This is a guide to people over 45, of both sexes, to how to achieve and maintain a military level of physical fitness. Anyone can do it, but it is tremendously hard work to get there and it requires ruthless routine to maintain it. On the other hand the advantages are enormous: if you can maintain this level of fitness at this age, you may add up to 15 years onto your life.
Firstly we need to define what we mean by a military level of physical fitness. We divide fitness into five: obese; unhealthy; fit; athletic; and military. People over 40 with mitary levels of fitness are quite rare: certainly less than 0.5 per cent. You know them when you meet them; they exhibit extraordinary physical strength and power for a person of any age.
Military levels of physical fitness are those levels of fitness to which highly proficient soldiers in active combat are trained. They are able to walk long distances, daily; run substantial distances wearing any clothes and carrying a backpack; they are demonstrably physically strong in every aspect, irrespective of their size; their bodies are covered in sheets of muscle; they rarely get tired compared to other people; they can survive without food, water or sleep for longer periods than most people.
This does not entail that they look like bodybuilders or fitness enthusiasts in centrefolds. And this leads into the first of several lessons if you strive to achieve this level of fitness.
You need to be able to distinguish between military fitness and a perfect, fat-free body. Different people have different genetic predispositions towards the accumulation of fat in different parts of the body. Fat, in reasonable quantities, is a healthy part of the body that provides for emergency energy stores.
If you want a bodybuilder's or model's body then you want a body without fat. This is different from wanting a military level of physical fitness. If you want a body without fat, you need to focus upon your diet, cutting out carbohydrates; and reduce your alcohol consumption virtually to zero. In other words you need an unusual diet, different from that most people adopt. Even then you may not be entirely successful; a lot of it depends on genetics. Moreover a body with no fat is likely to be less fit and healthy in the sense we are aiming for than a body that receives a balanced diet.
A body with a military level of physical fitness may well have fat on it, in all sorts of places. But the lungs will have high volume; the heart will be strong and constant; the muscles across the body will be able to take repetitive strain (such as a 40km walk without preparation- you can just get up and do it); and the joints will be used to high pressures (so that the knees or ankles do not give in during the walk).
At a military level of physical fitness, you will find it normal and even habitual to undertake between six and twelve hours of light to moderate physical exercise (of any kind) each day. If your schedule does not permit you to devote such time to exercise, then you should not aspire to military levels of physical fitness because you will not be able to sustain them. Military fitness is not a short-term diet plan; it is a whole way of living.
If you reach a military level of physical fitness, you need not worry too much about alcohol consumption. Whatever amount you consume, your body will effortlessly burn off; moreover your body, a finely tuned machine, will indicate to you clearly when it is not comfortable with the quantity of alcohol you are consuming and you will stop. Avoid excessive consumption of strong alcohol, as that can cause liver damage irrespective of your level of fitness.
Do not smoke heavily while on this route. The problem is not the nicotine but the tar, that clogs your lungs, depriving them of peak performance; and ultimately those non-functioning parts of the lungs will develop cancer, irrespective of how fit the rest of your body is.
You will find yourself with peculiarly renewed perspectives upon events should you achieve military levels of physical fitness. For example you may wake up an hour or two earlier than most people and decide to walk to the airport with your luggage rather than take a taxi. That is because hard exercise has become so habitual to you that it creeps into every aspect of your life. You cease dreaming of taking a car for any distance under 10-15 kilometres.
To reach military levels of physical fitness, you start with hard exercise and you simply continue long past it hurts, until you are in agony. Just before you break something, you stop and get some rest: maybe an hour or so. Then you carry on, until you are doing this for six to twelve hours a day. And you do this every day.
In the process of doing this, you will tear muscles, rub joints, blister toes and feet, and so on and so forth. Every piece of damage you do to your body is for the greater good; for the body will fix itself and emerge in a stronger and healthier composition than it was before. Then you just increase the intensity, so that you tear your body again. And the growth procedure continues. After 4 to 6 months you will be as fit as any member of a Special Forces unit. For this is what they do every day.
Maintain a steady, balanced diet. Just to make sure, use vitamin supplements daily or even more often than daily. Ensure that most of the fluids you consume are effervescent multivitamin tablets dissolved in water. Do not overeat; your body will tell you when you are close to overeating by creating a bloated feel in your stomach. Take heed of this. Nevertheless you will eat more than normal people, so do not let this alarm you itself. You need carbohydrates because you are consuming energy. And you need proteins / dairy products to sustain superior muscles.
To re-emphasise: you do not need to be a large person to do this. If you succeed, the enhanced muscles around your bones will make you stronger and fitter than the large people around you.
Do not abandon a military fitness routine suddenly, or you will get fat. If you must desist (and why would you want to? You are adding years to your life), then take it in stages.
As you become fitter under this regime, you will become noticeably more alert, more resistant to illness and more attractive to the opposite sex These are all collateral advantages; do not let them detract from the principal task of achieving and maintaining a military level of fitness.
If you keep in mind that you can and must always get fitter, irrespective of how fit you become, then you are on course both to achieve your goal and to maintain it. Remember: there is always further to go. You must not give up.
You will wipe years off your physical appearance. Just watch the reactions of others. Also you will take greater pride and care in your appearance.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly: at least once a week. Blood pressure can be a very unfair discriminator; high blood pressure, which may be genetic, can wipe years off life irrespective of how fit you are. Nevertheless there is an easy solution: propranolol, a harmless medication in reasonable quantities (e.g. 10-40mg per day) that restores blood pressure balance simply with a tablet. If you have high blood pressure (and it starts in your late 30's to early 40's), take blood pressure tablets for the rest of your life irrespective of blood pressure changes. Those tablets will add years onto your life.
Welcome to the golden years of physical fitness. You can do it in your 40's, because you acquire the sensation that your body is slowly dying. It is more difficult when you are younger, because you are less motivated. Stay healthy, stay happy, and never stop.