I have been thinking a lot about fitness lately. I hit a phase of life where I consciously started to consider the need to take care of myself. Past 30, it gets harder to “cram” for a fitness test or drop that weight before getting into dress uniform. With kids, a wife, a full-commitment job, two dogs, and a handful of projects brewing — I have found I have to force any self-care into my routine.  I have to schedule gym time, floss my teeth, avoid junk food, and sleep when I can. For a long time, my picture of mental toughness was centered on toughing it through a crisis or gutting through the last sprint or final push-ups in the PT test. Lately, I have come to realize that at least for me, the real mental toughness is the self-discipline to get my ass into the gym every day and to press my boundaries in every work out so that I don’t have to scramble during the fitness test.

If you see yourself as hardcore, but you are carrying an extra 30… hell, maybe an extra 60 pounds, then you need to reconsider how you define toughness and have a serious gut check. If you see yourself as a shooter, but you haven’t gone to the range in months, or taken a class in years—you’re not a shooter, at least not the shooter you think you are.

The hardest part of growing up is learning to tell yourself “no.” I want another beer. I want a double bacon cheeseburger. I want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. I want that donut. But I also need to score high enough on my next fitness test that I don’t have to worry about it—so I am going to tell myself NO. My reward for a hard workout is a cold bottle of water and a long shower. My “cheat” day is when I only spend an hour on the bike instead of also doing weights. If I ever get into a serious fight, I need to dominate my attacker—I have to train for that now.

No one likes to get lectured. No one likes to be reminded of their flaws and failings. But if you see yourself as tough—and you need to—then have the toughness to take this bulletin as an opportunity and a challenge to self-evaluate and find the weaknesses in your training and the lies you might be telling yourself to perpetuate those weaknesses. And then do something about it. Hit the gym. Hit the range. Sign up for a class that will push your comfort zone. Order the dang salad. Toughness is about all the unpleasant and uncomfortable stuff you have to do between now and that critical incident. Start stacking the deck in your favor. Do burpees.

“I don’t mind being called tough, since I find in this racket it’s the tough guys who lead the survivors.” – General Curtis LeMay


  1. Steve

    I recognize where that picture was taken! the stands are about to be relocated to the sniper and heavy weapons ranges!

    • Mike

      Are you talking about Jim’s avatar? -mike

By: Jim

By: Jim

Jim has a background in military aviation, specializing in combat rescue and close air support.  His opinions are his alone and do not reflect the policy or position of the Air Force or Department of Defense, and no references here should be interpreted as an endorsement of any product or service by any government agency.


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