“Soldier Boy” Sweat Equity Article

It was a great honor to have my “Train Like a Soldier Article” published in Sweat Equity Magazine Giving me the Title of “Soldier Boy”, the article outlines my experiences with the military and how they have influenced my training philosophy.



“Training Like a Soldier” by Joey Shillolo

Why this authentic military bootcamp may not be what you expect.

I’m sure you’ve already conjured up images resembling the typical movie scene that depicts a never satisfied and hard-nosed drill Sergeant barking out vulgar encouragements to get his troops through morning training. It seems this high intensity-at-all-costs regime is the only way to conditioned his troops for battle.

Although militant command still has its place in the military, it may surprise you that these tactics are fairly outdated. The military has endured a forward shift since the charter of human rights was introduced in the 1980’s.  Regarding physical training, this evolution includes a safer, more standardized and progressive approach to its fitness programs.  With 5 years of experience as a military fitness instructor, I can attest that physical training is done with a higher standard of diligence in today’s Canadian Forces (CF).    Military Basic Training in the CF is a very physical demanding experience whose sole purpose is to physically and mentally prepare soldiers to be ready for battle with “fit-to-fight” standards.  It is these “fit-to-fight” standards and my military experience comprise the foundation for my current role as a Personal Trainer and Bootcamp Instructor with Goodlife Fitness.

As at trainer with the CF, my  duties ranged from leading platoons through the fitness components of basic training to special forces training and testing.  The peak of my experiences with the CF was in 2007 with my 6 month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Aside from the tremendous life experience (not to mention coming back in one piece), it was the most demanding 6 months of my life.  Being away from family and friends (especially when you need them the most) was a commonality both civilians and troops had to endure overseas.  In a nutshell my job (as with many other civilians working in various roles) was to hopefully ease some of the tensions of war with support services.

I’ll always be indebted to both the professional and personal life experiences the CF afforded me; I still carry them forward with me in my Train Like a Soldier Bootcamp (TLSB) program.  First launched in March 2010 at Goodlife Fitness Union Station Toronto, the TLSB program is unique because it is genuinely based on my training experiences with the military.   Now, however, instead of my day being filled with stressed Soldiers wearing Kevlar and armed with artillery, it’s with stressed executives wearing business suits armed with rapidly firing blackberries!  Everything is relative I guess.

My “Train Like a Soldier” marketing is purposefully “tongue and cheek”, as I play off the Hollywood connotations that somehow successfully lure participants into bootcamp programs.  Although playing the hard nosed drilled Sergeant role would be more entertaining, I don’t.  To me this approach is not only outdated but counter productive. Considering most people joining such programs are new to fitness, I believe the “no pain, no gain” philosophy is the last thing they need.  Anyone can blow a whistle and yell to make someone tired. “Firm but fair” was the axiom we ran our platoons by, and it’s something I bring to the TLSB program.

This scenario is especially true for  dealing with weight issues or those new to exercise. Abusive commands and painful exercise, may yield temporary results, but they are unlikely to be sustainable.  The self-esteem and self efficacy of these clients needs to be built up, not broken down even further by an un-empathetic and judgmental mindset.  The exponential power of the mind, body and spirit is integral to success and part of my key core principles for healthy living.  Although I don’t force these elements on my clients, I truly believe that physical fitness is critical part of accessing ones higher self.

Consisting of about 10 participants, these corporate men and women range in age and fitness levels.  Staying as true as possible to the training I did with the military, every bootcamp begins and ends with the same fitness test used in the military to establish minimum fitness standards.  Evaluating push-ups, sit-ups and handgrip strength is one way I chart individual progress of the participants and a way they can compare their scores to the military minimum requirements to see if they “have what it takes”.   It also allows me to assess each participants current fitness level, in order to target movements unique to their capacity.  The key to good instruction is observing each participants and providing them with challenging options at the right time.  Whether the group is doing timed circuits, partner work or a heavier lift, it is always at a pace or difficulty appropriate for them.  Safety and technique are top priority. I like too see clients improve at a pace that’s optimal for thier stage of fitness by giving them a task they can accomplish. This makes them want to work hard for me and, ultimately, for themselves.

Operational readiness for a soldier demands being fit across all energy systems that range from maximum strength to endurance.  The TLSB program is an effective way of achieving such well-rounded fitness because my classes are based on full-body functional movements that mimic the tasks required of a soldier.  The compound movements of squatting, lunging, pulling, pushing and carrying are done in a progressive manner for each individual and known to achieve fast results, especially in relation to fat loss and gaining strength.

Programming these movements in a variety of different class formats while progressively building intensity and complexity of performance is my approach to improving both strength and fitness capacity.   Participants don’t know what to expect each class…other than hard work!

Another thread of authenticity is that I bring them through the formal commands and rank system used for directing platoons. This is where we play an assertive military version of “Simon says” in which the group promptly moves in unison in response to commands.  An example would be to have the group standing at strict attention in ranks and move as quickly as possible into a push up after hearing my command “Push-up position!….CHANGE!”  In the spirit of fun, I provide as many examples of what basic training involves so they get a real sense of what military training is all about, without having to join. 

While the TLSB program may not be what everyone expects from a former military trainer, I feel my deviation from Hollywood’s depiction is a step in the right direction.  My goal is to carry forward the positive aspects of military training, such as working hard and building team camaraderie, in a positive and supportive environment. Each participant finishes each class feeling better about themselves than before they walked through the front door (especially those who are new to exercise or who feel self conscious about being in the gym).

That being said, I don’t want to create the impression that the TLSB program is soft or easy in any way, just ask one of my Personal Training clients and 3 time bootcamp participants Sandy Nicolaou.

“Joey had to convince me that TLSB would not kill me.  While I went to the gym regularly, I had very little endurance and strength capacity.  The first bootcamp introduced me to movements I had never done before (I could barely do a push up from my knees and who knew what a farmer’s carry was).  I now use TLSB to supplement the personal training I do with Joey.  I have gone from being the most inexperienced bootcamp participant to one of the stronger participants.  I can now do advanced push ups, chin- ups and even an evacuation drill that includes pulling a punching bag with weights attached across the gym floor (a pretty big accomplishment for 110 pounds of my 5’ frame which sits behind a desk all day long).  In the last bootcamp, two of my employees joined and it was a great team building opportunity for us.  Every session is different and I’ve attended quite a few.  The diversity of movements and challenges is great.  I feel healthy and confident….and know that I have what it takes to “train like a soldier”…..well at least in a gym.”

Although my corporate Toronto troops are not going off to war, training to be “fit to fight like a Soldier” remains my mantra for this Bay Street crowd.  The fitter you are, the healthier you are, as all biomarkers of health are improved with fitness.  “Training Like a Soldier” is a fun, safe, and effective method for being fit and healthy across all energy systems, from maximum strength to endurance.

To order the Magazine to see original article with picture please visit http://www.sweatequitymagazine.com/

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