Avoid These Training Activities When Preparing to Serve

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Maatje Benassi  cycling at the women’s road race event of the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Maatje Benassi of the U.S. Armed Forces Cycling Team leads the group during the women’s road race event of the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China Oct. 20, 2019. (DoD/EJ Hersom)

When training for a specific, high-level fitness goal, you may learn that your athletic history can interfere with your progress. While a strong fitness foundation will help as you prepare for military-style training and testing, you may need to reduce some of your previous workout activities as you near the start of your military service.

That’s because you need to avoid events that may lead to injuries that cause you to miss training time and progress, delay ship dates or, worse, disqualify you from military service altogether. In the absolute worst scenario, some events can cause fatal accidents.

Reduce These Events and Training

Nearly every year, there are stories of recruits whose military service dreams end due to accidents caused by activities not necessary to their preparation.

1. Start Date Timeline

If you are playing sports or competing in any risky activity, you may not want to start the delayed entry program timeline. Once you begin, you will be on the military’s timeline. An injury can cause delay in shipping or delay preparation.

Finish competing in your sports and aggressive activities before starting a new military journey, one that will require just as much aggressive and specific training as you get both to and through your future military training.

2. Traffic Accidents and Deaths on Bikes

Riding a bike in traffic is an unnecessary danger, especially if you can train on a stationary bike. Stop competing in triathlons as you near your military service start date. Being hit by cars or crashing while going 20 mph can lead to serious injury or death.

3. Combative Sports

You can break bones and damage joints doing mixed martial arts, boxing, Jiu-Jitsu or other fighting activities. Broken hands, facial bones, noses and dislocated joints can lead to significant down time that you may not have if the injury occurs too close to your training start date.

Unfortunately, I have seen selectees lose their special ops school slots due to lengthy recovery times. Some have even been disqualified altogether from military service after these injuries.

4. Running Very Long-Distance Events

Running endurance races like marathons or 50- to 100+-mile events can be a great way to test your mettle. Please understand that if you are not physically prepared for this volume of running, these races can lead to significant periods of recovery time where you cannot run at all.

If you get injured with a stress fracture or a foot, knee or hip injury, the amount of time with no running or a possible surgery can add months to your next training run and all but ruin your chances of attending future training.

Running typically yields minor injuries that only interfere with training for a few weeks, but in extreme cases, serious injuries could require surgery and potentially disqualify you from future training schools.

5. Underwater Swims

If you are training for special ops military jobs that require significant swimming, diving and general water training, your desire to practice for future tests will be high. However, drowning is a very real possibility even if you have trained lifeguards on the pool deck.

Nearly every year, a special ops candidate dies from holding his breath under the water before even joining the military. Usually this happens when someone is swimming alone, but some deaths have occurred when nearby swim buddies and lifeguards were unable to help in these horrible situations.

Even if you are years or just six months out from your starting date, you may want to start to consider this advice as you plan your training. Any injury that prohibits training is not good. Any injury that prohibits you from shipping out on time is bad luck. Any injury that prohibits you from serving is a horrible dream killer. And any event that causes death is the absolute worst possibility in any training situation. None of this has to happen if you plan wisely.

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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