How to Train for the Commando Challenge (Part 1 of 3)

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

The brilliant folk over at the Royal Marines Commando Challenge have invited me to write a few training blogs with some tips on how to train for an event like this, so here’s the first one. My intention is that my blogs will help you to progress your fitness to tackle a challenge like this and to help you get into tip-top shape, increasing your strength and fitness ready for the day.

1. Getting started – start early

If you have the luxury of time (as you would if you are reading this when I wrote it seven months before the October event date) then you have plenty of time to get yourself event ready.

But do not be fooled! You’ll be engaging with the Royal Marines and using an area of Military land that the Royal Marines use for their Endurance Course. The Endurance Course is one of the 4 Commando tests that all Royal Marine recruits must pass in order to earn their Commando green beret.

So, if you’re intending to get around in one piece, preparation is of paramount importance. The more prepared you’re mentally and physically, then the more you’ll enjoy your Commando Challenge experience.

2. It’s not just about fitness...

To help yourself get mentally prepared, read everything on the Commando Challenge website. There’s already a lot of information about the 5k and 10K event routes, the obstacles and generally what to expect on the day, so swat up.

3. Build a strong foundation – get organised

You need to build a strong foundation of strength, fitness and overall conditioning. It’s not rocket science guys but the stronger and fitter you can get then the more enjoyable the event will be.

As the Royal Marines will tell you - the endurance course is a test of a recruit’s cardiovascular fitness. In other words, a test of the heart and lung’s ability to continue for a per longed period – i.e. ‘endurance’. However, as I mentioned in a previous blog of mine regarding ‘the components of fitness’, strength and cardio are both closely linked, therefore you’ll also need to improve your muscular endurance too.

This can easily be combined in with your training programme.

4. Keep it basic

If you’re new to exercise, then you want to use this early training time to ease yourself in to fitness training. Start off with just two training sessions a week and aim to add a third session in just a few weeks.

Session 1 basic circuit. There’s no need to over complicate things in the beginning so keep your circuit training basic at first. You can simply add to this as your strength and fitness progresses.

You want to strengthen and condition your body as a whole. Remember you don’t just use your legs when you run. You’ll also be using your upper body, arms, shoulder & core.

Try these strength exercises to start with to get yourself conditioned. Do 5+ repetitions on exercise 1-4, as the legs are generally a larger muscle group aim to do double of your repetitions for squats. Start with a steady controlled pace on all these exercises aiming for a more quality form with focus on full range of movement.

Remember you’re building a strong foundation with these exercises. Try to add at least 1 (or more) repetitions to each exercise every week. You can start with doing just one circuit but aim to do 3-4. Rest at the end of each circuit for no more then 30 seconds. If you need to rest longer then stick with just 2 circuits until your rest time can be lowered. Drink water if you want to and then go for it again.

1. Press Ups

2. Crunches

3. Hip Raises

4. Leg Raise

5. Squats

Session 2 steady run. Here you just want to get yourself used to running and please don’t beat yourself up if you’re not very good at it to start with. At first aim for endurance and not speed. I use the term endurance but know fully well that many of you may not be able to run three miles. Even just one mile might feel a long way at first. Plan your running route and do not increase your distance until you can run the route all the way round without stopping.

If you’re not sure, then start with one mile. When you can run this simply add half a mile to your route. Then when you can run this add another half a mile and so on. If you get to a distance that you struggle with then just continue at this same mileage till you feel comfortable to start adding again.

5. The weak link

As you start to progress through your training routine you may find that some exercises are easier than others or your running ability feel better than performing on the strength circuit. This is your weak link and will also be the deciding factor for what you need to do for your third training session.

If you’re struggling with your running, then your third workout will be an extra run. If this is the case, then try to keep the distance the same on each day but still try to add an extra half when you can.

This will be a similar pattern if you’re struggling on your strength circuit. Do just one run but add another circuit workout to your weeks training.

If, however you’re struggling on one particular exercise with your strength circuit then do not add any more repetitions until you feel the exercise or area of your body has caught up.

Training week A – More cardio training needed.

Monday: Cardio run

Wednesday: Strength circuit

Friday: Cardio run

Training week B – More strength training needed.

Monday: Strength circuit

Wednesday: Cardio run

Friday: Strength Circuit

6. Equal fitness of cardio and strength

When you feel your strength, or running ability have evened out simply use training weeks A and B as a two-week training programme. If you’re up for it add these extra exercises to your strength circuit. You can either add them all at the same time or one at a time when you feel ready to.

Dolphin press Jumping Jacks Fast high knee raises

Exercise 2 and 3 are high intensity exercises aimed at boosting your cardiovascular fitness and should be treated like a sprint. See if you can do 20 or 30 seconds going as fast as you can. For a full description of each exercise of your strength circuit you can simply google them or ask me via email.

Keep an eye out for my next blog; part 2 of 3 coming out in just a few months.

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