We publish a daily workout regimen that we post for all of the aspiring Special Operations candidates to properly prepare themselves physically for the various Selection courses. And Sunday was supposed to be a long rucksack march.
But Mother Nature decided to throw us all a curve here in the Northeast. Our first major winter storm dumped between 8-12 inches of snow on us and then turned to sleet long before the sun came up to make things even more treacherous. But rather lose an entire day (and a rucking day at that) to the weather gods, don’t let that happen just use your imagination and make it work for you.
Remember, being prepared physically will also carry over mentally as well, filling the candidate with confidence to be able to handle anything thrown at him once you hit Selection. But with the preparation comes the inevitable running and rucking that must be done to be ready once the rubber hits the road.
So, rucking was out of the question, the snow was too deep and the glaze of ice, crusted over with the sleet, made walking in it a non-starter on Sunday. We have rucked in snow up to knee-depth about a year ago. The deeper part of the snow was great exercise and tires you out much quicker than walking along a level, flat trail. When rucking in the snow, don’t worry about the pace, trust me it is going to be much, much slower. As long as you are going as hard as you can, it will help in the long run.
But, what to do this week? If you can’t go rucking due to the conditions, then go snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is a fun, alternate exercise and one that will definitely challenge you. It is very easy to learn, much easier than cross-country skiing. If any of you ever go to winter-warfare training, you’ll get familiar with it and due to the nature of the exercise, you’ll employ different muscles, and trust me you’ll be sore!
The nice part of snowshoeing is that for someone like yours truly with achy, arthritic knees, it is pretty low-impact, much more so than running and less than rucking as well. You don’t need a bunch of gear, just the normal winter weather clothing, snowshoes and poles. While most people use ski poles, I just carry my walking stick. It is the wrong way to do it, I know, but some of us FOGs are stubborn. If you have a pair of gaiters, they’ll definitely come in handy when breaking trail in untouched snow. Be damned though if I can find mine.
You’ll find (if you are new at this) that your stance will be slightly wider than normal due to the fact that you don’t want to step on the inside of the opposite snowshoe. If you do that, you are guaranteed to face plant, something I still do on occasion, much to the amusement of my wife and dog, when the three of us go. I was a bit rusty and hadn’t been out on my snowshoes since mid-March last winter.
We have a few good hills around here which are a bit of a challenge. For this, I’ll rely on the good folks from REI who posted this:
- In powdery snow, use the kick-step technique. Pick up your foot and literally kick into the snow with the toe of your boot to create a step. Your snowshoes will be on the angle of the slope, with the tails hanging downhill behind you and the toes above your boots. This plants the crampons or cleats into the snow, directly under the balls of your feet. If conditions are such that a kick-step ends up just creating a deep hole in the snow, then look for a different route.
- On crusty, hardpack snow, you probably won’t be able to kick step. Instead, you’ll be relying on your traction devices (claws) and poles. Walk up the slope, but if it’s too steep try to find an easier traversing route.
- On moderate to steep slopes, flip up the heel lift feature (also known as a climbing bar or Televator) found under the heel on many snowshoes. This puts your leg in a more comfortable position for long ascents.
Sunday morning at 0430, the temps were just about 10 degrees with the sleet pelting down. Which is a damned sight better than this morning. As I write this, it is -2 degrees with a wind chill between 23-30 degrees below zero. One word of caution here, dress in layers and not too heavy, snowshoeing, as I stated will work up a sweat, I had just a t-shirt, a thin sweater, and a waterproof, NorthFace shell. After less than five minutes, I was sweating pretty freely despite the cold.
The pace will be slow, there is absolutely no way around that. Speed marching in snowshoes is a non-starter. However, compared to trying to break trail thru deep, ice-encrusted snow, going with snowshoes is faster.
Candidates must remember that as a member of the Special Operations community, the weather and elements won’t alter training or operations so don’t let it to you alter your preparation for the course. A mentor once told me, “the difference between an average man and a warrior is that an average man looks at everything as a blessing or a curse. The warrior looks at everything as merely a challenge.”
As we all know and have experienced, the weather will turn to crap more often than not on you. Don’t let it alter your preparation. Rise above it, keep driving on and above all else, “Embrace the Suck”. There will be times when you’ll have to be creative with your workouts. Bad weather conditions don’t necessarily mean that your work stops. You can still get a good, challenging workout while learning a new skill at the same time.
This morning’s wind chill and bitter cold are a bit different though. All things being equal around here today, I’ll just forego going out in this until it “warms up” to about 5 degrees later on this afternoon.
No days off, just another day in paradise.
Photos: DVIDs, Author