“When people think of boot camp, they think of Marines sloshing through mud and a drill sergeant in a big hat yelling at them,” says Lori Smith, the fitness facilities director at Fort Benning in Georgia. While that picture is a bit of a stretch, she adds, “You see some of that in the army.” The military runs a tight operation, especially when it comes to schedules. “Structured,” “mindless,” and “organized” are words Sasha Christensen, a member of the Individual Regular Reserve, uses to describe basic training. “There’s no time to think. All you have time for is what [your drill sergeant] tells you to do,” she says. “They tell you what to wear, when you can change your uniform.” Though she did her time five years ago in boot camp and basic training for the Army National Guard, Christensen can still recall her rigid schedule. Her day began at 0600 (military time for 6 a.m.), with a morning divided into 15 minutes to dress and make the bed and 20 minutes to shower before breakfast. Physical training (PT) occurred in the morning before the day’s classes or in the evening. In the course of the day, there is an hour or two spent to shine black boots. And every other night would be the cleaning. “I obviously hated it for the first couple of weeks: they yell at you, make your life hell. But I don’t regret doing it at all,” 24-year-old Christensen confesses.
Best Shape of Your Life: The Physical Fitness Test
Every branch of the military (Army, Navy, Air force, Marines and Coast Guard) trains for and tests its own version of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT). According to Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness author, the most common components include pushups, sit-ups, a sit-and-reach, and the 1.5-mile run. (As a point of reference for how fast that distance should be run, former Navy SEAL Stew Smith recommends two miles in under 13 minutes for Army Ranger candidates.) The test is given several times throughout basic training: once in the beginning to set a baseline, a couple times throughout the middle, and then a final time at the end as a pass-fail final test. As both men and women prepare to take the test, boot camp’s grueling intensity is indifferent to gender. The physical standards are usually different in the upper body exercises like pushups, but sit-ups are usually held to the same standard. Running times are a bit slower for women but not by much. “In the end, men and women have to do the same exercises to graduate from boot camp training,” says Stew. Lori sees entire units running together around Fort Benning during PT (physical training), and the women are expected to keep pace with the men. “I wouldn’t get a break if I didn’t pass a PT test. We’re held to the same standards,” she says.
Creating Your Army-Authentic Boot Camp
Fort Benning’s Smith Fitness Center offers a boot camp simulation to military families and spouses, so Her Campus turned to Lori when creating a workout with the same basic principles that the military uses during physical training. With Lori’s help, we’re happy to present to you a 6-step, 18-minute boot camp workout. Remember to start and end with your basic stretching so that you don’t run the risk of messing up your muscles.
- Jog in place for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how you feel.
- Lay down with your back and feet on the floor, knees pointed toward the ceiling. Put your hands behind your head and pull forward through your abdominals to a crunch, but be careful not to pull on your neck. Fit as many crunches into a minute as you can.
- Spread your arms and legs wide for 30 seconds to a minute of jumping jacks. Get some lift off the ground!
- Now for some pushups. You can do these army-style (raising and lowering your body with only your hands and toes touching the ground and a non-saggy butt) or “girl pushups,” which lets you rest your knees.
- Return to the days of double-dutch and jump rope for 30 seconds to a minute. Even if you don’t have a physical rope, it’s good exercise to pretend.
- Finally, place your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down to a sitting position (as if in a chair). Hold the squat for a beat, and then rise to standing position.
Repeat the circuit three consecutive times for your complete interval workout. “The interval workout decreases boredom, and has been shown to increase your endurance,” Lori says. “You’re taking your heart rate up [during the bursts of cardio], and when you do strength, you’re bringing it down, essentially working your heart a little harder.” When you get bored with this workout, search online for variations, she adds. But don’t think you’re done for the week after completing the circuit; your interval workout is only one part of the weekly fitness routine. Aim to complete your boot camp routine two to three times in a week, and fit in cardio another few days of the week, leaving two days for rest. “The best thing about boot camp-style workouts is that you do not need much equipment,” Stew Smith says. “Usually a place to run or swim, floor space for pushups, crunches, and maybe a playground for pull-ups is all you need.”
Considering a boot camp for yourself? Great! The regular exercise will help burn fat, build muscle, increase metabolism and increase your overall energy levels. Perhaps you’ll even experience a little weight loss. Released endorphins will boost your mood. Most importantly, you’ll create a starting point for a good lifestyle choice. Lori calls it the three-week effect: if you can hold out for three weeks—easily the length of fitness boot camp, and about a third of the length of the military’s basic training—a practice turns into a habit. In addition to the health benefits, men and women walk away from military boot camp with a lesson in leadership, respect, responsibility, and an entire platoon to call family. “Once you get past the first couple weeks, the drill sergeant in charge of your specific platoon becomes more of a parent. [He/she] cares about who you are as a person and stops becoming this big horrible person trying to make your life hell,” Christensen says. Sources Lori Smith, fitness facilities director at Fort Benning Stew Smith, former Navy SEAL and fitness author Sasha Christensen, former Army National Guard http://www.stewsmith.com/linkpages/PFTbible.htm http://www.military.com/military-fitness/fitness-test-prep/physical-fitn...