Inside My Mind… on Fitness Programming During Deployment

Where to even begin!  There are so many factors involving the proper programming of Functional Fitness during a full deployment lasting between 6-8 months, tailoring to 6,000+ sailors who may come and go with the classes or those who stay dedicated.  The first step and most important thing to consider is the NEEDS ANALYSIS… basically who are my clientele and what is their function?`  For this particular scenario:  sailors who need to be “mission ready.”

Take a quick look below at how I typically write a program.functional-fitness-program-pic

You’ll notice a certain pattern during the weeks:

  • Upper body and lower body alternate
  • Light and heavy days vary
  • Weight for the strength dictates the duration/intensity of the metcon (metabolic conditioning)
  • Deadlift at least 1x/week
  • Work on skill/technique, something new and fun 1x/week
  • Rest 1x/week

Once I have the physiological aspects figured out, the next step to consider is EXERCISE SELECTION.  This is where the challenge lies… equipment availability, space, number of participants, ship movement, safety considerations, and timing.  I’ll quickly touch base on each of these.

Equipment Availability
With class participation ranging from 10-40 people, I had to get creative with the limited number of equipment we had.  Rotating circuits are great, having multiple groups at a barbell station, kettlebell station, body weight station, etc.  Partner (2-3) workouts were utilized, having 1 person work and the other perform a plank or rest.  I loved these for team building and motivation as well!

The hangar bay is filled with aircraft and helos while sailors are performing maintenance on them.  Aircraft are being moved constantly throughout the bay, which requires a lot of attention to detail for the directors… which means we have to get the hell out of their way!  Some days I found good space (let’s say 20m x 15m) and other days I literally have about 10m x 10m to work with.  Hitting any part of the aircraft is not an option, as one part could cost millions of dollars… so we also had to stay about 5m away from everything.

Number of Participants
Like I said before, our class started with about 15 sailors and grew into a consistent 25-40 dedicated workout buffs in a single session.  This kind of goes hand in hand with equipment availability.  Some days I had to modify to body weight workouts due to the amount of space we had and the inability to utilize all the equipment within that amount of space.  At one point during and after PRT season, we had 50 participants.  Luckily I had an experienced trainer nearby and required for the new bodies to work with him, thus allowing me to run the class efficiently and effectively.

Ship Movement
This usually occurs during big swells or storms.  Anything that required weight overhead or heavy weight, I would not allow when the ship was rocking back and forth.  With a large load on your back and force being applied from the top (weight on back) and bottom (ground force), any lateral movement could be detrimental for your knees during the concentric/eccentric phases of the squat.  Without a strong core, balancing heavy weight while being tilted is simply a disaster waiting to happen.

Safety Considerations
Another key component.  I already touched base on space considerations and being aware of your surroundings.  I also have to monitor closely that each individual is performing the exercise correctly with proper form and technique.  I always emphasize that I need to be informed if anyone has prior/current injuries so I can create modifications and they are avoiding contraindicated movements.  I’ll ask myself, “When was the last session where they jumped?”  This includes, squat jumps, box jumps, jump lunges, etc.  The ground force reaction from the non-skid steel ground will eventually tear your shins up overtime!  Which I speak through experience!  Along with the participants being safe, the environment needs to be safe for others walking by, ensuring that space is provided for sailors who are carrying or pushing heavy objects throughout the bay.  Mission always comes first.

Calendar timeline to be more specific in this category… I consider if we are about to pull into a port or if we are just getting back out from a port visit.  Port visits usually mean a week of no workouts, indulgent meals, massive amounts of drinking, well you get the idea.  So after a port visit I ensure to lighten the load and focus more on body weight workouts to get the body acclimated to the movements planned ahead.  Another big one is seeing where we are during weigh-ins and the PRT.  About 2-3 weeks prior, I’ll add more running to the workouts, along with variations to increase the strength for the push-up and muscular endurance for the sit-ups.

There’s that saying, “there’s a method to my madness.”  Well, it’s madness alright!  However, being able to serve those who serve and seeing overall fitness/health improvements is well worth it.  Almost 90% of the time you have to tap into your creative box and make quick decisions on how to run a class yet stay focused on the days goals.  If anyone is having trouble programming then feel free to message me.  After two deployment tours of this, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and am continuously growing!



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