They yelled at us to get into bed quickly. We were made to take off our boots and get into our sleeping bags. It was 11.40pm during week 3 of my Commando selection course and I had a sneaking suspicion the night was not over.
20 minutes later the screaming commenced. We were ordered out of our beds, to dress in battle PT equipment and to form up on the road just outside of the tents we were ‘sleeping’ in.
A famous ‘Signature Session’ had just commenced. A 3-hour long physical training activity.
We were split into 5-man teams and given the activity brief. We had very little time to utilise the equipment placed behind us to construct a sled-type contraption. We had tyres, jerry cans full of water, rope, a huge log and some other bits and pieces.
The sled was to be constructed so that all of the equipment could be loaded and have the ability to be pulled by 4 soldiers from the front. The remaining soldier was to carry 2 water jerry cans from the rear.
Needless to say, we didn’t do it fast enough and were given punishments accordingly until we completed the construction. Finally we were out on the dark, unlit road, dragging our heavy rudimentary sled along in the moonless night.
It was tough going. We were all sweating profusely as we tried our best to move the sled up the road. There were 6 teams and nobody wanted to be the last. The last group was getting some extra attention from the instructors which made things even more challenging.
The pace was relentless with our assigned instructors ‘encouraging’ us constantly to up the pace and get to the front of the pack.
“Don’t be last” was the constant cry from the instructors.
We were all putting in our maximum effort. Our legs were burning, our backs straining and our forearms bursting due to the weight.
We had a couple of guys drop out and the teams were readjusted.
I glanced at my watch… 12.35am.
It was hard to get into a nice rhythm. We were bent forward carrying the heavy log and trying to gain some forward momentum. With the equipment dragging behind us, it was not efficient. It wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be awkward, heavy, draining and frustrating. And it was.
Some guys vented their frustrations. This was a poor decision as the instructors were all over anyone who displayed any signs of anger, frustration or lack of coping mechanisms and concentrated their berating efforts on that individual.
We were rotating consistently. Trying to give everybody a break in certain positions to relieve some of the physical stress.
I glanced at my watch again… 12.45am.
We were ordered to stop by the instructors and look behind us. One team was way behind the main pack and, to ensure we kept the group together, we commenced burpees on the side of the road until the rear team caught up. The burpees were actually relieving.
Once the entire group was together again, we continued to move forward. How far was anybody’s guess.
I tried to concentrate on my breathing and attempted to get into some kind of rhythm. This was difficult due to the log and our body position, but it was something to at least focus on.
Then things seemed to change a little. I seemed to become more comfortable with the physical activity. I seemed to get into a better and more sustainable rhythm.
I looked at my watch… 1.03am.
What I discovered that night and what I confirmed in subsequent ‘Signature Sessions’, is how the body and mind reacts to hard physical training. The initial onslaught is brutal and almost overwhelming. It’s designed that way. It’s meant to get you out of your comfort zone and operating at and past your limits quickly to see how you cope.
This is the toughest part but, if you can handle this initial assault, you’ll learn to adapt and overcome. You’ll get into a rhythm, become comfortable with being uncomfortable, operating in your environment and learning to accept the situation for what it is.
Tough situations come to an end.
The march up the road continued. Eventually we were moved off the road and into the bush where we discovered a number of inflatable boats waiting for us. We all listened intently to a safety brief and were given our next activity. Our task was to carry these boats back to the start point with all of our sled equipment.
Some of us smirked. The task was a good one!
We got on with it and eventually found our way back to our tents. I looked at my watch again… 3.15am.
When you’re in a tough and overwhelming situation, whether physical, mental or both, remember the initial onslaught is the hardest part. Stick with it and you’ll find a rhythm. Concentrate on your breathing and remember…
…it may not get easier, but you’ll be able to handle it better and more efficiently. Try to smirk, inject some humour and be certain that eventually, all tough situations come to an end.