Training on Post-Traumatic Growth

TRX Suspension Training

TRX Fitness Is One of the Pillars of Success in Post-traumatic Growth

The TRX is truly a revolutionary fitness product that has brought a new fitness genre called “suspension training” to the masses. For the past decade, we have incorporated the TRX into many of our articles and workouts of the week at the Military.com Fitness Pages. However, there is something more important happening now with our combat veterans and the TRX is one of the contributing factors to the success of transitioning veterans dealing with posttraumatic stress.  The TRX is an intricate part of the Boulder Crest Retreat’s Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes).

Post-Traumatic Growth
Making peace with the past, living in the present, and planning for a new future is the heart of Posttraumatic Growth. The Military Veteran trainers at Boulder Crest Retreat (BCR) recently introduced me to the Warrior PATHH - an 18-month program, that begins with a 7-day initiation at the retreat. They offer this program to combat Veterans as well as their families for FREE. BCR is a privately funded 501c3 non-profit organization. The BCR training model is built upon reconnecting the warrior with the mind, body, spiritual, and financial wellness that they have locked inside them.  BCR trains veterans how to reconnect with themselves again and unlock all the strengths from being a person of service provides.

Physical Activity: The first thing they do with the students is a morning workout using the TRX. The TRX is quite adaptable to all fitness levels and scalable for those starting again and advanced athletes as well. There is also a 150% increase in physical activity and fitness among the PATHH students after introducing them back to morning PT and the multi-functional training device that can be deployed anywhere – the TRX.

Training the Mind and Spirit: Education is key to Posttraumatic Growth.  Understanding the physiological responses to stress can help the combat veteran realize they are not uncontrollable. The simple tool of breathing to calm yourself down when upset is re-enforced in the Warrior PATHH Program. Together with self-awareness, a trained veteran can gain the tools needed to successfully navigate through events or thoughts that would have previously caused isolation, anger, an inability to sleep, substance abuse and worse. Meditation taught by a retired Army Ranger is one of several wellness practices BCR trains the students in to detach oneself from anxiety and promote harmony and self-realization. From the Transcendental Meditation (TM) website: “Perhaps TM’s benefit is that it's relatively quick to learn and easy to master. TM cuts right to the chase, taking only days — or for some, minutes — before one feels reprieve from their painful and overwhelming thoughts.”

Working With Horses: One of several ways the BCR helps warriors reconnect with themselves is through meeting the three beautiful horses on the property. See link for National Geographic Video on this part of the program. It is a powerful moment when a 2,800 lbs. draft horse connects with you. You have to be yourself when that happens.  You cannot fake it.





Other Warrior Traditions: 
Use of the labyrinth, archery, and other forms of marksmanship engage the warrior within. Even walking among the trail of the labyrinth, a warrior is able to lose track of the outside world, leaving what burdens them in the center, and quiet the mind.

Study on Posttraumatic Growth
Study is led by two world class psychologists--Dr. Richard Tedeschi (the father of posttraumatic growth from UNC Charlotte) and Dr. Bret Moore (Former Army psychologist). The study is 18 months and focuses on three key areas - symptom reduction using traditional measures such as the PCL (PTSD Checklist) and DASS-21 (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale); quality of life and stress management; and post-traumatic growth.

Currently at the six-month mark, the PATHH Program is seeing dramatic and sustained reductions in symptoms (40-60 percent) and anxiety, depression, and stress (50-70 percent). In addition, students show significant and sustained improvements in ability to manage stress, integrate previous and current life challenges, and post traumatic growth.
Direct quotes from the Doctors Moore and Tedeschi:

"Overall, program evaluation data reveal that Warrior PATHH participants see dramatic improvements in PTSD, depression, and anxiety.  We believe that BCR is one of the most comprehensive and effective programs available to veterans and believe that given the general stability of the results seen to this point in time, we will continue to see sustained improvements at 12 and 18 months. Furthermore, since BCR has developed thorough, logical, and easy-to-follow student and facilitator guides we believe these results can be replicated elsewhere if fidelity of the current PATHH program is maintained and additional tools like My PATHH are implemented."

"The BCR PATHH program provides a pathway to sustained psychological growth, wellness, and successful living beyond what is seen in traditional treatment modalities currently available to our veterans.  In just two days, PATHH has made breakthroughs that take the average medical model 12-14 months.”

What Is In Your Backpack?

Notice that nowhere in this article did it mention “therapy." Boulder Crest Retreat prides itself as post-military training using the tools that the military gave you to thrive and survive in stressful situations. However, they educate you on how to use these tools in our backpack in day to day life. There are also some things in our backpack we no longer need to carry. BCR helps you identify those burdens and lightens the load for the combat veterans that attend this program.

References and Recommended Reading
For more references and reading materials that are recommended by the combat veterans trainers at BCR, see the list below:
Frankl – Man’s Search For Meaning

Books by Dr. Moore and Dr. Tedeschi
Posttraumatic Growth - Tedeschi/Moore Workbook
Taking Control of Anxiety: Small Steps for Getting the Best of Worry, Stress, and Fear (APA Lifetools: Books for the General Public) 1st Edition

Wheels Down After Deployment

Two Studies on Post Traumatic Growth

Longitudinal Course of Posttraumatic Growth Among U.S. Veterans

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger – A National Study of U.S. Veterans

Special thanks to the folks at Boulder Crest Retreat, TRX, and to the generous donations that make this place free for combat veterans to become active leaders in our society.

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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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