Boot Camp Mentality and Tips for Success


Every year thousands of Americans attend Basic Training or Boot Camps in all branches of the military are preparing to serve their country. Thank you for your choice to serve. However, there are typically two mentalities upon arriving at basic military training. 

1 – Boot Camp will get me in shape.

2 – Boot Camp will get me out of shape.

The Boot Camp Suffering

A majority of young Americans have treated Boot Camp as a weight loss clinic and suffered needlessly for several weeks with PT sessions, running, marching, and load bearing rucking depending upon your branch of service.  These events can seem endless for the unprepared and de-conditioned recruit. In fact, statistics will show that you are quite lucky to endure the entire basic training without failing events or getting injured to a point where you could not continue with your fellow recruit class IF you show up not ready to perform at a moderate to high level of fitness.

Consider these standards for the variety of events in all military programs:







Situps / Crunches





At least one

1 mile pace for timed runs

6-7 minute miles

7-8 minute miles

Rucking pace

12-13 minute mile pace

15 minute mile pace

*Note - These are not the military minimum standards. These are of the opinion of the writer who has prepared young men and women for success in military, police, fire fighting training for over 20 years. If you can push these numbers and times, you will have no problem with the physical training at basic military training programs.

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DO NOT THINK “BOOT CAMP WILL GET ME IN SHAPE.”  You are asking for miserably long days, however, in the end, if you survive, you will definitely be in the best shape of your life and likely be able to come close to these numbers listed in the chart.

Why add to the stress of boot camp?  At boot camp, you will be on your own for the first time (if 17-18 years old), living in barracks with several strangers (at first), highly active all day long, homesick, and receiving a daily dose of negative feedback from instructors.  Why add injury or physical fatigue and struggle to that list?

The Boot Camp Taper

For those highly prepared for their military service and perhaps moving in the Special Ops side of the military in their near future, going to basic training at a high level of fitness is a requirement. Basic should be relatively easy and if highly prepared, you can actually use your first few months in the military as a physical taper.  Then when you are finished and moving onto bigger physical challenges, it will not take that long to get back into that high level of conditioning.  There are some things you can do to keep working out hard.  Try doing pushups, situps, flutterkicks on the floor in your barracks whenever you have some time – even if it is 10-15 minutes before bed or wake up. If you can get laundry duty, you will have big bars to hang clothes on that are sturdy enough to do pullup on.  Laundry duty can add to your ability to get a few pyramid workouts in the day when you need it.

Advice for ALL Recruits at Basic Training:

1 – Do NOT Get Sick – If you can avoid getting sick you will be ahead of the curve in the more challenging physical events of training. Plus, if your goal is to move onto the Special Ops side of the military, getting sick can decrease your ability to recover quickly back to the higher level of fitness you had when you started Boot Camp.  

  • Wash your hands all the time.
  • Do not even touch your face with your hands unless when washing.
  • Use hand sanitizer whenever you see it.

If you do get sick, it is not the end of the world, just focus on getting well fast and recover from each day of training eating well at the chow hall and sleeping (when you can).

2 – Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail – Just work out before going to basic training.  It does not have to be a hardcore workout, but it does have to involve pushups, crunches, and running.  Add in more exercises like pullups, flutterkicks, squats, lunges to top off the type of calisthenics workouts you will experience. You need to get the body used to these events as injuries like shin splints, tendonitis in knees, shoulders, and elbows occur when exposed to moderate to high repetitions of these calisthenics for the first time.  See ideas with the PFT Bible for all branches of service.

3 – Are You Really Ready?   Before you see a recruiter, make sure you are really ready.  See Ten Signs You Are Ready to Serve.

4 – Train Specific – Depending upon your branch of service and your job, you may need extra physical testing to get TO and THROUGH the training.  See some of the latest changes to entry level PT testing occurring in today’s military.

First of all, thank you for considering serving your country. The goal of this article is to motivate you into motivating yourself to prepare for one of the greatest work and life experiences you will ever have.  You will always be proud you served. Go get some!

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