Sergeant Tony's Blog

Archive for December, 2015

Aretha! — Sgt. Tony Ludlow, blog post for 12/312015

Dec. 31st 2015

“Some people die at 25,” said Benjamin Franklin, “and aren’t buried until 75.”

“Oldness” can occur at 25 or 75. It doesn’t matter what your age. I’ve known plenty of 25 year olds who gave up, found a rut, and settled in. Then there are those at the other end of the spectrum like 92 year old Ernie Andrus; running from coast to coast to raise money to restore the ship he served on in WWII. He started in California. Tomorrow he’ll be running through Covington, Louisiana!

Age, like life itself, is individually defined. It has little to do with chronological age!

Being lifeless, lazy, “woe-is-me,” boring, uninformed, negative, resigned, and irrelevant isn’t a matter of age, it’s a choice. It’s a personal attitude and perception. It’s a life orientation. It’s the lens through which life is viewed and interpreted. I have Facebook friends who have an 80% negative posting record. They’re critical of everything in a world where being a critic takes no talent, no creativity, and no insight. It’s Eeyore’s commentary on life.
Pooh: “Oh, what a beautiful day!”
Eeyore, sounding depressed: “Well, it’s raining somewhere.”

I turned 58 in July, and I’m pretty damn proud of that. And why shouldn’t I be? (It’s better than the alternative.)
* I’m smarter now than at any other time in my life – and YOU should be smarter today than at any other time in YOUR life too! I also have a greater sense of what I don’t know . . . yet.
* I’ve got two times the life experiences and twice the wisdom I had when I was in my 20s. I like what Muhammad Ali said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
* I’m more patient and more tolerant now than ever. I’m also less willing to endure insult and disrespect.
* I don’t suffer from the insecurities of youth or the need to impress others at this age.
* At this age, I don’t compete with anyone except the man I was yesterday. (I’d like to improve on yesterday’s version of me.)
* Most of the things on my bucket list have been checked off. (I have to add more things.)

Have you ever heard of the Dunkers? Their formal name was German Baptist Brethren, having moved from Germany to Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s. The Dunkers, like all Anabaptists, baptize their new members, only after a public profession of faith, by immersion. Instead of sprinkling infants (or adults), the method of baptism practiced by the Dunkers was to submerge the candidate for church membership completely under the baptismal waters.

Religious groups typically develop a statement of faith, a creed, a catechism, or articles of belief that explain what they believe and why. Mostly intended to give the new convert or church member some idea as to the theological framework from which they have formulated their belief system. These confessions of faith, once drawn up, bind the convert for as long as they remain a member of that group or denomination.

But the Dunkers were an exception.

Benjamin Franklin’s remarkable friend, Michael Welfare, a founding member of the German Baptist Brethren, explained to Franklin why his sect wouldn’t compose a creed or articles of belief.

“When we were first drawn together as a society,” said Mr. Welfare, “it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin’d by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive farther improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.”

What’s unusual about this “confession,” especially among religious groups, is how willing they were to admit that they might not be right, that they were open to further enlightenment, that they might be in error unconsciously. They acknowledged that they may currently be wrong about some area of belief and were not bound to any confession that might reflect that error.

In religious and political life such an acknowledgment is unheard of. When was the last time you heard a preacher or a politician admit to being wrong? The nature of politics and religion, two strains of thought steeped in absolutism, cry out for rigid dogma. All truth is local, as one philosopher put it, and it’s held tightly with both hands.

But what if you were exposed to something new in 2016, would you be open to it? What if you were challenged, or given an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, would you be willing to do it? What if fear was not a factor? What if money weren’t an issue? What if your heart and mind were open—like a parachute—to new learning, new ides, new concepts, new ways of thinking?

In the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the main character attempted to post an internet dating site profile and discovered that he had no life experiences to list that might make him appear more interesting to the opposite sex.

The movie made me think of my own life experiences … and yours. How was my 2015? How was yours?

Did we add things to our list of interesting life experiences?

Did we read provocative, informative, and challenging books?

Were we physically active, intellectually hungry, spiritually reflective?

Did we exercise 4 or more times a week?

Did we do two hours of cardio a week?

Did we read at least 12 books in 2015?

Did we examine our own lives, our beliefs, our actions in an effort to root out even the hint of hypocrisy or hate?

Did we spend time, daily or weekly, in quiet meditation?

Were we more active in 2015 than in 2014?

I’m as active as I ever have been in my life. And with the exception of a few more wrinkles, mostly laugh lines – those that give my face that extra “Sean Penn-esque” character — and the gray hair that literally popped up overnight one morning and makes me look distinguished (or so I tell myself!), I feel like I did when I was 25!

These days there are high profile members of groups that were once called “old people” or “senior citizens” doing incredible things. The members of Led Zeppelin have an average age of 68! Bruce Springsteen is 66. Stevie Nicks is 67. Samuel L. Jackson, currently staring in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is 66, along with his co-stars Kurt Russell (64), Jennifer Jason Leigh (53), Tim Roth (54), Michael Madsen (57) and Bruce Dern (79). Helen Mirren and Carly Simon are 70. Tina Turner is 76. Liam Neeson, 63. Denzel Washington is 59. Vera Wang is 66. Tom Hanks, Prince, Sharon Stone, Angela Bassett, and Ellen DeGeneres are all 57. John Stamos, 52. Lenny Kravitz and Brad Pitt are 51. And 73 year old Aretha Franklin had them on their feet this week at the Kennedy Center Honors as she belted out “Natural Woman,” a song co-written by 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree Carole King—also 73.

And apparently Rolling Stones member Keith Richards (72) is indestructible, but looks 144.

I could go on. But I think you get the message.

In a youth oriented culture that presumes that all things young are good and all things older are past their expiration date, it’s easy to get things upside down and think of age as a liability rather than what it actually is, an asset.

It makes me cringe when I meet people near my age who live down to the stereotype of blasé. They’ve spent a lifetime taking lousy care of themselves and exploring new ways to be less and less as they get older and older, the accumulated result of years of poor personal life management and progressive myopathy. And then they blame their age as the reason that they feel like crap. Or they apply their creativity to the formulation of new excuses.

But it can all be reversed! The tide can be stemmed. I’ve seen it hundreds of times!

I’m not talking about people who’ve been sidelined by the medical diagnosis of catastrophic illness or injury. The impaired condition of the sick and injured is understandable. But even then there are ways to focus on what you CAN do. My buddy and former boot camper, Steve Collins, had a heart transplant in 2011 that has put him in a wheelchair. Instead of sitting back and saying “woe is me,” Steve has taken up his guitar and become a local singer songwriter! He also tries—mostly in vain—to be funny! Way to go, bro! Steve and I are the same age.

No, who I’m talking about is the person who spent too many years drinking too much, partying too much, smoking, doing drugs, and eating tons of crap. Those who, despite all of the advice to do so, have refused to exercise and wonder why they’re so weak and can’t do things anymore.

Sadly, the flame in so many people’s lives start to flicker at some point. And too often, circumstances, setbacks, and loss start to loom so large that the flame goes out all together. People start stumbling through one meaningless day after another, one meaningless relationship after another, one meaningless year after another. They often medicate their pain or depression or dysfunction with more poor life management decisions and risky behavior.

I’ve seen how bankruptcy, divorce, the death of a loved one, being fired or laid off, failing health, being stuck in a loveless passionless marriage or dysfunctional relationship — and the whole host of unrealized expectations — can have a depressing and debilitating effect on people, extinguishing that light for years, sometimes forever, being defined in their own minds by their mistakes, missteps, misfortunes, and mishaps.

One woman I know lost her father and then spent the two weeks following his funeral in bed, getting up only to go to the bathroom and to eat an occasional bowl of soup. When she finally emerged, she was never the same. The light went out when her father died and the flame of her life has never burned the same since. She has become a perpetual victim, blaming life and others for her plight, with little resemblance to the younger woman she was before her father’s passing. And she is not alone. Giving up is easy.

The deaths of our friends and families can leave us with so much emptiness and grief that we can’t see how to move on without them. I myself lost people I loved this past year. Dear friends who were alive and in my life this time last year are gone forever.

Instead of perpetual grief, wouldn’t our loved ones want us to double our efforts to live life with passion and enjoyment, honoring the memory of their lives by living with more intention and purpose?

How many over-comers do you know? Those who’ve put life’s setbacks in their proper place in the past and are thriving today, moving forward? People do it every single day! They overcome insurmountable odds and obstacles every day because they choose to move forward. Or in some cases, they simply have no choice. They must move forward. Failure and defeat are not options. People are depending on them.

We may never be what we were before those circumstances put us on a path not of our choosing, but we can be something great again … or something greater. We can feed the flame. We can light a bonfire!

As we think of the prospects of a new year, there are things that we can do to relight that flame and to ensure that the light within us burns brightly.

Here are things to think on. Things to Make 2016 Count!

1. If you’re depressed about your weight – lose the weight. Seriously. Quit bitchin’ about it and just do it! Eat less, move more. It’s just that simple.

2. If you wish that you’d finished your degree – go back to school. A friend of mine graduated from law school at age 63! But don’t be fooled. You can get a good education for “a dollar fifty and late charges from the public library.” But if it’s the degree you seek, there are ways to get it.

3. If you’re upset because you’re out of shape – get on an exercise program (I happen to know of an AWESOME program!

4. If you’re in debt – come up with a plan to get debt-free. Credit cards are choking the life out of most people. Spend less than you make. Do you really have to buy as much house as the mortgage company will let you borrow? Do you really need a new car or two? The boat? The lake house? Live below your means. Make a plan!

5. If you’re in a loveless marriage or dysfunctional relationship – fix it … or get out of it! Some broken marriages can be fixed. Others can’t. And throwing money at a bad or unhappy marriage won’t work. Trust me. The trips and stuff will only mask the misery for a while. Life is too short. But if you’re in an unhappy relationship, life can be so very very long. So very long. Fix it if you can, or formulate a plan to get out of it!

6. If you’re in a dead end job or meaningless career – get out of it. Formulate a plan to do something that makes you happy, brings meaning to your life, and makes a difference in the lives of others.

Lots of guys I know get in dead-end soulless jobs that pay well, only to find that they have to buy “stuff” to compensate for the life-drain of their soul-sucking-job. But the spending gets them in debt too deep to get out of the job. The new house, the new cars, the new stuff, become shackles and prison. Stuck. Slavery. And most find, too late sometimes, that it’s easier to make a dollar than a difference. But wouldn’t you rather make a difference?

7. Emancipation is possible, but it probably won’t be easy or painless. But it can be done. I’ve started over more than once. I’ve even started over in a foreign country with few friends, little money, and no family to support me. I know that it can be done! Don’t be afraid to start over.

8. If you’re not happy with your life – figure out a way to be happy! Don’t look for someone to make you happy. Happiness is an inside job. People tend to be as happy as they make up their minds to be.

9. Relight your internal flame if it’s gone out. Pour gasoline on the flame you’ve got! Start a bonfire!

10. Stay relevant.

11. Ditch reality TV and read a couple of books a month, things that’ll stimulate your mind, challenge your assumptions, and expand your vocabulary.

In fact, let me say this about reality TV and cable “news”: don’t get your heroes from it, don’t get your theology from it, nor your sense of social justice, nor your understanding of history, nor your knowledge of racial inequality, nor your history of the Civil Rights Movement, nor your value system, nor your understanding of too much at all. It’s entertainment, not education. Turn it off and read something redemptive.

12. Stay informed. Get your news from a variety of sources, those without an agenda or a bias.

13. “Good enough” seldom is. Go for awesome!

14. Laugh a lot every day! Make a face when you do.

15. Make a face when you exercise too.

16. Buy some new music from some new musicians. Something recorded in the past three years.

17. Eat good stuff. You remember the four food groups, right?

18. Watch some great movies.

19. Drink less alcohol.

20. Save some money.

21. Do some research. Learn something new every day that isn’t job related.

22. Find something to be passionate about, but not obsessive about.

23. Quit living in the past, but learn something from it.

24. Learn to define “enough.” I can’t overstate the need to do this. In fact, I’m not sure that the lowering of expectations and learning how to define enough aren’t the building blocks of happiness.

25. Don’t settle. Most people “accept the love (and the treatment) we think we deserve.”

26. Quit making excuses.

27. Learn to say “no.” Learn especially to say no to toxic and dysfunctional people, relationships, and situations. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and let it go.

28. Quit smoking. Quit smoking. Quit smoking. Quit smoking. Quit smoking.

29. Drink more water.

30. Run a 5K … or a 10K … or a half marathon … or go the distance and run a full marathon!

31. Run, jog, swim, power walk, or ride a bike for 2 hours a week.

32. Do something physical that will require you to get out of your comfort zone.

33. Help someone who can’t do one single thing for you in return. They can’t advance your career, fulfill your pleasures, or pay you back in any way. And do this as quietly and as secretly as possible. No humble-bragging on Facebook.

34. Learn to say “yes” to new adventures, new friends, and new possibilities.

35. Make a sizable anonymous donation to a worthy charity.

36. Make a new friend outside of your own race. Take a look at your Facebook friends — is it monochrome? — and see if you can’t add some variety there!

37. “Someday” is probably not going to be on the weekend or on a Friday, so redeem every day … even Mondays!

38. Avoid extremes. Avoid extremes. Avoid extremes. Avoid extremes. Avoid extremes.

39. Think for yourself.

40. For the most part, and in just about every instance, no one is out there planning your success and thinking about your happiness. You have to do that yourself. That’s YOUR job!

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
~ Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Bring it on 2016!

— 30 —


We’re on vacation until Monday.
All classes meet INSIDE on Monday, January 4th. Holiday Challenge Weigh-In will be on Monday as well!



by Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Holloway, Registered Dietitian, LDN

(A Registered Dietitian has a BS in Food Science, followed by a one year internship through an accredited university, and then with the recommendation of the internship program’s supervisor, a national examination is required. After that, an RD must have continuing education units annually in order to remain active and registered. An RD is an expert, not a hobbyist or a “food enthusiast.”)

Vitamin C and Colds

Have you heard that taking vitamin C can help prevent colds? Or that it can shorten the severity or duration? This notion first became popular in 1970 when Nobel Prize winning chemist, Linus Pauling’s book, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold” was first published. The book was lacking in evidence and came with very little scientific backing, with Pauling having never written a single scientific study on the topic!

Foods high in vitamin C such as red bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, and grapefruits all have been shown to have health benefits. But study after study has shown that vitamin C does very little to prevent the common cold in the general population. Nor does it lessen the severity or duration of a cold if you already have one.

However, there is one group that may benefit from the additional vitamin C. Research has shown that those under high physical stress, such as marathon runners and even soldiers doing sub arctic exercises, can actually decrease their risk of catching a cold by half if they take a daily dose of vitamin C.

If you do want to take in some extra vitamin C, how much do you need? The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 75 mg for women and 90 mg a day for men. You can easily get this amount in half a cup of orange juice, or a cup of strawberries, or a whole kiwi.

In short, if you like foods high in vitamin C, then eat up! But keep your tissues handy too.





Posted by Tony Ludlow | in Uncategorized | No Comments »

WWJD? — Sgt. Tony Ludlow, blog post for 12/20/2015

Dec. 20th 2015
Jim Steiner

Jim Steiner

“Pick up one dumbbell with your right hand, we’re going to start up Jim Steiner’s wood-chipper!”

If you’ve been on the Quarterdeck, even for a week, you’ve heard me say this. Most of you only know Jim Steiner’s name from the exercise I call “Starting Up Jim Steiner’s Wood-chipper.” But often someone new to the ranks will ask, “Tony, who is Jim Steiner?”

I’ve even been asked if “Jim Steiner” is the name of a brand of wood-chipper! As if you could go to Home Depot and ask where the “Jim Steiner Wood-Chippers” are! (I personally think that would be a great brand of wood-chipper.)

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

Jim joined us after his wife, Carole, gave him a month of Boot Camp as a Christmas present in 1999. When Jim showed up in January 2000, he wasted no time making a difference! He quickly became everyone’s best friend! He didn’t ingratiate himself on anyone like some interloper inserting himself into social situations or butting in to established relationships.

He was a flame and people were just naturally drawn to him! He had an inner light that illuminated everyone around him and made us all feel special. That glow made you want to be a better person.

Jim engaged the world, and everyone in it, by being friendly and genuinely interested in everyone he met. He was winsome and warm, intelligent and funny, kind and thoughtful, self-deprecating but confident, audacious but reflective. And he was a consummate prankster. He loved everyone and everyone loved him back! You just couldn’t help it! To me he became an older brother, some 12 years my senior.

Jim was a walking lesson in personal relationship building. He could have taught seminars on how to make friends with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I don’t know if he ever read Dale Carnegie’s books, but he could have taught the course! Jim knew that a good conversationalist wasn’t someone who talks a lot about themselves, but asks good questions and then actively listens to them.

Jim was an Army veteran (which I harassed him about without mercy or end) and he was an accomplished athlete. He was a voracious reader, an avid runner, triathlete, skier, hiker, adventure racer, and always up for foolishness and a laugh, often at his own expense. Or mine!

He was also something of an amateur astronomer. He’d bring his telescope to the Quarterdeck at 0500, set it up, scan the dark sky for things to observe, and have something for us to see by the time we arrived for the 0530 class!

For more than 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 gladly yielded the floor! He was the best storyteller I’ve ever heard.

Jim was a true renaissance man!

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

One morning he came to The Quarterdeck complaining of a pulled upper back muscle that he’d strained trying to start his old-school-pull-start-wood-chipper. So to help Jim and his wood-chipping antics, 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 Jim Steiner saved Boot Camp from extinction, naming an exercise after him seemed like a small thing to do.

How’d he save boot camp?

Well, once upon a time …

One dark and cold morning of our first winter—in the pouring rain—at 5:25am, Jim and I sat in our cars parked next to one another in the parking lot. I think we were waiting to see if anyone else would show up . . . and which of us would make the first move to get out of our vehicles. USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP was on the campus of the University of Memphis for the first six years and part of the Continuing Education Department of the U of M. 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 bone-soaked, which we did often.

But this particular morning it was raining hard. Really hard.

And no one else showed up.

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!” Jim suggested with a laugh!

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

As Jim and I ate breakfast that morning I whined to him 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; there were only 4 other boot camp programs in the country at the time. This was on the cusp of the dot com explosion and there was no boot camp presence on the Internet. There was no social media; there was no MySpace or Facebook, no Twitter.

“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 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, they 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 Jim says it’ll work, then it’ll work,” I reasoned.

Jim Steiner 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. But with renewed determination, I stayed the course. And Jim was right! People came and have been coming for over 16 years.

Two years after that morning in the rain, Jim, Carole, their son Rob, daughter Meredith, and I were making plans to run the Marine Corps Marathon together later that 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 to 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 Jim and Carole’s hand of friendship had been extended into the most unlikely and unusual of places. Their friends came from all walks of life.

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 after 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 witnessed. 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 newbies!

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 is 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. He’d work everyone like rented mules! He’d help people get fit and achieve new things.

Jim passed away on December 19, 2003, eleven years ago this coming Friday.

Jim taught me that the power of simple encouragement can’t be overstated. The spoken word can change the world. The book of Proverbs says: “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

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 even once and that most people who do smile don’t do so until after 10am. (Possibly when their coffee, or meds, have kicked in!) Jim taught me the value of laughing before the sun comes up!

One cold and rainy morning over pancakes, Jim Steiner’s words of encouragement changed my life and inspired me to keep on keeping on. And if you’ve ever been a part of USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP in these 16+ years, his words influenced 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. But that’s exactly what happened. For Jim, it was just another day and another conversation in his life. It’s what he did.

Today, like every day, your words could change someone’s life and encourage them to do something awesome! Your words could give hope to someone feeling hopeless. What a priceless gift that would be!

And let me take a moment to give a simple word about what to say to someone who’s grieving, especially grieving the loss of a loved one. Just tell that person that you’re so sorry for their loss and that you love them and are thinking about them. That’s it. Telling the bereaved that their loved one is “in a better place,” or “now they’re with Jesus,” or quoting something confusing or odd, will never take the place of simple words expressing your sorrow and your love in personable and warm language.

Merry Christmas! Happiest of holidays!

And thank you, Jim Steiner!

— 30 —



All classes will meet this week as usual, Monday & Tuesday (Mt. Fuji for the 0530 class on Tuesday).
Wednesday morning classes will meet as scheduled, but no evening class on Wednesday.

The annual holiday break will commence after the Christmas Eve morning classes. We will stand-down until Monday morning, January 4th, when all classes will meet INSIDE!

Holiday Challenge weigh in will also be on Monday!


It goes without saying that I am beyond thankful for those of you who regularly enrich my life with your friendship and fellowship! USMC Fitness Boot Camp was never started as business. It was started as an exercise community and as a place of belonging, of friendship and camaraderie. The fact that it keeps me from living under a bridge with ramen in my cupboard is a huge bonus!

I don’t see you as clients or customers, but as friends and colleagues, as brothers and sisters, as family.

I can’t overstate that.

Thank you so very much!


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O Captain! My Captain! — Sgt. Tony Ludlow, blog post for 12/10/2015

Dec. 10th 2015

He sat alone on the back row of the large crowded upscale church where he was not welcome, attending a wedding he was not invited to but had paid for, watching another man walk his daughter down the aisle.

Standing at the checkout, she looked much older than her age, tired, worn out, and rough, with randomly placed indecipherable tattoos. Her complexion suggested that she spent most of her days inside. Her body language said that she was angry, or frustrated, or sad, or annoyed; paying for cigarettes from a purse full of singles, she seemed absent and disengaged.

He put his towel down on top of the the poolside lounge chair as his wife did the same. All the while she barked out orders and insults at him as if he were a delinquent teenager. The defeated look on his face made him look like an abused person. I felt sorry for him.

She got into her car and sat alone in the hospital parking lot, grief stricken, and unable to move. How was she supposed to drive home and tell her children that their dad was dead.

He was successful beyond imagination and loved by the world over, but Robin Williams sat in a room by himself and wrapped a belt around his neck.


All of these people had histories, back stories. Most would never have plotted a course for the place they found themselves in.

Sometimes it seems that Thoreau was right when he said that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Sometimes the desperation leads to depression. And sometimes the depression leads to suicide.

Over 30,000 Americans a year take their own lives. Over 800,000 people commit suicide every year world-wide.

The tragic death of Robin Williams hit most of us hard. The sadness and loss of his passing felt like the death of a family member or close friend. After his death we learned that he’d been depressed for years.

Many people criticize those who commit suicide saying that it’s an act of cowardice or selfishness. Maybe. Maybe it is because at the moment the decision is made, all the person can think about is their own pain and misery coming to an end.

But what it is for sure, with no argument, is an act of sadness.

USMC Fitness Boot Camp has felt the grievous touch of suicide. Many of us have lost family and close friends. Many of us have struggled with the deaths of our loved ones at their own hands, usually tormenting ourselves with “what ifs.” We knew they were sad, or hurting, or depressed and we tried to reach out to them and tell them that we loved them. What if we’d done it that day, their last day? What if we’d reached out to them more frequently? What if I’d used different words, said something different? What if they knew how much we loved them, how much everyone loved them? Wouldn’t that have made a difference?

These were the kinds of things that tormented me after my brother killed himself, just a couple of weeks after he and I had talked on the phone. I was living in Japan at the time. His birthday was February 26th and I had called him to wish him a happy birthday. This is what we did on our birthdays. He called me on mine and I called him on his. My brother was a Vietnam vet and suffered from PTSD. I’d prayed for him for years. I fervently prayed every day that he’d have peace of mind and lasting happiness. I didn’t pray for riches, or fame, or anything material. I only wanted my brother to be whole and healthy. Sometimes he’d be fine and then at other times the darkness would engulf him and the sadness and depression would plunge his mind and heart into a place that no one could enter and where no light could shine.

In the end, my prayers for my brother went unanswered. Just a few weeks after our last phone conversation I got a call early one morning telling me that my brother was dead.

By that afternoon I was on a flight home. Twenty-four hours later I was back in Arkansas alone in a small room of a funeral home on my knees in front of his flag draped casket … asking “why?” through my tears. In the years prior to moving overseas, I’d been a volunteer counselor for the Suicide and Crisis Intervention Center, answering the phones and doing my best to help add another day to a troubled soul. But even with my training and experience I couldn’t save my brother.

And my life has never been the same since.

How it affected me and how it changed me was one of the reasons my first marriage ended.

The pain and sadness that my brother carried with him didn’t end when he died, it was simply passed on to us, the ones who loved him and mourned him. The “what ifs” that plagued me and my family have mostly been set aside, coming to terms with the knowledge that there was nothing we could have done. We accepted the fact that my brother knew how much we loved him, yet it didn’t alter the pain that tortured his soul … there was nothing we could have done.

The adoration of millions couldn’t free Robin Williams from the torment that he felt and the depression that had him bound and imprisoned in the dark, cut off from the warmth and love of his family and friends. Someone who made us all laugh and who brought us such joy and happiness couldn’t provide those things for himself.

The REM video of their song, “Everybody Hurts,” is the most moving reminder that everyone has a story. Everybody hurts. I think everyone ought to watch that video every couple of months. Just so we never forget. I think it’s the best sermon I’ve ever heard.

I like to remind myself of a quote often attributed to Plato: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We have an obligation as members of the human race to be kind to one another. Professing Christians have a religious mandate to extend the hand of love and compassion to everyone, without exception, without qualification, and without condition. Loving the person next to you in the pew isn’t hard; loving the person who looks like you, believes like you, votes like you, hates the same people as you isn’t hard. That’s easy. But loving the person who is nothing like you is the real challenge.

Ashley Holloway is the person I admire most when it comes to unconditional love: two years ago this December 18th, she went into the hospital, at great risk to herself, to donate a kidney to a complete stranger. Today, someone out there, living in another state, is alive and well with Ashley’s kidney inside them all because she allowed surgeons and a transplant team to remove her kidney. She’s the best living sermon I know. She knows nothing about the person whose life she saved by donating a living part of herself.

I mentioned Robin Williams earlier. I was inspired, in part, to become a teacher by “Dead Poet’s Society.” The poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” is featured in that amazing film and I offer it to you here. The poem was written by Walt Whitman as a tribute to his dear friend Abraham Lincoln, whom he loved, after his assassination.

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

December and the holidays are difficult for many, especially those who’ve lost loved ones in the previous 11 months. It can be a time of melancholy and sadness for those who’ve experienced death, divorce, separation, breakups, or estrangement from family or friends.

I hope you’ll be extra sensitive to those in your life who may be hurting this time of year, and if possible do something to help get them through this difficult time.

If the hurting person is you, I hope you’ll reach out and talk to someone. It would sound self-serving of me to tell you that exercise plays an enormous role in coping and moving forward, but it’s true.

Be kind … to others … to yourself.

— 30 —


by Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Holloway, RD LDN,
(A Registered Dietitian has a BS in Food Science, followed by a one year internship through an accredited university, and then with the recommendation of the internship program’s supervisor, a national examination is required. After that, an RD must have continuing education units annually in order to remain active and registered. An RD is an expert, not a hobbyist or a “food enthusiast.”)

Healthy Eating Through the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. Our days, nights, and weekends quickly become filled with holiday festivites, fun, family, and of course food. Trying to juggle the busy holiday schedule, along with your usual obligations of work, exercise, and family can be quite overwhelming and stressful. Combining the usual high fat, high calorie holiday food choices with the stress of the holidays can easily lead to the typical five to ten pound holiday weight gain.

Luckily, avoiding those excess pounds does not mean that you have to skip all of the festive holiday celebrations. All foods, even those great holiday treats can easily fit into a healthy diet. Practicing balance and moderation and having a plan are key steps in staying healthy through the holidays.

Local Registered Dietitian friends of mine who are experts in nutrition offer their favorite tips and ideas
for maintaning your weight throughout the holiday season:

From Patricia Prince- Griffin, Registered Dietitian at VA Memphis Medical Center
* Enjoy your food! Remmber this is not an eating contest, but a time to enjoy a good meal with your friends and family. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to know that it is being fed, so take your time when eating, to avoid overeating.
* Eat breakfast! Remember it is always important to start your day off with a meal to prevent overeating later in in the day.
* When cooking, help yourself to avoid sampling everything, distract yourself with music, good conversations with friends, or even by chewing gum.

From Andrea Cooper, Consultant Dietitian
* Stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthful foods such a pretzels, protein bars, granola bars, yogurt, fruit, fat free pudding, etc that you can grab as a quick snack.
* Use a small plate in place of your dinner plate. Using a smaller plate helps to control portion sizes while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite holdiay foods.
* Don’t skip meals. Many people think that they can “save” their calories for one big meal, but that typically leads to overeating at that one meal. Eating healthy, small meals throughout the day can help prevent the urge to overeat at the end of the day.

From Ginny Allen, Registered Dietitian
* Exercise the morning before a party or family get together. You can indulge a little more without the guilt!
* Eat exactly what you are craving at a holiday party or meal. If you want only sweets, then eat only sweets. If you crave dressing or stuffing, then go straight to the dressing!
* Don’t take home leftovers or extra desserts. Eat what you want and leave the food there. That way you won’t keep eating these foods for several days afterward.

From Ashley Holloway, Registered Dietitian
* If your are bring a dish to a party or dinner, make it delicious and low calorie. That way you’ll know that there is always something with fewer calories that you can munch on. Try using less cheese and butter in your recipes or try substituting high calorie ingredients with their lower calorie counterparts such as low fat cheese, sour cream, cream cheese.
* When faced with a kitchen full of leftovers, portion them out into individual serving sizes, then freezing them. This way you have several days worth of meals in just the right amount!
* Be picky. If you come face to face with a table full of your favorite foods, don’t pile your plate high. Have just a spponful of everything, or better yet, eat only those foods that you can’t get any other time of the year such as your Grandma’s special sweet potato pie.


What would you do if money was not an issue, fear was not a factor, and failure was not an option?

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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Aye, Mr. MacGregor! — Sgt. Tony Ludlow, blog post for 12/2/2015

Dec. 2nd 2015

Female problems.

Before you assume that I’m about to dish on any of you females, you can relax.

Sort of.

I grew up in a household where all of the men in our family would be reduced to mystified silence by my mother. As a kid I remember hearing conversations that might be about my Aunt JoAnn, for example, and my father might say something like, “So, what’s wrong with her?” And my mother would pause …

for effect.

And then, with all of us Ludlow men leaning forward waiting to hear what was wrong with Aunt JoAnn, my mother would say, in a hushed tone, “It’s ‘female problems.'”

ooooooohhhhhhhh??? “FEmale problems. ohhhhh.

What are “female problems?”

Whatever it was, this announcement would bring the conversation to a screeching halt. All of the Ludlow men would just stop, and look all slack jawed and clueless.

So what was an 8 year old me supposed to do, or think, or ask when all of the older Ludlow men looked confused? And then the men NEVER asked for a more fuller explanation. That was it. Discussion over.

Once when I was in the second grade, I went home after school and walked into our kitchen where my mom and her friend, “Aunt” Jean, were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and chit-chatting. Jean had a new baby and … well … the baby was breastfeeding. But I had no clue what was going on.

Even though I wasn’t sure what was going on, I was definitely getting an eyeful of it. And apparently I was standing there gawking, interested to know more. My mom saw that I was staring at “Aunt” Jean, and whatever the little baby was doing, and scolded me and sent me to my room. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to look at that. Whatever “that” was.

Women are so confusing.

Is it any wonder that by the time most boys are 14 we’re fairly clueless and confused about women? When I was in the 9th grade I remember asking my older brother Jack about girls. Being eight years older than me, I knew he would have the answer. He said, “No one knows about women, not even Sigmund Freud.” I didn’t know who Sigmund Freud was, but if Jack referenced him, that Freud dude must be the wisest man in the world. Why else would Jack mention him?

If the Ludlow men didn’t know, and if that Sigmund guy didn’t know, how would I ever know?

I became a United States Marine when I graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp on December 1, 1975, forty years ago yesterday! And at this time every year I’m reminded of that day, one of the most amazing days in my life. I could write a book about what it meant to me to become a Marine that day, and what it’s meant since.

But as awesome as that graduation day was, the day was also spectacular for another reason. It was the first time for me to see a woman in over three months. During the three months of training I never saw a woman. Not even one.

After the graduation ceremony I stood around with my fellow newly minted Marines shaking hands, taking pictures, congratulating one another and meeting members of our respective families who’d made the trip to Parris Island. I had been particularly proud to introduce my Marine brother to my friends. Jack was the only member of my family there, a decorated Marine Staff Sergeant in full dress uniform. I introduced him to my Marine buddy, Mike, a member of my platoon. Mike was obviously impressed—Jack outranked our Drill Instructors—and then Mike introduced me to his family from St. Petersburg: his mom, dad, and two very pretty sisters, Susan and Ellen.

I stood there speechless. Amazed. Silent. I’d forgotten how pleasant the sound of female voices in conversation was, with it’s sing song cadence and lilt. (This was long before vocal fry started turning the sound of young women’s voices into the screeching of crows and hoot owls.) The allure of Susan and Ellen’s laughter, the sound of their voices, and the smell of their perfume were intoxicating and charming. The strength of smells to create a mood, or a feeling, or a memory can’t be overstated. For over 3 months, the only thing I smelled was sweat, Dial soap, and swamp gas—the reeking odor of the marsh and swamp after the tide goes out. It smells like one part paper-mill and one part land-fill all mixed with salt water wind. So the sweet feminine smell of Susan and Ellen’s perfume was overpowering.

I stood there unable to even make small talk. I became mute. His family laughed at me and his mom asked Mike: “Tony hasn’t been around many women? Where did you say he was from, Arkansas, was it?” And everybody laughed. Mike came to my defense and explained that we hadn’t seen a woman in over three months.

Mike’s sister Susan smiled at me and extended her hand when we were introduced, with a twinkle in her eyes, and said, in a voice that sounded like an angel, “Hi Tony, it’s very nice to meet you.” And I just smiled back and said … nothing. Not a word. Not a sound. Pure playa.

And everyone laughed again.

I don’t understand women any better today than I did when I was eight, but I’ve never forgotten the great appreciation for the fairer sex that I learned that day in early December.

Women are a great treasure. Maybe the greatest treasure. The right woman in your life can be the single greatest heaven on earth, inspiring the man in her life to be an even better man. And thanks to Ashley, I know this for a fact.

But the wrong woman, or a marginal woman, can be a real life version of Dante’s Inferno: varying degrees of unhappiness and torment.

For you guys with amazing women in your life, be thankful for the color, softness, intelligence, perspective, friendship, laughter, compassion, love, and beauty they bring into your life. And for you women with wonderful female friends, you’ve got rich relationships that most of us guys can only envy.

There’s a great scene in one of my favorite movies, “Rob Roy.” Rob MacGregor is a Scotsman clan leader of the 18th century Highlands played by Liam Neeson. In the scene, he explains to his two young sons what honor is and then one of them asks their father: “Do women have honor?”

And Rob said: “Women are the heart of honor … and we cherish and protect it in them.”

Aye, Mr. MacGregor. Aye indeed.

— 30 —


– BOGA for ALL classes tomorrow, Thursday, December 3rd!

– This Saturday many of our fellow boot campers will be running the St. Jude half and full marathons. You are cordially invited to come to the Official USMC Fitness Boot Camp Cheering Station. We’ll be in the median on North Parkway and Avalon at the 6.9 mile mark of the race. We’ll have some munchies and my internationally famous apple cider/Fireball hot beverage! The race starts at 8am and our fastest Buffalo Runners won’t be passing our headquarters until 9am. Join us! Feel free to bring your own goodies to share.


by Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Holloway, RD LDN,
(A Registered Dietitian has a BS in Food Science, followed by a one year internship through an accredited university, and then with the recommendation of the internship program’s supervisor, a national examination is required. After that, an RD must have continuing education units annually in order to remain active and registered. An RD is an expert, not a hobbyist or a “food enthusiast.”)

Coconut Oil – Helpful or Hype?

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts harvested from the coconut palm And according to recent reports, is widely touted to be have health benefits and be the latest food cure-all. Claims abound that coconut oil help with everything from Alzheimer’s, poor immune function, thyroid disease, heart disease, cancer, obesity and even HIV.

So should you run on down to Whole Foods and stock up on coconut oil? Not so fast.

The evidence that coconut oil is a super healthy cure-all is not convincing and these claims appear to be more testimonials than clinical evidence.

Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat and contains more saturated fat than any other food available. Saturated fats help to raise your good cholesterol levels (HDL) but raise your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) as well. Neither the American Heart Association nor the 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that coconut oil is any better or preferable over other saturated fats. All saturated fats, including coconut oil should be limited to 7%-10% of calories because it can increase risk for heart disease, according to the AHA and 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Most experts agree that to reduce the risk of heart disease, you should replace saturated fats in your diet with healthier unsaturated fats. There is further agreement that more research is needed in the area of fatty acids and its relationship to health.

If you are looking for real health benefits, switch from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and including vegetable oils, fish oils, and plant fats in nuts, avocados, and seeds. These fats should be the primary fats in your diet because they are either neutral or raise HDL cholesterol but don’t raise LDL cholesterol. Increasing the good.

Enjoy coconut oil if it is your preference but do so in moderation until further research indicates it is better than other saturated fats.


What would you do if money was not an issue, fear was not a factor, and failure was not an option?

To your optimum health and fitness!



Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow

Posted by Tony Ludlow | in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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