Military Fitness Success Is All About This One Thing

Key to military fitness success is practice, practice, practice.
Soldiers push a humvee up a hill in the last event at the Spartan Challenge at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on March 4, 2017. (Spc. Christopher Shannon, 102d Public Affairs Detachment/Mississippi National Guard photo)

Taking on great challenges and reaching expert level at a skill requires more than just a foundation of training and preparation. Eventually, you have to master the basics.

If you speak to any "expert" or person who has achieved your personal goal, they will tell you that they first got really good at the basics of their skill set.

Overnight success exists only in the eyes of those who only see the end result. That success could have taken decades of work.

You can apply this philosophy to any fitness goal, but it can also apply to other important goals in life from professional to personal. But know this: There is no easy button.

There always will be a new way to do something. Some are better than the old methods, and we should evolve and accept these changes, especially if the changes are more effective. It is smart to be flexible and not be too locked into the old way of doing things.

But there is no life hack for working harder. There are no tips, tricks or secret sauces for this type of long-term goal achievement. Sure, you can find easier and smarter ways to do the little things by adding technology and the latest science to make your long and challenging journey a more comprehensive study. But that study still will require mastering the basics and building a solid foundation on which to grow.

You can apply this to your personal, professional, academic, athletic and physical conditioning. They all require a journey through the beginner phases and a logical progression to the advanced mastery of certain skills. Every expert was a beginner once, and I guarantee you they failed and were defeated along their journey many, many times. What makes that person an expert is not their talent, but the fact that they never quit.

Three Experts We All Know

You may think these three men were blessed beyond measure with God-given talent and ability. I would agree they were, but hard work will beat talent every time. If you read the quotes below, you will see how these all-time greats focused not on the mastery of everything, but one thing: the basics because the basics are effective and are timeless.

Bruce Lee said, "I do not fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." That level of mastery is founded in nothing glorious but hard, unsexy work.

Michael Jordan said, "Winners don't just learn the fundamentals; they master them. You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them."

Larry Bird stated, "I wasn't real quick, and I wasn't real strong, so I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals."

Think about the foundation of your goal and understand the journey to get to the level that is required of you. It will require many hours of work, dedication and clever thinking. No matter what you do, the fundamentals never change, and you bypass the basics at your own risk. To master something, you don't practice until you get it right. You practice until you can't get it wrong.

What is Your Goal?

Depending on your choice of goals throughout this life, there is one thing you goal requires: persistent work. This may be hard physical training or consistent studying and preparing. Disciplined work will enable you to push through moments of failure (also known as "learning experiences") and not quit on the finished product.

Getting ready for an event may take months or even years to ensure you have mastered the basics and have established a foundation of preparedness to be ready to endure and complete the task. Remember, "We don't rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training."

Besides, if you really think about it, "There is nothing new under the sun," as King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes. Hard work is not a new concept. Sure, everyone always will look for a new, easier way to do something, but in the end, it is still you and your dreams with a big hill of work in front of you if you want to finish strong and reach the top.

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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