Have you decided that joining the military is for you? If so, you will need to start preparing sooner rather than later, as military training comes with its fair share of challenges. Thus, you will need to prepare your body and mind for the forthcoming hardships.
- Body-wise, you are looking at strengthening your limbs and core to endure the physically demanding drills; and
- Mind-wise, you are looking at developing strong self-will and determination to fully obey your drill sergeants, no matter how tough they turn out to be.
Preparing For Basic Military Training
To become a member of the US Army you will have to get through basic military training, and it is not a ‘walk in the park’. Its main objective is to prepare your body and develop the warrior skills required for the battlefield, as well as assess your emotional capacity. In addition, your ‘civilian nature’ has to be put aside and a ‘militaristic mindset’ developed.
To do this, drill sergeants/instructors apply considerable physical and mental stress on trainees. In this way, they are able to assess your fitness to serve in the army before they proceed with any further training. On your part, you gain incredible skills and tactics for use in tactical environments – you will also learn skills which will be useful after your military career when you transition to being a civilian once again.
Thus, it is in your best interest to conduct preliminary and preparatory activities on your own (on with a friend) before enrolling in your upcoming boot camp. Below are some tips on how to prepare your body and mind for military training.
1. Have A Workout Plan
The US Army nowadays conducts a six-event combat fitness test for all recruits. You will be required to do the following within 70 minutes:
- Three-repetition maximum deadlift.
- Standing power throw.
- Hand release push-up.
- Leg tuck.
- Two-mile run.
Do not wait until D-day (i.e. the start of boot camp) to perform these exercises. Past experience suggests that the test can prove challenging even for those who do extensive training. However, it is not all impossible if you train smart.
Start by revamping your usual workout routine and elevate it to the next level. Perhaps you have been having your entire workout in a single session and realised how straining it is. It will help if you switch to a split schedule workout. In other words, you train a bit in the morning, and finish off in the afternoon, for example. Research suggests that such split schedules help one perform aerobic and cardiovascular exercises with more ease.
With this in mind, you may want to engage in interval training. A number of fitness experts claim that it is more effective than long, slow endurance exercises (and backed by research). Furthermore, the high-intensity workouts drastically boost endorphin production, which results in the much-desired ‘runner’s high’. You end up feeling happy and energised throughout your workout session.
2. Eat Well
As you perform your exercises to strengthen your body, you should pay attention to what you eat and drink. Your diet is crucial to your overall wellness. One does not eat junk food and expect their muscles to grow (as they say you can’t out-exercise a bad diet). What we recommend is a carefully selected range of foods that contain the right amounts of proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates. Below is a short list of foods that should not be missed in your diet plan as they are known to aid athletic performance:
- Sweet potatoes.
- Whole eggs.
- Dark, leafy greens.
- Beans and legumes.
- Whole grains.
- Lean beef.
- Chicken breast.
- Cruciferous vegetables.
- Sprouts, like broccoli, clover, alfalfa, and radish.
- Flax and pumpkin seeds.
- Beet juice.
3. Consult a Medical Professional
It may be advisable to seek the advice of a medical professional regarding your workout, nutritional plan, and aspiration to join the military. They are in the position to give you critical recommendations, and thus save you from eventualities like injuries, burnout, obsession, stress, and chronic inflammation.
A medical professional will also examine any injuries you might have sustained earlier in life, which can affect your performance during military training. It can be anything like a sprained ankle, back injury, or an overstretched ligament. They can advise you on the available treatment options for whatever injury you may have had.
From regenerative medicine to non-surgical sports medicine, physical rehabilitation, and suchlike medical procedures, you will not run out of options to prepare you for boot camp. Click here for a deeper insight into some of the cutting-edge treatment options used by other military trainees and athletes.
4. Practise Running
As earlier hinted, the army combat fitness test includes a 2-mile run. You will also have to run a lot in the battlefield as you pursue enemies on foot, and in rugged terrain. Therefore, prepare yourself for this.
The mileage you cover at first, or the time you spend running, depends on how fit you are now. It is okay if you start with just a 1-mile run every day. What matters is that you have started, and you are willing to keep on running as each day dawns. If you run out of breath too soon, it does not hurt to walk for a few moments until you recover. Soon enough, you will increase your aerobic capacity and endurance.
For each running session, start with a 8-15 minute warm-up, and you learn more about warming-up and cooling-down here.
For those days you feel like resting, go ahead and do so. Three-five days of running every week are enough to prepare you for military training. When you are not running, or you fancy a change, you can engage in other cross-training exercises, such as biking or swimming.
With every successive week, slightly increase the duration/distance of your running sessions. And, do not forget to invest in good running shoes. Although you will always be in boots during training, there is no need to go to that extent presently. Train with conventional running shoes until you can seamlessly cover several miles without feeling overly exhausted.
Further into your preparation, you may wish to simulate the advanced training by running with weights. You can:
- Use a weighted vest (this is the ideal method for running with weight);
- Hold weights in your hands; or
- Attach them to your wrists or ankles.
Although it can be an effective way to increase your endurance and leg strength, just take extra caution when running with weight so you do not get injured.
5. Strengthen Your Core
On top of strengthening your leg and arm muscles, you need other exercises to build up your core. The trunk includes muscles such as the erector spinae, rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, multifidus, and abdominal muscles. Sit-ups are arguably one of the most popular upper body exercises. Several sessions of these will train the said muscles adequately – for example 10 to 25 reps, and two to four sets every day. In addition, you can perform the following core-strengthening exercises:
- Bridge: Lay on your back with knees bent into the air. Keep your hands palms down on the floor on your sides, and raise your hips until your thighs and trunk straighten.
- Crunch: With your back and feet on the floor and knees pointing upwards, cross your arms over your chest and lift your upper back as far as you can. Then lower your back to the ground and repeat the movement about 10-25 times.
- Plank: Starting on all fours, with arms and thighs perpendicular to the floor, straighten the legs so your toes are the only lower-body extremities that are touching the floor. Then raise your hips. Hold the stretched position for about 30 seconds and repeat the movement.
- Mountain climber: This exercise adds knee movements to the plank described above. While in the stretched-out position, move one knee as close as possible to the chest. Alternate between the right and left knee in successive movements.
Other upper body exercises include the bicycle crunch, side plank with arm rotation, warrior crunch, supine toe tap, and bird dog (look on the internet for examples of how to perform these exercises). The more variations you try, the better for your core. Think about going through all these exercises in any given week. And, as a rule of thumb, always start with just a few reps before working your way up to hundreds!
6. Lose Weight
According to the US National Bureau of Economic Research, one out of four army recruits in the US gets disqualified due to weight-related issues. If you are overweight, consider the following:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with meals containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free milk products, and lean meats.
- Limit the food you eat to your daily calorie needs.
- Replace calorie-rich drinks, like soda, with non-calorie beverages, like water.
- Consider smaller portions several times a day instead of having two-three heavy meals.
- Include fruits and vegetables in every meal.
- Skip fatty and sweet desserts (on most days, still treat yourself now and again).
7. Elevate Your Mental Resilience
You will, most likely, experience stress (both physical and mental) during boot camp. You may feel unmotivated and disheartened, and it is normal to think of giving up and going back to a civilian career instead. Just remember that basic training is for a few weeks and your military career, and all the fantastic opportunities that go with it, can last for decades.
Take time to deeply reflect on your reasons for joining. Ponder over the decision, and weigh the pros and cons. If you eventually decide to join the army, make it a lifelong resolve. And when you come to those difficult moments, the promise you silently made to yourself will provide you with a bolt of energy, and help you sail through the tough times.
Basic military training (aka boot camp) can be stressful, both physically and mentally. The seven tips we have outlined above can aid you during this process. As the military maxim states ‘prior preparation prevents poor performance’, so make sure you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the rigours of boot camp.