In a Gym or At Home, Start to Move

Updated: July 31, 2015


I recently lost my two older brothers who passed away primarily due to a heart weakened condition and the other who had ongoing cancer related complications. I have to admit, as the younger brother, this scared the crap out of me.  After my last brother passed, and while I have been trying to work out daily, I suddenly had this sense of urgency after 13 years of relative physical inactivity. Suddenly my 25 year plan seemed to hopelessly dwindle to a 5 year plan because I thought that potentially was all I had.  Then it dawned on me that I really just needed to start to move more and for me that meant more.  Set a goal and complete that goal and set it realistically so you will not feel like you failed.

My immediate thoughts were as follows:

  1. I refuse to deny my past! A real reassessment of my life.  You all should try this.  For me as a combat veteran, I have had ongoing feelings of guilt as it relates to collateral damage. I have seen kids that have died or were already dead due to some aspect of combat or combat related activities. In April of 03’ my own son was murdered. When this reality came crashing down, the guilt I felt, as if there had been a karma effect, punishing me for my own past, I even began to feel shame for my past accomplishments. This began to drive me into the pits of depression. After years of anger management, therapy for combat related PTSD and more, I slowly began to regain some parts of the man I used to be when I was running and gunning. I was a Green Beret, combat diver, military freefall certified soldier, combat veteran with years of some of the finest martial arts training on earth. I had let this go and even stopped working out.  It seemed for years I was just going through the mundane steps of surviving as a civilian. I was also blessed with another son who is an awesome 16 year old today. God only knows where I would be today without my son’s shining light, keeping me to live a more responsible way of living.  As they say, bringing home the bacon but more than this as I need to be a presence in his life as an older father. The truth is for these years, my life has been on cruise control, not living the dream. The never quit attitude from my Special Operations and Martial Arts background coupled with a now 16 year old son has probably kept my head above water. My past physical nature and conditioning may be the only reason I am still alive, at least physically.
  2. I should be proud of my past accomplishments! We should all be proud of our past accomplishments and use them as a stepping stone to better health, maintaining that “Never Quit” attitude.
  3. I have been following in my brothers footsteps! I followed them into the military and joined the Green Beret, even into the same war zones. I also use to do all the same drinking and bar room brawling, fighting all the time. I am thankful I do not smoke as both of them were heavy smokers and drinkers, like my parents, until the end. I don’t bar room brawl anymore, but don’t get me wrong, I can still hold my own…
  4. Death is coming to all of us, and I refuse to go down easy, without a fight!

With these initial thoughts and more, I decided to first get a checkup, so I went to the doctor’s office and began the process. After blood test, x-rays, EKG’s, upper and lower GI’s etc. the doctors told me I was as healthy as anyone they have seen at least 20 years younger than me. We had many long discussions about cancers being genetic, and in some cases they are, but not in my family’s cases. I also learned, we can control certain aspects of how we may prolong our lives. It is very simple; eat healthy, don’t over eat, and workout a little almost every day. Wow, how simple is that. So what has been holding me back, ME!  I am sure that many of you can identify with this.  The, I will start tomorrow syndrome.

Like so many combat veterans and even civilians that have been exposed to traumatic events such as rapes, muggings, death of close family members and more, experiencing PTSD and depression and that feeling of having no way out: I’m here to tell you there is a way out, and it is simple! Eat better, don’t over eat, no smoking and workout. Even if you struggle with the eating, smoking and drinking, working out can be a great deterrent to doing those things that are contrary to your life long plan.

Look, no one really wants to die. I mean, even if you are not scared of death, I know, if you are faced with the prospect or unexpected events that puts you near death, you are really just not ready to go! Even when I was at the height of my PTSD and not wanting to leave my man-cave, I would be happy there as long as I wasn’t thinking about dying tomorrow or anytime in the near future. Listen, one day we are all going to die, so why not stretch it out and live longer? Well I have already told you the best way, and you can start, literally with about a 20 minute daily workout routine.

You can take a brisk walk and /or do the old school military daily dozen. Hit a heavy bag (my favorite) not too expensive to buy but need some space somewhere, run/jog go to a gym or use those elastic exercise bands (a very inexpensive way to exercise all body parts and you can use it in the house or on the road), coupled with a few push-ups, planks, knee bends or squats, sit-ups, pull-ups, jump rope or running in place or just a few knee raises and waist rotations. This seems simple, right? Well it is. Just take your 10 or 12 favorite exercises and perform between 12 & 20, four count repetitions. I personally do 1 count repetitions, but I normally attempt to perform 1 repetition per second for one minute for each exercise. At least this is my goal. If I can’t maintain the 1 sec repetitions, I at least go all out for 1 minute per exercise, then I rest for 10 to 30 seconds and start the next exercise. By keeping it this simple, you can get your heart rate up, induce a little fat burning and strengthen your ligaments and tendons. It is possible to also build muscles.

I would suggest getting a checkup before starting exercises if you have been laying off for a while. Also you should drink water just prior to working out and turn your liver into a fat burning machine. This is just a simple guideline guys and not cast in concrete. Unless you are in a goal setting martial arts or self-defense program, you don’t need a lot of supplements, and if you use supplements, try to avoid those not FDA approved and many are not because they are not regulated by the FDA.  Research and ask you physician prior to taking any supplement as it may cause a reaction with any medications you may be already taking.  Also avoid as much proceed foods as possible.  Read labels and for the men, if your wife or significant other can, so can you.  Avoid MSG, sodium, high sugars, additives and look at the fat content.  You would be surprised comparing labels that there are additives that don’t need to be there.

So the 3 things you need are Cardio Training; get your heart rate up for a sustained period.  Start with 5 minutes and build from there; jog, brisk walk, jump rope, small trampoline.  Resistance Training which builds muscle and replaces fat; so weights, bands, even a sack of potatoes if you can’t buy bands; lift, pull develop a program.  Finally, Flexibility Training built into your daily training or workout routine; stretch, bend, plank, it all works.

Bottom line.  Start to move.  Set a goal. It can be 5 minutes or 1 hour but set a realistic goal to get started.  Then complete the goal.  If you are just getting started then maybe 5 minutes of one aspect is a great starting point.  Better to make it 10 minutes but the idea is to JUST START to get HEART HEALTHY!  Increase your goals and workout every day with a different task in mind.  You can build all of your areas one area at a time.   If you ache the next day then do something else that is not as stressful, but DON’T break the cycle!  NEVER QUIT!



James “Smokey” West