The phrase tactical athlete is thrown around often by people that aren’t quite familiar with the full extent of what it really entails. Most people just aren’t forced into the situations that a tactical athlete must be prepared for. They do a marvelous job of fooling themselves into thinking that they can get away with physical inadequacy and mental comfort and who can blame them? They don’t always see the need for work capacity and conditioning to carry them between their houses and their cubicles. That is a luxury of denial that the tactical athlete simply can’t afford. Adversity will always be a proving grounds for the strong and if you are any flavor of a tactical athlete, it is going to be your job to seek that adversity out and meet it head on.
If you are preparing for a selection program or simply want to be more effective at work, there are training methodologies that will help you specifically as a tactical athlete that may not necessarily apply to other athletic endeavours. Here are a few tips to help you set up your training so that it has the most application to the tactical environment.
Forget about movements that require a complex motor pattern in order to execute. Olympic weightlifting movements like the snatch or the clean and jerk may have a lot of benefit to an athlete to foster explosive power but when it comes to being a tactician, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze from a risk to reward standpoint. Remember, you are not training simply to be better at training but to be better at the job. Look at everything you do through this lense. If you want to train for something like CrossFit, separate that from your tactical prep. By forgoing movements like the snatch we can train for the same adaptation with much less risk. Your 9-5 will have enough risk for two lifetimes.
Purposefully train mental fortitude. When your back is against the wall, when everything hurts and the odds seem impossible to overcome, are you the kind of person that folds inward and quits or are you the kind of person that fights it out until the end? All special forces selections are looking for the applicant that can do the latter. And almost all of them will have an evolution built into their pipeline that will show you. You would be best served to inoculate yourself to that stress as much as possible before you get there.
There is an art however to programming mentally tough workouts in your training. On one hand you want to set your workouts up in a way that will cause you to dig a little deeper than perhaps you would if general health was your goal but on the other hand, you don’t want them to be so intense that the risk of injury goes up. A great way to achieve this is by stacking low risk movements in the same prolonged workout. Movements like bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, BW squats and the like allow you to go past the point of fatigue while remaining relatively safe. Another exercise which we use a lot in the Navy are soft sand runs. The added resistance of soft sand will force you to dig a little deeper than you would normally however the sand has the added benefit of reducing impact which should prevent injuries.
In addition to mental toughness, it is imperative that you build what I like to call “odd object strength.” The world outside tends not to look anything like a barbell. If you are conditioned only to lift heavy with barbells, than you may be in danger when real life forces you to lift out of position. Try to mix up your training by utilizing odd objects such as the strongman implements. When you talk functional fitness, there really isn’t anything more functional than a log press, atlas stone or sand bag carry. As a disclaimer, it is important to note that these do require a great deal of coaching in order to get the technique right. For that reason, it is important to measure each movement against the athlete’s current skill level. They are considerably much less risky than the olympic lifts however and from a benefit standpoint, the implements are about as close to the field as you are going to get in real life.
Finally, get yourself used to carrying a heavy load for extended periods of time. Any situation in the real world can go sideways fast. The way that we prepare in training for these sideways situations is by building an engine big enough to shoulder any amount of workload that might be thrown at it. Do this by building an aerobic capacity that can’t be stopped. Do weighted step-ups, hike in a weight vest, do shuttle runs with a sandbag, in short, stack as many movements under load as imagination allows. Over time, you can utilize a linear progression to increasing the time and distance covered.
In the tactical world, plans aren’t always executed sharply and there is no telling when you are going to be forced to ruck, fight, swim or crawl your way out of a situation. The most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself as a tactical athlete is prepare for the unknown. When you operate, these unknowns that might go wrong are called contingencies and you are going to map out a plan and train for every single contingency that you can think of. Treat your mental and physical conditioning the exact same way. The best advice that I ever received was a simple reminder. “You can never go back in time and get more training. What you have prepared for is all you will have and it will be that preparation that will determine the outcome.”
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If you are a tactical athlete looking to improve your performance or have interest in improving your athletic ability to prepare for a career in the military, we offer online coaching. If you are interested in working with Rick, you can inquire through the form below.