Being pushed to your physical and mental limit is something that some of us have never experienced. One of our Barefooters Josh O’Grady spent seven and a half years in the Military and Private Security overseas which at times put him in situations that reached those limits. We all have something to learn from someone like that. Josh is now a Personal Trainer in Coorparoo who specialises in Strength… for all people. We wanted him to share with us what Military training was like and what his philosophies are for training people.
So Josh, we know you have been in the army. Tell us about what it was like to adapt to the training, eating and sleeping regimes.
I joined the army when I was 19. Although I had been in the Air Force Cadets, nothing prepared me for the culture shock of military basic training. I recall vividly arriving at Army Recruit Training Centre at Kapooka Military Base in Kapooka, Wagga Wagga, NSW. We arrived at about midnight. As the bus rolled to a stop at the base, the door opened and a MP (Military Police) stepped onto the bus and started screaming for everyone to get off the bus, get our gear and line up. This continued for around an hour with MPs yelling, searching all our gear and getting us into our training platoons (groups of around 30 recruits). We were then marched to our accommodation where we met by one of our training staff. With some knowledge of the military, I knew the man standing before us was ex-SAS (the elite special forces of the Australian Military). I freely admit at this point I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
The training experience you receive in the military is unlike anything you’ll find in the civilian world. The discipline is intense. As an example, in the mornings we had 15mins to get dressed, shave, make our beds (with hospital corners and all) and be standing at attention outside our rooms ready to go. As punishment for our platoon not performing one day, we had to practice the morning routine over and over again for 3 hours. This means getting changed back into our pajamas, getting back into bed and “waking up” again. Shaving that many times in a row isn’t fun.
For meals, we often had similar time allotments to get into the mess (lunch room), get our meal, eat and be back out in parade formation. Needless to say, you learn pretty fast to not be picky with your food and shovel it down your throat. I can now happily say I am definitely not a fussy eater!
Infantry training is even more difficult. For example 30km pack marches carrying 30kg of load or more to name but one of many difficult exercises we performed regularly. Ultimately, the harsh discipline and training causes individuals to come together and work as an effective team. For me, the military teaches the importance of the team over the individual, the ability to adapt, improvise and overcome any situation, cope with significant levels of stress and push through fear. Learn to love fear and anything is possible. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the skills and grit taught in that environment are priceless as life skills.
You mentioned you’ve done both Spartan and Tough Mudder races. What do you think the difference is between them and why do you think they are so popular?
Spartan Race was developed for the more hardcore individual, who really wants to push themselves to the edge. Having competed in both events, in my opinion, Spartan race is a cut above Tough Mudder in difficulty and a vastly more interesting course to run. Basically, it is simply a greater challenge. I think the popularity of these events stems for the fact that it pushes people out of their comfort zone. For those that haven’t worked in the military, private security or emergency services it is an amazing experience. Most careers and lifestyles simply don’t challenge you to push through exhaustion & fear or place you in significant amounts of physical and mental stress all at once. I imagine the sense of accomplishment many people feel after completing a physical challenge such as Tough Mudder or Spartan Race is something they rarely get to experience in day to day life. I believe it’s this sense of achievement and personal empowerment that has led to the popularity of adventure racing today.
Could you share your philosophy on training?
The body adapts through the stress – recovery – adaptation cycle. Stress is any event that produces change in the physiological state of the organism (ie you). Recovery from the stressful event is the organisms way of perpetuating its survival by returning to it’s ‘pre-stress’ state, plus a little more just in case the stress happens again. This adaptation to stress is the organisms way of surviving in an environment that subjects organisms to a variety of changing conditions. Put in simpler words, if you lift weights (stress) and allow for good recovery time before lifting weights again (rest!), your body will adapt to this change of condition and better prepare for the next round making you more resilient.
Strength is the foundation for developing the rest of any individual’s physical qualities. It is the only fitness activity that will improve all others. To reach high levels of power, endurance, sport skill, or fat loss you must become strong first. Importantly, of all the different activities one can engage in, correct strength training provides the best, and safest path to improving both fitness and health.