Top 5 Reasons You May Not Be Prepared for Basic Training

By Michael Volkin *

Preparation is everything in basic training. If you prepare properly, basic could be a breeze. If you don’t prepare at all, you will be counting the minutes until it’s over. This is the inspiration for my book The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook.

I wanted to be able to help recruits prepare properly for basic training. Unfortunately, in the 4 successful years this book has been in production, I have found that most recruits barely know a thing about basic training. In fact, most of the questions I receive from recruits are hearsay and rumors that aren’t true to begin with.

Based on these rumors, I have compiled a top 5 list. This top 5 list documents the most common reasons why most recruits aren’t ready for basic training. To purchase the best-selling Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook,

5) Basic Training Fitness

Just about every recruit I talk to is not prepared for the physical aspect of basic training. When I ask a recruit what they are doing physically to prepare for basic training, they usually respond by saying, “Well I run two miles a day and I go to the gym five times a week.”

At that point, I tell them to immediately stop what they are doing. The recruit always responds in shock and wonders why a basic training coach is telling them to stop their workout program.

Here is the reason: In basic training, you are not going to spend an hour a day in the gym doing bench presses and leg squats. The exercises you do will most likely be exercises you have never heard of (i.e. donkey kicks, mountain climbers, ski jumpers, etc). Also, rarely will you just “run a couple miles.” Basic training runs usually consist of wind sprints and other exercises where the speed and direction of the run changes quickly and frequently.

Now, all that time at the gym will seem wasted when you arrive at basic training because the exercises you will do are completely different than the ones have been doing to prepare.

To prepare for basic training you need to prepare your muscles (and your mind) for basic training type exercises. Believe me, when you get to basic training, your muscles will thank you for the preparation. All the other recruits will be experiencing calf spasms and muscle soreness and you will be sleeping like a baby. Check out the 8-week daily basic training fitness routine in my book, I have received hundreds of accolades from recruits for developing this easy to follow routine.

4) Bad Habits to break before Basic Training

Believe it or not, your civilian lifestyle has you accustomed to habits drill sergeants don’t like too much. For example, you are not allowed to smoke in basic training. Before you leave for basic training, quit smoking. Also, there is no snacking at basic training. You get three meals a day and that is all. If you are accustomed to grabbing a bag of chips or a piece of chocolate anytime you want, I would suggest stopping that habit before you get to basic training. This is easy to train your body to do; the training is 100% mental will power.

A few weeks before you leave basic training, simply start a diet to eat three square meals a day. If your meals have enough carbohydrates and protein in them, you shouldn’t be hungry for snacks anyway.

3) Understanding Drill Sergeants

Drill sergeants will undoubtedly treat you like you have never been treated before. They clearly don’t want to be your friend, they don’t want to make you feel warm and fuzzy and they certainly don’t want you to feel like you’re at home. There are however, ways to deal with drill sergeants that won’t drive you crazy. Remember, drill sergeants don’t personally hate you. They have a very short time to turn you from civilian to soldier.

The basic training process needs to jar you mentally. If your drill sergeant calls you dumb, ugly, and stupid, etc., don’t think twice about the comment. They are testing you to see if you are fit to be a soldier. Drill sergeants are always testing you, even when you think they are not.

Remember basic training is a mental game. The recruits who fail overwhelmingly do so because they can’t handle the mental stress, not the physical stress.

2) Secret Items to take to Basic Training

Do you know the secret items you should bring with you to basic training that will make your life a lot easier? I will list several here, but for a complete list, read The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook. At the very least, you should bring foot powder, a cheap watch, two combo locks, stamps, several phone cards, and a black marker.

1) Homesickness During Basic Training

Everyone at basic training is missing his or her loved ones. Keep reminding yourself basic training is only a couple months long. Bring a few wallet-sized pictures with you and a notebook. To ease the homesickness, write letters often and encourage letters in return.

* SGT Michael Volkin is an instructor at Basic Training University and the author of The Basic Training University, available at