After basic training or a tough selection program that is long and requires months of daily movement, miles of running and rucking, along with high reps of grinder style PT (calisthenics), it's time to prepare for what may be next in the pipeline.
Here is an email from a service member who has completed an infantry course and is getting ready for some advanced follow-on training:
Stew, I just completed basic and advanced individual training and have a few months before the next training program, which will require great PT scores, running, rucking and other load-bearing activities. I feel beat up and just aching overall, but have no real injuries. What do you suggest I focus on during these next few months, as I feel I have lost some of my abilities even though I did really well in training? -- Mel
Mel, congrats and thanks for serving. My suggestion is to follow the steps below:
After a beatdown of long days and nights in training, with minimal rest and poor nutrition, you need to focus more on you and your recovery. I call this phase "Licking Your Wounds." Any aches and pains should be cared for.
Consider a few weeks of non-impact cardio, stretching, and foam rolling, mobility and recovery work each day. Eat well and sleep well, as those two are a majority of your recovery needs. See related recovery articles on the Military.com Fitness pages. Do only this for a few weeks until your energy levels have increased, and your aches and pains have decreased.
Understand that you will see decreased abilities in some areas and some things you are now good at doing, in contrast with your status before you joined the military. Now is the time to see where you are on all your lifts (strength), PT scores (muscle stamina and endurance) and run and ruck pace.
Be honest and test yourself with previous tests that you did in training or in some of the events you know are coming in your future training. This may mean longer rucks or runs set at a steady pace, but it may also mean adding in sprints, shuttle runs and other new testing events.
See where you are on the training spectrum by testing all the elements of fitness.
3. Start Progressing
Do not just jump back to where you left off before basic training. You should account for the current miles of running and rucking you are doing now per week and start that progression at a level you are now comfortable doing. Then progress about 10-15% in mileage and ruck once every 7-10 days. As you build up your mileage of running again with NO pain, make one of your longer runs a load-bearing event.
Over the course of the next month, add another ruck in the week. Consider doing them on your weightlifting or leg PT days. See Running and Rucking Progression.
Finally, as you build back to desired fitness levels, start adding many of the events you will be tested on in the next training, or at least a portion of them -- just to get a taste of the event.
Fix your gear, understand your nutrition prep and most importantly -- as you likely already know -- take care of your feet. Do not forget to take a week or so to reduce the load to taper going into the next phase of training well rested, recovered and ready to roll. This next phase may be harder than the previous, so your recovery, training, nutrition and general self-care is critical to your success.
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 email@example.com.
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