Ask Stew: Motivation to Train for Military Service

How do you get motivated to work out?
Pfc. Marie Metellus conducts kettlebell swings during a force fitness program event on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, March 26, 2019. (Cpl. Daniel O'Sullivan/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If you want to find the time and energy for physical training, your journey starts with creating habits and priorities that will lead you in the right direction. This strategy applies to any long-term goal that requires work and preparation.

Military service requires several things: initial motivation, building new habits, breaking old habits through persistent movement, creating discipline and learning patience through training. This training could take a full year, depending on your current fitness level. But at some point, you should ask yourself, "How badly do I really want this?"

Here is an email question from a 17-year-old seeking training advice:

Mr. Smith, I really do want to join the Army and know I need to work out more than I do, but I have some issues with cheating myself by not working hard when I get tired or overheated or just even starting some days. What do you recommend? Next year, at this time, I want to be a soldier. -- Joseph


Thank you for considering serving our country. I have two ways to answer your question. Both are good, and you probably need to hear both. One is from Instructor Smith, and the other is from Coach Stew.

Instructor Smith would say: It is not my job to motivate you to serve your country, Joseph. One day, your fitness level may be the determining factor in a life-or-death situation.

Do you survive? Can you save your battle buddy? Can you save a loved one or someone who needs you to carry them 100 meters out of danger? What if that person is bigger than you? Are you strong enough? Are you tough enough to live and help others live? Do you want to be an asset or someone who needs help saving?

You need to train like your buddy's life depends on it. If this does not motivate you to get up off your butt, you need to consider another profession -- period.

Coach Stew would say: Joseph, you need to find your why. Why do you want to serve your country? This type of job is all about the selfless sacrifice required to do the tough jobs that most people not only won't do, but can't do.

This requires a level of preparation to ensure you are a valuable team member whom others can rely on when things go wrong. Whether it is an accident, Mother Nature or enemy contact, things go wrong and you have to be a dependable team member that the people next to you can trust to get the job done, no matter how physically challenging or dangerous.

You can do this if you find your why. Now, get to work finding the motivation needed to light a fire under yourself, because people need you to be ready.

I am not sure which one will work the best for you; I do know you have to be patient with the process of training. Every pro starts out as a rookie. Every soldier starts out as a new guy. You never will start out great at anything.

Every person who has served had to work at something and was a beginner on this journey. You need to start the journey of improvement now. Make today Day 1, not one day.

If you can make small improvements every day, you will be a wonderful asset to all of those around you and especially your country. Then, when you are a civilian again, you can take that mindset into business and get better at something new.

There is nothing wrong with being the New Guy several times in life. That just means you are on a path of growth, and that journey is always the worthy path to take.

Check out the articles on the Fitness page for workout ideas and some good motivational reading that you can use to inspire you. But remember, the ultimate goal is to develop discipline. One day, you will not be motivated to move, and you will have to rely on your discipline to get you to take that first step. If you can learn this at 17 years old, you will be ahead in the game in life. Get moving. Keep moving and never quit.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article