Showing up on day one for marine boot camp without training for weeks first is like begging to get your butt kicked

Showing up on day one for Marine Boot Camp without training for weeks first is like begging to get your butt kicked.  You need to be in shape both physically and mentally long before you even go speak to your Marine Recruiter.

Week one of Basic Marine Corp Training can be quite a shock upon arrival at Parris Island.  As it is, you will be dogged like crazy right up to your limits, many will break the first day.  You on the other hand will still feel like heck but by being prepared, you’ll avoid much of the shock and others will bear the brunt before you do.

This article pertains mainly to preparing for Marine Corps basic training at Marine Boot Camp, but the lessons here can be applied to any of the armed forces.  Too many recruits show up having done zero research into how to be a Marine or what they are about to endure when dealing with drill instructors.

The physical requirements for the Marines are more stringent than those for other branches and the amount of materials covered is overwhelming mentally.  This article series attempts to help you prepare for your 12 weeks of intense training, beginning with the first week and your arrival at Parris Island.

What I suggest is using the time between signing up and the day you leave to train your butt off.  If it is more than 12 weeks, great.  If not, at least you’ll have head start.

Now I’ll try to give you an overview of what to expect the first week and subsequent articles will deal with the rest of the 12 weeks.

Week  1.  Arrive at Parris Island (West of the Mississippi, you’ll go to the training center in San Diego but let’s use Parris Island for ease of discussion).  For starters, you’ll show up at about 2AM that first night and will be greeted by screaming drill sergeants. 

The DIs will force you to start listening to them while you are still sitting on the bus.  They need to instill discipline and the foundation begins immediately.  Everything they tell you to do has a reason: to turn you into Marines.

You on the other hand will be living in a blur.  You must remember 2 things: 

1. Go whenever or wherever an instructor tells you to
without question.

2.  Forget your name.  Practice referring to yourself as “this recruit” and your friends and fellow Marines as “these recruits” for weeks before you show up and implement this technique the second you are first spoken to by an instructor. 

Never, ever, refer to yourself as “I” or any other recruit by his name or mention “We.”  This alone will keep you from feeling the heat too much that first week.  If you do nothing else, adhering to this rule hard and fast will keep the focus off of you and onto others who are caught unaware and/or otherwise “just don’t get it”. 

Start running 4 miles a day, everyday right now.  Even if you suck at it, your heart feels like it might burst and you are essentially plodding along, you will be much more mentally prepared to go the 3 miles per day that the Marines will expect of you with less trouble, and finish far ahead of the back of the pack and again, keep most of the heat off of you.

Even if you workout, lift weights and can rip telephone books in half, you will not be prepared for the amount of pushups you’ll be required to do.  Here’s a good rule of thumb:  be able to 125 straight pushups and build up to 1000 a day.  Even if you have to forgo some gym time, do it. 

Benching 300lbs, squatting 500lbs and curling 150lbs simply won’t help you when you’re face down in the mud with a DI screaming at you to quit and drop out because you’re struggling with getting to the 600th pushup of the day, its 6PM and the entire company is waiting for you to finish so they can eat.

To recap Days 1-7:

1.  Listen and be prepared to do nonsensical things without questioning them.

2. Give zero advice at this stage to other recruits.  Just follow DI orders unless you are specifically asked to offer your own and then make it short.  On occasion, offer encouragement to those who “get it” but may be physically hurting.  Never try to verbally prod a slacker although physically helping up a teammate at your own expense can sometimes endear yourself to the team. 

It may or may not endear yourself to the DIs but offering a helping hand at the right time is often better than stepping on a fallen Marine just so you can finish a run, for example.

3. Never, ever, ever, refer to yourself as anything other than “this recruit”.  Ever, right from the minute your bus disembarks.  Same goes for fellow trainees – they must be referred to “these recruits”.  The DIs will be specific if they want you to refer to someone by name.

4. Get used to saying “yes sir” and always look everyone in the eye unless specifically asked not to.

5. Be able to run 4 miles in under 40 minutes.

6. Be able to do 125-150 pushups non-stop, (resting in up position), and do 1000 total per day weeks before you go off to marine training.

This is a good start for anyone considering joining the Marines.  Week 2 will be coming soon.  These lessons will at least keep much of the heat off of you and onto those who the DIs would like to get some to either drop out or make serious gains.

You can get the entire Weeks 1- 12 (graduation) by signing up for my free newsletter “Marine Tough” at  You’ll learn all aspects of physical and mental toughness necessary for all branches of the armed service and corresponding Special Forces.

Thanks for reading, good luck soldier.

Hank Reardon

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