I typically receive an email pertaining to weight loss several times a week.
"Help! I need to lose 40 lbs. before I can join the Army. I also need help with running and I cannot do any pushups. How do I get fit and fit into a uniform?"
It is a fact that many (too many) of America's men, women, as well as teenaged youth are overweight. Recent alarming statistics conclude the following:
1) 66% of America is overweight = 200 million people!
2) Half of the overweight people are obese = 100 million people!
3) These numbers have doubled since the 1970's.
4) 70% of diabetes cases are preventable.
5) 300,000 Americas die EACH year due to complications caused by improper diet and fitness habits.
6) 50% of teen's exercise consists of nothing or just walking.
7) See www.overweightteen.com for more information/statistics.
First of all, I am proud of anyone who wishes to serve in the Armed Forces in any capacity. The goal for the young future soldier is to start moving TODAY. At 40 lbs. overweight, it is not recommended to start a running plan. For the first 1-2 months, you should stretch daily, walk 30-60 minutes a day and watch what you eat. Depending upon your height, weight, and sex, running when significantly overweight can damage your knees, lower back, and other joints. Focus on losing weight first by moving more, eating better and drinking water (up to a gallon a day).
As far as adding strength at the same time as losing weight, the good news is that you can do both at the same time. If you cannot do pushups, start doing pushups on your knees. Consider it a lighter weighted bench press - not a "girl" pushup. Today, women in the military do regular pushups all the time, so they are NOT girl pushups any longer - just "assisted pushups." See the "Push-up Push Workout" for more info and workouts on pushups and situps.
For starters see the "45 Day Beginner Program" (PDF).
And once you have a few weeks or month under your belt of stretching, some weight loss, and lots of walking or biking, try to start running. Run a little and walk a little for the same amount of time that you were walking before. I recommend that you run for a minute, walk for a minute or find a certain number of telephone poles or drive ways to run and walk to catch your breath. Just like doing knee pushups, eventually you will be able to do pushups. It is the same with running non-stop - walk/run workouts work best for beginner runners.
Soon, you will be able to perform pushups and sit-ups, and run. But you have to do it properly, because a fitness beginner - no matter the age - can be easily injured if you start off too fast.
See the free "Six Week Running Program" (PDF) once you are able to run 1-2 miles non-stop.
As a nation, our pool of fit youth to serve in the military is decreasing in size every year. We have to encourage our kids to exercise, eat right, and not start smoking for many reasons, including energy level, strength, confidence, health, and even vanity to name a few.
Good luck getting started. Keep the emails coming.
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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.