is pushed on us nowadays. When I started the diet I was really cutting the carbs and even pushing a little towards ‘keto’ etc, but never fully there as my diet is not organized enough for that. But that left me drained, especially after doing training, and does not give you enough to recover. I was going through exhaustion crashes. Bottom line is you need to cut deep into the carbs to get the diet going, but then you need to ease off and just keep it reasonable.

        My opinion is that you need carbs, as well as protein and fat, to be healthy. You need more for higher activity levels. Check an arctic ration calorie content for that! Please don’t come a me with random stuff such as Inuits or cannibals or whatever. I am a western white male, this is how I roll! What I actually do day to day is eat breakfast lunch and dinner in moderation, with a protein shake mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Cut down on the beer / alcohol.

        I used to cut the carbs pretty hard, so for example would eat scrambled eggs for breakfast with no bread. Recently, I have added a nice piece of whole wheat toast back into the equation. I feel better. I might have gone to Chik-fil-a for lunch and literally just eaten chicken. Now I will get a chicken burger with bun and eat that. I feel better and I am not putting weight back on. I will eat the recommended fist-sized portion of rice or carbs with dinner. I am not putting weight on and I feel better.

        I personally think a lot of the diets out there are not sensible and probably not safe. I think the primary benefit of these diets is lifestyle change so that when people go on them, they are in effect cutting calories and probably also making a conscious decision to do exercise. And then they are amazed that they lose weight and will be utterly religious in their defense of the specific diet. If it works for you, fine, but be careful in the long run. Keto? Not sold. Also seen plenty of research where it is not healthy / safe, but I’m sure you have your counter-research and that guy who can run all day for seven days at a time eating nothing but a cube of lard…..! Vegan / vegetarian? Get the hell out of here! Carnivore? Yummy, but not sold. And anyway, how spoiled is the very idea of a first-world ‘steak at every meal’ carnivore diet, and how sustainable is that? What about a survival situation? How often did cavemen eat meat? Maybe once a month when they could catch it!

        The main  thing is that you will not lose weight with exercise alone, you have to work the diet. The way to work the diet involves a little self-control, but it does not have to be torture. Just watch what you are putting down your neck, and restrict the calories appropriate to your workload.

        I hope these notes are helpful to you, and I wish you well on your journey towards being the best tactical protector, the best Warrior Citizen, you can be.

      • #83636

          Thanks for sharing Max! This is great information. PT and diet is constant struggle.

        • #83637

            Good write-up.

            Word on joint stabilizers – active and passive.

            Passive stabilizers are things like ligaments and the joint capsule itself. The ligaments are what gets injured with a sprain.

            Active stabilizers are the surrounding muscles. For example re a knee, while standing, the ligaments keep everything in alignment while the muscles (quads) provide the engine. The muscles are whats injured with a strain.

            So why know the difference?? Just as a low-hp (horsepower) struggles to lift a heavier weight, an injured or poorly developed muscle (atrophy) will struggle to lift a body. While we can’t rebuild a ligament (outside surgery, in general), we can affect the active stabilizers…… It is the well-developed strong muscles that help protect a joint, think of a stumble walking versus carrying a heavier load. If that heavy weight overloads the muscles, the ligaments are at risk and can be injured, sometimes severely (think ACL tear) or even catastrophically.

            Train smart.

          • #83638

              Very much appreciate the hard work and honesty. MVT is a testament to your perseverance. I will do my best to apply some of these hard lessons. :good:

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            • #83639

                Great info and thanks for sharing. PT and diet is a struggle and a balance……some days I get it right, other days I don’t…I just try to learn from my mistakes and keep moving.

              • #83640

                  You can also get advice and tips from JohnnyMac

                  Like Max said, I’m always willing to help you out. Feel free to start a post in the fitness section if you have any questions, or if you aren’t comfortable, send me a PM. If I think it might be valuable to many people, I can turn it into a post and leave you anonymous.

                  ‘Turkish get-ups’

                  We were talking about this over the weekend. These can also be performed with a heavy sandbag too! You start with the sandbag running along your shoulder/chest and just keep it on your shoulder the whole time, doing a pseudo-push jerk to switch shoulders while standing.

                  Photographic proof I wasn’t bullshitting my sandbag’s weight either:

                • #83641

                  • #83642

                      NICE!! If only that was available on a zip up hoodie!

                    • #83643

                        Just got back into working out due to torn rotator cuff, now have a divorce on hand. This sucks ass. Added more bourbon to the diet because of it. 6 deployments and I feel like a fat ass. I agree with this. So much so I doing 30 pound tucking for fun starting this weekend. WTF, have not done that since I was at Bragg.

                      • #83644

                          Well done Max! You’re inspiring in more ways than you know.

                          My first classes with MVT were when you were using that stick and wearing that brace. You could see the frustration in your face every time you wanted to do something and then realized you couldn’t. I’m glad things are on an upward trend for your health and fitness. We need MVT to ensure our Warrior Mindset stays strong and true.

                          I’d like to share my story as well.

                          I’ve never had any serious injuries or surgeries to deal with but was ( and am still technically ) overweight, at best, and extremely obese, at worst, for my entire adult life. But after finding MVT and then later reading your excellent post The Warrior Mindset I realized it was time to make a change.

                          I got myself moving, I came to training for RS/CTT Oct 2016 even though I feared being ridiculed for being the “fat prepper guy.” I remember after the final assault of the weekend Max looked at me and as serious as could be, asked if I was “ok.” How embarrassing. I know it wasn’t what Max intended but it stung. I left training invigorated from the instruction and camaraderie but somewhat demoralized due to my lack of physical fitness and body composition. I had started slowly making progress at home in my basement “gym” powerlifting, which helped immensely with that first training session at MVT but it still wasn’t enough. I was lifting weights and trying to improve eating habits but things were still up and down, mostly up on the scale.

                          In June of 2017 I participated in the Father’s Day FOF at 317lbs!!! The heaviest I have ever weighed in my life. And I don’t think it was from gaining muscle powerlifting. I felt disgusting. My belly oozed out from under my plate carrier and I sounded like a freight train huffing and puffing during maneuvers. It was mentally demoralizing watching guys around me moving over the MVT hills like elves in Lord of the Rings and feeling as though I was stuck in mud. I was so hindered by my lack of physical fitness Johnnymac was able to walk up directly behind me and eliminate me during one iteration. For fuck’s sake, I wanted to cry! Again I left training feeling built up by those with positive attitudes and words of encouragement but come on, I was the “fat prepper guy.”

                          I went to my doctor completely exasperated with myself and my attempts to improve my weight. I was beginning to display prehypertension and I refuse to use pharmaceutical drugs to correct something that I should be able to improve with diet and physical activity. I find that weak and completely contradictory to the Warrior Mindset. My doctor wrote “5:2 Fast Diet” on a prescription slip and handed it to me. His words of wisdom to me were, and my words of wisdom to you are, look this up and try it for 4 weeks and we’ll talk then. It’s not hard to implement but it is difficult to mentally adjust. The willpower and mental toughness I’ve gained from following this eating protocol (it’s not diet a diet, you eat what you want) has changed and saved my life. As Max pointed out diet is often a touchy subject but for an OBESE or overweight person there is only one true answer. STOP EATING SO MUCH FATTY!!! I’m not trying to fat shame but, again, as a guy who has been obese most of his 38 years on Earth, a certain amount of fat shaming (mostly internal dialogue) helped me get my life together. This type of intermittent fasting isn’t new or magical even though a resurgence and mainstream recognition of IF makes it seem so. It’s the simplest “diet” I’ve ever tried. You literally don’t do anything except tough it out and drink lots of water. Lots.

                          I went through the 2017 holiday season and started 5:2 January 2, 2018. 15lbs melted away by the end of January! It was tough but I just spent the hardest moments of stomach growling hunger looking at, or thinking, about my 2 sons, my beautiful wife, and the warrior mindset. I want to be their protector always and forever. I have to admit as well, Jocko Willink’s idea of DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM also played a large role in my mindset and my ability to stay on the course.

                          So with my warrior mindset and my first real success taming my eating habits I felt like I needed to up my physical training from just a barbell. I had read about Pavel Tsatsouline and Strongfirst (you were right George, Pavel started RKC first), but hadn’t ever thought kettlebells were for me. What a shame it took so long. Dare I say I’ve found my calling. The Strongfirst Principles and methodology for training (not exercising) just clicked. I read Simple and Sinister and started with a 25lb kettlebell, just like Max. Nothing but alternating S S swings and get-ups and barbell lifting every other morning. Then I bought a $100 Feierdun climbing machine from Amazon, which I’m surprised I didn’t break in half when I was heavier, to get some Tabata training in after KB and BB sessions. The climber is still working for me. I wish I could afford a Versaclimber but my little Chinese made piece of metal is still going just fine. I have bent the footholds though.

                          More fat melted away. 8lbs in February. 8lbs in March. 8lbs in April. 11lbs in May. 6lbs in June.

                          I was fast approaching CQBC in late June of 2018 and was pumped to show my much thinner and way more handsome face at MVT. It was the biggest ego boost ever when George (we had trained in RS/CCT together) said to me, “Hey, haven’t you lost like a LOT of weight!” Johnnymac didn’t even recognize me. Fuck yeah!!! I left that training weekend more pumped about my mind, body, and spirit then ever before.

                          Side Note – CQBC is a must take course ( Ineed to get to it again) and if you haven’t taken it yet you’re wrong and you need to fix yourself or you can “JUST FUCKING QUIT!”.

                          Weight loss slowed down during July and August (vacations and traveling) but I didn’t let that slow me down. I actually was in such a great place mentally I was able to say, “fuck that” and got my ass moving in a higher gear. I took my 24kg kettlebell with me to Maine. What a nerd!

                          Today I am proud to say that I am down 83lbs since January and am quickly making progress towards one of my longterm goals of losing 100lbs. I weighed in this morning (which I do daily and can explain why later if you really care) at 225lbs. Again, dare I scream “FUCK YEAH!”

                          I’ve crushed every goal I have set both dietary and in physical training over the past year. My current weight goal is 200lbs with a long term goal of 180lbs.

                          Another Side Note – I’m thinking of enlisting in the WV ANG in Martinsburg, hence the 180lb goal, and my 39th bday is July 6 so the clock is ticking to be able to make age/weight/height requirements. Any feedback is appreciated about this idea from current and former soldiers.

                          I’ve achieved the Simple goal of S S and am currently saving money to buy a 32kg kettlebell to work towards the Sinister goal. I pulled back on most of my barbell training but have recently finished a Daily Dose of Deadlift program designed by a Strongfirst instructor and lifted a new PR this morning of 315lbs. My goal is 2x bodyweight. I’m thinking I may begin to rotate in more bodyweight training and other barbell movements as well to help with meeting my ultimate physical fitness goal, 1 pull-up. I’ve never done a pull-up in my life. And I plan to before my 40th birthday!

                          I’m also very interested in becoming a Strongfirst Kettlebell Instructor and will begin training for that moving towards a certification in Philly in June. One hugely, unexpected change in my outlook on life and physical fitness is this fire in my much smaller belly to help others who are paralyzed by their obesity. I’m studying to become a personal trainer and I want to focus on using kettlebell and bodyweight training to help people get stronger and leaner and I hope to instill in them the same Warrior Mindset that Max instilled in me.

                          God bless and Praise Jesus!!!

                        • #83645

                            Nice job! Thats a hell of an accomplishment. Thanks for sharing. :good:

                          • #83646

                              WELL DONE!!

                              BTW – what most perceive as hunger is actually thirst, we just use the wrong ingredient. When you get the “hunger pang”, drink water. (Make sure you talk with your doctor first, especially those with heart or kidney disease).

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