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    Military Fitness, Deployed

    Nathanael Morrison, RKC

    Being in the military has its challenges. Being in special operations has more challenges. Being in special operations and being deployed has more challenges yet. Its not easy, if it were, everyone would do it. That said, I would like to share some of these challenges and experiences with you. For the average civilian this may simply be interesting. For the military member this information is essential.

    When you leave your comfortable home and deploy to a location that is 125 degrees in the shade, obviously you are in for a shock. For those of you who think you know what it is to sweat, get ready for a new definition. Bring some huge tubs of Gatorade and use it! Drink water as if your life depends on it because it does. In the deployed location water seems to grow on trees. For those of you civilians, take heed. If you’re not visiting the restroom once an hour you are dehydrated. If you are thirsty you are already two quarts low. Hydration is the biggest factor in your ability to operate and survive in a hot environment. After a week or two you will acclimate and your workouts will resume some amount of normalcy. You need to push your self as hard as you do at home to keep in top fighting shape. Your body will adapt, just listen to it a little more closely.

    If water grows on trees, food definitely does not! Over here you have the choice of MREs (Meal Ready to Eat, i.e. rations) or a horrible chow hall that serves some of the worst food on earth. I usually opt for the MRE. With food that would choke a pig and the oppressive climate it’s often hard to muster up the will to eat. Well, you have to. MREs might suck, but they are loaded with all the right amounts of nutrients to keep you going. Eat at least two meals a day to keep your energy up. You won’t get cut up but the enemy doesn’t care about how your abs look.

    When I first got here I thought that the Warrior Diet was a good idea because of the way I was eating. Well, the facts of life caught up with me. You have to feed the machine and that means 2-3 meals a day. Breakfast is essential if you are going to be on the move all day or if you are going to workout. Don’t skip breakfast! Dinner is also very important. Your best recovery time is when you’re sleeping. Give your body something to process.

    MREs are full of fat. We all know that. If you are working out or operational you will need that fat. In this environment it is essential fuel.

    In the states, many experts say that high potency vitamins and minerals like GNC’s Ultra Mega Gold are excessive and far more than the normal human needs. Not over here! When you are deployed they are essential to maintain your body’s balance. I swear by Ultra Mega Gold vitamins and minerals. The Spetsnaz believed in using huge doses of V&M and had a lot of success. I’m here to tell you they were right.

    You eat when you can. I remember an exercise where we had been running for most of the night avoiding enemy patrols and attempts to catch us. While on the run I pulled out an MRE main meal and started eating it. To make matters worse I had to call in an air strike halfway through the meal. That’s Coordination! It really helped out though because my body needed the energy. I got one heck of a second wind and was good to go for the rest of the night.

    If you have the opportunity to get off base or out of your compound, eat the local food. This helps in a couple ways. First is the hearts and minds aspect on the locals. The second is that you do have a scent that is different from the locals and yes they can tell the difference. Eating locally will disguise your scent. For those of you shaking your head, you haven’t been there. Trust me, its important. We have a chicken stand close by and the chicken and bread is awesome!

    Other Supplements
    Many people load up on Myoplex and Creatine when they deploy. I don’t think too highly of this. Extra protein may help some people. I think it’s mostly in their heads. It never really helped me and I hate choking those shakes down. Creatine is good for short explosive events. Nothing in the military falls into that category. I’ve tried just about everything on deployments and I didn’t see any improvement over the MRE and vitamin diet. I firmly believe that most supplements are worthless and I will not advocate their use in the deployed environment. Eat 2-3 meals a day, drink lots of water, and take your vitamins. It’s that simple.

    Working Out
    Working out presents some challenges. Since you rarely have a Golds Gym in the middle of nowhere most guys improvise. The problem is of course in what and how they improvise and workout. Few understand that bodybuilding has no place in the military and they waste their time and effort. On the other hand, I deploy with all six of my kettlebells and all I need is a pull-up bar, which is easy to improvise. I get a better workout and I don’t need lots of equipment. The simplicity of kettlebells is amazing and perfect for the military

    With so much turmoil in the schedule it is almost impossible to nail down a routine. I rely on density workouts. I choose a few drills and do 30-40 minutes of circuits with minimal rest. From time to time I will do random drills with long rest periods, mostly pressing and grinding drills. I always do pull-ups at the end of my workout. I do as many sets of 3 reps as I can manage. Every other day or so I do this same rep scheme with 16-24kg hanging off my feet. I always go to a dead hang and I go to my chest on every rep. This seems to be doing wonders for my upper back. I just go by feel and rarely write anything down right now. Jandas are always a part of my circuits and they are coming along nicely. I slacked off on Pistols for a while and I am seeing now what a bad idea that was. I’m resuming them immediately!

    Running is essential. Running in boots is good, though it takes some getting used to. The boots we have suck and I just wear Merrill hiking shoes. They are much better to run in and give you much better footing in rocky terrain, on ships, and in buildings. The Soviets found that out in the 1980’s and most soldiers bought the Russian equivalent of Converse sneakers when they deployed to Afghanistan. If you’re not in Special Forces you’re out of luck in this respect. Sorry, you can always cross train. It is also a good idea to run in body armor often. The rib cage compression and weight are factors that you have to get comfortable with.

    Ruck marching is also very important. I ordered a large Bergen that the SAS uses and when it gets here I plan on doing some heavy rucking. Right now I go out once a week for a 6-8 mile ruck with a standard ALICE pack with about 80lbs. I have not been timing this but I try to find the line between “way too fast” and “this sucks” and I stay between the two. Seems to be working just fine.

    Working out with a heart rate monitor is a great way to train. Is it essential? No. Is it a valuable tool? Yes.

    Comrades, my entire life has been dedicated to the military. Military operations are not easy despite technological advances. You must be prepared at all times to defend yourself and that might mean running like hell in the middle of the night with all your kit on. Some things we have done to prepare are below.

    -Go to an area where you have a lot of conex containers, vehicles, etc… Climb over every other one and crawl under the others. This is not as easy as you might think!

    -Ropes and ladders are fun. Hang a Fast rope and caving ladder next to each other. With all your gear, climb one, crossover, descend the other. Reverse and repeat. String a Fast rope or rappel rope between two trucks. With all your kit on, traverse the rope. Once on top of the rope, once below the rope.

    -Buddy carries are hell. There are so many ways to carry or drag someone. Find a stretch of open ground and do every drag and carry you can think of for 50-100 meters each. Stop if you are going to drop your buddy.

    That’s just a few ideas to get the brain going. I have included a few pictures. ENJOY!

    Nathanael Morrison is a member of USAF Pararescue and a certified Russian Kettlebell instructor.

    Article and Photos © 2002 by Nate Morrison

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