Want to Join the Military but Unmotivated to Work Out? Here’s How to Change That

U.S. Army Spc. Trevon Jones performs a plank during the Army Combat Fitness Test portion of the Walter D. Ehlers’ Cup at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
U.S. Army Spc. Trevon Jones, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, performs a plank during the Army Combat Fitness Test portion of the Walter D. Ehlers’ Cup at Grafenwoehr, Germany, June 2, 2023. (Sgt. Ty Baggerly/U.S. Army photo)

Preparing for a future in the U.S. military has many requirements. The entry standards are not overly difficult, but being cleared medically, academically and physically can be an uphill battle for many. Significant preparation may be needed to reach the level of acceptance to join, but enduring the training also requires a higher level of preparation depending on the job you seek.

Here is a question of a young man struggling with finding the motivation to prepare. My answer is a bit of reverse psychology and attitude adjustment.

Stew, I am thinking about joining the military (Army) and know I need to lose weight and get into shape, but I cannot find the motivation to work out more than a few days a week. Any suggestions on finding the spark I need to get moving? Sorry for the lame question, but I am serious about serving. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, Alvin

Alvin, it is not a lame question. It is one of the most common issues facing people considering any goal requiring long-term preparation. Preparing physically is necessary to meet the U.S. military entrance requirements and height/weight standards and create some durability so you do not injure yourself during the basic training process.

You also should find time to practice Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, tests and get your administrative records in order, including medical records, high school/college transcripts and legal paperwork (birth certificate, Social Security number, driver's license, etc.).

Motivation Has to Evolve into Discipline

Motivation is not what you are looking for. No one is motivated to work out most of the time, but people do it anyway because of discipline, habits and consistent behavior. One of the best ways to test whether you are disciplined is to work out, not eat junk food and make healthy choices, even when you do not feel like it.

I am sure you spent a good portion of your life waking up in the morning and not wanting to go to school. You did it anyway largely because you had to, but that is what this feels like.

Fitness Is a Survival Skill

If this does not motivate you to train, I am unsure what will, and you may want to consider another profession. Your fitness will one day determine how you perform in a life-or-death situation. Whether it is to save yourself, your buddy or someone else, your ability to be strong enough to perform your job at that moment will be the difference between life and death. Let that sink in for a while.

Attitude of Gratitude and Start Moving

You need an attitude adjustment and realize you have it in you if you genuinely want to serve your country. I often have mornings when the weather is cold, it is dark out, and I am at my most comfortable in bed when my alarm awakens me. Say to yourself when you do not feel like doing anything, "I do not have to do this, but I get to do this."

Many people in this country would love to serve but cannot because of medical or other issues. I advise moving, even if only walking for 10 minutes. Give it 10 minutes, and you will be amazed at how your attitude changes. Besides, the first 10 minutes are always the worst.

I wish there were an easy way to stay motivated, as it is a fleeting emotion and will not last forever. All you can do is build on each day, one day at a time. Next thing you know, you have strung together several days, and consistency is starting to develop. Healthy habits and discipline come from that. Then mental toughness and confidence in your abilities start to grow.

This process can take time to develop, so be patient and start moving.

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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