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The myth that nothing will get a person into shape faster than boot camp is just that – a myth. The truth is, the hard work of getting fit starts long before basic training begins.
Preparing for initial military training is a recruit’s responsibility, but friends and family play an important role. Encouraging good nutrition and passing along tips for overall well-being are ways to support your loved one as they embark on a military career.
If your service member is well beyond basic training, consider sharing the information here with somebody whose loved one has recently enlisted.
Let your recruit know you’re on board
Your new recruit likely has a fitness plan from the recruiter. Set aside time to talk about a workout schedule as well as the overall goals. You can look up your service branch’s recruit training and requirements.
Ask how you can help, especially if the fitness plan will require big changes in your loved one’s life. Your support can be as simple as helping your new recruit stay accountable to goals, such as waking up in time to make it to the gym, or as involved as joining in as a workout buddy.
An injury can derail your recruit’s efforts to get in shape. But most injuries can be prevented with a few precautions. Your loved one may be balancing a lot right now as they prepare for basic training. A few examples of things to focus on include:
- Using proper footwear. Shoes should fit well and be comfortable. Replace running shoes when they become worn.
- Wearing appropriate workout clothing. Choose light, breathable material. Dress in layers during cold weather. Make sure clothing has reflective material for exercising when visibility is low.
- Taking time to warm up and cool down during workout sessions.
- Staying hydrated. It’s a good idea to drink two glasses of water 30 minutes to an hour before each workout.
- Not overdoing it. Many injuries are caused by overusing muscles through too many sets and repetitions.
- Avoiding outdoor exercise when it’s extremely hot or cold. Heat exhaustion and hypothermia are dangerous conditions that may require hospitalization.
Meeting nutritional needs
It takes more than regular workouts to build strength and stamina. Good nutrition and adequate rest are essential as well. Eating right means:
- Avoiding fast food and other processed foods
- Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eliminating sugary beverages
- Choosing lean proteins
- Eating whole grains
- Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water per day
Your recruit may already follow a healthy diet. But if not, and your recruit is still living at home, work together to plan out a shopping list that meets their healthy eating goals. Look for nutritious recipes to try. You can find recipes on the MyPlate website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commit to healthy eating as a family. The rewards will be more energy and overall well-being for everyone.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is central to overall health. It helps the body fight off infection and improves learning. Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If your recruit doesn’t have good sleep habits, now is the time to change that. A good night’s rest will power your recruit through those days of basic training. Here are a few tips to pass along:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. That means going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day. Avoid sleeping in.
- Finish workouts at least two to three hours before bedtime to be relaxed enough to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both can interfere with a deep, restful sleep.
- Sleep in a cool room.
- Avoid using a phone or watching TV in bed.
Staying healthy and fit as a service member
Before you know it, basic training will be over and your recruit’s military career will have begun. As a service member, your loved one will have access to Defense Department resources for overall well-being. These include:
- Health and wellness coaching. Service members and their immediate family have access to free health and wellness coaching to help them eat better, get fit, tackle stress and manage transitions.
- Non-medical counseling. Trained counselors experienced in military life offer free, confidential sessions. A non-medical counselor can help with relationship issues, stress or anger management, parenting challenges and more.
- Wellness apps. These digital tools were created by DOD and its partners to help service members and their families stay strong in body and mind.
This is an exciting time for you and your new recruit. Supporting your loved one’s efforts to prepare for basic training is just the beginning of a lifetime of healthy habits and a successful military career.
Military OneSource offers service members and their immediate family members 24/7 access to information, answers and support. To learn more, visit the Friends & Extended Family section.