Stay on Target: Use Fighter Pilot Techniques to Get and Stay In Shape





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Copyright © 2015 Chris Lehto

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Your Brain Has Its Own Agenda

Chapter 2: Star Wars Is Better than Top Gun

Chapter 3: True Change is Long-Term


Chapter 4: Task 1: Start, Maintain, and Track a Training Program

Chapter 5: Workout Targets

Chapter 6: Workout Threats

Chapter 7: Workout Program

Chapter 8: Minimize Time over Target with 4 Tactics

Chapter 9: Avoid (or Suppress) the Threats and Hit the Targets


Chapter 10: Task 2: Start, Maintain, and Track a Food Plan

Chapter 11: Our 100-Year-Old Calorie System Is Incorrect

Chapter 12: Nutrition Threats

Chapter 13: Tactics to Avoid Nutrition Threats and Hit Targets

Conclusion: We’re All Gonna Die

End Notes

Useful Tables

Two 4-day programs for the gym

Two 4-day programs for body weight exercises (Home)


[]Chapter 1

Your Brain Has Its Own Agenda

When you’re in the business of death there is more on the line. Excuses, white lies, and saving face are not important. Regardless of rank or experience, a fighter pilot’s only goal is to ensure the good guys stay alive and the bad guys don’t. I’ve been flying fighters for over 12 years and all the fighter squadrons I’ve been in were filled with brilliant people dedicated to this one idea. The purpose of this book is to teach you to apply a fighter pilot mentality to your personal fitness. The same mindset and techniques that allow fighter pilots to perform consistently in high stress situations will help you to get and stay in the best shape of your life.

Several of my fellow pilots were killed in combat or unfortunate accidents. All fighter pilots have friends that were killed. This fact is integral to how we operate. I bet it’s the same in other fighting forces. We can’t accept mediocrity in ourselves or our squadron mates. The safety of men and women on the ground is also a concern. There have been many tragic fratricide accidents. Apart from dying, the scariest thing about combat is the thought that I could mess up and kill a good guy on the ground.

The resulting culture is very serious and sometimes immature. It’s the stress. Pilots have a small margin for error and the missions require consistent performance. We train our new pilots like apprentices. We haze them and constantly watch and assess them. It’s horrible to go through and I’m happy every day that I’m on the other side of the training table now. But I was taught the techniques and mindset necessary to pass the tests and move up the ranks. I also learned more techniques on my own. I didn’t move up in a straight line. Sometimes I went sideways or even down, but I still made it to today. Now I train new F-16 fighter pilots as an old—at only 37—experienced pilot. I enjoy teaching the young students to be fighter pilots, but this book is not about how to be a fighter pilot. And it’s not about how cool it is to be a fighter pilot. It’s about applying some of the discipline and techniques I learned as a pilot, and now teach, to getting your body into the best shape it’s ever been in.

I had always been in “okay” shape. Not great, not bad, just okay. I was not a college athlete, but in high school I played soccer at a high level and was a decent tennis player. I worked out in stretches of six months and would get in good shape. Amazingly, I ran an 8:45 mile and a half at the Academy when we had to run to class every day. But after that I just couldn’t maintain a program. I couldn’t stick to a healthy diet. I would always lose motivation and go back to eating bad food after a 12-hour flying day or drinking way too much beer in the fighter bar.

It wasn’t until I started applying fighter pilot techniques to my own program that things started to change. I started setting targets and hitting them. I started tracking my workouts and I got what I was eating under control. I started teaching others the same techniques. When my good buddy said, “you changed my life,” it was a turning point for me and the reason I wrote this book.

It’s not rocket science

Every fighter pilot knows the KISS acronym. Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s beaten into us from day one. Complicated plans are dangerous. The best plan is the simplest plan. Under combat stress and fatigue, even the best trained people make mistakes. The easier the plan is, the higher the chance of success.

Fighter pilot tactics are simple to remember and use. We remove the unnecessary parts of the problem and focus on a simple solution. This mentality is central to everything we do and is at the heart of this book. If ever in doubt, keep it simple stupid!

The techniques I outline in this book will follow this formula. They can be applied to any person at any age and in any physical or economic condition. They maximize the chance for success and minimize the chance for failure. I guarantee that these techniques will work for you if you put in the effort to follow them.

What’s more valuable, the fighter jet or the pilot?

Is there anything you own more valuable than your body? I argue it is our most valuable asset. Which would you choose: everything you own burns to the ground or you die 10 years earlier?

If you chose option 2, you either have a really nice house or you don’t value your life much. Yet we don’t treat our bodies like our most valuable asset. I have friends who treat their cars like their life blood and their actual life blood like trash.

Compared to my body, my possessions are worthless. If my car breaks down I can ride a bus. If my house is destroyed, I can live with family or friends. But if my body breaks down, it’s game over. I treat my body like a multi-million dollar fighter jet because, to me and my family, that’s what it is, my most valuable tool.

A fighter jet is useless without a pilot, but if there is no jet around I can still fight. In a day you can train me to use a machine gun relatively effectively. You can’t train a combat pilot in less than two years. They will just crash into the ground.

Getting in better shape is the best thing you can do to improve your most valuable asset. There are countless studies that definitively prove exercise and healthy eating increases the quality and length of your life. You will live better and longer with a healthy body. Getting in better shape is a war worth fighting. I will show you how to win that war step by step. But first you have to stop accepting excuses from the wimpy part of your brain.

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…

At least three hours before each mission—in a small briefing room behind a locked security vault—the flight leader for the mission writes “Survive and Kill” on a large white briefing board. Under this main objective, in big blue marker he writes the mission-specific objectives that will make that possible. The goals go from big to small. “No good guy losses, all weapons released correctly, wingman stay with flight leads, correct communication” Whether it is 1v1 dogfighting or a 12v8 large force exercise, the flight lead stands in front of the objectives for an hour and explains on a whiteboard how the pilots will work together to survive and kill.

The pilots then fly the mission as close to the briefing as possible. Everything is filmed. After the flight they all watch the replay together. The flight lead watches critical phases in slow motion and assesses if the objectives are accomplished. If any objective isn’t met—and there is usually at least one—they sometimes spend hours investigating why. After finding the cause, they decide on a solution. Younger pilots take notes and refer to the lessons later. This is how we constantly improve.

Now imagine you are a fighter pilot. Every day for 10 years, you spend hours planning, flying, and debriefing with one goal in mind, “Survive and Kill.” How hard would it be for you to kill someone in combat? Would you hesitate to drop a bomb? I don’t think you would because you are no different from us. We are normal men and women in an abnormal profession. I meet people all the time that tell me, “I couldn’t be a fighter pilot and do what you do.” But I believe without a doubt they could. I think anyone could, because it’s all about consistent pressure over time.

You may be the nicest person in the world, but if you do something long enough and think something long enough your brain will change. I knew it was happening to me when I had nightmares in training. Enough time passed and the nightmares stopped. After that there were no second thoughts.

You can’t trust your brain

If you think you’re getting all the information, think again. Hold the book at arm’s length and cover your right eye. Now stare at the X with your left eye and move the book closer to your face until the disappears.

Now cover your left eye and stare at the •. At the same distance from the image the X will disappear. We all have these two holes in our vision. They are caused by the biological cables (nerves) that run from the light-detecting cells in your retina to the processing section of your brain. Where the cable connects to your eye is the blind spot. You have lived your entire life with these two blind spots and chances are you didn’t know it. We don’t see a complete picture because our brain smooths out the image.

If an arrow was flying at your left eye from the • and your right eye was closed you would never see the arrow. The image isn’t smooth. Your brain is lying to you. It lies ALL THE TIME. It has its own agenda and often that agenda is neither healthy nor good for you. Since pilots started flying aircraft, we have been crashing into the ground because our brains thought the aircraft was doing one thing while it was actually doing something else. As instructors, we train students to never trust their biological sensors.

Which way is right?

After three winters in the Arctic cold of central Alaska my timing was lucky when an exchange assignment to Turkey showed up on the list. It was my time to move. I talked with my wife and we immediately chose Turkey. I was the only volunteer.

A year later I was in California at a military language school learning Turkish. My family and I then packed up for the seventh time in 12 years and made our way to Ankara. There I checked in with a Turkish F-16 squadron to fly as an instructor.

After a year in Turkey I was the instructor flying in the back seat of a young but capable Turkish wingman’s jet. The student flies in the front seat and the instructor sits in the back seat. Once in a while I have to take the controls to show the proper way to do a maneuver or stop the student from flying into another plane. Otherwise the student flies and we watch. We call it riding trunk monkey. This flight was at night and it was his first flight using night vision goggles (NVGs). There was a grey cloud deck covering the base but the airspace we were going to was clear. The flight lead took off and 20 seconds later we followed him into the clouds. We attached the NVGs to our helmets, and the front pilot, Macit, started closing on the lead aircraft to “rejoin” with him and fly 10’ formation off the lead’s left wingtip.

As we flew closer to the lead jet, the lights of our aircraft illuminated the surrounding clouds in bright green flashes. Just as you may have seen in the movies, everything is green through NVGs. The flashes were bright and disorienting. Since we couldn’t see the horizon or the ground, I knew without a doubt we were going to get spatially disoriented. I had been in similar situations before while crossing the ocean at night on a tanker. That night in Turkey, my brain was convinced we were turning, but since I wasn’t flying I was able to look down and check the instruments. As I suspected, we were flying straight and level. I was disoriented and Macit confirmed my suspicions when he started flying too high on the lead aircraft. “Hocam, spatial disorienteyim,” or Teacher, I’m spatially disoriented.

As instructors, we let the disorientation continue because it is important that the student experience his brain lying to him in a training environment. “Sakin ol,” I said, remain calm. I told him to focus on his formation references: line up the wingtip missile with the intake, watch the spacing, and fly smooth. I helped him on the controls a little and we got back into the correct formation. A few minutes later we flew out of the clouds into clear air. Upon seeing the horizon, our brains reconfigured and we started to feel normal again.

Am I a better pilot than Macit? Absolutely not. He is an excellent pilot. I am just more experienced and have learned from my previous instructors not to trust my brain. Once you internalize that your brain often is wrong, it is much easier to do what is required. Macit will be better prepared when he gets spatially disoriented in the future.

Trusting your brain over your instruments is called “flying by the seat of your pants” and it will kill you. This is why so many non-professional pilots crash their private aircraft. Even highly trained professional pilots die due to spatial disorientation. When you get spatially disoriented it is hard as hell to trust what the instruments are saying. The reason is the “giant hand phenomenon.” It happened to my buddy, who said “it felt as if a giant hand was holding my right arm on the controls.” He used his left hand to grab the stick and recover the aircraft from the dive. How crazy is that? The rational trained part of his brain knew the aircraft was pointed at the ground in a death spiral but the irrational part of his brain stopped his arm from saving him. Using the other hand broke the spell.

Our brains don’t give us all the details. Your brain will say “You can’t see that arrow? No worries, it’s not important.” It also says things like “you don’t need to get in shape, you’re doing fine,” or “one more beer’s not gonna do any harm,” or “go ahead, even though you are completely full, eat another dessert, you deserve it!” I call this part of the brain the wimpy voice because when it gets its way we act like giant wusses.

The wimpy voice is persuasive though, and knows you better than you know yourself. Most of the time, it doesn’t even have to say anything because it is already part of your subconscious. It lives there, in your brain’s blind spot. But once you know it’s there you can learn to detect it and counteract it. Once you feel the spatial disorientation you are better prepared for it in the future.

The wimpy voice is not you. It is an artifact of your subconscious and will get in the way of reaching your goals. If you are spatially disoriented and don’t recover the jet you will crash. Your brain knows this fact and still the wimpy voice can freeze your actions. It confuses and disorients. This book is a roadmap to overcoming the wimpy voice.

Are you ready for a little test? The program in this book takes 4 hours a week and the diet (or “food plan”) is completely livable. Make a promise right now that you will do the complete program in this book.

Did you do it? Did you promise? I bet your first thoughts were some sort of excuse for why you can’t do the program. Am I right? Take a second to think back. The first couple of thoughts were probably negative thoughts like “I don’t have enough time, the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I’ll probably get injured, it’s too late for me…” This is the wimpy voice. The promise is not important. People promise stuff all the time. Then they don’t do what they promised and feel bad about it and quit. Who are you promising anyway? The wimpy voice?

Break down and rebuild

You can be conditioned. It may take a long time, years even, but we can all be molded somewhat. Companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars on advertising because it works. In the military, indoctrination is part and parcel of our basic training, which doesn’t actually involve the jobs new recruits will do in the military. The trainers even tell us the purpose of basic training is to break us down so they can rebuild us.

Everyone is susceptible to advertising, propaganda, indoctrination or whatever you want to call it. Our brains, like our bodies, can be molded. Why not use this fact to your advantage? Instead of letting other people manipulate you, why not convince yourself to achieve positive goals? All you have to do is focus on the task over a long enough time frame. In order to lead a rich and happy life, you must first learn to understand and control your own brain. You can do this through the medium of fitness.

“How can I persuade myself to get in shape?” How does anyone indoctrinate themselves? They tell themselves it is true every day. If 19 middle-aged idiots can brainwash themselves into flying fully loaded passenger planes into buildings, ultimately murdering kids and old people, I promise you can convince yourself that getting in shape is a priority.

It’s not about making a promise to yourself. You don’t promise that you’ll brush your teeth; you just go and brush your teeth. The assumption is that you will brush your teeth. You don’t have to convince anyone or make any compromises when it comes to brushing your teeth.

But how many years have you been compromising on getting in shape? How many years have you been on autopilot, unwilling to face the fact that a healthy life is a better life? How many years have you been eating and drinking whatever you want? You’ve eaten that food and drunk that drink a thousand times. Do you really need to eat it and drink it again? How many times have you said, “I need to get in shape?” How many times have you been drunk? How many times have you watched worthless TV shows and read crappy books? How many times have you been lazy and just lay on the couch watching other people make a positive impact on the world?

Now how many times have you been in impeccable shape, “ripped,” even? How many times have you felt great and been amazed at what your body can accomplish? How many times have you set a difficult goal and tracked it to completion? How many times have you felt the confidence and motivation that seeing that goal to the end brings?

[]Chapter 2

Star Wars Is Better than Top Gun

Maybe it’s generational but as far as I’m concerned, forget Top Gun, I’m a fighter pilot because of the original Star Wars trilogy (and maybe a little, Last Starfighter). In the final battle of the original Star Wars the rebels’ task was to destroy the Death Star. If they accomplish this objective they win the battle. All friendly action was committed to this goal. Decoy the fighters, two torpedoes on the primary target and the Death Star explodes. During the bombing run, even as Darth Vader rolls in on his six and starts shooting his wingmen, Gold 5 pilot is saying “Stay on target.” You must teach your brain to be completely focused on the task like the rebel fighters were focused on their bombing run.

Never mind the rebel fighters have poor defensive tactics and are just sitting ducks…at least they stayed on the target run. Imagine if Luke had broken off the attack and did not “stay on target.” The rebels would have lost the battle and probably the war too. If you don’t stay on target and develop a serious plan to reach one singular objective, your chance for success goes way down.

As a kid I was scared to death of the Terminator. Why was he so scary, besides having an indestructible skeleton and red eyes? Because, as John Conner yells, “He won’t stop until you’re dead. That’s what he does…that’s all he does!” What you program into the Terminator part of your brain is the task. Walls and police and fat friends may get in the way, but you don’t care. It’s what you do…it’s all you do. Make the task a priority like the Terminator and stay on target even if Darth Vader rolls in on your six. If you stay focused on the task, have an open mind, and think in the long term, you literally cannot fail. Undoubtedly, there will be setbacks, but in the war to get in shape, in the long run, the only way you can fail is if you give up.

The information you are using is wrong

If you spend countless hours doing boring cardio and wonder why you “just can’t lose weight,” it is because our current model of eating calories and burning them is out to lunch. You don’t burn calories. Your body is not a combustion engine.

Muscles don’t burn anything. They contract by breaking down the chemical compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Your body gets ATP by absorbing food and converting it to glucose in the blood stream. Some of this glucose is converted to ATP and sent to the muscle cells. The rest of the glucose is stored in the muscles as glycogen (sugar), in the blood as blood sugar, and as fat in your midsection.

When you command your muscles to contract, a cell has three options. It can use the limited amount of ATP it has directly, it can use the limited amount of glycogen it has by turning it into ATP, or it can activate the aerobic system and get sustained long-term energy. The first two processes are ancient, inefficient, and anaerobic, which means they don’t need oxygen. Bacteria use these processes. We, however, have evolved to use the two ancient processes and a third aerobic process.

The reason you don’t lose weight is because the aerobic process is 15 times more efficient than the anaerobic processes. The aerobic process makes 37 ATP molecules while the anaerobic processes make only 2 ATP molecules from the same glucose molecule. This is why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio is more effective than regular cardio, because it forces the body to use anaerobic processes.

It gets worse. The Atwater system we currently use to find calories—4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein and 9 calories per gram of fat—was developed in the 1890s. While Wilbur Wright was test-flying the Wright Flyer, Wilbur Atwater was burning food in a box and measuring the heat as calories. We aren’t flying in airplanes made out of paper, sticks, and bicycle gears. Why are we still putting our food in a box and lighting it on fire? No wonder there is an obesity epidemic.

If the basic assumptions are wrong, how have so many thousands of people gotten in amazing shape? What do the models on fitness magazines do that you don’t do? They found a system that worked for them. I want to teach you how you can find a system that works for you using tried and true fighter pilot techniques.

The 4Ts

I learned the 4Ts during my best experience so far in the military, on a training exercise called the Tactical Leadership Programme. I went to this month-long exercise in 2006 when it was located in a small rural town in Belgium, on an air base nestled in a forest surrounded by green countryside and French-speaking villages.

Over the next 4 weeks another U.S. pilot and I flew all over Europe with British, German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Czech pilots. After simulating bombing runs against a German frigate over the North Sea we returned to Belgium and drank Belgian beer while laughing with the Germans and Italians in the bar; the next day we flew to France against other air and land targets and drank French wine and ate French cheese; the day after was Spain and eating paella.

I will never forget the foreign pilots I flew with. One German Tornado pilot had been an East German military policeman before the wall fell: “It was great fun.” He sounded exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger and had the same square jaw, “we would walk around and find a riot or something and beat some people, then we would train on machine guns and later go to the bars…it was great.”

My favorite quote from an Italian pilot (and there were many) was: “Italians never beg for sex…we take it or we pay for it.” He then immediately broke into a heartfelt rendition of “With or Without You” by U2. I heard every painful note of it clearly, because we had packed four of us into the back of a small European rental car.

The exercise was during the World Cup. This only increased the magnitude of the event as I watched firsthand each country’s reaction to the losses and victories. The Italian pilots didn’t say a word after their country won the cup, but somehow their proud arrogance bled through. The fact they were wearing the Italian National Team Jersey over their flight suits may also have helped.

The technique that the practiced European instructors taught us—and which never let me down in exercises later in Alaska and Turkey—was the 4Ts. Each morning we showed up to the mass briefing room at 8:00 and the instructors told us which country we were flying to. Somehow, 4 hours later, 26 aircraft from seven different countries took off and flew a large force coordinated mission. How do you make a tactical plan that quickly with so many countries involved? How do you ensure 100% safety for all parties? We did exactly what the instructors told us to do and we slammed the Red forces.

Task: Primary objective of the entire mission. Examples are “Defend Blueland from air aggression,” “Degrade enemy command and control,” “Destroy enemy combat capability.”

Targets: Based on intel, if we hit these targets we will accomplish the task.

Threats: Based on intel, these are the threats that can stop us from hitting the targets.

Tactics: The specific techniques that we will use to avoid the threats and hit the targets.

The blueprint of this book is the 4Ts. This technique enables me to efficiently explain the objective, identify what can get in the way, and describe the best plan of attack for you to get and stay in the best shape of your life.

I flew in several exercises where the mission commander (MC) chose the tactics himself and micromanaged the planning process. He did not double tap (bomb by separate assets) the primary targets, the surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were not suppressed, and the air cover assets did not focus their air defense in the right area. We lost several good guys (simulated), missed important targets, and had long, painful debriefs.

On the flip side, I witnessed excellent mission commanders who used the 4Ts. These MCs used all the resources of the group by asking pointed questions. They knew they didn’t know everything and allowed other people to contribute to the plan. Everyone knew the primary task. The group selected the most effective targets and all the threats were identified. If the task, targets, and threats are correctly identified, developing the tactics isn’t that difficult. It is laying the groundwork and correctly following the 4Ts that builds an effective game plan.

Make sure your mind is open to other ways to accomplish the task. Although the MC has the final say, good commanders listen to inputs and then decide the best course of action. There is more than one way to destroy a target. Do we even have to destroy it? Can we go around it to achieve our objective? As long as we have a clearly defined task then we know where to end up.

I have never seen an exercise or combat mission go exactly according to plan. We’ve gotten close, but there is always something: thunderstorms, radio malfunctions, surprise enemy actions, incorrect intelligence, or plain old human error. The successful people in life have learned to avoid these roadblocks (threats) to consistently achieve their short-range goals (targets). As long as these goals are chosen correctly, they will reach the long-term objective (task). All successful people use some form of this process whether they know it or not. I will show you in this book how to use the combat-proven 4Ts in your own life to stay on target and get the body you’ve always wanted.

The OODA loop

In any fighter squadron you will hear jokes about the OODA (pronounced “oo-da”) loop. Specifically you will hear “get inside their OODA loop.” The OODA loop is unique among military acronyms, because it is not a TLA (three letter acronym). If this theory were created today, I think its developer, Colonel John Boyd, would have chosen ODA loop instead. Like all other military acronyms, the OODA loop has to have a sexy acronym so we can use it in clever sentences like “my kid got inside my OODA loop.” This means “my kid was able to think faster and out-analyze me, once this happens she can foresee my actions and there is nothing I can do to win.”

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. In the OODA loop, we objectively observe what is happening, orient ourselves by looking at the options, decide on an option, and then act on it. We keep repeating this process in a loop. After we act, we observe the results, orient, decide, and act again. If we do this loop faster and more accurately than our adversary, we “get inside their OODA loop.” The most important part of the OODA loop and why I am explaining it to you is: you must objectively track your progress.

You have to write useful, accurately measured information down in a log. If you don’t objectively and accurately observe your progress you can’t start a decision loop process. You will stop productive techniques that are moving you closer to your goal and instead start unproductive techniques. From my experience this is the main reason people quit, they don’t track their progress. If you are not willing to track your workouts by writing them down or if you can’t track your weight and waist size weekly, then I recommend you don’t waste your time starting.

In Turkey I trained a young Turkish sergeant named Yigit. After working out in the gym for a few months on his own and not seeing much progress he asked me to help him. After three weeks of starting my program he approached me and said he was losing his motivation. A friend of Yigit’s had joked with him: “You work out all the time? You look fatter!”

“Let’s take a look at your notebook,” I said. His goal was to lose fat. According to his logbook, in the past week he had lost half an inch from his waist, but his weight had gone up a pound. I could also tell from the log that his strength had increased. He had lifted more weight than the week before. This told me immediately that not only was he losing fat, he was also gaining muscle at the same time. He was making great progress and was on target to reach his goal within a month. After we looked at the numbers together, he continued the program and achieved his goal.

Coincidentally, the following week I had the same feeling that Yigit had. While trying to lose fat, I too thought my progress had stopped. I didn’t feel any skinnier, but when I looked back in my logbook I was surprised—just like the Turkish sergeant—to see that I was still on my progress line. I was hitting the targets. Like recovering from spatial disorientation, I had to convince my brain to look at the numbers and see the truth. If I hadn’t tracked my progress I probably would have changed a program that was already effective.

[]Chapter 3

True Change is Long-Term

The Air Force does not take a kid right out of college and put him in a combat fighter aircraft. There is a step by step process. Candidates first start out in Cessna aircraft for a private pilot’s license. Then come jet propeller aircraft, fighter jet trainers, and finally, combat fighters. It takes an intense steady progression over more than two years to create a fighter pilot. And then they are still just dangerous enough to be the F’ing New Guy (FNG) in a fighter squadron. It takes another 2 years before they are experienced enough to lead other wingmen around.

It would be crazy to put someone directly into a multi-million dollar fighter and expect them to fly it safely, much less fight with it. We will apply the same mentality with your body. Every day your body will get a teeny-tiny bit stronger. You will lose a small amount of fat. Your cardiovascular system will become stronger by a small percentage. Your joints, ligaments, and connective tissue will be just a tad more resilient. The ATP, creatine, and glycogen in your muscles will recover a microscopic bit faster. But as the days and weeks pass, and then the months, the canyon will start to form and the water will start to run faster down the river. As the water flows faster, the gains will come a little quicker. You will be able to work harder. You will gain a deeper understanding of your body and what diet it needs for maximum performance. You will have developed systems and habits that counteract the negative habits of the past. After a year you will have completely changed your mindset and your body.

A year! How can it possibly take that long? Well…it depends on your goals, it could take less or more time, but it will take time. This is why people fail. They think too short term, their goals are too small. You need to have ambition and self confidence in what you can accomplish. This is why getting started is the first task. You must commit to a plan and then follow through to achieve the goal. This process will reinforce itself in your brain. The more you follow the plan, the more results you will see. The more results you see, the more you will follow the plan. Getting in shape is the most attainable task. The only thing between the current you and a slim, strong body, is you. No matter what anyone says, you control what food goes in your mouth and what activities you do.

Consistent pressure is unstoppable

In my 13-year career as a fighter pilot, 85% of the pilots I have worked with are average fighter pilots and 15% are exceptional. Among such dedicated and trained individuals I consider being average a compliment. I hope I am considered average by my peers.

This means that out of the 100 or so pilots I have worked closely with on a daily basis I consider 15 of them exceptional. Out of these 15, I believe only one pilot was naturally an amazing pilot. He was just better at everything. Maybe he worked harder when I wasn’t looking but he appeared to simply be better than the rest of us. When we went go-cart racing, he always won. When we went skiing, he was the best. He won every game of twister. He is also ridiculously nice and wears a cheery Christmas sweater with a fuzzy reindeer on it during the holiday season. My point is that the other 14 were not naturally better pilots. They just consistently worked harder than everyone else.

I grew up playing video games. Against my parents’ wishes I would bike 2 miles down to the local Dairy Queen. With two quarters I found in the couch I could easily play for 30 minutes. This dedication to video games served me well in pilot training. I won “best hands” in fighter training and won all air-to-air and air-to-ground events. I finished number 1 out of 11 pilots. The problem is that sometimes success limits us. It made me cocky and I performed below my potential on my first few assignments.

The truly exceptional pilots trained harder and longer than I did in the 12 years after pilot training. While I was drinking in the bar, they were training in the simulator. When I went home early on Friday night (7 PM), they stayed to hear combat stories from the senior pilots. When I watched TV on Sunday, they went into work. They simply made being a great fighter pilot more of a priority. They wanted it more, so each day they spent a little more time than I did training, studying, and thinking about it. I still put in at least 60-hour weeks training and studying, but they spent a little more time than all of us each day and in the end became truly exceptional combat pilots.

I watched consistent pressure over time change a below-average pilot into an exceptional pilot. The Top Gun pilot in one of my squadrons had finished last in his training class, but it just made him work harder after pilot training. You don’t have to give up weekends or time with your family to get in shape, but you do have to give consistent priority to the task.

For instance, there will be times when a friend will offer you your favorite junk food while you are trying to lose weight. If you can’t resist, then I say go ahead and eat it, but don’t go to the store and buy a box of it to keep at your house. You can always take a short break or fit cheat days into your food plan. In fact, we will plan break weeks and cheat days into your program.

I listen to my body and take a week off when required. It happens every two to three months. I’m taking a break week right now. My joints and muscles are recovering, but the best part is that next week I will be excited to get back into my workout.

Also, one day a week of bad eating is not going to affect your overall food plan.[1] If you maintain a healthy diet 85% (6/7days) of the time, I promise you will reach your goals. But you have to eat healthy 85% of the time consistently. Maybe you were in amazing shape in high school or college, but I guarantee there are tens of thousands of people your age who are in better shape. Why? Because they have made getting a well-muscled, healthy body a priority over a longer period of time.

It’s not you that wants to quit. It’s the wimpy part of your brain. Just tell yourself this is the task. The task is the priority. Every day dedicated to the task chips a little more stone from the canyon. Cheat and modify if you have to, but don’t quit. As an example, take a look at a log scale for the Dow Jones stock market over the last 100 years.

Observations Blog

If you zoom in on the monthly returns, you see extreme ups and downs. Even in the yearly chart there is a lot of variation. But imagine if the stock market “quit” after the Great Depression of 1929. The stock market would have missed the greatest creation of wealth in the history of the world. You will undoubtedly have variation in your own program. Sometimes you will go backwards. That’s okay, just don’t quit. Think about the exceptional combat pilots, the stock market, and the Grand Canyon.

If you focus on this single goal your body has no choice but to adapt. The pressure that you need to apply is not as great as you think. The pivotal factor is that you stay on target and maintain a slight upward trajectory in the long term.

Find your inner vanity

There is a motto in the fighter pilot community: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” It means we will do anything to win within the rules of the game. Watch any professional athlete such as a football or basketball player. They grab their opponent’s jersey at key times and stand in front of charging players in order to get knocked to the ground. They foul the opponent to avoid a score. Would they do these things if they weren’t completely focused on the task? Use anything within the rules of the game to your advantage.

If the goal in your mind is to “get in better shape,” I encourage you to think more like a fighter pilot. Make your goal more measurable, like “I want a 6-pack” or “I want my body fat percentage to be 10% (17% for women).” Be ambitious with the goal and use vanity to your advantage. Everyone has an ego and is self-conscious. You care about your appearance and what other people think about you. It’s impossible not to. Women put on makeup and men shave every day. There is a reason that every fitness magazine has at least one article on losing belly fat. We care about our appearance and most people care about having a flat stomach. The desire to have a great looking body is a motivational lever we can press to reach a positive goal: a healthy mind and body.

Now don’t overdo it. This may come as a surprise, but more than a few fighter pilots I know have been considered arrogant. I certainly was after fighter training. Success went to my brain and limited me. There is a big difference between arrogance and having a positive self-image. Arrogance doesn’t let us listen to other points of view. We can always be wrong. Only the arrogant can’t acknowledge their shortcomings.

My back hurts…I must be getting old

Nope, you’re just weak. Now I am not a doctor, I am a fighter pilot, so if you have any genuine medical concerns please see a medical professional. That being said, from my experience doctors are clueless when it comes to joint health, shoulder issues, and especially back pain. In fact the North American Spine Society even admits they don’t know what is going on: “Many different theories try to explain chronic [low back] pain. The exact mechanism is not completely understood.”[2] In their defense, they do recommend weight loss, stretching, and strength training as the solution.

How many people do you know who suffer from lower back pain? I know a lot. In fact, half of all working Americans admit to having experienced back pain symptoms in the past year. Are you kidding me? That means there is a 50% chance that you had lower back pain symptoms in the past year. Back pain is something I wouldn’t wish on my enemy (well maybe) and undoubtedly lowers quality of life. Now imagine your life with less back pain. Imagine everything in the world weighs less. How much money or time would you give to get this?


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Stay on Target: Use Fighter Pilot Techniques to Get and Stay In Shape

Whether you are a beginner or a serious athlete, you can learn how to get the body you have always wanted. Author and experienced F-16 instructor pilot Chris Lehto will show you why you have not reached your fitness objectives in the past. It starts by understanding that our current system is flawed: •Your body doesn’t burn food. Our current calorie counting system is over 100 years old and is incorrect. •Nobody knows how to correctly measure calories used in resistance training. We measure anaerobic processes through oxygen (these processes are an-aerobic). •Fad diets are not sustainable. •Long sessions of cardio are boring and inefficient. This book will take you through everything you need to know to apply an effective and sustainable long-term program in your own life. You will learn to apply the same mindset and techniques to your fitness and nutrition programs that fighter pilots use to consistently perform under high-stress conditions. PART 1 - MINDSET Develop consistency in your fitness program. Use processes that will change your mindset from "I don't have the time," to "I can't wait to see my progress this week." PART 2 - WORKOUT Learn the most effective way to lose fat and gain muscle in the least amount of time. By using resistance training, compound movements, and a small amount of cardio after you lift, you can maximize fat loss and minimize time. You will have a stronger, leaner body in less time. PART 3 - NUTRITION Develop a long term livable diet. Keep your food to approximately 1/3 fats, 1/3 carbs, and 1/3 protein. Eat absolutely whatever you want one day a week and be amazed when you reach your fitness goals. Stay on Target explains clearly how to use simple combat proven techniques to maintain motivation, increase the effectiveness of your workouts, and stick with a livable long term food plan. With anecdotes and scientific evidence, Chris explains that it’s not about intensity of effort, it’s about consistency. Stay on Target will change the way you approach fitness and nutrition. It will give you a step-by-step guide to get in the best shape of your life and have fun while doing it. Use this book to Stay on Target, and get in the best shape of your life.

  • Author: chrislehto1
  • Published: 2015-12-15 04:40:16
  • Words: 40482
Stay on Target: Use Fighter Pilot Techniques to Get and Stay In Shape Stay on Target: Use Fighter Pilot Techniques to Get and Stay In Shape