It goes without saying that in the military, all personnel need to have high levels of physical fitness.
The high levels of physical fitness required are the result of many factors. Firstly, gym and circuit training, timed runs, assault courses and outdoor activities – all under the eagle eyes of Physical Training Instructors (PTI’s) who better resemble The Hulk than a regular human, always have impeccable white PT kit, and are notable for their lack of sympathy if someone does not meet their required fitness standards….
It is also the military lifestyle, which is inevitably very active, involves a lot of work outdoors, and often physical labour in harsh terrain and even worse weather. The whole military atmosphere and environment also encourages and increases physical fitness, for example with physical challenges (such as charity rowing challenges or yomps), and extreme physical adventures as a matter of course (such as a mock beach assault).
Aside from that, competitive sports are a regular feature of military life. Be it representing your unit at football, competing for the Air Force in field hockey, or taking part in the famous Army v Navy rugby match, the opportunities abound. Most competitive sports are represented in some military league or association, with commanders encouraging such sports, for the sense of teamwork and esprit de corps they bring to the players.
Another key point is being around like minded, encouraging people. In the military, it is your comrades who are constantly pushing each other – and therefore themselves – further in extreme physical activities. If exhausted after an assault course in full fighting kit, but still needing to complete a 200m sprint to complete the course under time, then it is your comrades who will assist and encourage you as best they can so that the whole team crosses that finish line together. Similarly, having a group of people who will encourage and push you further in embracing physical activity and fitness will go a long way. After joining a martial arts club, for example, the instructors and fellow students will be very encouraging and supportive in your development as a martial artist, which in turn will increase your fitness.
Ultimately, the high levels of military fitness are not just derived from the gym, circuits, running and PTI’s. It is the result and end product of all of what has been mentioned. Essentially, going to the gym is not the only way to increase and improve levels of fitness; it is the whole lifestyle as well.
For civilians, often it is a matter of deciding to change. It is making the conscious decision to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle. Sometimes even small things can be the start of great change, or can improve your fitness over time. For example, maybe consider going for long walks (ideal if you have a dog), or even something as simple as walking part of the way to work.
A full bergen is an optional extra here…
Taking that further, and slowly developing those levels of fitness, will be explored in Part II – Military Fitness II: For Civilians.