Tactical Fitness – Necessities that Require Zero Talent

Sgt. Christian Henry with 75th Ranger Regiment fast ropes down the Prusik climb tower during Best Ranger 2011. (US Army/Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown)

Over the past twenty years of writing about Tactical Fitness and the previous 10 years preparing and serving in the tactical professions, there have been great strides taken by military, police, and fire fighter programs with regards to fitness preparation, testing, training, maintenance, and longevity. Job specific training programs are being developed by thoroughly understanding the three phases of tactical fitness: Recruit, Student, and Operator. We also call the three phases: To the training, Through the training, and After the training. In the past, there was not such a distinction.

However, many people think to be a tactical athlete or do well enough on fitness tests and boot camps to become a member of any tactical profession that you must be an athlete. It is helpful, but to be in good physical condition does not require any extra athletic gifts or talents.

In fact, the following is a list of necessities in the tactical profession that require no talent:

1 – Don’t ask what the minimum standards are - If you are seeking to enter the world of the military, police, and firefighter where your life could be dependent upon your fitness level and your knowledge of the job, do you want to rely on the bare minimum? NO. Exceeding the standard is the standard. It only takes more work, preparation, and practice to get better at fitness test (run, pt, swim) and tactical fitness tests (lifting, load bearing grip, core, speed, agility). This is your life or another’s life in your hands – take your fitness and health that seriously. You can be this fit regardless of athletic abilities.

2 - You do not rise to the occasion, you fall to the lowest level of training – Take your training seriously. When under duress or faced with a life or death situation, your training will get you through. Many, after such situations, will say, “I did not think, I just reacted.” Having that kind of reaction that allows you to talk about it later requires you to take your training and preparation seriously – both fitness and tactical skill work. Your attitude to learn and apply is the key to this necessity.

3 – Work Ethic – There are no Tips, Secrets, or Secret Sauce – Showing up to work, on time, ready to work, with the right gear and mindset, does not require any special God given talents. Work hard and train harder to win. Be better than who you were yesterday. The amount of effort you put into your preparation, maintenance, and longevity will also enable you to have the type of energy and ability to handle the physical and mental stresses of the job. We all can show up to work – ready to work.

4 – Take the Initiative – For any member in the tactical professions, understanding the moment when something needs to be done and getting it done without someone having to tell you to do it is key to your growth as a human and will make you a better team mate with your unit. If you are preparing for military service, you need to start early. Learn how to answer questions yourself by finding the answer after a reasonable amount of research. Google is a powerful tool for this. Don’t ask questions that are easily researched on Google. BOOK Recommendation: Read The Message to Garcia. This book describes the personification of taking the initiative.

5 – Always Be Learning – You can learn something new every day of your life. Be the student for life. Whether it is learning from others, learning what not to do from other’s mistakes, or reading about topics that confuse you, being open to gaining knowledge every day will make you smarter. This ability is not a special talent but more of an attitude that you can foster each day.

6 – Motivation – Being motivated has nothing to do with talent. Your heart and determination to be something or do something in life and within the tactical professions will go a long way. However, this motivation has to be nurtured daily with persistence, building habits, that make you a disciplined person that get things done even when you are not particularly “motivated” on a bad day. It is no one’s job to motivate you to serve your country or prepare physically to serve your country. It is yours. As mentioned above, your fitness may one day be the difference between life and death for you, your buddy, or a victim that needs help. Take fitness that seriously if you are finding it difficult to get up and train for an upcoming boot camp, academy, or selection.

7 – Train your body to save another – Being a capable body to not only have the ability to get yourself out of dangerous situations (mother nature or man-made), but also another person requires you to fully engage all the elements of tactical fitness (strength, power, endurance, muscle stamina, grip, speed / agility, mobility, and flexibility). You have to be good at all the above – not just great at a few of them like a typical athlete. Being a well-rounded tactical athlete takes time, hard work, and determination regardless of your athletic history. You may not be an athlete, but you have to like to train like one in order to accomplish this necessity.

Athletic talents are great, but not necessarily needed. In fact, most former athletes also have issues with other elements of tactical fitness. For instance, runners may lack upper body strength. Football players may lack endurance. Swimmers may not do well with running and load bearing activities. Regardless, we all have our weaknesses and must go on a preparation journey to overcome any and all deficiencies prior to joining the military, police, or fire fighting communities. Get out that and prepare properly and if you really want it, you can do it.

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