The Importance of Training Before You Enter the Military

Members of the Camp Foster community participate in the Camp Valor boot camp in Okinawa, Japan.
Members of the Camp Foster community participate in the Camp Valor boot camp, led by Ashley Horner at Gunner’s Gym on Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan, Oct. 16, 2018. (Cpl. Chelsea Simons/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

I often get emails from people, young and old, about getting prepared for military training, and also from veterans who want to be in the shape they used to be in when they served in the military. Here is a list of just a few of the many former military officers and enlisted who train civilians not only to lose weight and get healthy, but prepare for military training, too. 

Boot-camp programs are popular. Many former military personnel of all ranks and services are now getting into the fitness business, myself included. Check out the list of veteran-owned fitness businesses around the country:

Sarge Athletics: Patrick Avon opened one of the first military group training businesses in the U.S. Avon is a former Navy enlisted man who has created a military fitness empire in the Washington, D.C./Virginia area, catering mostly to overweight executives.  He also gets several students per year who seek a career in the military. Avon has more than 45 instructors in 35 locations, all certified with a nationally recognized program. He also has his own outdoor boot-camp certification program. Check out his site for his annual Jolly Fat Man's run/party.

SEAL Training Academy -- SEAL Adventure Challenge -- Former Navy SEAL Don Mann and Navy enlisted reservist Steve Earle have created a weeklong advanced training program (as well as a 24-hour SEAL challenge) that takes place 2-3 times a year in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Everything from mission planning to log PT and instruction on the combat swimmer stroke, diving and free fall get taught in the SEAL Training Academy. This is a tough vacation. I often go and work as a guest instructor for the academy and SEAL Challenge.

The SEAL PT Course: Jack Walston, a former Navy SEAL, has been doing SEAL PT for more than a decade as well. He has weekly workout plans as well as a SEAL Training/Special Forces minicamp that will test you to your limits. This program actually mimics many of the events experienced in Hell Week at SEAL Training, including a 24-hour, nonstop period of training.

Boot Camp Fitness Inc.: Created by former Army Sgt. Jay Johnson of Dallas, who has become the official fitness trainer of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. (Enough said. That is a success story in the fitness business.) He has been featured on many television shows and magazines for his creative workouts that garner great results.

The Health Colonel: Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein can be found on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, conducting early morning workouts with his students. Training many out-of-shape and overweight people per year, he also prepares young men and women for the physical demands of the military.

If you are looking for a motivational/health speaker, The Health Colonel is your man. He motivated me by telling me: "The United States has enemy soldiers within its borders. They kill more than 3,000 people a day; their names are cancer, heart disease and stroke." I immediately responded, "Yeah, and over 20 million people are being held hostage by diabetes in America."

SWAT Personal Training: Ron Holland (former USAF) of Tucson, Arizona, created an outdoor and indoor fitness business in 1991 after a career in the military and police department. He has a one-week, in-residence boot camp where they create a military indoctrination environment (5 a.m. wakeup). He has recruits run, PT, eat well-balanced and nutritious chow and hike 2-12 miles in the Tucson area desert. Also water skills, aerobics, yoga, stretching and other anti-aging programs are taught in a teamwork/military style program. It is very informative and positive feedback, and teamwork is highly encouraged.    

SEAL Team PT: Former Navy SEAL John McGuire has translated his experience into a one-of-a-kind, non-military fitness program, offering the dual benefit of world-class fitness and team-building to people of all ages and walks of life. Offered in the Richmond, Virginia, area since 1998, SEAL Team PT has legions of satisfied, fit and fulfilled graduates of all ages. To date, SEAL Team PT has graduated more than 175 basic fitness classes, conducted more than 50 custom-tailored corporate team-building programs and led more than 40 SEAL teen and SEAL pup classes for youth and children. My website/fitness business has evolved since 1998 when I resigned from the Navy SEAL team community. At first, I had a fitness boot-camp business with as many as 40-50 hours of group PT and personal training a week. Now, after writing everything down for four years, I created generic programs that have helped thousands prepare for military, special forces and law enforcement physical fitness tests.

I still do some online training and local group training in the Baltimore/Annapolis, Maryland, area, but my group workouts during the week and weekend are free to those who want to join me on my swims, runs, PT, etc. Once a month, we test with a variety of physical fitness tests (PFTs). These workouts now give me writing ideas as I see issues, troubles and ways around personal obstacles with a variety of students.

After a brief discussion with veteran trainers, we agreed upon a few things. We focus on teaching a basic level of fitness, habit-building and just adding basic fitness, such as stretching, walking/running, light PT and drinking water, to people's lives. Let them see and feel the progress they are making. Take them as they advance and PT them harder, but you have to give them a plan that works.

The plan I have here works. It will help people lose up to 25 pounds if they just follow the simple directions:

1. Stretch daily. This is very important if you are beginning a fitness plan. Read "The Stretching Plan" article for details.

2. Drink more water (up to a gallon a day).

3. Do something every day for 45 days straight, even if that is just walking after dinner. The free "45-Day Workout Plan" (PDF) shows you how.

4. Repeat above. Do not worry about food intake yet, but if no results are seen in 3-4 weeks, then focus on a food plan as mentioned in the plan above.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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