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The Fitness And State Of Mind Of A Royal Marines Commando

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Approach the impossible with steely grit and intense inner belief by training and thinking like a Royal Marines Commando.
The Royal Marines are the Royal Navy’s amphibious infantry on permanent readiness to deploy across the globe, and is a core component of the UK’s Joint Rapid Reaction Force. In short, they’re badass and the best of the best at what they do.

Much like the U.S Marine Corps, the Royal Marines are a flexible infantry force. To achieve their goals Marines need a very high level of all around fitness, as well as a positive and determined state of mind.

When I think of a Royal Marine, I see a man who approaches the impossible with steely grit and intense inner belief. These attributes are, in my opinion, applicable to anybody looking to better their life. Be it through self-improvement in your job, your physical fitness or your finances and lifestyle.

Whatever your goals, a positive mental attitude will get you a long way to achieving them. In particular, your determination to succeed. Royal Marines have determination in bucketloads. For a Royal Marines Commando, their state of mind is the driving force. It reminds them that the mind powers the muscles and that they are not special because they are Marines. They are special because of what they do and how they do it. As Aristotle said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

This is the ethos of the Royal Marines. Their state of mind can be broken down into 4 elements – known as The Commando Spirit.

The Commando Spirit

  1. Courage
  2. Determination
  3. Unselfishness
  4. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity

On paper, these attributes seem simple and anybody looking to put together a quick list of ways to improve themselves could recite them. However in practice, it is much more difficult to apply this Commando Spirit to your everyday life. Many people simply don’t have the determination to achieve their goals. I’ve been as guilty as anyone for merely coasting along and doing the minimum amount of effort to get by. But for a Royal Marine, these are drilled into their minds so deeply that it’s no longer a conscious decision. It is part of who they are and I can only imagine the level of clarity and focus that having these attributes drilled into your subconscious will bring.

So how do we achieve this Marine-like mental focus to improve ourselves?

It’s actually quite simple. You need to know what you want. It can be difficult to figure this out – but once you know what you want, the only thing left to do is focus yourself absolutely and completely to achieving it. Force out all the negative thoughts. The last thing you should be thinking is “I can’t do this!”. Of course you can. If you focused all of your mental efforts on how you’re going to achieve your goals rather than worrying that you can’t achieve them, you’ll have a lot more success. Other attributes for you to focus on include:

  • Unity – Whether it’s uniting you mind, body and soul or something less clich? like unity with your work colleagues
  • Adaptability – You need to be able to adapt through new workouts or new life approaches based on what has worked and hasn’t worked for you in the past
  • Humility – You can’t push yourself forward with a pat on the back. When you succeed, be humble and focus on further improvement. Don’t gloat!
  • Fortitude – You need the physical and mental strength to endure adversity with courage

If you’re still unsure of how to achieve the focused, Royal Marine state-of-mind, here is a list of tips to improve your clarity and give you the steely determination you need to succeed:

  1. From the moment you wake up each day, focus on what you want to achieve and get motivated to succeed.
  2. Cut out (or at least down on) bad habits such as smoking, drinking and eating bad foods. Nothing ruins clarity like impurities in your body.
  3. Focus on your short term goals. Your long term goals will materialise as an effect of the short term goals.
  4. Be as self sufficient and reliant as possible. There won’t always be people around to push you so you’ll need to learn to push yourself further.
  5. Never be satisfied. Always strive to achieve more.
  6. Don’t focus on limitations. Focus instead on what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there.
  7. Believe in yourself. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
  8. If you struggle or falter, ask for help or advice. I’m happy to help out wherever I can.

The mental stamina of a Royal Marine, coupled with a high level of physical fitness, is what separates them from the mere mortals. They are both core components to the puzzle. Without fitness, all the mental stamina in the world won’t help if every muscle in your body is fully exhausted. Without mental stamina, all the fitness in the world won’t be enough when everything in your being is telling you to stop. Things like gun fire, bombs, endless walking across the Falkland Islands, the altitude of Afghanistan or the blistering heat of Iraq.

So, besides mental strength, what physical attributes do the Royal Marines have – and how did they get them?

The Royal Marines Training Schedule

Royal Marines are typically more lean that U.S. Marines. Regular cardio exercise and interval/fartlek training are a staple in the training arsenal.

Marines often workout twice a day. In the morning this will usually be 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as swimming, running or biking. In the afternoon that’s when the fun begins.

Royal Marines Circuit Training

For a Royal Marine, there is a high focus on muscular endurance. They need to be able to give a high level of exertion for prolonged periods of time. The best way to achieve this is through circuit training. As you’d expect, the majority of exercises a Royal Marine performs are based on bodyweight. This allows them to workout wherever they are in the world and can give a fantastic workout in a short amount of time. Here is an example of a Royal Marine workout:

1st SET | 2nd SET | 3rd SET

15 Press-ups | 20 Press-ups | 15 Press-ups
20 Vertical Jumps | 25 Vertical Jumps | 20 Vertical Jumps
20 Squats | 30 Squats | 20 Squats
4 Pull-ups | 6 Pull-ups | 4 Pull-ups
10 Hanging Leg Raises | 15 Hanging Leg Raises | 10 Hanging Leg Raises
15 Box Jumps | 20 Box Jumps | 15 Box Jumps
4 Dips | 6 Dips | 4 Dips
20 Sit-ups | 30 Sit-ups | 20 Sit-ups
10 Lunges | 20 Lunges | 10 Lunges

This circuit should be completed as quickly as possible with no rest in between exercises or sets. You can rest only as long as it takes to get your breathe back to continue.

When performing this routine, Royal Marines ensure that their posture and form is perfect on each exercise. They don’t rush to get through them by arching their backs on press-ups or swinging their legs to complete a pull-up.

In addition to circuit training, Royal Marines also perform regular progressive shuttleruns – also known as The Bleep Test.

The Bleep Test

The objective of the bleep test is to run for as long as possible between two points which are placed 20 metres apart; keeping to the speed indicated by the bleeps on the bleep test.

The test is maximal and progressive. It starts out slowly and the speed increases each minute. A single bleep indicates the end of a shuttle run, which means you should be at the 20 metre line when you hear it. As the test continues, the amount of time between beeps shortens. This means that you need to increase your speed to reach the end of each shuttle in time. When you hear three beeps, this indicates the end of a minute, at which point the speed will increase.

Make sure that you start each shuttle with at least one foot behind the 20 metre line and ensure you turn properly by pushing away with one foot or the other to avoid injury.

Ready to become a Royal Marines Commando?

Once you feel like you’ve achieved a good level of physical fitness and your mental strength and clarity is steely, gritty, determined etc and so on, you can – if you’d like to – apply to join the Royal Marines. For many people, performing the exercises and gaining the mental strength of a Royal Marine is enough. But if you’re one of the select few that strive to achieve more than this, then you’re exactly what they’re looking for!

If you’re a Royal Marine, or training to become a Royal Marine, drop us a comment and let us know how the training is going and any tips and advice to become better men.

We first published this article in 2008 but after rework we have now published it again.

Just A Guy Thing is a men's lifestyle magazine focused primarily at guys wanting to better themselves.

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