Warrior Fitness, My Prep for CLC

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    • #99575
      JohnnyMac
      Participant

        Fresh out of the 2018 Combat Leader’s Course, I’ve had some time to reflect on how my approach to preparing for this year’s CLC paid off. I want to walk you through how my training differed, and why it reaped big rewards during the course.

        Welcome to Light Infantry

        If you haven’t caught on, Max’s SUT curriculum is centered around a (very) light infantry doctrine. This means no crew served weapons, no CAS/fire support, no vehicle assets. This is light infantry in it’s most basic form: simply rifleman moving on foot to close with and destroy the enemy.

        The light infantrymen first and foremost needs to be able to move effectively while weighted down with kit and equipment. Secondly, they need to be able to do it all day (and sometimes all night) over many days, without breaking. Third, the light infantrymen needs to be capable of exhibiting bursts of strength/power, while already loaded down (moving casualties, sprinting to a flank, etc). Contrary to what hollywood and social media will lead you to believe, you do not need to be a hulking figure to be highly effective at light infantry SUT. In fact, it’s very likely it will be a detriment.

        How Training This Year Was Different

        For the most part, my training generally follows a daily two-pronged approach: some short/heavy strength training followed by some conditioning. As I go through training cycles, things might change a bit here and there. Maybe a little more strength building, maybe a little more power development, and tipping the scales in the conditioning portion between short/intense/heavy and long/moderate/light. In past training cycles geared towards performing at the VTC, I would lean towards a little less strength training, and slightly increasing the average conditioning workout duration. This year, I did something very different.

        I decided to really focus on a combination of moving/performing under load, along with very long duration/mostly bodyweight conditioning. I knew going into it, overuse injuries would need to be mitigated. I decided the best way to go about that was:

        1) Break up training into two daily sessions whenever possible (more on this latter)
        2) Balance weight bearing/nonweight bearing activities.

        The 4AM 5AM Club

        Anyone familiar with Jocko Willink will know he’s a big proponent of the early morning workout (from a psychological standpoint). Two or three times per week, I would wake up early before work to get some time under a ruck. I would vary loads between 30-50#, distances of 3-5 miles and speeds of 3mph to 5 or 6mph. Obviously there was a progression as my body adapted. It’s hard to describe just how much this made a difference, both physically and mentally. On the mental side, I was rolling into work already having “succeeded” for the day, it was a huge morale boost and, ironically, made it easier to get back into the gym after work. The other benefit to these morning rucks was that there was almost no thought/planning required, just roll out of bed, get dressed, grab the preloaded ruck and hit the pavement. I would use the first 10-15 minutes to move out at an easy pace, both to give myself a chance to wake up and to get my body warmed up before beating on it in the subsequent miles. I stuck to an hour of rucking and would just vary the conditions (speed, load), with an occasional extended session. I also stuck to the same 1 mile loop and just changed direction from day to day. This was mostly all for simplicity (IE easy to execute when you’re <INSERT EXCUSE>) but it also made it easy to check my pace during the ruck and seeing my progression over the long term. Considering it was dark out, with not much to see, I never got bored with the route. It was just me, the ruck and my thoughts (occasionally I’d take a dog with me). Some of these mornings were pretty brutal, some others weren’t too bad, I just tried to stay focused on GETTING THE WORK DONE and pushing the pace whenever I could. Physically, I mostly felt the wear and tear in the lower legs, this would be taken into account in the PM session.

        In the afternoon, I would complete a conditioning workout that slowly but surely stretched into the 45 minute range. Pushing the conditioning sessions to a longer time domain resulted in lighter weight/ body weight movements. Things like pushups, pullups, situps, dips, squats, etc/ or lighter weight deadlifts, push presses, kb swings, wallball, etc / paired with an aerobic activity, like Airdyne, C2 rower, or running, if I wasn’t feeling much wear and tear. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I can’t speak highly enough about the airdyne for training. It’s a real game changer in terms of providing a challenging yet low impact aerobic option. It enabled me to still get solid workouts in without any impact. In fact, 2 weeks prior to the CLC, I reinjured an ankle I sprained late summer. The airdyne allowed me to continue working out while rucking and running were off the menu.

        Strategically, the double sessions allowed me to get in more volume while minimizing the risk of overtraining or overuse injuries. It also made it easier to make adjustments to my schedule. Feeling more tired from the morning session? Reduce the PM session a bit.

        On days in which a double session was not planned, it would either be a rest day (usually 2 rest days per week) or a longer conditioning workout (45 minutes-90 minutes). Overall, I was averaging 8 workouts per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Interesting, my body became better at quick recovery. 24 hours of rest (PM session to PM session (no AM)) became relatively easy and 36-48 hours of rest began to feel like an eternity. I had to force myself to take a full rest day at some points.

        Also, I would ensure at least two of my conditioning workouts involved some load carrying as part of the workout (farmer’s carry, suitcase carry, sandbag carry, etc). In one of the “load carrying sessions” I would usually either be in armor, with a light pack, or both. These sessions were rather grueling, but I think they paid dividends while at the VTC. Saturday would typically be a long conditioning workout with weight, often long/hard enough that it put me into “survival mode”, where my only goal was just keep going. I think this was crucial for making progress.

        In terms of physical performance at the VTC, throughout the week of CLC, I felt really good, especially comparing how I felt this year to last year. I had some muscle soreness earlier in the week, but other than that, I was ready to roll each morning, no soreness or anything. Even though some of the days were long, I felt like I could just keep going. On the days where we did 3 missions, sometimes by surprise, I was physically ready for it and didn’t feel like I needed to pace myself or move at a slower pace. Strength never appeared to be an issue either. Whether it was carrying a casualty, or moving a particularly large rock while doing some trail maintenance, I never felt like I was struggling. In other words, the training worked!

        Over the 8-10 weeks of prep leading up to the CLC, I ended up losing 4lbs (that I didn’t need to lose). I think I underestimated my caloric needs. Just something to keep in mind, depending on your situation. Also, this type of training was meant as a training cycle, NOT something to do long term. I probably could keep doing it (with a rest week here and there) but I doubt many people could handle that kind of volume long term. I’m currently in the beginning of a new training cycle, with more emphasis on strength and power. I do however plan to sustain weekly rucks and conditioning workouts with moving under load- I think they are vital for warrior fitness.

        I hope this might shed some light for anyone preparing for their first time at the VTC or anyone who wants to increase their physical readiness for combat conditions.

      • #99576
        wheelsee
        Participant

          @JohnnyMac

          WELL DONE!! For those who have slacked off or who haven’t done (exercise) in awhile, go through some of the old threads from JohnnyMac – he is an EXCELLENT resource for physical training, while emphasizing the preventing injury (as we age, the chance of injury increases while our recovery/healing time lengthens – a double whammy).

          Those who have met JohnnyMac know his activities/programs work. For those who haven’t met him, see the previous statement.

          The big takeaway from OP’s post is – you don’t NEED to belong to a gym or go somewhere. EVERYTHING JohnnyMac has described (see older posts) can be done from home with home-made equipment.

          For those who are “too tired” to exercise before/after work, I’d encourage you to look up endorphins, the body’s natural morphine. The dichotomy of exercise is – the more you exercise (to a certain limit), the better you feel.

          WELL DONE Sir!!

        • #99577
          zeerf
          Participant

            The big takeaway from OP’s post is – you don’t NEED to belong to a gym or go somewhere. EVERYTHING JohnnyMac has described (see older posts) can be done from home with home-made equipment.

            :good:

            WELL DONE Sir!!

            agreed.

            great post @johnnymac and good info!

          • #99578
            JohnnyMac
            Participant

              WELL DONE Sir!!

              Thanks man.

              For everyone, since it’s easy for tone to be lost through this medium, I’m not AT ALL bragging or anything, just sharing what worked for me. My hope is some of you might read this and choose to set a higher standard for yourself.

            • #99579
              tango
              Participant

              • #99580
                BrigandActual
                Participant

                  I’m also in the 5AM workout club 4-5 days per week. It really does give you a bit of a mental boost before going into work. Of course, I’m also ready to crash by 9 PM each night, lol.

                  I’d like to hear more about your periodization between strength and conditioning. You’re not the first I’ve seen write about that.

                • #99581
                  JohnnyMac
                  Participant

                    I’d like to hear more about your periodization between strength and conditioning. You’re not the first I’ve seen write about that.

                    Sure, I’ll try to tackle that in a separate post later this week

                  • #99582
                    Brushpopper
                    Participant

                      Good stuff! :good:

                    • #99583
                      Pinky
                      Participant

                        I’m also in the 5AM workout club 4-5 days per week. It really does give you a bit of a mental boost before going into work. Of course, I’m also ready to crash by 9 PM each night, lol.

                        I’d like to hear more about your periodization between strength and conditioning. You’re not the first I’ve seen write about that.

                        i am in the same club. By 9PM my eyes feel like they are full of sand and I fall asleep in just about any position if I stop moving. Harder as you get older, but I think it makes me meaner also.

                      • #99584
                        Daniel
                        Participant

                          Good stuff JM. Thanks for pointing out this was a cycle and not long term activity. My main downward spiral is recovery – or the trouble from lacking it and if I push past the line badness follows. I’ve found I can sustain one ruck a week, 2-5 miles with hills with ~40 pounds at ~16 minute miles. More weight/speed/distance etc grinds past what I can recover from. One day a week is deadlifts with low reps and weights near my limits, another day is presses and some kettlebells and the last day is squats, again with low reps and higher weights. More than that wears me down and gets me hurt. My business demands I take 2-3 weeks off from the physical stuff in December and February. Even then come late August/early September by bod breaks, usually painfully, and I need a month off to recover.

                        • #99585
                          JohnnyMac
                          Participant

                            Edited to ADD: this is not ‘Max.’ I’m just seeing this. It is that same problem we had a long time ago with the old forum changeover, where unattributed posts ended up attributed to me. I am sure there are many uncharacteristic pots attributed to me across the forum! If you see any, let me know!

                            hills

                            Depending on how steep they are, the downslopes add a lot of wear and tear. In previous training cycles, I did a lot of hill rucking (“it’s like WV right?”)- it was the wrong move. The additional wear and tear from the hills limited the other training I could do, to a small extent, but more importantly, it didn’t really provide any benefit that can’t be achieved by other means.

                            One day a week is deadlifts with low reps and weights near my limits, another day is presses and some kettlebells and the last day is squats, again with low reps and higher weights.

                            This is a great start, but I would recommend trying to work in some conditioning on the DL and squat days. You have options for making it low impact (and might need to dial back on the lifts just a bit as you acclimate).

                            My business demands I take 2-3 weeks off from the physical stuff in December and February.

                            Take it for what it’s worth, but I would still try to fit even a 15 minute session into the day. It’ll make you mentally feel better, and you can still accomplish something in 15 minutes. 5 minute warmup followed by 10 minutes of ultra intense conditioning. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

                            • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by  Max.
                          • #99586
                            Roadkill
                            Participant

                              Three tabatas is 15 minutes. Pick your poison. Even two tabatas will help. JM do you ever do these?

                            • #99587
                              JohnnyMac
                              Participant

                                tabatas

                                On rare occasions, maybe a few times per year, usually on a whim. Nothing wrong with them. Historically, tabatas were a study performed comparing moderate intensity to high intensity intervals (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392). They’ve kinda gotten overblown (in my opinion). During certain training cycles I’ve done every-minute-on-the-minute lifts, which is a similar idea.

                                In general, I’d rather just throw a quick triplet together and go hard for a length of time (as many rounds as possible in…). It’s just a little more mentally stimulating.

                              • #99588
                                wheelsee
                                Participant

                                  Take it for what it’s worth, but I would still try to fit even a 15 minute session into the day. It’ll make you mentally feel better, and you can still accomplish something in 15 minutes. 5 minute warmup followed by 10 minutes of ultra intense conditioning. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

                                  THIS ^^^^

                                  Study done back in the early 2000’s (IIRC, either Mayo or Johns Hopkins) did a study on exercise, as the common knowledge was 30-minutes exercise daily. But that begged the question – two 15-minutes sessions, three 10-minutes sessions, six 5-minute sessions (opposed to couch-potato)? The results were eye-opening. Obviously the single 30-minute session did best. BUT!! While the expectation was for the others to be spaced out evenly, the results did NOT support that. What did show was that each of the above came in right under each other (so it looked like a small group v evenly spaced out line). If you can’t squeeze in 5-minutes to exercise, you have a whole nother set of problems (caveat, see your doctor before doing strenuous exercise)

                                  TAKE HOME – ANY exercise beats NO exercise (and handily I might add).

                                • #99589
                                  JohnnyMac
                                  Participant

                                    six 5-minute sessions

                                    Ironically, I keep a speed rope in my desk drawer at work, and will sometimes take a quick double under break. A good, strong unbroken set of 75-120, and back to the desk. Takes maybe 2 minutes. It’s good for when I’m feeling punchy. I’ve done the same thing in the past with pushups, doing a set of say 20, every hour on the hour all day. There is synaptic adaptation happening when you do a movement many times per day. Commonly referred to as the “grease the groove” method. It works well for any movement you can do in high quantities: pushups, situps, pullups, double unders, etc. It’s not a silver bullet, but great for sharpening up. Gues what I was doing in the 48-hours prior to 1SGTs DCH this summer? You guessed it, practicing my draw stroke over and over and over again.

                                  • #117736
                                    JohnnyMac
                                    Participant

                                      Bump

                                    • #118694
                                      wheelsee
                                      Participant

                                        Interesting point of early morning walking – you see things in your neighborhood not usually seen.

                                        This morning, 0430, walking the dogs at a fast pace. Two vehicles approach, local PD, be sure and wave as I’m not sure what’s going on. Make another loop and the patrol cars are parked but empty. As I’m walking further, I hear a front door close, look behind me and see an officer standing, watching me. I move to the middle of the street, well-lit by street lights.

                                        About a year ago, there was a domestic violence call at this same residence. Be interesting to see what the police blotter lists tomorrow.

                                      • #118777
                                        SeanT
                                        Keymaster

                                          ^^
                                          Conveniently where I live, the local sheriff still uses analog radio so I carry one tuned to their frequency when I am out and about like you describe. It is pretty awesome to have that heads up that you are the ‘suspicious person’ dispatch just sent a deputy to investigate.

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