Figuring Out What Motivates You to Train for Service

Marines conduct combat life-saving exercises.
Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct combat life-saving exercises in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami/U.S. Navy photo)

If you cruise through the Fitness Section, you will find hundreds of articles covering nearly every fitness level, specific types of training, tactical fitness, fitness testing, and even mental toughness and motivation to train. The most common requests that the fitness writers receive are mainly concerned with military preparation fitness programming and the motivation to stay committed.  Many of the articles below were written in response to these type of requests:

There are many reasons why you should train, and those should motivate you to do so.  It is important to find your why now. 

Why Do You Want to Serve? 

Serving in the military has to be a calling, not something you fall back on because you cannot get into college or a civilian job. Serving your country is not entirely a selfless act. There is nothing wrong with serving your country with the goal of bettering yourself with valuable skills that are transferable to the civilian world, getting college assistance, learning leadership skills, becoming more disciplined or just continuing to be part of a team if you love being a team player.

But many need a why in order to find the motivation to prepare themselves physically for military service.

Most of the motivation questions come from young, pre-military-aged teens who never really have trained hard for anything, so it is understandable that they don't fully grasp the love for fitness that many current and former athletes may have. Lack of motivation is not limited to non-athletes, however. 

Some power athletes have issues with motivating themselves to run, and by neglecting running and rucking prior to military training, you could be setting yourself up for failure, injury or both. Some endurance athletes have problems motivating themselves to lift and PT to build a foundation of strength needed for PT tests, rucking, heavy equipment carrying and other load-bearing tasks. Regardless of where you are on the fitness spectrum, difficulty finding the motivation to train is real for many.

But saying, "I just do not have the motivation to train every day like I should before boot camp," is one of the worst things to say -- and here is why.



Fitness motivation.


Your Own Survival

Lacking a fitness foundation going into the military will make every day a little tougher on you than it should. Events like platoon runs or group PT will be gut checks versus stress relievers. A two- or three-mile run on legs not used to running that far will be susceptible to injury. 

High-repetition PT workouts will yield post-exercise soreness that will make the following days very uncomfortable. Failing a fitness test puts you in a remedial program where you will spend much of your "free time" doing extra PT and running. Failing in fitness may even result in your dismissal from the military after only a few months.

Your Team Needs You

Your battle buddy, swim buddy, squad, platoon or whatever team you operate in needs to know you are able to help them when times get tough. I say this all the time to express how important fitness is in the military:

"One day, your fitness will be a determining factor in whether or not you, a teammate or other person you are trying to help will live or die."

I continue with this. "If that does not motivate you to start training a little harder, then perhaps you should consider a job outside of the military, law enforcement or firefighting professions." 

We All Need You

Your family and society need more people who are ready to answer the call. It may be carrying loved ones out of a burning home or swimming across a pond to save a person from drowning. You never know what you may have to do to help yourself or others.

Even if you are not planning to be in a forward-deployed combat position, your teammates still need you. Natural disasters, fire, floods and, unfortunately, random terrorist attacks require us all to be a little more vigilant and ready for unknown circumstances. 

Are you ready to help? Or will you need to be helped? If you need to be helped, I hope your battle buddy and perhaps the first responder who shows up on scene is ready for service.  Spread the word.

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

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