During the course of marketing The Ultimate Basic Training series of books (the Guidebook and my new Interactive Workbook), I have talked to hundreds of recruits before they leave basic training and many of them have the same questions. If you are about to leave for basic training, please read the advice below as many may apply to you. Below are actual questions I have received from recruits regarding basic training.
How can I avoid getting yelled at?
Drill Sergeants are intimidating. I will guarantee you 100% that you will get yelled at, even if you are perfect, you will get yelled at for being perfect. There are several ways you can decrease your fear of Drill Sergeants. One, expect to get yelled at. This is very important. You must understand that you will be getting yelled at for something someone else did, for the sun shining to bright or because your eyes are the wrong color. If you expect this and understand that it is not your fault, you will not be as intimidated.
Remember, Drill Sergeants have to break you down as a civilian and build you up as a solider. The only way they can do that in a couple months is to scare the crud out of you. They are not allowed to hit you, so don’t worry about them striking you. The worst thing you can do is take something a Drill Sergeant says personally. As you are getting yelled at, keep thinking to yourself, it will be over soon, it is just a game, it is just a game, it is just a game.
To be completely honest with you, getting yelled at is not as bad as it may seem; the first couple days, getting yelled at feels harsh. But after a while, you understand that Drill Sergeants are just doing their job, and it doesn’t even phase you after a while.
I am older than most recruits, what is the best way for me to keep up with the young 20 year old recruits when performing fitness drills?
The fitness routine in my book (The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook and Interactive Workbook) is specifically designed for getting in shape for basic training. If you have been going to the gym to get in shape for basic training, forget about it, stop going. You do not have access to a gym at basic training. Boot camp focuses on using your own body weight to get in shape. The first aspect of getting in shape for basic training is your cardiovascular fitness.
For your first day of getting in shape for boot camp you should focus on stretching. After a very thorough stretch, perform about 50 jumping jacks. Go for a light jog, about ¼ mile. After the ¼ mile, walk briskly for ¼ mile and repeat three times. Do not run the next day as your muscles may be sore. For a day-by-day 8 week fitness routine, consult my Guidebook and Interactive Workbook, but this should give you a good start.
Is snacking allowed at basic training?
There is no snacking at boot camp. You will get three “square” meals a day, but other than that, nothing but water. To prepare for this, I highly suggest you stop snacking now. Believe it or not, snacking is a habit, just like smoking, and it is addicting. To reduce stress at basic training, you should be used to having no snacks. This was a big problem for me at basic as I am a chocoholic. I love chocolate, and not being able to have it was driving me crazy.
When you eat your meals, do not be the recruit who grabs the dessert. It is not worth the pain of having to do hundreds of push ups for that tiny piece of pie (which is not that good anyway).
There are a few tips you should know to get the most of your meals. First, you will most likely be getting timed when you eat. Therefore, you obviously want to eat as much as possible in the 3 to 5 minute time limit you have. If you get the full 3 minutes to eat, consider yourself lucky. When I was in basic training, I could count on one hand the time when I got the full 3 minutes to eat my meal. If another recruit gets caught talking, do not pay attention. Watching a Drill Sergeant yell at a recruit only takes away from your eating time. Just focus on your food.
Always choose mash potatoes to eat. You can eat mash potatoes a lot quicker than any other side dish (i.e. corn, broccoli, etc). Also, eat as much meat as possible. If you have a choice between pasta and meat, choose the meat. Your body will be craving protein. Protein makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time too. The worst feeling I had at basic training was going to bed hungry. Believe me, it’s not a feeling you want to have and I pity the many people across the world that have to battle that feeling daily. God bless America.
Breakfast however, is your most important meal of the day. You will have a choice of many items. Do not bother with all the sauces such as syrup and jams. Applying these sauces only wastes valuable eating time and they have little nutritional value. These sauces are filled with empty calories and will not fill you up. With a great breakfast in your stomach, you will not feel hungry until lunch.
Keep in mind your body will be using much more energy than it is used to on a daily basis. Do not be scared if you do not go to the bathroom for several days or even a week! Your body is using almost all of the food you absorb. If you’re like most recruits, when you return home, you will appear noticeably different. Your body will be more muscular and you will have less body fat.
I have heard stories about the gas chamber, can you tell me a bit about it?
This is probably the most feared exercise at basic training. The gas chamber is not a pleasant experience, but there are tips you can do to make it much better. Basically, you will have to walk into a room full of CS gas. You might know CS gas by its trade name, tear gas. Tear gas is a common method of controlling riots by police, but why does the military want their soldiers exposed to it? The main reason you should get exposed to tear gas is to have faith in your chemical equipment.
Here is what is going to happen. You will walk into a room filled with tear gas. You will have your chemical equipment on. You will quickly realize that your chemical equipment is shielding you from the gas. The Drill Sergeant will then ask you to remove the gas and recite a phrase, usually the pledge of allegiance. Do not be worried, the gas is simply an irritant, but the Drill Sergeants will scare you into thinking its going to be the worst experience you ever will have. This is just a scare tactic. Your eyes will tear up and you will cough, but other than that, you won’t be in any real pain. The only pain you can feel from this exercise is if you rub your eyes. The tear gas will still be on your hands after you leave the building so do not to take your fingers and jam them in your eyes, it will make them feel much worse. You will be surprised how quickly the tear gas leaves your system after you exit the building. You will almost immediately feel better. Just remember, blink your eyes and take deep breaths of fresh air, and this so called terrible experience will be a piece of cake. Feel free to tell your fellow recruits these tips before they enter the gas chamber. These tips can earn you some great friends and you can never have enough friends at boot camp.
SGT Michael Volkin is the author of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, available in both paperback and e-book format at www.ultimatebasictrainingguidebook.com