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Tactical Fitness: 5 Weeks to Prep

Jogging on path.

Unfortunately, I receive this email way too often. People join the military and have a month or less to adequately prepare for basic training. 4-5 weeks is a bare minimum, and will likely not be enough time unless you have a strong fitness foundation that you can quickly build back up.  If you do not have an active fitness life, you will need at least 4-5 months of consistent training just to be in good enough shape to not hurt yourself. 

Sir,

My name is Megan. I recently swore into the United States Army. The reason that I am contacting you is because I was hoping you could help me with a dilemma I am facing. As I ship in just over a month, it is important that I meet my physical fitness standards. Unfortunately, I am horribly out of shape to say the least. Would it be at all possible for you to help me come up with a complete physical training plan that will allow me to meet standards before I ship?

So you have 35 days until you leave. Sorry for the lecture, but you should have contacted me five months ago instead of now with just five weeks left. With this limited amount of time reaching the minimum fitness standards will likely be your goal. That is no way to start your military career. Just keep growing and getting stronger and faster each year you serve so you will not sweat the fitness tests you have to take every six months. But with five weeks, depending on your current weight and height, you can make basic training less painful. It will require 5-6 days a week of activity. 

You need to prepare not only for fitness tests, but for moving around all day. Workout in the morning and go to work all day or do yard and house work the rest of the day. Then, add in a second workout of walking and running later in the afternoon or evening. Do not take a nap and do nothing the rest of the day after a morning workout. Stay moving all day!

Many people make this mistake their last several weeks prior to training, but you have to get used to a full day of being awake and moving.  

There is a reality you need to know:

  1. There is no 45-60 minute gym workout that can prepare you for a full day of military training with average days lasting 18 hours.
  2. There is no nap time at basic training, so keep doing something all day before you ship out to practice.

Circuit Training is a great way to get started and will break up the monotony of only doing pushups and situps in preparation for the fitness test.

If you prefer doing calisthenics only, check out this article and do this full body workout every sother day. 

On the days in between you can add more cardiovascular activity. Instead of adding more running miles to your legs, add in non-impact options like bike, elliptical, rowing, or swimming for 30-40 minutes on the days in between calisthenics or weight workouts.

Here are some cardiovascular workout ideas for you to do in the AM and PM if you need to break up the distances your first few weeks:

You may want to stick to the lower end of this running progression.

From Running Program Article:

Week

Mon

Tues

Weds

Thurs

Fri

1

1-2 mile

Bike or swim

1-2 mile

Bike or swim

1-2 mile

2

2-3 miles

Bike or swim

2-3 miles

Bike or swim

2-3 miles

3*

Bike or swim

Bike or swim

Bike or swim

Bike or swim

Bike or swim

4

3 miles

Bike or swim

3 miles

Bike or swim

3 miles

5

2 miles

3 miles

off

4 miles

2 miles

6

2-3 miles

3-4 miles

off

4-5 miles

2-3 miles

*Do not run during Week 3 – bike or swim every day. Statistically there is a high risk of injury during that time.

I hope this helps you get started. You should be able to get into better shape in the next 4-5 weeks. The 18-year old body is a resilient force so get to exercising and keep moving all day in order to prepare for your profession. Thanks for choosing to serve our country.  I am rooting for you.

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Stew Smith Fitness Tactical Fitness

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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