How Do CrossFit, Boot Camps and Obstacle Races Compare to Military Training?

Editor’s Note: How do popular fitness regimens such as boot camps, CrossFit, and obstacle race preparation compare to actual military training? We’ve assigned David Adams to find out. A U.S. Army veteran who was twice deployed to Iraq, David now is a University of Tampa student and avid fitness enthusiast. For the next three months, he’ll train via every popular fitness routine and enter Central Florida obstacle races to see which is the best preparation – and if any of them measure up to actual military PT. David will compete in the Picnic Island Adventure Run in Tampa Friday night (May 11) and write periodically on his findings. He’ll also report on endurance sports news and trends. Here’s his preview of the next three months.

By David Adams

I joined the Army in the spring of 2004 and left for basic training that September. While I always considered myself athletic oriented, once I arrived at boot camp I was introduced into a new world of fitness.

My fellow trainees and I were subjected to a full range of physically demanding activities during 16 weeks of training. Long-distance running and road marches left me nursing large blisters, shin splints, and other lower body injuries.

The first few weeks of basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia were hell. Never had I trained at such an intense level. The intensity had its payoffs, though, and when I graduated basic training in December I was in better shape than during any of my athletic seasons in high school. Being in shape took on a whole new meaning. Instead of hitting the gym and throwing iron around, my world became cardio oriented as I hit the roads and fields running, ruck-marching, and sprinting.

After basic training, I was permanently stationed with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Although I had received an Army Physical Fitness Training award for my scores on the fitness tests, training at my unit was more intense than basic. CrossFit-like routines and long distance runs occurred daily. Our company held regular competitions, pitting platoons against one another. Obstacle courses, forced march-and-shoots, Humvee pushes or pulls, tire flips, and water drum sprints were the more elaborate innovations and, as always, no competition would be complete without pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and lots of running.

I developed a love-hate relationship with these events. I hated them because they were physically demanding. It was a common sight to see soldiers running to the bushes or hunching by the side of the road to deposit their breakfasts, and it happened to me more than a few times over the course of my 5 ½-year Army career.

Although the workouts took the word intensity to a whole new level, nothing was more rewarding than finishing, unless of course your platoon finished on top. After the competitions we felt as though we had accomplished something great. Those are the moments I will always remember, celebrating with my fellow platoon mates after we finished at the top of our company, going out for a victory meal with the guys.

The Army opened my eyes to a different kind of fitness, one that has more real world applications than any other type of training. After two Iraq deployments, hundreds of physical training competitions, thousands of “fun” runs, and what felt like millions of pushups and sit-ups, I was released from active duty.

In January 2010, just two days after my release, I enrolled full-time at the University of Tampa.  I try to go to the firing range on a regular basis to keep up with my shooting skills, but I would be lying if I said I was anywhere near the same level as when I was a full-time soldier.

One facet of the military is so engrained in my head I doubt I will ever lose it: the need to be in the best physical shape possible. The Army educated me on the importance of living healthy, and although I am no longer a soldier, I always try to keep myself in constant “fighting” shape.  Physical training is important, not just for the body, but for the mind as well. Intense training helps with focus, mood, and concentration. Completing rigorous training gives an athlete a feeling of accomplishment unlike any other.

Over the summer, I will be competing in various athletic events in and around Tampa. Since my enlistment ended, I have not competed in an obstacle course, CrossFit competition, or adventure run of any kind.  I am curious to see how these civilian-designed events match up with the intense training I handled during my time as an infantry soldier. My first run will be on Friday, May 11th, when I compete in the Picnic Island Adventure Run.

I’m looking forward to pushing myself and chronicling my latest training journeys here at EnduranceSportsFlorida.com.

1 Comment

Filed under Running, Training

One response to “How Do CrossFit, Boot Camps and Obstacle Races Compare to Military Training?

  1. catherine minolli

    Can’t wait to read all about the comparisons and the challenges! What a great idea!

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