Ask Stew: swim with cammys
Many military water survival courses require you to hover, bounce, and learn to survive while wearing your uniform in the water. One of the more difficult swimming tests is the USMC RECON drug test which requires Marines to have RECON units swim 500 meters in a cammy, followed by a variety of treading, diving and survival skills.
Here is an email from a future Marine with RECON objectives:
Mr. Smith, do you have any tips for preparing for the RECON Screener swim test? I’m ok with swimming and only tried swimming with pants and a long sleeve shirt on because I don’t have a cammy uniform yet, and it’s much more difficult. I’m still about a year away from joining the Marines, so I have time. I wonder how much I should be training with clothes on Thanks for your time – Jason S.
Jason, it’s smart of you to consider preparing for these challenges now as they present obstacles even for experienced swimmers. The screener has an incredibly difficult aquatic component, but the overall test goes far beyond just swimming.
The True RECON Training Selection Test includes the following:
Swimming: 500 meters in full cammy using Combat Side Stroke (CSS), elementary side stroke or breaststroke
Rifle Retrieval: Retrieve the rifle from the bottom of the deep end of the pool, followed by a 25 meter swim tow
Underwater swimming: 25 meters with cammies
Tread: 30 minutes in cammie
USMC PFT plus pumps: pull-ups, push-ups, crunches, 3-mile timed run
USMC Obstacle Course: Run it 2x to save time
Swimming should be a part of your daily workout, as should high repetition gymnastics and quick cardio. Practicing your technique on the obstacle course is highly recommended, as is practicing your swimming technique. If you are just OK at swimming I would recommend swimming 4-5 times a week to work on technique and conditioning.
When swimming without a cammy try this quick workout that will get you in shape for any 500 meter swim. I call it the 50-50 workout:
No training Cammy / Cammy Fam
Warm up with a 500 meter swim using any swim. You want to get your physical and mental conditioning to a point where a 500-meter swim is “just a warm-up,” so do this before any swim training.
I would do this routine for most of your weekly workouts and end up adding cammies for a 5-10 minute cooldown each day. The main training is for conditioning, and the cammy cooldown is for familiarization.
Repeat 10 times
Freestyle: 50 meters speed
CSS, coast or breaststroke: 50 meters
Try using CSS, side swimming or breaststroke to “catch your breath”. If you can’t catch your breath with any of these movements, take 10 to 15 seconds before the next set if necessary. Ultimately, you want to do this workout without rest.
For the most efficient and fastest swim of the three options (CSS, side stroke, breaststroke) I suggest using the elementary side swim as you can keep your head above the water to breathe all the time, although I would take full advantage of the wall kickoff and flips to do what’s called breaststroke out.
The problem that everyone has with swimming in cammies is that you hardly get any glide phase of your swim. The resistance that clothing creates in the water is like swimming with the brakes on.
Rest phase. There is no rest, but you can change the movements to rest for certain swimming muscle groups. You should mix up a few strokes as you might find that after a few hundred yards you either need to switch sides when doing the sideways stroke or CSS. You may need to change the kick and try breaststroke for a round or two.
The goal is to use the swim that you can do as quickly as possible while still being comfortable in the pool. Practice until there is no doubt about how you are going to swim. If you want to be competitive on this swim test you will need strategy and a lot of practice.
Once you have built up your swimming fitness with regular workouts in the pool, start doing more swim workouts with cammies and add SCUBA fins as well. Swimming with fins is a great way to complement a long run, ruck, or leg workout.
The goal is to swim the 500m in under 15 minutes, but some of the most competitive times will be in the 12-13 minute zone (or even faster), so don’t settle for the minimum standard.
This swim and the other events in the RECON Practice Selection Test require you to bring your “A” if you are to be successful. Start swimming today.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and Fitness Author Certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness e-book store if you are looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected]
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