How can I get Army level fitness immersion without the enlistment? Long explanation inside.
January 16, 2010 4:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I get Army level fitness immersion without the enlistment? Long explanation inside.

My goal: Army level fitness, without the enlistment - WWOOFING where instead of organic lettuce it's a weight room - Not "fat camp" but "muscle camp"

Here's some background on my fitness history:

I'm in my early 20's, around 6'2 210 lbs, some college but no degree. When I was about 15 I was obese (5'9, 220 lbs at least). At 18 I dropped down to about 165 lbs (through dieting mostly, not exercise) and still have stretch marks and extra skin to prove it. Luckily over time the stretch marks have faded and the extra skin has mostly contracted. I felt great but I knew it wasn't healthy. It ruined sports for me because friends would tear through me like tissue paper. Between 18 and 21 I filled out to what could be considered ideal height/weight, not skinny but not muscular either. In the last year I started to degenerate. I was doing the normal stupid things, drinking every weekend, getting high every night, telling myself that a crave case was fine as long as I split it with someone else. I gained weight and smoked enough cigarettes that I had to go to the emergency room where I was given a prescription for Albuterol (asthma inhaler) and told I had the blood pressure of an unhealthy 65 year old man. They did full blood work and an EKG and thankfully those came back normal. With all these issues I went to my GP and was told that while I am unhealthy it wasn't from anything that I didn't already acknowledge as damaging to my body. My usually mild anxiety problem turned into full blown panic attacks which led to another trip to the emergency room where I was given Ativan and then a prescription for Xanax :\

That was about 6 months ago. Since then things have improved a lot. At the time I was probably around 240 lbs, now 210. I run between 1-3 miles 3 times a week. I only smoke weed socially, which means maybe 2 times a month. I smoke cigarettes when I get drunk but I almost never get drunk anymore because I stopped hanging out with my friends who would just get trashed and break things. I never use the inhaler anymore and I don't even know where the Xanax is. I'm pretty healthy at the moment but I can't stop here because this is where I always stop. My happiness has almost always corresponded with my level of fitness. It's great to feel strong but what I like even more is the effect it has on me mentally. When I manage to get myself to a gym to lift the pitiful amount I can, I walk out with a feeling of complete clarity. I've always been an anxious/jumpy guy and even my disorganized workouts made me feel this kind of relaxation. I can only imagine the level of health I'll feel being a lean machine of muscle.

So the obvious answer is of course, join a gym. Well I have, many times. In high school I had weight training and that was probably the most consistent lifting I have ever done in my life. It was also when I went from 165 to around 185. Maybe you're familiar with the ecto/endo/meso- morph body types? I'm not here to debate whether this is a scientific classification or if it even means anything but within the classification I believe I am a Mesomorph (this is the body type most compared to athleticism, easy to gain weight, among other things). After high school, thanks to weight training and protein supplements, I settled into my ideal height/weight. I loved the way working out made me feel so I almost immediately tried to continue it. I joined a NYSC, paying a ridiculous amount of money and never went. Between 18 and 21 I joined 3 other gyms and the same thing has happened, I can't motivate myself to get there even though I know how great I'll feel after. I tried joining with friends and paid for a personal trainer at a trendy Chelsea gym but still didn't go.

As of today I have about $2,000 to my name and absolutely no obligations. I want to go someplace where in exchange for physical labor I will be housed and fed for a predetermined amount of time. The place will probably need to be explicit about a fitness regiment and the food having some nutritious quality. It doesn't matter to me if it's carrying 20 lbs rocks across a field everyday or rebuilding concrete walls that are destroyed by daily missile testing. I've been thin and I've been fit, I want to be muscular. I lack the discipline and dedication to get it done unless I'm surrounded by no distractions. I have very low standards for comfort and would even be willing to go without the internet (which is right up there will eating and breathing for me). I know that once I'm where I want to be I'll have no problem maintaining it. That sounds ignorant given everything you now know about me but I really believe it for some reason.

I know the classic answer to this problem would be to join the Army. I've thought about it many times and have a few friends who are active duty who think it's the answer to my problem. No disrespect to anyone who is enlisted but I wouldn't want to be put in a position where I might be expected to kill another person, even if it's not the main objective of the job. It's a shame though because beyond the fitness there are other things I admire about the army, such as the discipline (and the guns, can't forget the guns). I have a cousin who is currently WWOOFING in Hawaii and it sounds like a great time but I'm not really looking for an adventure or to get away. I do love traveling and have been to many places in South America, Europe and all over the U.S. but I think that would just be a distraction from what I consider a life long goal. Joining a local sports team sounds great but I know it would just turn into a variant of the gym. I would go until one day I didn't feel like it and knowing I wasn't obligated to be there I'd just ignore it. Ideally I'd have an uncle living in some rural area with no distractions willing to take me in. There I would be responsible for toiling in the field, chopping wood and building assorted backwoods related paraphernalia with a blow torch, all while getting a formidable tan. I would probably go hunting for my own food as well. Or at least that's the weird fitness porn my mind subscribes to :)

Feel free to offer any advice, from - "you clearly have a psychological obsession with your body that you need to get over" to "I know a guy who knows a guy who needs a green cityboy to forge replica medieval swords." I already approached my family and most of my friends with this question and the only universal answer I got so far is "Don't join the armed forces."

Also, I know it seems like I have very serious procrastination issues but I guarantee this is an isolated problem. With jobs and relationships I'm attentive, punctual and considerate. This might be from the sense of constant obligation I know they require. I do procrastinate with my hobbies but I don't stress that because I know when the time is right I'll make the progress I want. Unfortunately my creative whim schedule is the opposite of what makes a great workout regiment.

Thanks :D
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need all of that information for me to tell you that "boot camp" classes are pretty popular and quite effective. A woman I know did boot camp classes at my local gym and then enlisted; she was in better shape than most.

For immersion: do them regularly, and then become an instructor.
posted by Madamina at 4:37 PM on January 16, 2010

I don't know about army fitness, but if you want to get fit like you came out of MCRD:

No booze, no smoking (any kind), no soft drinks. None.

Eat 4-5 high calorie, high nutrition, meals a day...and burn each meal off BIGTIME. It doesn't matter what you do as long as its new to your body and it hurts.

You probably don't have time for this. its not a 2-3 hour a day routine, its an 8-12 hour routine for 6-12 weeks.

YMMV dependent upon the level of commitment.
This is the quick and dirty explanation...if this isn't to your satisfaction go to the library and find kinesiology publications where they quantify boot camps.

Also, I skimmed and scanned after "Long explanation inside". I read stuff about "forging medieval swords" , "I have a cousin in Hawaii", and "That sounds ignorant but..." Thats just unnecessary. That first sentence pretty much summed it up.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2010

I'm aware of these boot camp classes but I don't really see any difference between them and showing up for any other class at a gym. If anything I'm looking for more of a boot camp retreat than a class.
posted by laptolain at 4:44 PM on January 16, 2010

And I'm sorry about the details I guess my unnecessary filter isn't that great. I was just trying to give the most comprehensive overview of my question.
posted by laptolain at 4:47 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: Mr. WanKenobi worked for the post office for about two years and got incredibly muscular in that time; I've heard likewise from friends who did truck loading for UPS. Have you considered a job where manual labor is part of the deal?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:25 PM on January 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, you might need more than $2,000, but I was immediately reminder of Angry White Pyjamas, the story of an Oxford poet who took the brutal one-year Aikido training course the Tokyo Riot Police take.

Adrift in Tokyo, "thirtynothing" Robert Twigger came to a revelation about himself: He had never been fit or brave. Guided by his roommates, he set out to cleanse his body and mind. Not knowing his fist from his elbow, the author is sucked into the world of Japanese martial arts and joins the Tokyo Riot Police on their year-long, brutally demanding course of budo training, where any ascetic motivation soon comes up against blood-stained "white pyjamas" and fractured collarbones.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:28 PM on January 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're kind of all over the place but if your title is what your asking then you want a GPP workout, or more specifically you should go to a Crossfit gym. Otherwise find a lifestyle that would suit your goals, such as loading trucks etc..
posted by P.o.B. at 5:29 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: Join a trail crew. It's hard, but rewarding. From your comments it seems your in NYC. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy runs on volunteer work, and has links to hiking clubs and projects. Check out NY/NJ Trail Conference, which I found off the Appalachian Trail site.

There are also work crews which do this. Almost every state has one, like Vermont, Maine, California, and the Southwest. Google state + conservation corps.

There is also a slew of internships offered through the Student Conservation Association. You don't have to be a student. Many are physical work, in backcountry areas. Many of these programs offer some combo of stipend/housing/food, and provide gear and training. The volunteer route is also excellent, if you can't devote a large chunk of time.

If you end up liking the work, and get enough experience, you can be a crew leader. The Forest Service runs summer trail crews, as do many non-profit trail societies. There's programs in other countries, too. You could probably set up a sweet gig just following the jobs in different states/countries.
posted by shinyshiny at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hike the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails. 10 hours a day carrying a pack with all your food in it will lean you right up.

And I don't have any issues with you, I don't know why you do with me
posted by procrastination at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

That's the kind of the direction I'm thinking about PhoBWanKenobi. Ideally it would be a work exchange arrangement but jobs that can mold physical fitness are just as welcome.
posted by laptolain at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2010

Get a job at a moving company. New guys always get the crap (read: heavy) stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:39 PM on January 16, 2010

Couple of comments, #1, n P.o.B who suggested crossfit. #2, i've heard stories of private gyms, there might not be one in your state but these are for people who are truly serious about fitness. Most of them run on a co-op style model and the people there are far more serious than your average gymgoer or so they would have you believe. I think the one I saw was in Utah, but I can't find the link at the moment.

Last but not least, if you check out some of the forums where military people hang out, there are workouts often posted. There are also a huge # of military workout books.
posted by arimathea at 5:49 PM on January 16, 2010

I'm guessing that my post is way too verbose which explains all the gym recommendations and fitness regiments but the key word in my title is immersion. Projects or work programs where I exchange my manual labor for food to eat and a place to sleep are what I'm looking for. Army with respect to the boot camp environment, not the workout equivalent.

The trail crew looks very interesting thanks shinyshiny.
posted by laptolain at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2010

Well, you mention WWOOF--is there a specific reason why that doesn't fit the bill?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:02 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: Rather expensive but well worth the experience are three month NOLS courses.

Did one after college and was doing ten one-armed pullups. And had a six pack
posted by dfriedman at 6:09 PM on January 16, 2010

From what I've been told it seems like a fine way to get fit but I'm looking to go beyond fit. I'm fit right now. I'd like to find a program very similar to WWOOF with a focus on strength training. For many people in WWOOF social activism is the priority, fitness is just a bonus.
posted by laptolain at 6:12 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: NOLS link:

For muscular strentgh focus on one of the courses that is primarily
about climbing.
posted by dfriedman at 6:12 PM on January 16, 2010

No prob. If you get into the whole work-outdoors thing, there are a lot of jobs. NPS, BLM, Forest Service, non-profit land conservancies, state and local governments, outdoor education companies. Outward Bound and NOLS hire guides for their programs, for example.
posted by shinyshiny at 6:15 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: You want a fitness boot camp (I found several googling "fitness boot camp" and "fitness camp"), but those cost a LOT more than $2000.

Here's a potential solution: Make your own.

1) Travel to a city for 2 weeks where you don't know anyone and you don't really have much interest in visiting. Leaving your usual area will remove most of the excuses you have for not being motivated. It could even be somewhere not far from where you live, as long as you treat it like you're a million miles away.
2) Stay in the cheapest, crappiest motel you can find (bonus if they have no TV), so you'll be dying to get out and do something every morning.
3) Join a the nearest gym that offers classes. It might be a workout gym, or even a boxing or MMA gym. Set this up beforehand.
4) Take every class you can every day for those 2 weeks. Every class they offer that you're allowed to take. Yoga, bootcamp, spin, whatever.

This will be much cheaper than a real fitness camp. Yeah, it'll take a little more motivation than a real camp, but fuck it'll make a great story when you get back!
posted by coolguymichael at 6:17 PM on January 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

That's a really good idea coolguymichael I have no idea why I didn't think of that.
posted by laptolain at 6:21 PM on January 16, 2010

nah dude, you're not gonna get ripped doing yoga and spin for 50 mins. Knew this one guy who went to work for the highway company. They had him carrying concrete and parts of telephone poles around all day. He was so goddamn buff after that job it was the strongest he's ever been in his life.
posted by water bear at 6:43 PM on January 16, 2010

How about walking the Appalachian trail or the Pacific Crest trail? Throw in a raw food diet and you'll be feeling good and lean.
posted by mearls at 7:33 PM on January 16, 2010

2nd waterbear. We have a good friend who works in construction & is in pretty good shape overall because of it. He ended up working on the bridge rebuild after the 35W collapse & before you know it, he was *ripped*. Due to the nature of that job, he was working 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week (his choice) outside for months. Not only was he in phenomenal shape, but he made great $, what with all the overtime.
posted by East Siberian patchbelly wrangler at 7:37 PM on January 16, 2010

I'm familiar with TheWarriorFitness, which is run by current/former marines and was founded by a guy who trained to be a soldier in the Congo and then in the Marines. This guy is easily the toughest, most bad-ass and charming fellow I have ever met.

They have a fantastic one-week free Congo Trial package, and I'm sure would be willing to put you through two weeks of hell for the right price. The benefit to this would be inspiration that would last well beyond the two weeks of actual work--carrying rocks across a field for two weeks will make you buff, but it won't be easy to replicate and it won't give you a lot of motivation to keep working that hard when it's over.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:44 PM on January 16, 2010

I don't think walking the AT is the way to go. I used to work at a stop along the trail, and talked to lots of hikers. They got lean but not muscular. And their feet would ache constantly (one guy told me he couldn't walk around barefoot). Those folks are fit, but not buff.

I suspect the NOLS classes would be similar. Those folks aren't looking to be cut, but to have an adventure.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:22 PM on January 16, 2010

You could do WWOOF or Help Exchange (similar exchange program, without the focus on organic farms-- which means more construction work) in your area.

Or, you could get a part-time job at UPS. My brother did that once and got pretty muscular.
posted by acidic at 9:32 PM on January 16, 2010

How about an immersion job involving long hours, horseriding, motorbikes, fencing (the structure, not the sport), cattle wrangling, lifting bales of hay, long walks, swimming, and almost any other thing your body can do?

Wholesome muscle building food included. And they'll pay you for it.

OK, it's an adventure and you may not want that. But it has everything you seek plus the bonus of a unique experience. $2000 will just about cover your initial expenses...

Grab a working visa to Australia and be snapped up by an outback cattle station. They are in need of people willing to work hard. The pay is good and the conditions are governed by federal award rates.
posted by Kerasia at 9:43 PM on January 16, 2010

More information:
Laptolain, as you are under 31 and from the US you can apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa for an stay of 12 to 24 months.

General info is here. Conditions include: "...Work undertaken must be incidental to the main purpose of holidaying, employment for more than 6 months with any one employer is not allowed. The application for a first Australia Working Holiday Visa must be made offshore".

Extended visas are granted to people who work in a 'specified industry' for 3 months or more. Cattle station hands and other rural labour jobs fall under 'specified industries'.

And to comply with the holiday aspect, you could walk any number of our multi-day walking tracks in between work gigs.

The SO did a tough love act and sent the Little Prince to a cattle station when he was 16 to "harden the f' up''. The tall weedy adolescent did three years and came back strong, buff, cashed up and skilled in an extraordinary number of areas. He still thanks his dad for the experience.
posted by Kerasia at 10:22 PM on January 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow that sounds great Kerasia, I'll definitely be looking into that. Thanks for all the info. I'll let you know if anything tangible comes of it :)
posted by laptolain at 10:27 PM on January 16, 2010

Even more information:
Google 'jackaroo jobs' (or 'jillaroo' for the ladies) and see what comes up. Also google 'seasonal work Australia' for all the fruit picking and farm labourer jobs. Don't sign up to a contractor prior to arrival. Check out the jobs boards at hostels in major and rural towns. Ask other travellers for info on the good places to work.

You'll have a ball if you come over here to work!
posted by Kerasia at 10:29 PM on January 16, 2010

I think that your problem is not what you think it is. Your goal is to be in great physical shape. However, your question is all about how to build up your fitness, with no thought to maintaining it. I know many former military personnel who are now totally out of shape because they stopped working out when they left the service. Unless your actual goal is to be extremely physically fit for a very short period of time, after which you will sink fairly quickly back to where you are now, I think your plan is unlikely to work.

What you actually need is to find a routine that you can do and sustain as a part of your everyday life that will slowly build you into the shape you want. That's going to mean figuring out what keeps you from visiting your gym or doing similar activities frequently, and getting past it. An army-style fitness routine isn't going to do you any good if you can't keep yourself active when you get back from boot camp. If you can't get yourself to keep up your fitness in your daily life, you're going to end up back here a year from now asking, "How do I get back to being as fit as I was that one time a year ago when I left the country and did nothing but work out all the time?"
posted by decathecting at 3:34 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Post about life versus strictly being physically fit:

It seems like you are after the feelings of feeling great right after your workouts/gym sessions. If you could bring that feeling in you on a more continuous basis wouldn't that be great? Well, life's not great all the time but our routines and how we choose to focus and spend our attention and time lead to us feeling great in general.

Post workouts will always make you feel good. So why limit yourself to 1-3 miles a week. Use statistics to track yourself. Do power walks and challenge your walking speeds, times and steps using a pedometer.

The thing with building a really strong body is the sustainability to it. It needs to be regular and consistent and it takes time. The guys I have seen who are muscular usually spend 3-5 years. Do you want to move UPS packages for 1-2 years?

There are more ways than just being physically fit to feel great in your day.It seems like you are aiming for clarity, the post workout clarity, run twice a day? There are people who have ADHD who actually exercise every 6-10 hours, so twice a day doing jumping jacks when you need it to feel great and get focused would also help. It seems like you are on that path without necessarily being adhd. Plus do you really want to be able to talk and share with other people only about your body? or do you want to be a well rounded person?

Also finding a buddy may help too. I do like the fact that you are going for a sense of adventure as well towards your goal. Maybe doing that will help you land another job of all things and just change the way you live?

Good luck to you !
posted by iNfo.Pump at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2010

I'm gonna throw out one other suggestion - physical theater. I don't have experience with this personally, but my friend who teaches tumbling, acting, and other types of physical theater describes the several week long boot camp that she attended as one of the most physically demanding periods of life. I think she did an intensive residency someplace out in California. She's still in great shape. Of course, she is an outgoing individual with a background in theater, so maybe this wouldn't be up your alley. Still, it seems like a lot of fun and from all reports, pretty darn physical.

You could also become a ski instructor. A lot of ski places will train their instructors for free, even without background experience, and that's a great way to keep in shape.

Another option is giving rock climbing a shot. That sport has a huge social base that will allow you to meet lots of neat people, and if you enjoy it, give you an additional reason to keep working your body. $2000 would more than get you started on getting the right equipment, but it'd probably be best to try it out at a gym before you invest.

I work as an outdoor educator and that's a fun, great way to keep in shape. The NOLS class would set you up nicely for that.
posted by ajarbaday at 12:16 PM on January 17, 2010

You want to be Army Fit without enlistment?


The Navy Seals offer this exact thing. It is essentially BUDS training without enlistment. You do what they do.

Its called Seal Fit

Get your ass to San Diego and do it.
posted by jnnla at 7:16 PM on January 17, 2010

« Older Can anyone spare me a pint?   |   Can we all use different computers for our... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.