Is physical fitness part of self-defense?

Last night I was feeling a little punchy, felt like stirring up some butthurt, so I posted this status on the Gun Nuts Radio fan page:

A thought: if you’re so overweight that it’s a health risk and you’re not doing anything about it, are you really serious about self defense?

Probably not.

You can likely imagine the slew of butthurt that ensued following that, some of which I encouraged and actively trolled, because as I said I was feeling a little punchy. However, I did actually want to expand on the line of thought in the post, and I wanted to do it here, because Facebook is a terrible place for actual writing.

One of the things that every single angry commenter seems to have missed is the extremely important qualifier in the original statement: “if you’re not doing anything about it.” That’s important because it speaks to mindset, and how many times have we discussed the importance of mindset to self-defense? They also missed the part about “health risk”, but that’s less important. But first to be clear: I am not talking about people who are carrying some extra weight. I’m carrying some extra weight. Most people could stand to lose 5-15 pounds, that’s not the issue here. I’m talking about people with serious health risks because of their weight, who need to lose weight or they might literally die. You know, this guy:


Secondly, I’m not talking about people who are aware of their issue and trying to control it or correct it. That could be as little as going for walks and having salad once or twice a week. Giving up soda pop, whatever.

No, the people I’m talking about are the seriously overweight people who don’t care about their weight, but are obsessed with CCW and self defense. They spend all their time prepping for a fight that will likely never happen, a fight they’d likely lose anyway, while intentionally losing the fight to their own body. That person is likely going to lose any real self-defense encounter they get in because they’re not prepared to deal with the physical stress of a fight. In their head, they’ve constructed this imaginary self defense scenario where they whip out their Glock 19, and scare the black masked robber off.

It comes down to discipline. A person who chooses to be overweight and not doing anything about it lacks discipline. That discipline is an important part of being successful in a self defense situation, and is an even more important part of being a good shooter.


Now let’s take a look at some of the common excuses made by overweight people who don’t want to train.

1. I have a thyroid/glandular problem.
No you don’t. 70% of Americans are overweight. 70%! That’s insane. The “thyroid/gland/genetic” line is just a cop-out for lazy people. It takes a simple blood test to check for a thyroid disorder, and I’d be willing to bet a considerable amount of money that 99% of people who claim to have one, don’t.

Furthermore, let’s talk about genetics. Yes, your genes play a roll in your appearance. Some people will never have six-pack abs. God in His infinite wisdom decided to build me like a fire hydrant, short and squatty. Without radical diet and exercise, I won’t ever have a six pack. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy, and it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t exercise just because of my body type.

2. “It’s my choice”
Yes, yes it is your choice. But I guess I missed the memo that we’d entered a world where we weren’t allowed to criticize people when they made stupid choices.

3. The gun is the great equalizer
I want to make this clear: I am not saying obese people shouldn’t carry. I’ve never said that. However, whenever I see the line about how “guns mean a 90 year old granny can defend herself against a 250 pound linebacker” I roll my eyes. Yes, of course that’s true. But that goes back to the fantasy-land self defense encounter. People have decided that when they do need a gun, it’s going to conform to the exact scenario they have set up in their head. What if the best defense is to run away, and you can’t? What if you’re in close and need to push someone off you, but you’re so weak you can’t even do a single push-up?

Fit people are harder to kill because their body is better prepared to handle injury. If this wasn’t true, the military wouldn’t bother with all the physical conditioning, and would just send soldiers into battle at 400 lbs because all that lard would soak up a lot of bullets.

To wrap all this up, I want repeat the very beginning of this article. If you’re dangerously overweight and not doing anything about it, you’re probably not really serious about self defense. You may think you are, but your gun is just a talisman. I’m not saying you need to be an Olympic athlete, hell you don’t even need to be as fit as me (and I’m not that fit) but you need to understand that self-defense is a lot more than just carrying a gun. It’s a mindset that extends to your entire life. You don’t have to walk around in condition orange searching and assessing all the time…but you do need to think.

And maybe have the salad this week.


  1. Yesterday I did my Biometrics for our Health Insurance, we get lower rates if we do them, I get all my blood tests and such for free when we do this. I know I can stand to lose about 25-30 Lbs, but at age 53, it’s a whole lot harder than at agar 26. I’m eating healthier and doing by best to exercise more, and now that the temperatures in the valley are going down to the reasonable level, going out on walks will be on my schedule. I’m doing something about it!

  2. You write a very thought provoking article. However, where I take exception with it is, I know I am not in nearly as good shape now as I was 20 years ago. Aside from being much heavier, I also have to deal with things like arthritis, bursitis and other ailments that just come naturally with advancing age. That being said, I have found it can work to my advantage as younger, fitter a**holes consistently underestimate me. Now understand, I’m not in the same weight-class as the above pictured gentlemen, I have found that attitude, experience and situational awareness can make up for many physical shortcomings.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Doug. I do want to be clear, guys like you aren’t really the problem here. You’re aware of your condition and you’re taking steps to control how it affects you. I have no problems with that. It’s the dudes who say”I just need a gun” while drinking a liter of cola and eating an entire pizza that I have problems with.

      1. Farva wants a liter of cola… what is a liter of cola?!?!
        (Into microphone) That Dimpus burger is for a cop….

    2. “I have found it can work to my advantage as younger, fitter a**holes consistently underestimate me” Does this statement refer to actual physical altercations you had?

      I think I understand this point,I believe most people saw footage on the internet of an underdog beating the shit out of a much more psychically capable opponent because the latter thought he already won but I don’t think we need to rely on the mistakes of our adversaries, they might not make any. Seeing as self defense involves preparing for a worst case scenario that will probably never happen you might as well prepare for the worst possible case.

      I think Caleb made a mistake concentrating on the fat part of the article which causes some people to miss the point of it. Maybe I am the one who is misinterpreting the text but the point I got from it is be as fit AS YOU CAN. If you are a 50 year old man it doesn’t mean you should try and look like a 20 year old gym dweller but it doesn’t mean you should do nothing but gain weight. A lot of guys will be much better served with walking on a treadmill couple of times a week than going to the range and blasting paper.

  3. Interesting thought… So your saying that maybe it’s a good idea to be able to say cut/split some wood (good upper body work out, plus some cheap heat for a cold winter) and maybe hit the gym when you can. Huh who knew? All the TO’s were right after all!

  4. Hell yes, it’s important. When you feel out of breath by bending over to lace up your footwear then it’s time to reassess one’s life choices. Which is exactly what I did a few years back. Dropped all of the soda, cake, pie, ice cream, etc out of my diet, smaller portions of everything else and got regular exercise by long walks and rides on my mountain bike. After a while I dropped over 60 pounds and felt noticeably healthier both physically and mentally. I’m 47 now and it most definitely is more of an effort to do so with the myriad joys of aging such as arthritis and a ever slowing metabolism but it’s well worth it.

  5. I think what you are saying is that even people on the internet should strive to be more well rounded individuals(not body shape). I predict that the internet will resist this.

    Caleb, what happened to the Walther CCP? Did this gun evaporate from reality?

  6. This was me. In fact, there is a video you posted of us blasting Bowling pins with shotguns at West Coast Armory when I was still that guy. I’ve since lost 85 lbs and now regularly run events such as Spartan Race and Tough Mudder (pretty sure you didn’t even recognize me last time you saw me at West Coast Armory a year or two ago). I realized that gear only gets you so far. As a father and a husband I can’t effectively protect my family if my only action plan involves actuating my trigger finger. I need to be fit enough to move myself, and carry someone else if necessary. In addition, I feel great, haven’t been sick in three years, have a ton of energy, and my wife and kids appreciate how much more active I am now. Do it, get off the couch, go for a walk. When you get good at that, go for a run. When you get good at that do some push-ups and pull-ups, you’ll feel amazing and be far more effective at life in general.

  7. I do not know how old you are Caleb and I do not necessarily disagree with the gist of what you are saying, but the epidemic of obesity in this country is just not that simple as suggesting that you choose a salad this week. I am intelligent. I’m also overweight and have numerous health issues at 58 years of age. Believe me, at my age losing weight is NOT a simple matter. Metabolism in the older population is incredibly complex. And the food industry in this country makes loosing weight extremely difficult. Sugar is in virtually every processed food. Fat-free means high sugar. Losing weight means completely eliminating pre-processed prepared food. How many people do NOT cook home meals these days? The number is huge. Husband and wife BOTH work full-time. they come home and do NOT prepare a home cooked meal where ingredients can be controlled, the eat out or quickly heat up some type of pre-cooked frozen meal or whatever, that is loaded with fat and/or sugar for flavor.

    Not an excuse, just a fact. The food industry in this country has pretty much destroyed the concept of healthy eating in favor of speed, convenience, and Flavor by using tons of fat, sugar, salt, etc.

    I’m just saying that you aren’t wrong, but it isn’t that simple either.

    1. It is one of those things that is actually simple, but not easy. I have recently gone down the same path as Caleb is talking about, going from spending my free time between going online and doing firearms training to going to the gym and eating right as a hobby. I will say this, many people who have never been overweight do not know how hard it is to lose a substantial amount of weight (Like 50+ pounds). James, if you’re honest, you know what you need to do to lose weight. You don’t even have to exercise. Just don’t eat. Prepare your meals ahead of time in your free time instead of watching TV/sitting at the computer. Don’t go crazy and try to lose huge amounts of weight. Use myfitnesspal (website or app for your smartphone) to track your calories and bring your eating under control. Make sure you get enough protein (100-150 grams/day is plenty) and make sure you keep your calories in check. This will equate to eating less fat and carbs (NOT cutting out carbs and fat altogether, just getting it under control). It is simple, but not easy. You will be hungry. You will be irritated. You will be tough to deal with. If you are seriously overweight it may take a year or more to get where you need to be. After that, you have learned how to control your eating, and you will be healthier and live longer for it. You already know what to do, and you should do it. If you choose not to, any excuse is as good as another.

      1. Ah, Josh. You almost had me believing that you cared. That you had true empathy. until that final comment. Yes, I know what I would have to do. But, you do not really know me or my particular situation.

        “You will be hungry. You will be irritated. You will be tough to deal with.”

        And in my current employment situation, I will be fired! I have about a year and a half until I can retire. Until then, I have to survive. Both with my weight and with my livelihood.

        I congratulate you for your accomplishment. You have accomplished much and should be proud. But, don’t use your accomplishment to put others down.

        When I hit that magical minimal retirement date, I will be able to stop the 10-12 hour days that I currently put in 5 days a week. My retirement and my family’s future will be secure. 588 days. Until then, I will survive. Shooting on the weekends is my one release.

        Take Care.

    2. I am in my 50’s and I have lost 75 lbs. Was it easy? Not really, but it wasn’t horrible. Do I eat out often? Yes. You just have to be smart about it and use portion control. Learn to eat things that are more filling for less calories. I used Weight Watchers because you can eat real food (and yes, eat out). I have kept the weight off for 2 years now. It is doable! 🙂

    3. “…and have numerous health issues at 58 years of age.”

      This seems to be a recurring trend in these discussions. It highlights the important of getting into good fitness habits when you’re younger, because it’s easier to maintain good health when you’re 60 than it is to reverse years of damage.

      1. Completely agree that it’s better to get in the fitness groove early and keep it up for life. But in the event that didn’t happen (it has not happened for 75% of the US population) – any reason to NOT do something about it is an excuse to keep doing the same ol’ comfortable things that got you fat & out of shape. “I’m too old, I have bad knees, my metabolism is too slow”, blah blah blah blah… All of that is translated into I don’t like to exercise and I won’t do what it takes with my lifestyle and eating plan to change.

        Getting back to the premise of the discussion – physical condition is inextricably tied to personal defense. Period. You can’t just add a firearm and become a warrior for your family. The gun is just a single element of self-defense. Unless you are truly disabled ANY daily exercise regimen, large or small, is part of your personal/family firewall.

      2. I’ll agree with you there, PG. I was skinny as a rail until I turned 25. Then, I started slowly and consistently gaining weight. I got out of the army in 1998 and I always met the height/weight standards – barely. But, after I got out of the ARMY I gained 100lbs in about 5 years. and I have been fighting it (unsuccessfully) ever since. I do not need anyone to tell me that I need to loose weight! I carry it around with me every day of my life! But you are definitely right. it is much easier to “stay in shape” than it is to get back into shape. And the older you get, the harder it is.

    4. I hear you James and I’m encouraged by the fact that you know what the enemy is: sugar (it’s in everything and highly addictive)….so by knowing what the enemy is, you can then work to overcome and defeat it. (it’s not the only bad boy out there but I’d start with defeating that first) Start by eating or drinking nothing with more than 5 grams of sugar…that’s it….just focus on that –you don’t have to count calories or look at fat…just the sugar and it’s fairly easy since everything is labeled these days. Don’t switch to diet pop as that’s no good either….then after you do that for two weeks, you can have a treat on the weekend so that you don’t start to feel deprived–but don’t over do it. I’ve been eating like that and we also eat fairly “clean” –very little processed food– for over 4 years and while I’m not sure how much weight I’ve lost as I’m not as concerned w/a number as looking and feeling good, I’ve now gone down 4 and 1/2 clothes sizes – (my husband says I am looking “fit’. I also work out now about 45 mins a day 5x a week-heavy weights and elliptical but I worked up to it–I didn’t start doing that from the get go. Now I need to get more serious about watching fat and I’m hoping I’ll see even better results. But the sugar thing has been relatively easy–even for a woman with monthly PMS–85% dark chocolate only has 5 grams of sugar so that’s my go to treat. All that to say, start w/cutting the sugar as diets don’t work; you have to change your lifestyle and be able to maintain those changes forever. So back to the article: I agree with the writer that one needs to be disciplined in their whole life…I don’t spend as much time preparing with my firearms as much as I do exercising only because I can’t afford what that would cost in ammo! lol…..but I do shoot as much as I can and work to gain experience w/different guns, shooting situations, home protection and self defense situations and being in as good as shape as I can be and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just a part of my self defense plan. I think a well disciplined person works to maintain discipline in all areas of your life…My faith is included in that. Just my two cents based on my experience…take it for what it’s worth. 🙂

  8. I am right there with you Caleb. In addition to the weight risk, stress can be a health risk. A bit of weight training and cardio goes a long way to mitigate stress and make you healthier, and a bit of martial arts training gives you some hand to hand tools and health benefits.

  9. I work in a restaurant in a less then desirable part of town. I am in my mid 50’s with no meniscus in one knee a shoulder impingement and torn ligaments. Never the less I try and do push ups and situps three times weekly because I do not know if or when an assault will come at very close range. I want to be at least strong enough to stay mobile and break contact long enough to produce a pocket revolver.

  10. So much butt hurt. Everyone is responsible for their choices. Choices have consequences. Excuses are simply that…excuses. The lamentation of some of these people…”I’m old, I’m tired, I need to provide for my family, those tennis shoes make me look fat, Maybe I will start caring in x amount of days…” For what? None of that does you any good if you die before you retire.

    One more thing, if a restaurant can make a stupid gluten free menu, then there are probably good options on there. Don’t have 5 sodas or 3 beers and the cheese cake. Shop on the perimeter of a grocery store. Food doesn’t come in a box. It should look like a vegetable or a muscle from a dead animal.

    Make your choice and be willing to pay the consequences.

    One more thing, Pat McNamara is 46. Don’t know who he is? Get out from under your rock and google that dude.

  11. I guess it depends on who’s definition of self defense we are going by. I’ve seen many physically fit People that have no clue how to defend themselves so I believe training is the most important factor no matter the body type. Saying that a overweight person isn’t serious about self defense is rather narrow minded way to be.

  12. Caleb – Excellent post sir! With the country at a whopping 3/4’s of the population overweight or obese you poured some salt in a big wound. I am a former middle age fatass who went to his doctor and said enough is enough, what do I need to do to change?

    There was no way for me to “be there” for my family at a time of need and I knew it.

    Here’s where it gets good – the physician of more than 30 years hands me an good old fashioned BMI chart (fat people HATE BMI charts and swear they are BS – but they’re not) and says “well, you’re obese. How about we start with that realization and we can go from there”. LOL – I was like damn dude – obese?? really? Yeah – really. We then charted a 24 month course of very small changes to diet and exercise to get me back to normal. Yessir a TWO year plan of small gains and little changes. No pills. No special drinks. No special diet food. No lap bands or surgery. No shortcuts. Just the grocery store and a just do it attitude change toward a little daily exercise.

    Have I fallen off the wagon? Heck yeah. But my Doc and my friends call loud BS at my stupid & lame excuses and I get back on track. I was so far out of shape all I could do to get started was to get on the floor all the way to lying down and then get all the way back up to my feet and do it again and again until I was gassed out – it wasn’t too long mind you. I was inexcusably fat. The routine expanded from there is now a 45 minute to one-hour religious 5 or 6 day a week thing.

    From nothing to something. I have been freed from the prison of obesity and can handle whatever life throws at me – hopefully nothing bad, but you never know.

    The Doc said I would have people seeing the changes I was making an want to do it too. He told me to be prepared for a cavalcade of stupid reasons not to do anything. He was right. The usual thing is to form a frontal assault on the BMI chart – which is usually funny because you don’t need a chart to see the person protesting is obese. It’s just a way to say “I don’t see myself as fat – so there – I’m not. No changes necessary. Move along now.”

    I figure when they’re ready they’ll make the changes. You can’t change your life without changing your mind.

  13. I am a martial artist. Still train regularly (35 years). It is nice to be fit and healthy. Lifestyle changes are needed to become healthy and enjoyable. —- I believe the best self defense is awareness. Trouble can find me easier if I am in the wrong place, or taking offense. Discipline and respect, go a long way to calm a situation.

  14. Your mind and body are your first weapons for defense and survival. I agree with James above that the food industry has made it (somewhat) difficult, expensive, and inconvenient to eat healthy these days, but you choose how to spend your money and time and you choose what you put in your body. No one else does. Life is about priorities and choices.

    1. In a survival situation, carrying a little extra body fat, say 10 pounds would actually be smart.

      That’s not what we’re talking about though and you know it.

  15. Men we are far more likely to to be in a fist fight than a gun fight. That said being strong is imperative at any age. Our military special forces do not use bench presses or squats to gauge strength to weight ratios. They measure this by tactical pull ups. Cross your ankles and pull yourself up slowly and fully lower your body slowly with no swinging or feet kicking. This exercise will increase your grappling prowess and especially important your grip. Three sets of 10 every other day is a good starting point. I am over 65 and can easily do 10 strict pull ups. Battle Hard!

  16. Caleb,
    Thanks! I was heading towards my goal weight… and then I lost motivation. But hearing the excuses of others has reinvigorated me. It was like I could hear myself making the same.

    Can one be serious about self defense while not making efforts for good health? NOPE.

    Can I be serious about being a better dad if I don’t make efforts for good health? Also no.

    Is there any way you could repost this article every 3-4 months? In case I need motivation to get back on the wagon.

    The lunchtime walk was awsome if not a bit chilly.

  17. I recently decided to get fit. Lost 30 lbs, upped my lifts, all that. I feel much more athletic and happier with myself

    But the process sucked and I hated it.

    I don’t blame anyone for not doing it.

    But if you don’t do it, you should be self-aware that you’re making tradeoffs, and you’re probably not evaluating your risks properly. If we all did that, we hit the gym 3 times a week, eat a little healthier, and drive less.

    All that said, if we just pick self defense and ignore our other health risks… what does being “serious” about self defense mean? I’d say fitness is more important than the capacity of your gun… but is it more important than carrying at all? More important than avoiding dumb situations? I’d personally still rather be fat and armed than skinny and empty handed.

    What is our threshold of preparedness to be considered “serious” about self defense?

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