Military basic training varies from branch to branch, but the aim of what is commonly called bootcamp is the same: to start your transition from civilian to member of the armed services.
Bootcamps are a totally immersive experience and may even be your first extended time away from home. You’ll be thrown together with a bunch of strangers and expected to learn the basic skills you’ll need in your new military career.
However, bootcamp will go much more smoothly if you do your homework before arriving at the front gates of your new home.
Use the following tips to prepare your body and mind for bootcamp.
Focus on Basic Bodyweight Exercises and Running
Bootcamp PT (physical training) invariably revolves around bodyweight exercises like push-ups, air squats, lunges, and pull-ups. You’ll also probably do lots (and we mean LOTS) of sit-ups, crunches, and other abs exercises.
Bootcamp candidates also do a lot of marching and running. You’ll run for exercise, run for transport, and run because you don’t want to be late for your next assignment. New recruits are always running somewhere.
While gym training can get you in great shape, the best way to get bootcamp fit is by building your workouts around bodyweight exercises and running. Your instructors won’t care how buff you are or what your bench press PR is. But they will care if you cannot do the required number of pull-ups or complete the troop runs.
So, in the weeks leading up to bootcamp, start doing plenty of basic bodyweight training. Do straight sets, circuits, pyramids, timed sets, and whatever other training methods you can think of to stop your workouts from getting boring. However, focus on the most common bodyweight exercises so they become second nature.
Here’s a simple full-body but basic bodyweight workout to try:
- 5 pull-ups
- 10 push-ups
- 15 air squats
- 20 crunches
Do as many circuits as you can in 30 minutes.
Learn About Good Nutrition So You Can Eat Healthy at The Chow/Mess Hall
For many bootcamp attendees, having the freedom to choose what they eat is a problem. Most chow halls offer a wide range of dining options, some healthy and some less so. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of eating poorly just because a) no one is there to tell you not to, and b) when you are tired and hungry, you’ll be tempted to fuel your body with junk food.
Unfortunately, while junk food contains lots of calories, it doesn’t provide the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. For example, a lack of protein can impair recovery, too few vitamins and minerals can affect your immune system, and too little fiber can cause digestive upsets.
In contrast, too much sugar can cause fat gain, and unhealthy eating can result in fluctuating energy levels.
You’ll be asking a lot from your body during bootcamp, so it deserves the best fuel available.
Spend some of your pre-bootcamp time learning about basic nutrition for weight management, performance, and recovery so you know what to eat at the mess hall. While diets vary, the basic principles of good nutrition are almost always the same:
- Consume adequate protein
- Eat plenty of plant foods (fruits and veggies)
- Seek out slow-releasing carbs (whole grains)
- Drink lots of fluids
- Limit your intake of processed foods and sugars
Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect during bootcamp, but paying attention to what you eat could help things go a lot more smoothly.
Don’t Kill Yourself Training Before Bootcamp And Show Up Injured
While you should start bootcamp feeling fit and physically ready for the challenge you are about to undertake, you should avoid training so much that you arrive tired or injured.
Bootcamps are designed to be progressive, and the volume and intensity of the PT will increase gradually over the length of your course.
Your instructors will ensure your fitness peaks during the latter stages of bootcamp, and training blocks are designed to prepare you for whatever fitness assessments you need to pass along the way.
Arriving tired from your own training or, worse, injured will make the first few weeks of bootcamp far harder than they need to be. A minor injury may heal, but it could also get worse, and you might even have to withdraw from training.
So, prepare yourself but don’t do so much preparatory training that you feel beaten up or overly tired. Ensure you include rest days and easy workouts in your build-up to bootcamp.
Develop Good Habits Before You Go
The transition from civilian to military life can be jarring – especially if you have no real experience of life in the armed services. This shock to the system can make you feel out of your depth, anxious, and even homesick.
You can make this transition a little less dramatic by introducing some bootcamp habits before you begin your course.
Get up early every day – 6am is standard, but you may have to get up even earlier, so get used to rising while it’s still cold and dark outside. Needless to say, if you have to get up early, you should go to bed early, too, so you get plenty of restorative sleep. However, expect some sleep deprivation, and don’t be surprised if you don’t get much sleep some nights.
Make your bed and tidy your room – morning inspections are commonplace during bootcamp, so start getting into the habit of neatly making your bed and cleaning/tidying your room. Organize your drawers and wardrobe, dust, polish, and vacuum as necessary, and ensure your abode will pass muster.
Wash and iron your clothes – if your parents usually do your laundry, or you use a service, you should learn how to wash and iron your clothes before bootcamp. Uniforms must be clean and neatly pressed, and the same may even go for your bedding. Having these skills before bootcamp will make the initial few days much less stressful.
Be punctual – punctuality matters during bootcamp. You’ll be expected to be in the right place at the right time for lessons and assignments. Being late is not an option! Be more aware of the time and practice punctuality during the lead-up to bootcamp. Getting up when your alarm sounds is one way to do this.
Get used to bad weather – bootcamps do not stop because it’s cold or raining. Depending on the location and time of year, the elements can present as much of a challenge as the course you’re trying to pass. If you are a fair-weather outdoor person, it’s time to get used to being outside when it’s cold, wet, windy, etc. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Bootcamp serves several purposes. The obvious one is preparing you for your new life in the military. However, most bootcamps are also designed to weed out those who are unsuitable for military service. As such, bootcamp is tough.
No matter how well you prepare or how much you want a military career, there will be days when you feel like quitting and going home. Everyone feels this way at some point.
However, as the saying goes, winners never quit, and quitters never win.
While it’s okay to acknowledge feelings of doubt during bootcamp, it doesn’t pay to dwell on them. Instead, drown them out with positive self-talk. You CAN do it! People less prepared and less well-equipped have passed bootcamp, and you can do it, too.
And remember, no matter how hard things get, the tough times will end eventually. So, put your head down and keep grinding. Always do your best, and you will succeed.
Give It Your All but Enjoy It, Too
Bootcamp will be challenging, and there will be times when you are bone-tired, cold, and miserable. You may even feel like quitting. However, despite the hardships, it’ll also be one of the most memorable and rewarding times of your life, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it, too.
Suffering brings people together and forms unbreakable bonds and friendships with your fellow bootcamp candidates. You’ll make unforgettable memories and experience things few others will ever have the opportunity to do. There will be hardships, but there will be plenty of laughs, too.
6 Tips for A Successful Bootcamp – Closing Thoughts
Bootcamp is designed to be a life-changing experience. It’s the start of your transition from civilian to the military. It’s also a training course, a job interview, and a way to see if you really want to be a member of the armed forces.
After all, military life is not for everyone.
Improve your chances of passing bootcamp by starting your preparations early. This will undoubtedly require effort and organization on your part as you try to balance getting ready for bootcamp with your normal day-to-day routine. But even this inconvenience is beneficial and will help make bootcamp just a little easier.
Finally, always remember the five Ps – Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Getting your body and mind ready for bootcamp means you are much more likely to be successful.