Outlook from CR

Ed note: This is a guest post by my good friend CR, it was his response to a letter.

You’re 46ish, yes?  How are you hold­ing up physically?

Yes, I think I’m 46. I’m kind of hes­i­tant to state an age any more, because I feel like I should start act­ing that age at some point, and that seems lim­it­ing. I like answer­ing with what­ev­er age I feel that I am for that day. Some­times like I’m 37, and some­times like I guess I’ll feel at 72.

That said, I’m see­ing guys absolute­ly crush it in their late 50’s and 60’s. Ron J (Ron-bo), Teton ranger skied last year at the World XC races. Ren­ny J is still going real­ly long and real­ly hard in the Tetons, and just went back to guid­ing for Exum and to ski patrolling at Jack­son Hole, after leav­ing both those pro­fes­sions for a career in the NPS, which he retired from.

My knees hurt some­times and my back gets tight. I had a shoul­der prob­lem ear­li­er this year, but found that if I just keep push­ing myself up to the point of pain, mak­ing myself do pushups, big arm swings with weights, and pullups, that the shoul­der total­ly loos­ened up and is becom­ing strong again.

I’m real­ly lik­ing Bar­leans Fish Oil, high dose Key Lime fla­vor. MR turned me on to it. I also think Glu­cosamine real­ly helps me.

What are you doing for conditioning?

When I got the dog I went away from CF. Now I basi­cal­ly just go out and try to cov­er ground. Either XC ski­ing, mtn run­ning, hik­ing, or work­ing out­side.  Over­seas, I’m row­ing, skip­ping rope, box jumps, lots of body weight stuff (pullups, pushups, squats) but try­ing to make it more fun and chal­leng­ing too. Jump­ing onto box­es with one foot and hav­ing to bal­ance one foot­ed while stand­ing up. Jump­ing onto box­es back­wards. Jump­ing longer dis­tances and land­ing on a box. KB swings where the bell has to do a rota­tion and be caught with the oth­er hand on every throw.

I guess I’m just tired of doing straight, bor­ing strength work. It’s so much more help­ful to have some kind of game to play or activ­i­ty that takes some coor­di­na­tion and skill. I was way into stand­ing on a bal­ance board and doing gob­let squats, or toss­ing a med ball, etc.

I’d also do a self made obsta­cle course, free run­ning thing with­in the com­pound. Climb­ing walls, jump­ing gaps, run­ning the tops of bar­ri­ers, etc. 30 or 40 min of that was good. Oth­er times I’d just run laps out­side, usu­al­ly a fast paced lap, fol­lowed by a recov­ery lap.

Start­ed play­ing ping pong again on this last trip and it was super help­ful for hand eye coor­di­na­tion and mushin stuff while under pres­sure. Also real­ly good to think through tac­tics while play­ing and allow the oth­er guy space to make mistakes.

Do you fol­low a pro­gram or are you doing a “sal­ad bar”?

I’m not fol­low­ing a pro­gram. I think pro­gram­ming (espe­cial­ly if set by oth­er peo­ple), can be great, because it forces you to work on your weakness.

If you are fol­low­ing a pro­gram, what is it?

Guys at work are doing GymJones, Mtn Ath­lete, Tac­ti­cal Ath­lete, CF, etc.

It’s inter­est­ing though, I’ll go into the mtns with MR and he’ll have been train­ing CF con­sis­tent­ly and I’ll have zero issues mov­ing with him, so I think my lifestyle is work­ing for me.

As you have aged, how has that effect­ed your capacities?

I don’t run as fast as I used to, and I’m not as strong as I used to be (as if I ever was), but my head is much stronger. I don’t get near­ly as excit­ed as I used to. I’ve seen so much more now and it’s much eas­i­er to use a past expe­ri­ence to make a good deci­sion for what I’m cur­rent­ly fac­ing. Whether that’s win­ning a race. Per­form­ing near my max heart rate. Back­ing out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Vio­lent­ly mov­ing into a situation.

Inter­est­ing to me how LAPD SWAT always has a num­ber of guys in their late 40’s to late 50’s. Those are the guys that every­one looks to when things get hairy. Those are the guys that typ­i­cal­ly stay icy calm when it gets excit­ing and steady the rest of the crew.

If your capac­i­ties have changed, how have you adapt­ed your train­ing to address those changes?

I have to play smarter now. Less emo­tion more brain, or as one friend described him­self “I’m less berserk­er now, more sniper.”

When I’m train­ing phys­i­cal­ly, I lis­ten to my body more. Yes, it’s still impor­tant to push, but also to rest and SUPER IMPORTANT not to injure your­self while train­ing. I can push through the pain, but if I get injured then I’m done working/training for a bit. NH, super ath­lete and prob­a­bly 10 years younger, is only work­ing out two days in a row before tak­ing a rest day and is still see­ing great growth and no injury.

As you have matured and gained more expe­ri­ence, do you feel that things have slowed down for you com­pared to a younger CR or when com­pared to younger operators?

I have less ner­vous ener­gy now. I can focus for longer peri­ods of time and see big­ger projects through to com­ple­tion. That ener­gy feels a bit slow­er, and not as excit­ed or agi­tat­ed, but it lets me get a lot more done. I’m real­ly focused on sys­tems now and try­ing to do things the same way. Always check­ing my weapons right before I get in the vehi­cle and mak­ing absolute­ly pos­i­tive there’s a round in the cham­ber, sights are on, lights are work­ing, sec­ondary is imme­di­ate­ly avail­able and not under a shirt, etc.

I sat up front in a helo the oth­er night and watched the pilots work­ing the cock­pit. Copi­lot had this real­ly inter­est­ing way of point­ing his hand at each gauge that he was eval­u­at­ing. It was almost as if his hand would help him hold his atten­tion on that gauge until he was sure that he had looked and eval­u­at­ed what the gauge was telling him, then he would move his hand, and point at the next gauge and eval­u­ate that infor­ma­tion. Slow and method­i­cal, but not miss­ing any­thing, and not just quick­ly look­ing for a gauge in the red.

I feel that going on patrol, whether in a cop car or in Bagh­dad, is sim­i­lar and that going through your gear and mak­ing sure every­thing is just how you want it, before the fight starts, is HUGELY help­ful. Pay­ing atten­tion to those lit­tle details and know­ing that every­thing is right in your world real­ly helps when it turns to shit. Know­ing that your radio is on the right freq. Hav­ing ZERO doubt that your weapon is loaded. Know­ing that you have med gear with you. Know­ing that you’ve trained and that you have a plan. I real­ly think most of these bat­tles are won far in advance, and it’s the hard train­ing that gives you the self confidence.

Do you believe hard Met­Con work­outs have a pos­i­tive stress-inoc­u­lant effect?

Yes. I argue with SRJ about this. He thinks there is no cor­re­la­tion. But if you train your mind to think through prob­lems and to make good tac­ti­cal deci­sions (even hav­ing to remem­ber what set you’re on, what the fastest way is to fin­ish the work­out) that’s a habit your mind will fol­low when pushed. I think it’s espe­cial­ly help­ful when doing Met­Con type work­outs to think about being in a gun­fight or fight­ing for your life, so that you’re used to it when it arrives.

If so, what types are the most effective?

I think any­thing works, just do it fast enough that you’re pushed. I also think it’s pret­ty cool to work some stuff in where you have to go fast and are breath­ing hard, then slow down to do some­thing accu­rate­ly. 10 box jumps, and one shot with your air pis­tol. You miss, you owe anoth­er 10 jumps, type of stuff.

As we addressed yes­ter­day, reps are crit­i­cal, how soon before stuff starts to erode out of our CNS?

It feels to me like it starts to go after a week or two. But just as impor­tant­ly, or maybe more, how long before your self con­fi­dence starts to flag? There is a huge part to this about feel­ing like you deserve to win. Like you’ve been work­ing hard­er than any­one else and that you total­ly trust your skills, your strength, your calm­ness under pres­sure. Not to say that will auto­mat­i­cal­ly let you win, but it will make your deci­sion mak­ing eas­i­er and will free up your brain to focus on oth­er things, not just draw­ing a weapon, or get­ting a light on some­one, or reload­ing, or talk­ing on a radio.

SRJ draws his pis­tol ten times every time he puts his uni­form on. He’s been doing that for years, and he has the fastest con­sis­tent pis­tol draw that I’ve yet seen. Most of the guys that I think are real­ly on their game, dry fire every day or two. Ten min­utes a day of work­ing through basic weapon manip­u­la­tion stuff makes a gigan­tic dif­fer­ence. That dai­ly han­dling of your tools makes you extreme­ly com­fort­able. Watch Act of Val­or and slow the scenes down to see the weapon han­dling. It’s obvi­ous that they car­ry rifles ALL THE TIME.

How often does one have to train to main­tain that sharp edge?  Once every two weeks?

What do you call train­ing? Draw­ing your pis­tol ten times before you go out on the street would seem to count. Doing a CF work­out when you are think­ing about chas­ing a dude down would seem to count. Run­ning sce­nar­ios with a part­ner while on patrol would count. White board­ing a room entry, or using a sand table to talk through perime­ters would count. Hard­er train­ing gives you self con­fi­dence about solv­ing prob­lems. You ulti­mate­ly want your train­ing to be hard­er than what you’ll encounter in real life. Look through the inci­dents that your orga­ni­za­tion is deal­ing with and draw from those.

The bet­ter groups are work­ing almost every day and they get very very pro­fi­cient at what they’re doing. If you’re not work­ing like that, then you need to be train­ing. Do some­thing every few days, even if it’s only for 30 min. Have one guy give a 30 min pre­sen­ta­tion on self aid in the field. How do you stop bleed­ing from a bul­let wound, on your­self. Prac­tice an offi­cer shot on entry, and work through the sce­nario of what you’re going to do. It only takes 30 min but it’s time so well spent. This is part of what a leader does, to be the inspi­ra­tion for the team. Guys will whine and moan, but they will be FAR bet­ter for the work.

Do you play video games?  If so, what and why?

I don’t play video games. LOTS of the boys do, but they tell me that the games are not designed to reward good tac­tics, and they don’t real­ly prac­tice good tac­tics when play­ing. I think they might help you rec­og­nize a threat ear­li­er, or have you think about throw­ing smoke, or a grenade, but that’s it. There is also no pain asso­ci­at­ed with mak­ing mis­takes and I think that’s a missed learn­ing opportunity.

Do you have any good book suggestions?

One Bul­let Away, N Fick. Excellent.

Gen­er­a­tion Kill

The Mis­sion, The Men, and Me  Pete Blaber

Lead­er­ship and Train­ing for the Fight — Howe (excel­lent train­ing book, high­ly recommended).

Ten Minute Tough­ness (Sports psy­chol­o­gy we’ve been using for work).

Movie sug­ges­tions?

Some okay stuff in Act of Val­or. Movie was hard to fol­low, but good weapons han­dling and move­ment. Heard that Zero Dark Thir­ty is good, but haven’t seen it. Jiro Dreams of Sushi will explain every­thing that you need to know about being good in what­ev­er field you choose.

Web­page suggestions?

Check out Michael Yon, and Freecabinporn.com

Give me feed­back when you can.

CR

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