Physical training

Physical training is a key element in achieving and maintaining a high standard of athletic or military performance. A well-prepared and conducted programme helps individuals meet the demands of military service and their individual goals.

An athlete will have deliberate build-ups, tailored to their discipline and when and where the event will take place. Within the military, especially in operational roles, these variables are not so predictable. The ability of service personnel to perform his or her designated job, in a confident and effective manner, is dependent on several factors, particularly the following:

  1. Physical Fitness. Having the right fitness specific to your role and expected outputs.
  2. Job Proficiency. Having the right technical and tactical skills to execute your role well.
  3. All round wellbeing. Physical, mental, social and spiritual health are all important for optimal functioning.

When developing a programme to help improve your physical fitness, it is important to take into account your lifestyle, your goals and your current levels of health and fitness. Questions to consider are:

  1. What is my current fitness level?
  2. What injuries/issues do I have?
  3. What do I want to train for?
  4. What does my lifestyle involve and what are the barriers?
  5. What activities do I like and dislike?
  6. How can I consistently add exercise into my lifestyle that is achievable and enjoyable?


Principles of training

There are six general principles of training based on decades of scientific research and experience. 

Overload Training must be raised to a higher level than normal to create the extra demands to which your body will adapt.  Ensure you are talking to SMEs about your best overload approach!
Specificity Most but not all of your training needs to be specific to the sport or activity that you want to get better at, or you won't improve. For example, if you want to improve your muscular endurance for pack walking, doing lots of swimming won't help. 
Progression As your body adapts to training, you need to change what you do so that you continue to progress. Gradually increasing the volume, intensity or the duration helps you continue to create a safe overload. Adequate rest and recovery are also required. 
Reversibility The effects of training are reversible. If exercise is reduced in intensity or even stopped, the benefits can be lost quickly. If you can't get to the gym as much as you would like one week, maintain body weight exercises and manipulate the intensity and duration of the  sessions you can do. 
Adaptation The more we do something, the more we get used to it, so after a while we need to mix things up in order to keep improving.
Individual differences Training should reflect your unique needs - your age, sex, body type, training history, previous injuries and your goals.  Your gains will be relative to YOU – comparing yourself to others is a waste of energy.

How to safely achieve Progression, Overload and Adaptation?

Overload can be applied in different ways. The acronym FITT provides a useful reminder. 

Frequency How many times a week you train
Intensity How hard or easy the activity is
Time/Duration How long you do something for
Type What you do

By gradually increasing how often you do something, how hard you do something, how long you do something for, or by doing something different, you create overload, and your body progressively adapts.

Recovery between sessions is crucial to this. It allows the body to adapt (repair and grow) to the training stresses. If adequate rest is not taken between sessions, overtraining will eventually occur which could result in injuries

Features of effective training programmes

A good training programme help to keep you accountable and on track towards specific goals; it also makes it easier to schedule your training around your other weekly commitments.

  1. Set SMARTER goals. Set realistic achievable goals based on what you want to achieve. Base them on where you are right now, make sure you have short-term goals to keep you motivated, as well as longer term ones. If you don't achieve your goal, or you lose momentum at times, don't get dejected. Try to learn from it and move forward. 
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Time bound
    • Evaluated
    • Reviewed
  2. Be flexible. Have some flexibility within your training plan so that if unexpected interruptions do occur, at work and at home, it's not the end of the world. Training is important, but it shouldn't affect your mental health if it can't be completed. Try not to play catch up on sessions, and if this happens regularly, rethink your overall programme or take a look at the things that are getting in the way.
  3. Be patient. Training improvements do not occur consistently over time. There will be times where large improvements are made, and times when there aren't any. Be patient with your progress and focus on your goals - adaptation is very individualised and takes time.
  4. Warm up and cool down. There are many benefits of a good warm up and cool down. A warm up helps prepare the body for what's to follow and allows you to improve the quality of your workout, especially for higher intensity or volume sessions. Both help reduce the risk of injury. The cool down helps flush waste products from the muscles and promotes recovery.
  5. Focus on technique. Good technique can take time, but it is worth it. You will be able to perform better with more efficiency and it also decreases the risk of injury. This applies to running, lifting, any technique. Take the time to continually improve (or even master) your technique and get it checked from time to time. 
  6. Recovery. To get the most out of a training session or training block, it is important that the body has time to repair and adapt. If you do not recover adequately, you will struggle to improve or maximise your potential.

                     Training + Recovery = Improvement

  7. Listen to your body. At times, maybe after a long day, training might be the last thing you want to do. Training needs to be flexible and shouldn't be forced, especially if, like most of us, you're not a full-time athlete and have other work and life commitments. On these days, weigh up whether your fatigue is from a day of physical work or from mental fatigue…if it is the former - take it easy and don’t force it, maybe a stretch session would be good to unwind; if it is the latter – you could well benefit from some moderate physical movement, moderate exercise can help to clear a build-up of unhealthy stress hormones from the body. It is important to know the difference and react accordingly.
  8. Quality not just quantity. The right type of training for your goals, combined with the right intensity and duration, will see better results than just doing training and mileage for the sake of it. More is not always better. Have a goal, have a plan, be patient and flexible, and reap the rewards.  

What might a typical week look like?

How much exercise or physical activity you do depends on your goals and the time you have available to train. Remember the principle described above.


Example of exercise and activity spread throughout the week – for General MAINTENANCE

  M T W Th F Sa Su
AM Unit PT Unit PT Yoga Unit PT Yoga Garden Hike with friends
Lunchtime     Lunchtime circuits   Endurance swim    
PM   30min stretch   30min stretch   Play with family  


Example of exercise and activity spread throughout the week – for GENERAL HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS

  M T W Th F Sa Su
AM Run/jog Unit PT Yoga/ stretch Unit PT Unit PT Garden Whanau activity
Lunchtime Resistance training   Lunchtime circuits Resistance training Recovery swim Team sports/ Whanau fun   
PM BJJ/Training Ride 30+min stretch BJJ/Training Ride 30+min stretch     Yoga/ stretch


Example of exercise and activity spread throughout the week – for LCFT IMPROVEMENTS

  M T W Th F Sa Su
AM Unit PT Unit PT Webbing run Unit PT LCFT Specifics Whanau walk Yoga/ stretch
Lunchtime   Recovery swim Lunchtime circuits Resistance training Recovery swim    
PM LCFT Specifics 30+min stretch   30+min stretch   Webbing run Whanau walk