Tactical Fitness: Advice for Young Teens Considering Military Service

Young Marines practice squad-level marching.
Young Marines practice squad-level marching during the Leader’s Courses held at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, from June 5-11, 2016. (1st Lt. Brandon Rex/Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

Hey Mr. Smith,

I am a 13-year-old boy, about 5'2", 100 lbs., and I can do 70 push-ups without stopping. I can also do about 50 sit-ups in two minutes and run a mile in 6:30.

How can I improve my endurance and strength overall? Are there any exercises I can perform daily, or any specific activities that will help prepare me for boot camp? Other than fitness, I really want to focus on leadership skills. I'm currently in a leadership class at my school, which helps me with communication, but I really would like to learn how to lead in a more tactical way. 

Thanks for any advice I receive.

At your age, I think it is great that you want to start preparing for future military service. Thanks for considering the service. Personally, I would focus on being a kid. Play sports, work hard to get good at sports and become a leader on the team through hard work and leading by example.

Learning to be a team player is a critical skill to joining the military. Any tactical and leadership skills can be learned through Boy Scouts, Young Marines or Sea Cadets if you want to get involved in those groups.

Working out with calisthenics and running is fine, and as you get into high school and are under coaches' supervision, learn how to lift weights to build a stronger frame. This will help you in the future with sports, boot camp and advanced military training. Preparing for the USMC physical fitness test (PFT) is fine, too. Do pull-ups, crunches, push-ups and run every other day, for starters.

Stay in school. Work hard on your grades, graduate and you will have more options available to you. How well you do can determine college scholarships, with direct commissions into the USMC if you so choose.

Note: Do I even need to say to stay away from drugs and alcohol? It has no purpose in this training. Do not get a criminal record or DUI/DWI.

I have seen many kids not get accepted into the military because they have a record. Currently, due to the large number of applicants and a military downsizing, the U.S. military can be very selective.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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