Whatever goals and targets you have set yourself up for this year, if you’re struggling to stay motivated you only need to read how Joe* took the bold decision to go after his dream of passing one of the most challenging physcial tests, and join one of the most elite regiments in the British Army – the Parachute Regiment.
After a change in personal circumstances 3 years ago which left me with more free time in the evenings I was faced with a decision on how to spend my spare time. I had established an academic career in accountancy and finance which I enjoyed, however being sat at a desk for 40 hours a week with the resultant politics and cyclical declarations of “getting fit” left me slightly unfulfilled. I ticked the box of a half marathon but apart from a plastic medal and a free banana I didn’t feel like I had challenged myself sufficiently and achieved anything.
It was at this point that I started to research a second career and came across the Army Reserve and looking across the available units, I decided if I was going to sacrifice my weekends I wanted to push myself and attempt something that would be a real practical challenge and give me a tangible result of my efforts which was The Parachute Regiment. The Regiment have a reserve element for people who for various reasons cannot commit to full time service so can complete the training at weekends. After researching the entrance tests I found out about the series of physical tests at the end of the course in order to achieve the maroon beret of the Airborne Forces and join the unit which is called Pegasus Company, abbreviated to P Coy.
The Physical Tests:
P Coy is a series of different physical tests which are taken one after the other and are designed to fatigue and put a candidate under stress which include:
10 mile speed march
Aerial confidence course
Stretcher race carrying an 80kg stretcher to simulate evacuating a casualty
2 mile best effort run in full kit carrying rifle and rucksack
Steeplechase cross country run and assault course
Milling – a form of boxing where blocking and defending isn’t allowed.
P Company Training Program:
Whilst my cardiovascular fitness was at a reasonable level due to completing steady state runs, my speed and strength were not at an appropriate level. My employer’s office was approximately 5 miles from home so several days per week I would take a rucksack loaded to the correct weight (37lb) and tab home across the fields, drop the rucksack and grab some protein on arrival (usually a TPW protein bar) and change into trainers and run back to collect my car from the office car park. At the beginning this raised a few eyebrows from people leaving the office late to see me running back in trainers to collect my car, but it quickly became an office norm to see my car as a lonely sight in the corner of the car park. On other evenings to give my knees a rest I would take my road bike back to the office and put in the car on return to work.
The industrial estate where I worked had a perfect 1 mile loop without having to cross any roads, I used this on alternate evenings where I wasn’t tabbing or on a rest day to complete intervals of 1 mile best effort, 1 mile rest and so on.
For my upper body and back strength I opted to stay out of the gym and completed most exercises as bodyweight, and had a daily routine of max press ups each evening and tried to beat a PB on plank in the evening. I also had a pull up bar in my house that I would try and hit at least 10 pull ups on a daily basis.
Living in the countryside gave a perfect training platform, and on weekends where I wasn’t training as a recruit I would take my rucksack and plot a 10 mile route around the local area and focussed on getting this well below the 2hr time frame that would be required on P Company.
I focussed hard on maintaining this commitment during the build-up to the start of the course and tried wherever possible to train when I was away in hotels with work (making sure I had a laptop and weighted rucksack in the car was an odd mixture at conferences), whilst my fitness improved dramatically under the stewardship of the 4 PARA Physical Training Instructor’s (PTI’s) on the training weekends the base level of fitness I had helped significantly.
On P Company at the end of the course, I found test week the most difficult few days of my life due to constant nature of the events, especially due to being fatigued from the previous 9 days of being on a field exercise so living on rations with little sleep. The notorious Log Race and 2 Miler events will be engrained on my soul forever due the very nature of the course and fatigue, however throughout the entire week I was focussed on acheiving the saught after maroon beret, so whilst others disappeared off the course due to injury or withdrew the end game of 12 months was in sight – to hear my P Coy number read out on the parade square with “pass” was a moment I will remember for a long time.