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DEPLETION DAYS

In the daily grind that is many times training as a professional, most long-term programs should be based around rest and recovery.  Rather than seeing how much training you can cram into what should already be a robust skill development and action-filled life, place equal value on “re-stocking the mental and physical power plant.”  You will be amazed at the different outlook and approach it can stimulate.

An approach used by several high-tempo organizations is based around what they call a “depletion day.”  A hard and longish evaluation event is conducted to completely deplete the body and in many cases the mind to 1) establish baselines of strength, endurance, and work capacity and 2) evaluate the recovery process for the individual.  Besides giving the individual and the leadership a good look at where each and every person is, the event offers the “shared hardship” cohesion ingredient that often proves valuable as training and operations go forward.  Rather than ease into a long training period, this event is executed and then patiently – but relentlessly – skills, preparation, and supplemental training goes forward.

An example is a type of round robin event known in one unit as the “Comprehensive.”  It consists of the following:  an inventory Physical Fitness Test from the individual’s military service (for example, the USMC test is a maximum set of pullups; a 2-minute situp test; and a three-mile timed run).  Once complete, the individual has 1 hour to recover.  Then, a work capacity circuit is conducted.  A common one contains multiple events – sled pull and push; sandbag lift and carry; “wall and crawl” obstacle negotiation; and a longtime special ops favorite, buddy carrying.  This circuit is time-based and numbers of reps are counted and recorded.  At completion there is another recovery period, to include preparation for the final event – Rough Terrain Movement (RTM).  This event involves carrying a load with operational items along a route in which cross compartment movement is combined with skill execution (rope bridge construction, field expedient communication construction, and basic land navigation are a few opportunities to succeed) for time.  RTM is usually very challenging.

This overall event is difficult and is designed to establish both physical parameters – but also to galvanize the unit via the individual  as to current levels of preparation and areas of both strength and weakness.  Unit members receive their respective scores privately and – as the training period begins in earnest over the months ahead – they will have the opportunity to conduct some of the events again to judge improvement.

Interestingly, the most important part of this event is the post-event recovery phase.  Medical personnel and performance specialists closely monitor the individual as well as provide expertise in nutrition and functional recovery applications (stretching and myofascial release therapy to name a few).  Recovery periods – after events like this – are incredibly important.  The reinforcement of recovery will also be stressed throughout all subsequent training and preparation.  All in all, events of this type are quite comprehensive – hence the name.

It is important to state that this type of event is NOT a selection.  Members are already a part of the unit.  They have already “proved it” to become a part.  However, a common adage in unit’s of this type is the phrase “tough for a day” – a telling reminder that many – when trying to get in – are supermen, only to fall away after the feeling that they are “in.”  In reality, the professional must approach each day with the resolve to operate at his top level in everything he does.

For those walking the professional path, it is germane to prepare and train wisely for your chosen endeavor.  The demands of time, responsibility, and fitness levels can alter intensity and the ability to fully integrate a comprehensive skill development and preparation program.  However, it is important to reinforce the need to work all of your events around the need to recover, i.e., adequate sleep, nutrition, and time to relax and re-charge.  The best way to do that is to establish a reason to recover.

Enter the Depletion Days…. sometimes dreaded, always remembered, much needed, and a valuable tool for the now and becoming professional.  Do something hard, something that takes you to a limit.  Make it long, simple, but hard.  Then, as you recover, plan to go all out in all that you do.  Part of going all out is the ability to perform on demand.  The other part – reinforced by depletion – is the need to go all-out in recovery.  This approach is – in a word – exemplary.

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