So here I was, my first hour at boot camp, scared to death, and trying to follow instructions. The first thing we were taught was the acronym N.A.V.Y. (never again volunteer yourself). The next thing was distribution and assembly of dog tags. I was so scared that my hands were shaking and I actually had to ask a shipmate to help me with the process. I recall being herded to barracks (on the second floor I believe) and I think there was bedding folded on each bunk when we arrived. We were told to go to sleep because it would be morning shortly. I don’t think I actually made my bed. I think I just got under the blanket and eventually fell asleep. It seemed like it was only minutes later…when I heard a horrible racket. Someone had rolled a 50 gallon drum down the center of the barracks. I jumped out of bed tired, scared, and totally disoriented. And so began day one of boot camp.
I want to take a moment away from my story to tell you about my afternoon. I arrived at my gym just as the power went out. We were having a rare summer thunderstorm in April and some combination of lightening strikes and strong rain knocked the power out. I stood at the door trying to figure out how to do my workout in a gym with no power. Abs would be easy. But how was I going to do cardio? While I was standing there, the Boot Camp class teacher approached me and insisted I come in and work out with the class. They were doing circuits. So I joined the class and got a great workout. Our last cardio exercise was laps around the classroom – jogging. I was not really trying to outrun anyone, just a nice steady jog, trying to make sure that I ran the entire room rather than cutting corners. And this is where the story ties to what I had planned to write about boot camp (the Navy).
Our first few days in Orlando were pretty cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Nevertheless, we worked out on the “grinder” (blacktop). We did jumping jacks, squat thrusts (like a combination of burpees and mountain climbers), push ups, sit ups, and running. Unfortunately, when we did our first timed run I did not run fast enough and was assigned to ‘remedial running’. What the heck was that? Well, every afternoon I ran over to the gym. Why did I run? You see, in the Navy, if you were traveling on your own across base, you had to run – if you were accompanied by others, you could march. Once I arrived at the gym, I would check in and then begin running laps in the gym. I did this every day; rain or shine. After a couple of weeks, the rest of the company stopped daily workouts due to ‘red flag’ conditions making it unsafe to workout. I did not get that luxury. Every day I ran my laps in the gym.
This had two interesting effects. One, we were measured for our uniforms around the middle of boot camp and by the time we went for the second fitting, mine literally fell off of me. Second, while others in my company struggled with the final fitness test required to graduate, I passed with no problems. I found that I actually liked, no loved being strong, fit, and healthy. My sense of pride and accomplishment were so strong by the time we graduated that I cried when it was time to leave.
But somehow I forgot that feeling and that passion again. It didn’t take long for me to go right back to what I knew in college – drinking and dancing.