Functional Fitness In The Army
Well we have known for a while that various law enforcement agencies and firefighters throughout the country have been turning to Crossfit and other functional fitness programs to better train for their jobs. Other people who depend on their fitness to save their lives have joined the ranks, such as the Special Forces community, Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms, United States Marshalls, Secret Service, and the FBI. Just go to a Crossfit training and you’ll find plenty of Navy Seals instructors.
There is a new branch that has joined our ranks. I just learned that the US Army has recently overhauled all their boot camps. The change was a result of the increasing amount of out of shape kids. During the last decade or so, they noticed that the recruits were getting weaker with less endurance, which caused more injuries.
“America’s Army is very proud of the fact that we reflect our society,” says Maj. Gen. Richard Stone, the Army’s deputy surgeon general. ”But since we reflect our society, we also absorb society’s problems.” NPR reported that the Army’s problem, Stone and others say, is that most current enlistees grew up on the couch, playing video games, rather than horsing around outside. And public schools have cut gym classes. “You’d be surprised, the soldiers that we get today,” says Frank Palkoska, who directs the Army’s fitness school. “They can’t do simple motor function movements, like a shoulder roll, the ability to skip — so we’ve got to lay a base of foundational fitness, without injuring them.”
That brought about the change in how they trained the new recruits, in addition to a nutritional change in the mess halls. It was interesting to hear the reaction to some in the Army about the new exercises. “I saw a lot of folks saying that we had gone to yoga and Pilates,” says Mark Hertling, the three-star general in charge of initial military training for the entire Army. “And I’m saying, ‘Where the hell did they get that?’ It’s all about functional fitness, and using the body the way it might have to be used in a tactical situation.”
And Drill Sgt. Travis Bammer says old-school soldiers initially chafed at the change in training philosophy. “They would be resistant to it at first, because they’d think, ‘Oh, well, it’s a yoga, Jane Fonda workout,’ ” he says. ”But if it’s done correctly, within 30 minutes, that soldier will be worn out.”
My favorite line came from that 3 Star General, Mark Herling, who said, “the new core-strengthening exercises better prepare soldiers for battle — to carry a wounded comrade, or to dart across a street, under fire, with 90 pounds of gear.”
There you have it! Call us soldiers. Call us warriors. Call us ninjas. Call us super hereos. Call us whatever you want. I call us smart people, who are using common sense and research to get natural, fully functioning bodies that makes our lives safe and balanced, while avoiding injuries and providing us with the ability to have fun and play with our kids – and the ability to move that darn couch up from the basement!