Ask Stew: National Guard Help With Fitness Testing

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing conduct a mass physical fitness test

Joining the National Guard is a great way to serve both your community and country. However, it can be difficult to work a few days a month in the actual job and still maintain your fitness level. This happens quite often if fitness is not part of your daily schedule. Here is a very typical email from a Guardsman who needs a fitness scheduling adjustment in order to stay healthy, remain in the Guard, and still perform his duties:

Stew, I am a National Guardman and an Artilleryman. My fitness has fallen severely over the years. I am currently at 240 pounds, barely pass my pushups and sit-ups, and cannot pass my run. I am 25 years old and need a plan. I am indecisive on what plan I should follow to get back into shape. I know running and calisthenics are ideal, but honestly I pay a gym membership so I'd like to use it too. I just need a point in the right direction, otherwise my career will fall flat. Thank you, Jeff

Jeff – I understand as this occurs in the Guard, Reserves, as well as active duty. Not having a daily fitness plan in your schedule can lead to an easy 5-10 pound weight gain per year if you are not careful. This can lead to 40-50 pounds of weight gain in 4-5 years putting your military career in jeopardy. Imagine going for a ruck with 50 pounds on. Not that big of a deal, but now imagine carrying that ruck with you all day long. That is what you have created for yourself -- a living ruck of 50 pounds to carry. This extra weight makes doing calisthenics tougher and certainly makes running more difficult. It also adds a level of  difficulty to your run time -- imagine doing your 2 mile timed run with a 50 pound ruck. It is very difficult if not near impossible to pass with that kind of weight to carry.

Your goal has to be attacked from both ends -- weight loss and fitness performance. The good news is that you can use the gym you belong to in order to start with non-impact cardio options (bike, elliptical, row, and swimming). Running at your current weight is doable and you should do it, BUT every other day at most, with more of a focus on the non-impact options until you start to move toward your normal weight zone.

Here is what I would recommend. Mix in some high intensity circuits using the weights/ calisthenics mix at your gym. See ideas with Circuit Training. If you need more of a structured program with many options each day to follow, check out the Circuit Training 101 workout.

Follow the resistance programming first, then cooldown with a moderate to easy cardio session. Some days can be fast / slow interval training but always do a 15-20 minute easy cooldown cardio to assist with additional fat burn on the back side of the workout.

Your weight loss begins in the kitchen. Eat less, but eat good nourishing food as in the Lean Down plan above. Drink more water. At your weight, you can drink a gallon of water spread throughout the day – never all at one time.

If the above is too hard at this time, mix in this as a daily minimum standard (45 Day Plan) and follow the lean down plan too. The reason I give you an easy option is that you may have to treat yourself like a beginner if it has been too long since you have trained regularly.
 
Good Luck -- When in doubt, keep on moving even if just a 10-minute walk after every meal of the day.

Stew

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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.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness