One thing that always makes the US military stand out in physical training is the smart, uniform PT gear issued to every service person, and the US Army recently took that to a new level with the updated black APFU system. However, if you work in law enforcement or as a contractor, you’re not going to get issued Army PT clothes. Once the old stuff you have left over from your service days wears out, you’re on your own.
There might also be times when military personnel prefer to be less conspicuous when training, and alternative kit can help you blend in better – for example if you’re on an overseas posting and some of the locals aren’t as understanding as they could be. Luckily the range of civilian sportswear on offer is better than it’s ever been, in every department.
Modern running shoes give outstanding grip and protection, and the styles available cover every surface, distance, and shape of foot you can think of. A good pair of all-round running shoes designed for stability will meet the requirements of most military and security professionals; unless it’s for track events, don’t get seduced into anything too specialized.
A lot of soldiers still like to train in a plain old cotton T-shirt, usually with a unit logo splashed across the front, but much better performance is available from modern fabrics. Wicking properties will get sweat away from your skin and keep you more comfortable, while not clinging and chafing like wet cotton tends to do. The first choice of upper garment should be a long-sleeved tee like the Nike Core Compression shirt that will give you more insulation in cold weather and protect your arms from sunburn when it’s hot; a short-sleeved one can be worn on top when it’s really cold or when it’s cloudy.
Shorts are ideal most of the year, but in winter, long pants win out. Shorts are available with and without modesty liners; for maximum comfort a simple design like Blackhawk’s athletic shorts are ideal, but if you’re likely to be doing a lot of indoor training or circuits, something with a liner to prevent any embarrassing displays might be preferable.
In low temperatures, a watch cap is essential; exercise powers up your circulation and if you’re bareheaded, that can translate into a lot of lost heat. You might feel like you’re generating enough to compensate, but if you have to stop running for any reason, you can quickly find out you’ve been getting slowly chilled. A layer on top helps manage your temperature. Condor’s watch cap is our most popular – it’s lightweight, soft, and machine washable.
Finally don’t forget all the little touches. For running at night some sort of high visibility clothing is essential for safety. Anyone who’s been on operations in the last few years knows how strict MPs and officers can be about wearing reflective belts; it’s annoying when you’re trying to drag your gear to the passenger terminal at Bagram and some fobbit stops you to chew you out for not glowing in the dark, but it’s a real benefit when you’re training. Sayre’s reflective belt has a quick release buckle and massive adjustability, plus the added bonus of an ID holder to get you back in the camp gate.
The Brits say “Train hard, fight easy” – a slogan they claim goes back to the Roman army – and with the latest high performance PT attire you can train harder than ever. Take advantage of it, and keep yourself ready for action.