Thanks to 2ndLt for answering our questions on OCS in the fall. Read Part 1 of his article.
Q: Retrospectively, how should candidates prepare for OCS?
Understand that at OCS you will almost never be given a long distance and told to just run. You will have a 3-mile boots and utes run, and 5-mile run towards the end of the cycle, along with three PFTs. This is the same whether you go to OCS in the fall or any other time of year. Just about every other PT session will involve some sort of high-intensity repetition, like Fartleks, the MEC, the O-course, CFT prep, etc.
Consequently, it would behoove candidates to run a lot of shorter intervals in preparation for OCS. I ran a number of Fartleks and 400-800m intervals ahead of OCS, and I felt as though that paid dividends.
I had also been warned ahead of time about “Core Strength and Conditioning” PT, which is a series of core and plyometric exercises for time. I modeled my workouts to prepare for those as well. A few other tips I would advise candidates utilize:
- Don’t neglect the weight room. That doesn’t mean you should be looking to add mass or spend 2 hours a day bench pressing because you shouldn’t, but having good total body strength and explosiveness is an asset and will help prevent injuries at OCS.
- Make sure you are running hills and trails ahead of time. Those who only ran on asphalt and tracks paid the price at OCS.
- Have a consistent stretching and rolling program that you start many months ahead of OCS and continue at OCS. If you are going to OCS in the fall, start your stretching program in the summer. An injury is the number one reason candidates get sent home. Taking care of your body and developing dynamic flexibility can go a long way towards ensuring that this is not you.
Q: How do you prepare for hikes?
Break in a set of boots before you get to OCS. I bought a pair of Bates Lites and had them ready to roll when I got to OCS. I used them for every PT session we had that required boots, including the O and E-Course.
That said, hiking too much and logging too many miles ahead of time can lead to overuse injuries and may be counterproductive.
I was always a strong hiker, hiked just a handful of times in boots before OCS, and I was just fine at OCS. If hiking is a weakness for you, by all means, hike. Typically, those who struggled did so because they were short or perhaps lacked the total body strength to manage their pack size. For the latter, work squats and deadlifts in the weight room before you show up, for the former, Semper Gumby. In either case, it would be smart to hike ahead of time. You can follow the Colour Sergeant’s Guide on the official OCS site for a good hiking program. Make sure however that you slowly build your pack weight and distance. Don’t dive right into a 12-mile death march. The same goes for boots and utes runs. Start with a half mile and build distance slowly. If I had to sum it all up, I would say work hard, work consistently, work functionally, and work safely.
No one workout will get you ready for OCS, but one workout could injure you and set you back. Months of consistent, cumulative preparation utilizing functional workouts will prepare you for OCS. Showing up to OCS in exceptional shape is the difference between PT sessions being a source of stress relief and a confidence builder, and PT sessions being another source of stress.
For me, I PT’d religiously for over a year before OCS, and I did not find the PT to be especially challenging at all. Except for the E-course, which will suck even if you are in incredible shape.
Q: Any parting words of wisdom or encouragement for candidates?
OCS is a test of your dedication as much as anything else. It boils down to a game, and the only rule of that game is you always lose. If you somehow win, the rules will change to ensure you lose. The course is structured to create stress, discomfort, and discouragement to make you doubt yourself and give up. They are evaluating whether or not you keep pushing and displaying effort absent any source of encouragement or immediate gratification. Depending on when you go, the instructors will use environmental factors i.e. weather to make your life miserable. OCS in the fall is a good time. The reality is that every candidate who gets selected was chosen out of hundreds of qualified candidates because they are capable of finishing this course because they belong.
If you are selected, it is because to prepared diligently and exhibited the leadership potential to lead Marines. Lean on this at OCS, because amidst the chaos and discouragement you may very well doubt you belong. This is by design.
Remember all of the hours you poured into PT, academic preparation, and getting past the selection board and trust that you can finish. You will undoubtedly fail at something at OCS. Nearly everyone does. If you compensate for your shortcomings with effort and intensity, you will ultimately succeed. The fact is nothing you will be asked to do at OCS is beyond your ability to finish. In fact, were it not for the sleep deprivation and external friction very few of the individual events would be all that difficult. Thus the biggest obstacles will always be mental. Ignore that internal voice telling you to stop and keep pushing. Chow to Chow, rack to rack, libo to libo, dig deep and put out. Before you know it you’ll be crossing the parade deck with gold bars pinned on your shoulders.
Candidates, what questions do you have about attending OCS in the fall?