Ask Stew: Managing Your Time to Prepare for Army Basic Training

A soldier participates in the semiannual physical fitness test.
A soldier from the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) participate in his semiannual physical fitness test on May 5, 2019, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Sgt. 1st Class David Meyer/U.S. Army photo)

Here is an email from a young future Army soldier who is finishing up college this semester and preparing to enlist shortly thereafter:

Mr. Stew, thanks for the article about Workouts and Time Management. As a full-time student with a part-time job, I find that my school, work and study time fill my day pretty well. I only have one semester left, and I plan on enlisting and going Army SF. I see where there is some time to squeeze in workouts in my day, but what would you consider a good workout through the day?

You may want to give yourself some time after graduation before enlisting after a few high-stress semesters. Although exercising is great for stress and time management, the semester you recently had may not be the best for training. 

However, you can get creative with the following training that will help you as a future Army soldier:

Ruck Everywhere

Load your backpack with books and extra weight and carry it to class. However, you should be trained to do this with a background of lifting, running and rucking in your past. If you need a progression, try it every other day or only in the mornings.

Run and PT in the Morning

Here is a classic quick workout that you can do in the gym or even in your room. Perhaps spread throughout the day when studying as well: PT Superset.

Repeat 5-10 times (spread throughout the day or study period or in one quick, 20-minute workout)

  • Push-ups 10
  • Sit-ups 10
  • Wide push-ups 10
  • Crunches 10
  • Triceps push-ups 5-10
  • Plank pose for one minute

*add 3-5 pull-ups each set if you have one available, or a door-jamb pull-up bar in your room

It is recommended to do this only every other day.

On a leg day, you can mix the squats and lunges with short, fast runs:

Repeat 6-8 times.

  • 400-meter sprint or goal paced run
  • Squats 20
  • Lunges 10/leg

Short Cardio During Lunch

Depending on your running ability, you can get a quick run or ruck during lunch period or between classes when you have an empty period. However, if you need a break from the impact of running and rucking, do a bike, elliptical or rowing pyramid or swim with fins to improve the stamina of your lungs and legs.

After School, Before Work or Study Time

If you have 30-60 minutes late in the day, either get a solid cardio time with a mix of running or rucking. Or get into the gym and lift to get stronger for being an Army SF/Ranger soldier. You will need some lifting to work the lower back and legs to prepare for the long rucking and equipment carries of training, as well as the job itself. Creating that foundation of strength is critical. We call it tactical strength. Some classic mixes of weight, calisthenics and short, fast cardio workouts are like these:

Weight Vest Workout: Mix of calisthenics and weights and cardio.

Or more specifically a circuit of these exercises:

Mix of weights and calisthenics workout:

Warm up for five minutes

Repeat three times.

  • Military press (weights) 10-15 
  • Push-ups max for one minute
  • Pull-ups max reps
  • Pulldowns (weights) 10-15 
  • Squats for one minute
  • Deadlift or leg press (weights) 10 
  • Hang clean 10/push press 10
  • Burpees for one minute
  • Cardio of your choice for five minutes
  • Run two miles timed

These are just some ideas you can do throughout the day. The suggestions are not meant to be done all in a day. Pick one or two options and get something done each day. You will find that when you train on top of a full day of work or school, you are preparing yourself pretty well for the long day in military training. 

Keep up the busy life. It will prepare you for your future training better than you realize.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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