How to Get in Shape for Military Bootcamp
People all over the U.S. are joining the military, whether it's for financial opportunity, education, a career, or simply to give life some direction. The decision to join can be a tough one. Once you have made the decision to join one of our countries fine military branches, the next step is to get ready.
After I enlisted in the Navy in 2012, my main concern was making it through boot camp. Many of us have heard the horror stories of boot camp or maybe even know people who didn't make it through. Military boot camp is both a mental and physical challenge, and you should do everything you can to not only survive boot camp but excel in it. Each branch has different mental and physical expectations. It's best to prepare yourself for the physical aspect so that when you get there, you have one less thing to worry about. Get ready for basic training with these simple steps.
1. Know Your Branch's Requirements
Each branch has its own physical fitness standards. These standards have to be met and maintained throughout your military career. For example, the Marines have the highest standards since they are more often engaged in direct combat, while the Air Force has lower standards since they are usually engaged in indirect combat (they have higher mental standards). It's important to know what your branches standards are so that you can ensure that you are ready for basic training when the time comes.
I do not have any experience in any of the branches except for the Navy. The Navy does not expect you to come in at the required fitness level, but they work you out six days a week so that by the end of your training, you can meet the requirements. The thing to remember about basic training is that it is designed to help you succeed in the military. I've included links to the requirements of the various US military branches below.
2. Make a Plan
Now you know what you are expected to do. It's okay if you are not able to meet those requirements right now. With some hard work and dedication, you can get to where you need to be.
You may be wondering, "Where do I start?" In order to get in shape for military boot camp, you will need a workout plan. One of my favorite quotes is: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." (This was supposedly quoted from Ben Franklin.). This quote is very true and is something to keep in mind when joining the military.
Here are my three steps to form a workout plan in preparation for basic training:
- Set goals for yourself: Use the requirements for your military branch as a guide and include dates you want each goal achieved by. Make sure you give yourself sufficient time to achieve your goals; it's unlikely that you will go from 0 to 100 pushups overnight.
- Make a weekly schedule: This gives you the best chance of actually completing the workouts—and in the most efficient way possible. I prefer doing my strength training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and my cardio on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights. Find what days and times work best for your current schedule; the better they fit your schedule, the more likely it is that you will do them. Choosing difficult time slots can make it hard to stick to your routine.
- Write out your plan: I find that writing your plan out makes it more real. Just thinking about what you're going to do in your head isn't the same as having a physical plan that you can look at every day. I like to write out my goals and how I'm going to achieve them with my workouts. Then, I mark on my calendar what days I will be working out and what I will be doing.
3. Find Your Motivation
Fear was my first motivation. I was afraid of failing—of not being in good enough shape to succeed. But fear is not always enough. My fear quickly wore off when I found I wasn't as out of shape as I thought, and I began to lose interest in my workouts. It was easier just to be lazy and "do it tomorrow." My slacker mentality kept me from getting the results I needed.
You need motivation that makes you push through that last pushup, or run that last quarter mile. I found that looking at fitness pictures helped me a lot, I looked at tons of pictures of women with six pack abs and imagined what I would look like if I had some. I took before pics of my body and tracked my progress in terms of reduction in waist size and amount of weight lost.
I also found that sharing my goals with my family and friends helped as well. Having people ask me how my workout was going really pushed me to continue to achieve my goals, even if it was just to avoid having to say that I had given up. I also found people to work out with. I started to run with my sister. Running with her fueled my competitive fire and helped me push myself to run faster than her.
Find what motivates you and use it to keep you working out and working towards your fitness goals.
4. Get Advice
No one really knows what military boot camp is like except the people who have already been. While you are preparing yourself, find someone—preferably an active or former military member—and ask as many questions as possible. A great example of someone you can ask is your recruiter; they should be able to help you get started on your military journey. There are also a great many resources online that can give you an idea of what basic training is like. Don't be afraid to search through blogs, forums, and discussion boards to find your answers, preferably from people with first-hand experiences.
Once you have enlisted, you will likely be placed in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) waiting to leave for basic training. Take advantage of any opportunities that your recruiter tells you about. For example, my DEP program met once a month for a meeting in which they told us about Navy news, taught us basic skills, and had guest speakers like A school graduates give talks about their experiences. This gave us the opportunity to have our questions answered and get a little more mentally prepared for boot camp.
Having gone through basic training and graduated from A school, I have first-hand experience of Navy boot camp. I can tell you as well as anyone that it can be challenging; waking up before the crack of dawn, exercising every day, marching, learning, and testing—on little to no sleep. Motivation is found through yelling, swearing, and hard workouts. Bootcamp is quite an experience; one that I'm glad I lived through. If you have any questions about what military life is like or what mental and physical challenges there may be, feel free to leave a comment below.
It's your decision to join the Armed Forces, and it's your responsibility to make sure that you're ready for it. In the end, the only thing pushing you forward or holding you back is you. While you are in basic, you will constantly have people motivating you to better yourself, but once you are assigned to your duty station—or even your technical training—all of that is gone and you have to depend on yourself for motivation.
Don't sit around and wait for your superiors in basic training to whip you into shape and get you ready active duty. Take it upon yourself to be the best that you can be. If you really want to be a sailor, airman, or soldier, take it upon yourself to do whatever it takes to get there.
Going through military training is a challenge, but it's well worth it in the end when you finally graduate and are officially a sailor/airman/soldier. The physical requirements are not unattainable, and if you work hard enough, you can up achieve them. I hope these simple steps help you achieve your goal of serving in the military, and I hope to see some of you in the fleet!
Physical Fitness Test Requirements of US Military Branches
- Navy PFT Requirements
Learn about the assessment process, minimum fitness requirements, and Navy fitness and diet programs to help get you ready.
- Marine Corps PFT Requirements
Physical fitness is essential to the day-to-day effectiveness and combat readiness of the Marine Corps.
- Air Force PFT Requirements
Learn about the requirements to pass or exceed minimum expectations.
- Army PFT Requirements
Soldiers are required to take a physical fitness test at least twice per year. There are three events which are measured: push-ups, sit-ups, and a timed two-mile run.
- Coast Guard PFT Requirements
The Coast Guard physical fitness program is designed to ensure that all Coast Guard members have the strength and stamina to safely perform their jobs and to emphasize lifelong health and fitness.
What Branch are you considering?
Can you currently meet your branches PFT requirements?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.