P.O.W. Blog & News

Todd Vance on CNN: Addressing the Hot Topic of PTSD and American Sniper

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When P.O.W. was first launched in 2012, the concept was so out-of-the box that non-veterans weren’t sure what to think. MMA-style fitness for combat veterans…isn’t that counter-intuitive?

 

PTSD was not the topic of the day, like it is now. In fact, we had a hard time getting folks to listen when we said that post 9/11 veterans were different than their predecessors, and that more and varied treatment options were needed. We said prescriptions drugs were not an answer – that physical fitness, mental health and peer support were.

 

It’s been a tough battle, but we may now be seeing a tipping point in the way Americans perceive PTSD. The fact that CNN called us to weigh in on the debate around American Sniper is just one indication, and a big one at that.

 

To watch the interview on CNN click here.

 

The full transcript of this interview, courtesy of CNN, follows:

 

CNN NEWSROOM

Aired February 20, 2015 – 10:30   ET

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I’m Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

He thought his co-workers were cannibals — that’s what a psychiatrist told a jury about accused American sniper killer, Eddie Ray Routh. The defense says Routh suffers from mental illness and was battling a severe case of psychosis when he gunned down Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield at a Texas shooting range.

Yesterday a doctor who treated Routh after the killings told the court that Routh was quote, “delusional” and that he didn’t know what he was doing when he shot and killed both men. Today the prosecution is expected to call medical experts to the stand for rebuttal. And closing arguments could come as early as next week.

The big question remains, did Routh know what he was doing was wrong? Some key moments in the testimony suggest he could have known. Among them, Routh called a psychiatrist quote, “He figured someone would be arrested and that the bible says it’s wrong to kill.” Routh also told his sister he would flee to Oklahoma to quote, “get out of this mess” while his uncle testified that he knew right from wrong.

Let’s talk about this case in a wider sense with Todd Vance. He helps vets deal with PTSD every day. Todd’s also the founder of POW a program that helps reintegrate veterans back into civilian life through MMA style fitness, yoga and peer-to-peer support.

Todd, I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for joining me.

TODD VANCE, FOUNDER, PUGILISTIC OFFENSIVE WARRIOR TACTICS: Thank you for having me, Carol.

COSTELLO: This trial certainly puts PTSD in the spotlight. On one hand you have Chris Kyle who suffered from PTSD but helped others and on the other hand you have Eddie Ray Routh whose family says he suffered from PTSD but could not function. What should we take away from this trial when it comes to PTSD?

VANCE: I think the simple fact that PTSD is not a clearly diagnosable issue and there’s a scale of severity. It’s not a one size fits all shoe when it comes to PTSD symptomology. So where one person may suffer from PTSD and function well in society, another may need serious psychiatric help. COSTELLO: Do you think Eddie Ray Routh was suffering from PTSD?

VANCE: I would have to see his records to know fully what his level of PTSD was. But being in combat and seeing the things that take place in combat and taking part in those things, it would be a safe assumption.

COSTELLO: So a mental health expert told the court that Routh has a mental illness, not PTSD. From your experience dealing with victims, could Routh’s military service have made an existing mental illness worse?

VANCE: Oh yes, definitely. I think that’s one of the less talked about issues dealing with PTSD and these soldiers and service members coming home is pre-existing mental health illness and issues. The screening process is not very substantial and I think that if they have pre-existing illnesses, combat can definitely set that off.

COSTELLO: Some have questioned why Chris Kyle took Routh to a gun range even after Kyle realized Routh was quote, “nuts”. Can you walk us through why some veterans find gun ranges therapeutic?

VANCE: Yes. I mean first of all, using the word “crazy” or “nuts” in my field is kind of taboo because really in the reality of combat and the reality of what service members have to live is nuts. The scale of what is normal is definitely thrown off.

As far as treatment goes and going through that, yes, that makes sense to me. Going to a range makes sense because it’s something that they’re comfortable with. It’s something that they’re good at. It’s almost like a reassuring comforting activity that they can be together and find a camaraderie and kind of like a safe zone away from civilian life.

COSTELLO: Does it kind of mimic the battlefield in a way and make them feel more comfortable?

VANCE: You know, I would say no. My personal opinion I would say no. I mean service members, we look at weapons not as a normal civilian would where we see Hollywood grenade launchers and things like that.

Weapons become tools of war. So you have the specific weapon for a specific task. The bravado and the chest-thumping especially at these guys’ level is not there. So they’re looking at it as just like a recreational activity.

COSTELLO: And just my final question. I just like to get your thoughts on Chris Kyle in general because he’s become such a heroic figure in this nation. Why do you think that is?

VANCE: Yes. I think that the service members that are fighting the battle on a daily basis, the grunts and the low level soldiers need to get a lot more attention. I think that as a society we like to glorify the upper echelon fighters and that’s important. They are definitely deserving of the attention that they get. But there’s a lot of other branches out there doing great things and I think that, you know, it’s easy to market a Navy SEAL but it’s harder to market an artillery guy with a family.

COSTELLO: I understand. Todd Vance — thanks for your insight. I appreciate it.

VANCE: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Gamechangers: Health & Fitness Tips from Coach Vance

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INSTALLMENT #2 NOVEMBER 2014

 

POW and Positive Mental Attitude: A Lifestyle Choice

You may have seen ‘PMA’ or Positive Mental Attitude on the POW website and in POW social media. Because people often ask what PMA is all about, and how it relates to the POW program, this installment of Gamechangers focuses on just that.

 

For POW, ‘PMA’ (Positive Mental Attitude) is an organizational philosophy, a mindset, a mantra and a lifestyle choice.

 

Each day, we are faced with a myriad of challenges – mental, emotional and physical – and we have to make a choice: How are we going to address these challenges? PMA is incredibly empowering because we choose optimism and hope over negativity, defeatism and hopelessness. We actively choose a positive disposition toward every situation, and in turn, that optimism attracts positive changes and increases achievement.

 

So where does the PMA concept come from?

 

Simple answer: Our shared history and culture.

 

Far more interesting answer:

 

As early as 170 b.c.e. Marcus Aurelius wrote about replacing the victim mentality with accountability to oneself and those who rely on them. If you’ve heard the quote, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts”, then you’re already familiar with Aurelius.

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Two thousand years later, in 1937, the concept appears again in the writing of Napoleon Hill. In Think and Grow Rich, Hill outlines the principles for PMA, though it’s still not codified as a phrase or mantra.

 

In 1982, the punk band Bad Brains takes the concept of PMA to a whole new level with the lyrics for “Attitude”:

Don’t care what they may say
we got that attitude.
Don’t care what they may do
we got that attitude.
Hey, we got that PMA (positive mental attitude).
Hey we got the PMA.

(“Attitude”, Bad Brains, 1982)

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Fast forward a few decades you have John Joseph of the hardcore NYC band the Cro-Mags (one of my favorites since high school) advocating for making PMA a lifestyle choice. Here at POW, we appreciate that he walks the walk and only preaches what he practices – a great example of Aurelius’s accountability.

 

Today, the concept of PMA is used widely in medicine and professional sports. A number of medical studies over the years have pointed to a marked correlation between positive thinking and improved health. Cancer patients are often encouraged to embrace the PMA mindset in their battle for wellness.

 

Studies conducted in sports medicine have also proven PMA to be invaluable: Research shows that athletes who maintain a positive train of thought and practice positive visualization have been shown to exhibit a significant improvement in overall performance.

 

All told, PMA is simple, direct, to the point and can fit ANY situation. At POW, PMA is typically the first tool crew members employ in overcoming the challenges life throws at them, and peer-to-peer support and fitness back that up. At POW, we recognize that the road to recovery is a life-long journey. The general state of happiness that PMA brings makes it a no-brainer.

 

Namaste,

ToddVance_signature_POW

Todd

 

Gamechangers: Health & Fitness Tips from Coach Vance

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INSTALLMENT #1. SEPTEMBER 2014.

 

Better Breathing is the Foundation for Workout Success

Over the next few months I’m going to be sharing tips and tricks I picked up in the Army and through competitive MMA training which should help you improve your workouts, boost endurance, and burn more fat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran, active military or a civilian: If you’re active and love a good workout, these tips are for you.

While we may not know it, failure to reach our fitness goals is often the result of poor habits and not a lack of effort or commitment. In my experience, improper breathing belongs at the top of the “poor habits” list.

Most of us breathe in a way that leaves a lot of room for improvement. Some examples would be over-breathing, holding our breath and shallow breathing. These breathing patterns are very stressful for the body – particularly when working out – and lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy. When you breathe properly during exercise you’re far less likely to run out of breath, experience dizziness or suffer from lung fatigue. You’ll also see improved athletic performance and much faster gains in training. Good breathing technique will take you to the next level.

Proper breathing looks different depending on the exercise you’re doing. Some tips for improving your breathing technique, regardless of the activity:

  • Pay more attention to your breathing and to the parts of the body involved in the process. Your breathing muscles consist of the diaphragm and muscles in the abdomen, chest, neck and shoulders.
  • Breathe through the nose, rather than through the mouth. The nose delivers a smoother stream of air that doesn’t trigger the survival response and more easily reaches the critical lower part of the lungs.
  • Breathe intentionally and deeply. When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in much more oxygen to feed your muscles.
  • Breathe from your diaphragm. The air you breathe in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly.
  • Extend your exhales. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it is to inhale.
  • Practice rhythmic breathing. Rhythmic breathing can decrease your heart rate, decrease lactic acid production and helps to regulate the flow of oxygen and CO2.
  • Be sure to keep hydrated. Keeping up your water intake will rehydrate you and enable the body to burn more fat.

If this is all new to you, practice breathing techniques first, then apply what you’ve learned to your workouts later. Experiment with breathing rhythms and patterns. And if you’re not already a belly breather, start there. Try the following:

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Keep your upper chest and shoulders still.
  3. Focus on raising your belly as you inhale.
  4. Lower your belly as you exhale.
  5. Inhale and exhale through both your nose and mouth.

We think about training our hearts, legs and core, but we rarely think about training our lungs. I think this is a big mistake. Focus on your respiratory system: Once you start breathing properly and exhaling fully, you will be able to perform better and have more energy to finish. Focus on proper breathing all the time – during workouts and in your daily activities. I think you’ll find that the benefits extend beyond the gym. You’ll have more energy, less anxiety, improved health and a feeling of control you didn’t have before.

Namaste,

ToddVance_signature_POW

Todd