How to Prepare Your Mind and Body for Basic Training

John Annillo

Contributor - Fitness for Military and First Responders

Hoboken, New Jersey, United States

Military Fitness, Law Enforcement and Firefighters


military, basic training, injury, preparation, bodyweight, fatigue


Going in physically and mentally strong to basic training will provide you with the confidence you need to complete the training with no problems. I mentioned in my previous article that no matter which branch of the military you go into, it will be a physically and emotionally draining experience. If you wait until the first day of basic training to start preparing you will fight an uphill battle.



While the requirements and training for each branch of the military are different, your biggest hurdles are going to be the same three things. The three hurdles are previous injuries, lack of preparation, and the little voice inside your head.


Your goal in preparing beforehand is to go into basic training confident, fresh, and in your best shape possible. You should not over do it by simulating the demands you’ll go through during the eight-plus weeks, but your focus should be to get your body and mind acclimated to basic training. Remember, at basic training you will no doubt experience weakness, fatigue, irritability, disturbed sleep, depression, a weakened immune system, and loss of appetite - all of which can all lead to your chance of injury.


Previous Injuries

If you have previous injuries you need to address them. We all have those injuries that come back to haunt us, but if you’ve been avoiding seeking treatment, then consider seeing your physician or physical therapist to find out what you can do to go in to basic training at your strongest.



Keep in mind that this is a four-week crash course and ideally you’ll have started working on all this for months before you go into the military.


The first things I’ve outlined are good habits for you to work on forming. You know the bad habits that are currently in your life: smoking, drinking, chewing tobacco, and partying too much. Too many times people see the last months and weeks at home as their last hoorah (no pun intended), and they splurge instead of preparing.


Work on creating good habits, eliminating bad ones, and doing the workout that follows and you’ll be a lot more prepared going into basic training.


Basic Training Prep: Week 1

Sleep Schedule: Go to bed at 9:00pm and wake up at 5:00am to workout. You will be met with early morning workouts and forced to go to bed early once you get to basic training. By working on this schedule before you get there, you will save yourself a lot of lost hours of sleep.


schedule, sleep, rest, early morning, basic training



Empty Stomach: Your morning workouts should be done on an empty stomach. During basic training you’re not going to have your pre-workout shake or a meal with the perfect ratio of carbs and protein.


Just Drink Water: That’s it, nothing else. No alcohol, coffee, nothing else.


Basic Training Prep: Week 2

No Snacks: Whether it’s chips, cookies, or ice cream. Avoid splurging on junk food because you’re going to be away from it during basic training. It will not only be harder carrying around that extra body weight anyway, but it will be tougher mentally to be away from the junk. So lay off the M&M’s.


Basic Training Prep: Week 3

Reduce Calories: Count your calories and stick with 500 less then your caloric needs. You can determine that with this calculator. The goal is to get your body used to eating fewer calories. Plus, losing some extra pounds can’t hurt. After all, you’ll be lugging around enough equipment during basic that you’ll be happy you decided to lose a few.


Basic Training Prep: Week 4

Consistency: Just focus on doing what you’ve been doing.


Now let’s look at the workouts you should be doing. We’ll focus on bodyweight exercises and running.




Pyramid Workout

This workout can be done with minimal equipment and will get you the conditioning you need to ace most of the requirements of the physical fitness test. This can actually be done with most bodyweight movements, but the one we’ll focus on are pull ups, sit ups, and push ups.


How it works:


In the pyramid below you’ll see the numbers one through five going up the left side with a six at the peak. On the right side the numbers countdown from five to one. Each number represents a “step” or “set” in the pyramid. Your goal is to move up the left side, then make your way down the right side.


The amount of reps you do in each set or “step” will depend on the exercise. So for example, during your pull ups you will multiply the number by one, for your push ups you will multiply by two, and for your sit ups you will multiply by three.


Do this pyramid four times a week. For each step you will perform pull ups, push ups, and sit ups. See the illustration for example:


How to Prepare Your Mind and Body for Basic Training - Fitness, bodyweight exercises, basic training, military



Pull Ups x 1

Push Ups x 2

Sit Ups x 3


Going up the pyramid:

  • Set/Step 1: 1 Pull Up, 2 Push Ups, 3 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 2: 2 Pull Ups, 4 Push Ups, 6 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 3: 3 Pull Ups, 6 Push Ups, 9 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 4: 4 Pull Ups, 8 Push Ups, 12 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 5: 5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups, 15 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 6: 6 Pull Ups, 12 Push Ups, 18 Sit Ups


Going down the pyramid:

  • Set/Step 5: 5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups, 15 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 4: 4 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups, 15 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 3: 3 Pull Ups, 6 Push Ups, 9 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 2: 2 Pull Ups, 4 Push Ups, 6 Sit Ups
  • Set/Step 1: 1 Pull Up, 2 Push Ups, 3 Sit Ups


If this becomes too easy, add a weighted vest or add one to each number of the pyramid.



Week 1

  • 1-Mile Run x 4 days
  • 2-Mile Walk (with weighted vest) x 4 days


Week 2

  • 1-Mile Run x 4 days
  • 3-Mile Walk (with weighted vest) x 4 days


Week 3

  • 1.5-Mile Run x 4 days
  • 4-Mile Walk (with weighted vest) x 4 days


Week 4

  • 2-Mile Run x 4 days
  • 5-Mile Walk (with weighted vest) x 4 days


The Voice Inside Your Head

That little voice inside of your head is going to be your best friend in basic training. It’s the one that will stop you from giving up, the one that will tell you to keep going, to push harder, and to not cry for your mommy. The stricter you follow the aforementioned action steps, the more positive that voice will get.


Photo 1 by U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Chris Desmond. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.

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