Are You Mentally and Physically Prepared for the Military? 🎖️
Volunteering for military service is one of the most selfless and noble things a person can do in their lifetime. Taking the oath to serve and protect your country is a career that movies and television love to portray because it shows mentally resilient and physical tough heroic men and women overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat evil enemies in the name of hope and freedom.
Contrary to what Hollywood depicts, the military lifestyle isn’t that glamorous, and while it may be a life for some, the military isn’t for everyone.
Do you have what it takes to choose a career in one of the most challenging yet rewarding careers in the world? As Andrew Ferebee puts it, “…Find a compelling purpose” (Related article)
The Military Mentality
Service members are mentally tough. Although a career in the military will require a higher level of fitness than most, an aspect often overlooked by those pursuing a job in the military is the mental toughness that it requires to complete these physical tasks.
The military is unlike any other job in the world and therefore it’s members must also be unlike any other employee. 6-month to sometimes yearlong deployments overseas, long and arduous days of training, life-changing combat engagements, and simply the lack of sleep endured by nearly all uniformed members make them more mentally resilient than your average individual.
Maybe you’re used to working in less than ideal conditions such as extreme temperatures, unforgiving terrain, or exhaustive hours; if so, these experiences will prepare your mind to endure what’s to come in the military.
Service Members are team players. Besides being mentally resilient those serving in the armed forces need to have a “Team First” mentality at all times. Those hopeful candidates looking to join the military typically have a background in competitive athletics because they are accustomed to working with teammates to form a strong and cohesive team that can be trusted to support one another in the direst of circumstances and are collectively focused on achieving the mission objective over individual success.
If you’re not a member of a sports team, consider joining a team or organization to build the teammate mindset that is common among military ranks.
Service members are self-driven. In addition to working well as part of a team, all members must be capable of working on their own too. In the military, you will be faced with a lot of responsibility including managing training evolutions or equipment that, if not handled improperly, could have fatal consequences. This requires a lot of self-accountability to ensure proper protocol is followed when doing maintenance, making sure your uniform is in good condition and worn correctly, and providing your superiors with the utmost confidence in your abilities that you can handle any task with little to no supervision.
In his New York Times Bestseller, Extreme Ownership (Amazon link), Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, goes in-depth about how to take initiative for nearly every single thing that happens in your life and how you adapt a self-starter attitude.
Preparing For Bootcamp
In boot camp, many long hours are dedicated to breaking down individuals and building them back up to form units of soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, and coastguardsmen.
Bootcamp (30 minutes Youtube video) is a lot different than what you’ll experience during your daily routine in the military. The goal of boot camp is to break down individuals so that they can be molded into the perfect warrior that is mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of combat at a moment’s notice. During boot camp, you’ll endure long runs, obstacle courses, team building evolutions, and A LOT of calisthenics. You’ll be expected to perform all these events while operating on very little sleep and a lower intake of calories than what you were probably used to before enlisting.
To prepare your body for the 3-4 months of boot camp, try a military fitness training program (Source) that focuses on two key areas:
Running – It is critical to start logging miles as soon as you’ve decided to enlist in the military. It’s not only important for your cardiovascular system, but it’s also important for your joints and muscles to get acclimated to the constant pounding associated with running during boot camp to avoid injuries.
Calisthenics – It is common to think of someone in the military as a bulky individual who resembles a superhero. While this may be the case, this is NOT what you want to look like heading into boot camp. During daily PT sessions you won’t find squat racks and barbells ready to be hoisted overhead; you’ll be on a field instructed to do old school movements like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges for what seems like an eternity. Don’t make the mistake of training for boot camp using extra equipment, instead, opt for your bodyweight and be prepared to knock out a set of push-ups at any given moment.
Tip: Install a pull-up bar in a doorway and every time you pass by do 1-3 pull-ups to “grease the groove” (Source) and build upper body strength.
Tactical Strength And Conditioning
Believe it or not, everyone in the military doesn’t carry a rifle and spend days traversing mountains in pursuit of the enemy. Most jobs in the military are behind-the-scenes jobs or play supporting roles to the troops on the ground in combat. But just because your career designation doesn’t require you to be in a life-threatening environment doesn’t mean that your body won’t be taxed physically.
In nearly every branch of the military and throughout all ranks, members can be found hauling awkward objects any given distance, standing at a guard post in heavy body armor for hours upon end, and any other task necessary to complete a day’s work.
Servicemembers are expected to be a hybrid of powerlifters and endurance athletes. This mixed bag of physical responsibilities requires tactical strength (Source), or the ability to perform at an elite level in a variety of disciplines ranging from a 10-mile run in combat boots to repeatedly lifting heavy rounds of ammunition.