Ask Stew: Losing Weight Before Joining the Military

Marine recruit Andrade was required to lose 60 pounds in order to enlist in the Marine Corps (Photo By: Kailey J. Maraglia).

Losing significant weight to prepare physically for the challenges of the future military career as well as meet the height and weight standards is a long process, but even people who have 100 pounds or more to lose have successfully made that transition.

They did it by training daily and controlling food intake, by pure persistence and the undying will to serve; these are powerful reasons that we all need no matter what goal we attempt to accomplish.

Any massive weight loss challenge requires all of the above plus patience, because it is a lifestyle change that will add years to your life but more importantly life to your years.

Here is an email from a young man seeking to drop some weight and join the National Guard:

Hey Stew,

I’ve been reading a lot of your fitness and nutrition articles which has helped my goal to be healthier greatly. After just under two months I’ve already lost 20 pounds. My goal is to drop another 100 and join the National Guard to help in my current law enforcement career. My question is I’m 6’0 and weigh around 300 pounds. I’ve been going to the gym and doing cardio four to five times a day, but haven’t touched weights yet. At what point should I start strength training and working my ab muscles. Any advice would be great. Thanks. -- Jerry

Jerry --

Great job wanting to serve and taking the hard route to get prepared both to meet the physical standards as well as the height, weight and body fat standards. This hard work and achievement will be one of your crowning accomplishments in your life that will literally add years to your life. So keep it up -- keep doing what you are doing.

I would focus on a good four to six-month cycle like you are doing and by late fall or early winter you can get in the weight room but with added non-impact cardio options.

I like the massive cardio you are doing but I would not run at this weight. Keep losing weight and get yourself below 250 before you really start to run longer distances. A few quarter-mile intervals is all I would do at this point -- and focus more on bike, elliptical, rowing or swimming. Your knees will thank you for it.

If you think about it, just by walking upstairs or sitting down and standing up you are doing weight training. That would be like trying to move with a 100-pound weight vest on. Do not underestimate your current strength.

I am sure pull-ups are difficult at 300 pounds and would be surprised if you could do one, so you can get in the gym and mix in some pulldowns, rows and bicep curls in place of pull-ups on upper body days. You can mix in some bench press in place of push-ups as those get tough too at 300 pounds. You can replace dips with the military press as a 300-pound dip could be very challenging and potentially injurious to your shoulders.

Keep doing what you are doing as it is obviously working. I would maintain your current programming, making it tougher each few weeks (more reps, miles, time in training) as you progress in your abilities. But give yourself time. Most people lose 100 pounds successfully and keep it off (if they do) over the course of 10to 12 months, at a loss rate of about eight to 10 pounds a month. What you are doing is working – so ride it out. When you see yourself plateau (and expect it to happen), it is time to make a change by adding more reps, weight training, more miles walking, more time on the bike or swimming.

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