Updated: Dec 4, 2018
If you remember back to my last article on what was required to join the Armed Forces, you’ll see that I spoke in detail about training certain energy systems and relating to individual activities relevant to being fit for service. If you missed that article check it out by clicking here. In this post I wanted to talk more simply about not only fitness requirements but mental aspects too.
What brought on this random train of thought? Well I have just recently re-joined the British Army only this time as a Reservist or ‘weekend warrior’ as it’s commonly known. Despite the image and reputation that surround the Reservists, formerly known as the TA, there are some good blokes in there, some who I served with in Afghanistan. However there are some that just aren’t preparing themselves adequately both physically and mentally, not only in the Reserves but in the regular forces as well.
I recently completed a 2 week Combat Infantry Course at Catterick which is home to the School of Infantry Training to finish off my re-enlistment training and was disappointed to see the same mistakes being made that I saw back in 2005 when I joined the regular Army. Over the course of the two weeks we covered:
– 1.5 mile run best effort in under 10:30 – Live firing package – Grenade Training – 6 mile weighted march w/25kg in 1 hr 30 – 2 mile best effort w/25kg in less than 30 mins (18 mins for a regular soldier) – Bayonet fighting w/lots of physical exertion – Exercise in the field with section attacks, casualty evacuation and field admin
This is just a small snippet of the training a regular soldier will carry out over the 10 weeks of their phase 2 training. This amounts to the most basic requirements of what a soldier should attain in order to progress further with their career later on down the line. So lets look at the physical aspects first.
– 1.5 mile run in under 10:30 – 6 mile weighted march w/25kg in 1hr 30 (15 minute miles) – 2 mile best effort w/25kg in under 30 mins (18 mins for a regular soldier) – Ability to carry a 60-90kg (very broad I know) man as part of a stretcher team to evacuate a casualty – Ability to move quickly in short bursts across open ground when attacking the enemy, again carrying considerable weight on your back
Too many people are placing a huge amount of emphasis on the 1.5 mile run which is done in trainers, with no extra kit and usually on some form of road or hard standing. Since when do soldiers operate in trainers on perfect ground? While I’m not saying you don’t need to train for and pass the run, I’ve seen guys get times of 8-9 mins then completely collapse when given a bergan weighing 20kg which is the minimum you may carry on ops.
So what should you do? Get outside on rough terrain with weight on your back building up to 8-10 miles with 15-20kg on your back walking at a brisk pace or even at the required 15 minute mile pace if you can which equate to 4 mph. Just take your time and build up top it as it will make life a lot easier once in training. Get used to doing that over hills and inclines as again it appears to be a stumbling block for a lot of guys. It doesn’t end there, foot admin seems to be really underrated. Get outside as mentioned above and find out what happens to your feet, do you get blisters/hot spots on the same place every time? Do you need specialist insoles to help with things like shin splints? You should know all this before joining so you can deploy preventive measures such as taping to ensure you are covered come test day. Getting used to moving with weight and looking after your feet will also carry over to working in the field and moving casualties.
Moving your own bodyweight is also important and don’t forget you can get your free copy of my e-book, Mastering Your Body to get ready for all those press-ups and sit-ups.
Finally I want to touch on the mental aspect. Unfortunately people like to complain, especially the British and especially in the Armed Forces. However, guys again aren’t preparingmentally for what’s in store, even things like sleeping outdoors in the cold and rain seem to be underestimated by many. This means that this inherent complaining and dip in morale takes over, affecting guys ability to perform basic tasks such as taking on board information from commanders or carrying out low level admin. So what should you be doing? Get out in the field! Get used to how your body reacts to uncomfortable sleeping stations, exposure to the elements and bad weather. Build mental toughness and become proficient in how to manage getting wet or cold and taking the appropriate steps to combat these elements rather than just sitting there feeling sorry for yourself. Accept it will be difficult and focus on getting through it with the mentality that you need to be able to carry out arduous tasks and not be a burden to the rest of the blokes.
What I’ve outlined is so simple its really frustrating seeing guys struggle for simple reasons like poor foot care or poor field admin. Remember what I said in my last post about how the Armed Forces will give you all the training you require, but having that baseline level BEFORE you go, knowing your body and being mentally prepared is down to you and will really make your time in training so much easier.