After accepting a job offer with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), all new recruits are required to complete basic training.
Basic training will teach you the core skills and knowledge to succeed in a military environment. Courses emphasize basic military skills, weapons handling, first aid and ethical values. Since physical fitness is an important part of military service, a large part of the course is spent on fitness training.
If you already have a university degree and you are joining the CAF under a Direct Entry Officer Plan, you will complete Basic Training over a 12-week period. If you are attending one of the Military Colleges, you will complete Basic Training in two seven-week sessions over the course of two consecutive summers. If you have been accepted to a civilian university and are joining under the Subsidized Education Plan, you will complete basic training in one seven-week session and one eight-week session over two consecutive summers.
Basic training takes place at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
What to expect from basic training
Basic training will teach you a new way of life. It may be the most demanding experience you have ever had and requires hard work and perseverance. The more prepared you are, the better able you will be to meet the physical demands of basic training.
Here is an overview of what to expect:
Your days start at 5 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. Each training day consists of physical training, marching, classes and practical sessions on a variety of military subjects. You will spend your evenings maintaining personal equipment and living quarters, and prepare for the next day’s activities.
Field exercises focus on practical military skills such as weapons firing, map and compass use, and marches of various lengths in full combat gear. You may also set up your own accommodations and do your own cooking.
Obstacle course training involves physical tasks like scaling two- and four-metre walls, climbing a four-metre net, and crossing a four-metre ditch while hanging from a set of monkey bars. Good upper body strength and power are necessary to successfully complete the obstacle course.
The military swim standard is a key element of basic training. This test involves jumping into a pool wearing a life jacket and swimming 50 metres. You must also somersault into the water without a life jacket, tread water for two minutes and then swim 20 metres. If you cannot swim, take some basic swimming courses before basic training.
Regular physical training sessions will prepare you for field exercises, 13-kilometre marches in full combat gear, and meeting the CAF minimum physical fitness standard.
Your physical training at basic training will include:
- skill and strength development
- running distances up to six kilometres
- marches of various lengths in full combat gear
Your overall success in basic training will depend on your contribution to the team effort. If you are out of shape, you will not do well on the field exercises and you will not be a strong team member.
Physical fitness evaluation
During the first week of basic training, you will take the FORCE Evaluation fitness test to assess your level of physical fitness. You must pass this test in order to continue with basic training.
The test includes four components:
- sandbag lift
- intermittent loaded shuttles
- sandbag drag
- 20-metre rushes
Take a look at these examples of the four components.
If you do not meet all four of the fitness test objectives but can meet one or more, you may be able to take additional training as part of the Program to Return to Training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School. You will have a maximum of 90 days to meet all three of the test objectives.
If you are unsuccessful in meeting the four FORCE Evaluation fitness test objectives at the end of the 90 days, you will be released from the CAF. You may re-start the application process three to five years after your release date (depending on the circumstances of your release) by submitting a new application online or at one of our Canadian Forces Recruiting Centres.
Preparing for basic training
Before starting basic training, you should be able to:
- run five kilometres
- run 2.4 kilometres within an appropriate time (see chart below)
- complete push-ups with a full range of motion and sit-ups
- complete a hand-grip test
- tread water for at least two minutes and swim 20 metres without a life jacket
|Age range||Acceptable range|
|Under 30 years||10:13 – 11:56||12:36 – 14:26|
|30 – 34||10:35 – 12:26||12:57 – 14:55|
|35 – 39||10:58 – 12:56||13:27 – 15:25|
|40 – 44||11:12 – 13:25||13:57 – 15:55|
|45 – 49||11:27 – 13:56||14:26 – 16:25|
|50 – 54||11:57 – 14:25||14:56 – 16:54|
|55 and over||12:27 – 14:56||15:27 – 17:24|
By the time you complete basic training, you will be able to:
- complete a 13-kilometre march in full combat gear
- complete push-up and sit-up tests
- run up to six kilometres
- complete swimming tests
- scale walls and cross ditches
Getting ready to train
An excellent way to determine your fitness level is to undergo a fitness appraisal.
Talk to your doctor before starting a fitness routine or appraisal, particularly if you have a heart condition, feel chest pain, lose your balance or consciousness, have a bone or joint problem, or take drugs for a blood pressure or heart condition.
Tell your doctor about the kinds of activities you want to do and follow his or her advice.
Physical fitness training
Your fitness program should start at a level that is right for you now. You can progress gradually as your strength and endurance improve.
When starting a workout session, consider the frequency, intensity, time and type of activity and your goals. In other words, follow the FITT principle:
- Frequency is a balance between exercising often enough to challenge your body and resting enough to allow your body to recover from the workout.
- Intensity is measured using your heart rate during aerobic activity and workload during muscular strength training. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to increase your overall endurance.
- Time of your workout generally increases as you become more fit. However, if you exercise more than 60 minutes you may risk overtraining and injury.
- Type refers to the kind of exercise you choose to achieve particular fitness goals: aerobic exercise for cardio fitness and resistance training for muscular strength.
Getting fit with FITT
As a rule of thumb, ease into your activities, gradually increase each element of FITT, and end each session with a cool-down. For example:
- Begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up. Walking, biking or a slow jog will increase blood flow to the muscles and lightly increase your heart rate. Follow up with some light stretching of the muscles you will be using in your workout.
- Improving your overall fitness is most effectively done through a combination of 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic and strength exercises. The two sample fitness sessions below are based on Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology guidelines.
- A 5- to 10-minute cool-down helps return your body to its normal, pre-exercise condition. Suddenly stopping an intense workout can make you dizzy, nauseated or even faint. Walking, biking or a slow jog will gradually bring down your heart rate and relieve muscle soreness.
Sample fitness sessions
Aerobic fitness session
Frequency: Three to five times a week. Initially, exercising three times a week on non-consecutive days is best, gradually increasing your frequency to four to five times a week.
Intensity: 65 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. To determine the intensity of your aerobic exercise, first calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Next, count the number of times your heart beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to determine the average beats per minute. Divide the beats per minute by the maximum rate and multiply by 100. The resulting number is the percentage of intensity.
Time: 20 to 60 minutes. Your workout sessions should last about 20 minutes for the first few weeks. Gradually increase your time two to three minutes each week. The frequency and duration should not be increased in the same week; increase them one at a time.
Type: Any activity that raises your heart rate is a good activity. However, work towards running – a major part of basic training.
Muscular strength session
Frequency: Two to three times per week. Use all major muscle groups.
Intensity: The appropriate weight is what you can lift the required number of times and not more. The first set of exercises in a weight program is a warm-up set even though you have done a structured warm-up.
Time: 15 to 60 minutes. Your workout sessions should last about 15 minutes for the first few weeks. Gradually increase your time two to three minutes each week. The frequency and duration should not be increased in the same week; increase them one at a time.
Type: Resistance training can include both free weights and resistance machines.
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