Will Simpson, is a very good friend of mine from Loughborough University, we played several years of rugby together and shared numerous good times. After graduating from Loughborough University in 2012 Will played for Championship team Doncaster Knights before joining the army. An extremely fit lad himself, I hope this post gives an intriguing insight into military fitness!
Will, please give a little bit about yourself?
I played a few years of rugby with Tom at Loughborough before playing for Championship club Doncaster Knights. I always knew though I wanted to join the army so I spent a year at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before joining the Light Cavalry regiment The 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards where I've spent almost a year now.
Where did your interest in the army originate and how is it all going so far?
My interest first properly came from my Dad who was also in the army as a young man, but I’ve always loved the idea of the adventure, the outdoors and the physical nature of the job.
So far I’m loving it… there have been some fairly rank days/nights but they are often the best bits (looking back on them). It was quite daunting at first, joining the regiment and meeting your troopers & troop sergeant, but we’ve all been working hard towards a big jungle exercise coming up just before Christmas which I couldn't be more excited for.
Having witnessed you smash all the fitness tests at Loughborough earning you the nickname "greyhound" have you always had a passion for health and fitness?!
Haha, I dunno. I’ve fortunately found fitness pretty easy, so I guess you like what your strong at…
How important is physical conditioning in the army to ensure peak standards are met?
I’ve found that if your fit you can get away with murder in the army. Its one of those things that is held in such a high regard. People don't tend to question your poor map reading or shooting as much - phew! Being fit also means your not hanging out your ar*e the whole time! You're able to think and make more rational decisions; something fairly important as an officer!
Talk us through a typical fitness session. What other physical fitness techniques are used?
Phys sessions are so varied. We spend a lot of time getting good and quick at carrying weight. There’s little point running a 5 minute mile in trainers but when you're wearing boots and carrying weight (sometimes 45-50kgs) its very hard to move. Swimming is now being used more as an active recovery, along with yoga sessions to prevent injuries and/or burn out.
Outside of that a lot of the boys are into Crossfit. Theres also the standard Gun Runs and Stretcher Races - both great ways to foster competitive spirit between troops.
What sort of nutrition are you consuming on a daily basis and how does a lack of rations affect your physical performance when out on exercise?
In camp we're fed well and there is always enough quantity (if not always the quality) to go around. I tend to supplement this with extra tuna wraps, porridge, protein shakes and of course avocados!
When we're are out in the field it's impossible to consume enough food due to the sheer amount of calories we burn. Unfortunately, you need to eat everything in the ration packs (including the rank mushroom omelette) to prevent burnout. A lot of the boys come back from exercise with the “Exercise Body,” which is a thin, skinny yet ripped body.
What's been your experience of sleep deprivation? I can’t imagine its for the faint hearted….
Luckily I can function on little sleep, but one time sticks out in particular... After 5 days or so without sleep I’m convinced to this day that I saw two children skipping a few yards in front of me - turned out to be two shrubs blowing in the wind! That was fairly dark.
I can imagine thinking clearly under pressure (TCUP) comes into the equation more often than not. How important is it to have a level head when exposed to the elements?
Yeh, it definitely does, and as a leader perhaps more so. Parallels can be drawn to my rugby playing days where situations become tough - thats when the trust in your training, equipment and most importantly the rest of your troop comes into play. This more often than not gets the job done.
All the best with your forthcoming jungle exercise.