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Tips for Females Preparing for US Army Basic Combat Training
Basic Combat Training is GOING to hurt. You will reach a point during training where your body will give out. Basic Combat Training is DESIGNED to push you past your physical, mental and emotional limits.
There was a guy from California in our group who was able to outperform everyone in the training battalion and he looked like a lightweight body builder. Our Drill Sergeants would smoke us until HE was dripping with sweat and in pain.
Lots of times I would hear some of the females talking about mysterious bruises they had acquired after being smoked (being smoked is when Drill Sergeants punish you through exercises, such as push-ups, although other exercises can be used.)
Here are some things I did that helped me to prepare for the physical demands of the course...
When I went through BCT, we had a soldier who one day decided that she didn’t like water and wouldn’t drink any. This was a BIG mistake. She became very weak. She was unable to perform almost any task given. She often fell out of road/ruck marches and had to be evacuated to the hospital during the first 48 hours of our Ten day field exercise. She clung to life for two days until we finally got the word that she was starting to do better.
She suffered more than the rest of us did as her body wasn’t getting what it really needed. It hurt her relationship with her battle buddy and her platoon because she was out of training for something that could’ve easily been prevented. The rest of us got in trouble for not being able to convince her to drink enough water. This hurt our unit cohesion, but it hurt her health more.
Moral of the story: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
Drink at least 100 ounces (3 liters) of water per day.
Push-ups, Sit-ups, Rowers, Whatever!
While I went through AIT (Advanced Individual Training or Job/MOS training,) my Drill Sergeant instructed a fellow soldier regarding an area that he was wishing to improve in. My Drill Sergeant looked over us and said this:
“If you want to improve your pushups-Do pushups; if you want to improve on sit ups-do sit ups; if you need help on the run-then RUN.” -DS Pratt 2005
This Drill Sergeant wasn’t saying that doing other exercises wouldn’t help. She was saying that the best way to get better at doing these exercises was to PERFORM these exercises.
You can work up to how many repetitions you need/want to do without hurting yourself. If you can only do two, do two repetitions in the morning during your regular work out and do two more repetitions in the evening before you go to sleep. It may not be much, but it’s a start. Don’t despise small beginnings.
Keep a journal of your workouts and plan your workouts. It will help show your progress and you will be better able to keep track of what you are doing to help prepare yourself.
A close friend of the family often referred to as ‘Uncle Pete’ was a Physical Therapist with a successful practice. I asked him what I should do to prepare for the physical rigors of Army BCT. He knew that I frequented a rock climbing gym and suggested that I find the easiest wall in the gym-even if it was a kiddie wall,) climb it as fast as possible and repel down within a certain time limit. Take a break and begin again for a set time limit. By the time I was finished I was unable to close my hands and someone would have to remove the rope from my harness and undo my harness for me.
Rock climbing is an amazing sport. It can improve climbing skill, dexterity and build muscle and endurance as well as self-confidence.
You should always consult a physician prior to trying something similar to avoid serious injury or death.
Run for Time, Not Distance
This is self-explanatory. Part of your training is going to involve running. At some point, you will get separated into groups and you are going to run to show your Drill Sergeants where you are at regarding your running speed and endurance. This is one of the ONLY times in which you will run a shorter distance than what is required on the Fitness Test. Most times after you are assessed you will run longer distances.
So if you run for an hour at an 8-10 minute/mile pace...you will be running a farther distance than just fulfilling what will be required.
The best way to prepare for this, is to get in the habit of running long distances often. Learn to run properly, and work up to running 45 minutes per day. A good way to improve your breathing is to bring a buddy along and talk to each other while you run. This also takes your mind off of what you are doing, which can be very helpful.
Never look at the ground. When you look at the ground, you can lose hope and your form can suffer.
A large part of running is in our heads. It's a mental game as much as it is physical.
Pick an object in front of you and focus on it. It can be a telephone pole, a billboard, a house-even a fellow runner. If you pass it-pick something else along the way. This helps keep your mind engaged and makes you aware of your surroundings.
One way to get your mind off of running is to think about something going on in your life. It doesn't matter what it is. A new puppy, your significant other, family, those new shoes that just came out-what the cat did to your old shoes...etc.
Washes/Dry river beds
Never run in a wash or dry river bed if you see clouds up stream, as the area may be at high risk for flash flooding. If you are planning on running in a Wash or Dry creek bed, always run with a buddy in case of injury or incident.
Wash Running is a great workout. The running surface is compromised by different depths of sand and rocks. This causes your body to work harder. You will gain strengthen you and improve your endurance. It will suck when you first start out, but it does get easier over time if you stick with it.
(Note: If you have to walk on the PT test, you know that it is harder to do the walking portion of the test than it is to do the running portion of the test. However, walking at a brisk pace can help strengthen lower leg muscles, which can also benefit you when you do run.)
Would you put diesel in a gasoline engine?
It is equally important to make sure you are putting the right kind of fuel in your body. Water is great, but as the weather heats up you want to make sure that you are ingesting enough salt to keep yourself going without overdoing it. Usually mixing some Gatorade in with your water and making sure to eat something can go a long way in preventing heat injuries.
During training prior to deployment, one company had to have 8 people evacuated out of the field because while they were drinking enough water, they were not getting the salt they needed. They weren’t eating anything and putting a lot of stress on their bodies.
Speak with a nutritionist or your doctor for the best information on what to eat while you are preparing for Basic Combat Training. This is the best way to determine your nutritional needs and make a plan for yourself.
The Hairiest issue
A lot of females wonder about their hair during training. Should I cut it? Is it manageable if its long? Etc…
I remember one female who took 15 minutes to get herself ready for the day during the first full day of BCT. She had long hair and did her make up so that it was meticulous and perfect while everyone was scrambling to get dressed in the proper uniform and downstairs to formation on time.
When she finally walked down the stairs she was put at attention and asked what had taken her so long. Clearly disapproving of the Drill Sergeant’s tone, she yelled back that it was THE DRILL SERGEANT’S fault that she had been late because she wasn’t given enough time to get ready.
Every Drill Sergeant within earshot stopped what they were doing, strode over to her, encircled her and took turns explaining how it was her fault for not being adaquetly prepared, that she was out of her mind and that getting the rest of us in trouble because she wanted to look pretty was not the right answer. You don’t want to be that chick.
Ladies, I know how awesome it feels to look nice. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you have a problem with dirt and want to be in the military-that’s perfectly fine, but you need to anticipate that being in the military means your face will be in the dirt and mud from time to time, whether its low crawling or navigating through obstacles.
But should you cut your hair?
As soon as possible, I had my hair cut long enough to hide my scalp but short enough to where I could roll off my bunk, run a comb through it (sometimes just patting it into place…ah memories,) and I was ready to work. It was easier for ME. My hair is very rebellious and stubborn when it’s long. I cut it so that I was able to maintain looking professional at all times during training.
Most Females in the course kept long hair. They had showers every night not spent in the field and they could keep themselves looking professional regardless of where they were sleeping at night. When we had time in the field these ladies would use travel containers of shampoo and one of their canteens to keep their hair from getting nasty. (One canteen is still used despite having camel backs.)
Short hair was good during training because it CAN be faster, but longer hair can appear to be just as professional and can be manageable. Either choice depends on what YOU want.
(Gonzo is not a qualified fitness instructor, master hair cutter, nutritionalist, or MD. She encourages all individuals to seek professional counsel prior to performing exercises potentially hazardous to their health.)