Sergeant Tony's Blog

A word aptly spoken … Sgt. Tony Ludlow’s Newsletter for 12/20/2011

Tuesday, Dec. 20th 2011 12:29 PM
Jim Steiner

Jim Steiner


What would Jim do?

Most of you only know Jim Steiner’s name from the exercise I call “Starting Up Jim Steiner’s Wood-chipper.” But once a month or so someone asks me, “Tony, who is Jim Steiner?

Someone recently asked if “Jim Steiner” is the name of a brand of wood-chipper! Like you could go to Home Depot and buy a “Jim Steiner Wood-Chipper!”

So let me tell you about Jim Steiner.

Jim was a real person, a real Boot Camper. And he was one of the best people I’ve ever known … and THE person who saved Boot Camp.

Jim joined us after his wife, Carole, gave him a month of Boot Camp as a Christmas present in 1999. When Jim showed up he wasted no time making a difference! He quickly became everyone’s best friend!

Jim engaged the world, and everyone in it, by being friendly and genuinely interested in everyone he met. He was one of those kinds of people who just naturally attracted others to himself. He was winsome and warm, intelligent and funny, kind and thoughtful, and a consummate prankster. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. You just couldn’t help it! To me he became an older brother, some 12 years my senior.

And he was a role model for personal relationship building. Jim Steiner could have taught seminars on how to make friends with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Jim was also a veteran and an accomplished athlete. He was an avid runner, triathlete, skier, hiker, adventure racer, and practical joker.

For over two years we enjoyed Jim’s daily dose of fun, fellowship, and enthusiasm for life. If he had a story to tell or an anecdote to share, I’d gladly yield the floor! Jim was the best storyteller I’ve ever listened to.

Unless he was out of town on business, he never missed a day on the Quarterdeck! He was a faithful Boot Camper and a wonderful friend.

One morning he came to The Quarterdeck complaining of a pulled upper back muscle that he’d strained trying to start his pull-start wood-chipper. It was one of those older model wood-chippers that had a rope that you pulled to start it, like a lawnmower. So to help out Jim, I incorporated the “bent-over-single-arm-row” into the routine to help develop and strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, renaming the exercise “Starting Up Jim Steiner’s Wood-chipper.” And I’ve called it that ever since.

And because he saved Boot Camp from extinction, naming an exercise after him seemed like a fitting thing to do.

How’d Jim save the program?

Well, once upon a time …

During the first winter of our first year, in the pouring rain, one dark cold morning at 5:25 AM, Jim and I sat in our cars parked next to each other in the parking lot. I think we were waiting to see which of us would make the first move. My program was on the campus of the U of M for the first six years and a part of the Continuing Education Department. But Mt. Fuji (the parking garage on Zach Curlin) had yet to be completed and we had no rain-day option except to trudge outside and get soaked, which we often did.

But this particular morning it was raining hard. Really hard. Jim rolled his window down and yelled to me over the pounding rain, “WHAT. DO. YOU. THINK?”

“I. DON’T. KNOW!” I yelled back, a little defeated.

“LET’S. GO. TO. PERKINS. AND. EAT. PANCAKES!” he suggested with a laugh!

Since it was just me and Jim that morning, and since I happen to love pancakes, and since I’m not particularly fond of getting cold-drenched, it was on! I thought flapjacks and
a warm and dry restaurant sounded like a great idea.

As we ate breakfast that morning I whined to Jim that maybe the program just wasn’t going to survive. There were no boot camp programs at all in this part of the country except us. This was on the cusp of the dot com explosion and there was no boot camp presence on the Internet. There was no MySpace or Facebook. I didn’t send out a weekly newsletter by email, I printed them and handed them out one by one.

“Maybe this should be our last month,” I said to Jim with a sigh.

I loved my career as a high school history teacher and coach and seemed resigned to admit that my early morning exercise experiment had perhaps run its course. I was reluctantly ready to face the fact that Memphis just wasn’t ready for this kind of fitness program. Maybe it was time to pull the plug, I suggested.

“Tony, don’t do that! Jim said. “This is the best program I’ve ever been a part of. Hang in there, my friend, just wait! They’ll come out of the woodwork! You’ll see!!” Jim insisted. (It was his version of the “If you build it, he will come,” speech.)

In those days, nine or ten people on the Quarterdeck at 0530 was considered a pretty good crowd. That morning I was discouraged and ready to quit. But Jim’s words of encouragement gave me a new commitment to make Boot Camp work. “If Steiner says it’ll work, then it’ll work,” I reasoned.

Jim had that kind of effect on people. If it weren’t for him I might have thrown in the towel that morning. I might have quit.

Two years later the program was growing and Jim, Carole, their son Rob, daughter Meredith, and I were making plans to run the Marine Corps Marathon together later in the year. In the spring, suddenly and without warning, Jim suffered what appeared to be a mild stroke. But in the weeks that followed it was discovered that it wasn’t a stroke that Jim had experienced.

Jim had a brain tumor.

Because of medical treatment, Jim had to quit coming to boot camp a few months later in the summer of 2002. After that, I started making visits to his home to check on him and hear more of his stories. I continued to receive invitations to Steiner family gatherings, including their world famous Christmas party. Those parties were attended by the broadest of cross sections of Memphians, evidence that the Steiner’s hand of friendship had been extended into the most unlikely of places.

Jim’s gamma knife surgery removed an extensive amount of the tumor, but unfortunately not enough of it.

Even though his condition continued to deteriorate, Jim made the most touching of returns to the Quarterdeck on October 24, 2003, over a year and a half since his brain cancer diagnosis.

With the aid of his brother and sister-in-law, Jim came back to Boot Camp early that October morning. In a wheel chair.

He had dumbbells in hand and worked as hard as anyone there! You should have seen him! It was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever seen. I fought to hold back the tears the whole morning.

Always upbeat, always an encourager, Jim had a huge capacity for joy and fun! I never heard him say a single bad thing about anyone. Not even about me! He laughed that morning in October and clowned as if nothing was wrong with him. New boot campers who’d joined since Jim had become sick, gathered around him after the workout to meet the famous Jim Steiner! He was a real celebrity and seemed to enjoy getting to know the newbs!

It was also the last time Jim would be on the Quarterdeck.

I have always said, “In the Kingdom of the Kind and in the company of true gentlemen, Jim Steiner was royalty.”

I was privileged to have known him and deeply honored to have been numbered among his friends. And I was profoundly heartbroken when he was taken from us.

For months I wore one of those WWJD bracelets. The “J” stood for Jim. I had no idea how Jesus would run a Boot Camp program. But I had some idea how Jim Steiner would do it. He’d remember people’s names. He’d try to make everyone feel important and welcome. He’d have a good time! He’d joke and clown, while giving everyone a hard time in a playful and winsome way. He’d call people goofy names and they’d love it. And he’d make people proud of themselves by giving them something significant to accomplish everyday.

Jim passed away eight years ago yesterday on December 19, 2003.

Jim taught me that the power of simple encouragement can’t be overstated. The spoken word can change the world. Jim taught me that pushups alone don’t inspire or motivate people. Adding humor, warmth, a sense of community, and motivation inspires people to lead more productive, focused, and happier lives.

It’s been reported recently that many people go through their whole day without smiling and that most people who do smile don’t do so until after 10 AM. Jim taught me the value of laughing before the sun comes up!

One cold and rainy morning over pancakes, Jim Steiner’s word of encouragement changed my life and inspired me to stay the course. And if you’ve ever been a part of USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, his words changed your life too. I’m certain that Jim had no idea that morning that he was going to alter the course of my life during a simple conversation over breakfast.

Your words could change someone’s life and motivate them to do something awesome! What a priceless gift that would be!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Festivus!

Happiest of holidays to you all!



You can give the gift of fitness for Christmas! For only $75 you can give a gift certificate good for a month of Boot Camp to any of your family or friends! I’ve got ‘em printed up and ready!



This coming Friday morning we’ll celebrate the end of BOOT CAMP 2011! We’ll have the 0530 and 0645 classes on Friday morning. There will be no 0830 class on Wednesday and Friday and no 5:30 PM workout on Friday.) This is our annual one week break.

We will stand down until Monday, January 2, 2012. All classes (0530, 0645, 0830, and 5:45 PM) will meet as scheduled on Monday, 2 Jan 2012.

Weigh in for the Holiday Challenge will also be on Monday 2 Jan.



Did you miss out on the St. Jude Half? Did it sell out too quickly for you? Were you envious of those who got to run it?

There are at least five half marathons in the spring! There is one in Nashville, Louisville, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and a new one here in Memphis – Dash for Dads Half Marathon! (The Germantown Half Marathon is also in March.)

This will be my 17th half marathon training session! I’ve trained hundreds to run their first and their 10th half marathon, newbies and veterans alike!

Thinking about it?

The prerequisites are simple: if you can cover 3 miles in 36 minutes or less by Jan. 28th, you’re good to go! The cost is cheap and the rewards are HUGE!

Training begins on January 28 for the spring half marathon season! More details to follow!



When the wind chill is 29 or lower, we’ll go inside at 0530, 0830, and 5:45 PM. The 0645 class is inside from now until March.

Check with or The Weather Channel. I’ll post it on my Facebook page and the Boot Camp website Blog page ( if there’s a question. And if you’re not sure, you can text me at 901-644-0145.

What about inclement weather days?

We’ll follow the Memphis City Schools decision. If they close, we’ll stand-down. If they close in the morning but the streets are clear and good to go by the afternoon, the evening class will meet. I’ll post that status on Facebook and the Boot Camp Blog page.



I’ve got a few prime hours open during the week if you know someone looking for a trainer. I use the facilities at Christ Methodist and the hourly rates are standard for Memphis. Over-all fitness training, boot camp style workouts, strength training, sports specific conditioning and agility (tennis, soccer, basketball, etc.) or 901-644-0145


Anytime the wind-chill drops below 30 – in the 38117 zip code! — we’ll go inside. Get the app for your phone and check to see what the temperature “feels like.” That’s the number we’ll use. What it FEELS LIKE!



The 0645 Class is inside for their winter hibernation until March 2012 We’ll use the “blue gym” aka “the pizza



If you set up an automatic payment at your bank (Boot Camp mailing address is 4888 Southern, Memphis 38117) you can subtract $10 off your fee! That’s right, instead of $75, you can pay $65!


Do you know of someone who could be another Sergeant Tony?
I’m looking to expand the empire BEYOND Memphis.
I’d especially like to move into north Mississippi or northern Shelby County. Like Hernando or Millington! But someone in another major city would be great too.
Here’s a little of what I’m looking for in a prospective “Sergeant Tony.”
* Former military, preferably a Marine.
* College degree, or working toward it.
* Exercise certification, military or civilian, or working toward it.
* Personally interested and involved in a lifestyle of fitness and athletics.
* Good communication skills, written and oral. (I answer about 40 emails a day, write a newsletter, and answer more than a half dozen or so daily Boot Camp related phone calls)
* Outgoing personality with a GREAT sense of humor!
* Genuinely likes people, hiding behind a sadistic facade.
* Humble, modest, caring, and sensitive (ok, ok, whatever) You get the idea.
If you know of someone who would be a good fit, please forward this on to them and direct them to the website:


0530 Monday through Friday
0645 M-W-F
0830 M-W-F
5:45 PM: Monday and Wednesday, and 5:30 PM on Friday.



The monthly fee of $75 can be discounted to $55!
Here’s how …
Make a Facebook status update and get a discount!
For every status update that you make that references:
“USMC Fitness Boot Camp,”
“Sgt. Tony’s Boot Camp,”
“Tony’s Boot Camp,”
or something similar, you can take $2.50 off your reenlistment fee for each update, up to $20 off for any given month! You can go from $75 to $55 a month!!
Your status update has to be a SPECIFIC reference to USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP or to me specifically by n
ame. (There are fake boot camps out there!!)
You can also use “Places” on Facebook or Foursquare linked to your Facebook account to “check in” and you’ll get the same discount!
Use your own wording and personality, just include the specifics.
So log on and get started today!



If you’ve been a Boot Camper in the past and you are currently unemployed, you can get a special discount. Email me for the details. Seriously! Email me! NOW! And don’t be embarrassed. I will make you an offer that you can’t refuse. Seriously.



Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies, and Memphis Firefighters qualify for a special discount! It’s the least I can do to ensure that our law enforcement officers and firefighters are fit for their job!! Pass the word!


Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!

You can also go to


The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes are standing down until February. So no Tues/Thurs evening classes until then.



A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.



To your optimum health and fitness!



Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145

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