The military is no stranger to the need for fitness. Depending on the branch, group physical training sessions might vary from once a week to every day. Your job within the military will play a role in how much emphasis your unit places on the need to be in shape. Being physically fit, in general, will benefit service members of all jobs. You’ll be less prone in injuries, have more energy to get tasks done, and have greater focus.
The big issue I saw when I was in the military was a lack of proper fitness knowledge and experience among leaders. The fitness training they provided to those under their command was simply regurgitated from what they had learned from their former leaders. This is of course based on my own observations, and is not to say that every leader in the military hasn’t a clue what they’re doing.
Let me give you an example of what I commonly observed. Long, slow distance runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with bodyweight exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. So what’s the problem with this approach? Well, it’s developing fitness only as a means to pass their respective physical fitness test. It focuses entirely on muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory fitness. What is missing from this methodology is the development of power, explosive strength, sprint speed, balance, and coordination.
Is endurance necessary? Of course it is. If you’re traversing mountainsides in Afghanistan then you’ll certainly need to develop lower body endurance. But what happens when bullets start flying? You’re not bounding for cover at a nice easy pace. It’s a sprint, because that cover could mean the difference between you going home on foot or on a medevac. You’ll probably also have to sprint multiple times, both between cover points and to move equipment and ammo.
This brings me to my main point. Those leading PT sessions for Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors need to do a no-bullshit assessment of how their PT sessions are translating to on-the-job performance capabilities. If the way you lead PT is simply because that was the way you were taught, that’s the wrong answer. You need to be able to provide concrete reasoning on why your physical training is designed that way that it is. Failure to do so is not only hurting you, but your team as well.
Jon Griffith specializes in optimizing performance for firefighters, police, EMS, and military personnel. He is a personal trainer, strength & conditioning specialist, full-time firefighter, and former U.S. Army infantryman. Join the movement to ensure all emergency responders are physically and mentally prepared to face the challenges in their day brings by following Max Fortitude Fitness on Facebook.