As a member of the military, maintaining a high level of fitness is an obvious (should be anyhow), requirement. Of course the actual level will be determined by your MOS requirements, as rear echelon personnel aren’t going to be required (or given the time), to maintain the fitness levels of Special Forces folks, nor should they be. In the same respect Wild Land Fire Fighters and Search and Rescue teams must have a higher degree of physical readiness than your average fireman. Having said all that, what about everyone else? The overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. don’t have a physical requirement (like a PFT) to maintain as a condition of employment. So most will have their own standard to go by and this varies widely from absolutely nothing, to people who participate in triathlons, adventure races and other recreational sports that are extremely fit (and work very hard to get and stay there), regardless of age or gender.
Most of the people I know, are just happy to try and keep their weight down and do a little exercise/sports here and there for their health or recreation. I have a few friends that are serious weekend athletes, but not many. I think the attitude about fitness is more: I don’t really need much, I don’t have time for much, or frankly don’t think about it much. As a career Marine and now someone who trains others in fitness, my life has been much more focused than the average person on this subject, as it’s always been part of my job. So most people would say, that’s good for you, but I don’t need it.
However I will contend that maintaining a high level of fitness will add many collateral benefits to your life, even if you have no employment or sports related need. The most obvious are the overall health benefits that rigorous exercise provides. BTW, I’m not talking about weekend softball or walking around the block here, but a several hours a week no joke program. It makes it much easier to maintain a healthy bodyweight. It simulates your immune system, making you less susceptible to sickness and disease. Your internal organs operate more efficiently, giving you more energy and mental acuity. People who exercise at a high level also experience less stress and have an overall better attitude about their lives. All of these are well known benefits of maintaining real fitness and in fact, there are many more, too many to list here.
There is another big benefit that I experience all the time that isn’t as well known, but may be one of the greatest benefits, if not the greatest. That being the opportunity for shared experience with friends and family. I’ll give you a recent example. Last month I got some leave and went north to spend some time with my parents in Upstate NY. It’s been a long tradition in my family to spend as much of our summer in the woods as possible, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. With my two boys and their cousins growing up, the past ten years or so this has stepped up a few notches to some serious hikes and rock climbing treks. Due everyone’s busy schedule this years event was to be made up of myself, my nephew and youngest son. My nephew is presently enrolled the ROTC program at UVA and my youngest son is a competitive sport climber. Both are in outstanding overall physical condition in their early 20’s.
This past month they came up with a proposed plan that we backpack into the Adirondacks and make a one day “test of manhood” hike. The plan was to hike four of the highest mtns in NY State (to include the highest: Mt Marcy), in one big loop. Up and down four steep and rocky mtns in one day. Of course I agreed and we planned it all out and did it a week later. It was a ball buster that took about 13 hours, covering almost 20 miles and over 10,000 ft of vertical climbing; a good part of it was hand over hand scrambling. We pulled out at 0330, to be on Mt. Marcy at sunrise and got back to camp about 1700. It was tough and if I said I wasn’t tired at the finish, I’d be lying. The boys were tired for sure also, however it was fun as hell. Afterward we sat around drinking Maple Flavored rum and warm soda in the dark; tired, scraped up, sunburnt, bug bit and laughing about the times we busted our asses on the slippery rocks and the nut shrinking ice cold stream we swam in during the way. These shared experiences are something you cannot buy, and you could never do if you aren’t in good shape.
My brother in law (3 years younger than me) is very overweight and out of shape. A good man, but he never saw the benefit of trying to keep himself in shape. When we returned from the trip I watched him listen to his son’s story of our trip. I could tell from the look on his face he wished he could have been with us, but he also knew he couldn’t have made a mile of that hike. The bottom line is that he missed out on a wonderful opportunity to spend some “Man Time” with his son. Made me sad to see this, especially when I know with some effort over time, he could have gone with us. Of all the PT I’ve ever done in my life and trust me when I tell you it’s been a lot. Maintaining my fitness for nothing else than to not miss out on times like those, is far beyond the time and effort I’ve put in for it. In the end compared to your health, it may not be the best benefit, but it is certainly is the best reward. Back to Africa for most of Sept to train some people. I’m sure to have something to share with you from my trip. Till then:
“Be Safe Always, be Good when you can.”