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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Sport Runs in Their Blood

Long distance running, CrossFit, mountain climbing, martial arts, or maybe yoga and meditation? Soldiers do a lot of different sports. Many of them have championship titles on the national and international level.

“A soldier has to know how to fight, and full contact fighting should become a mass sport,” said once MajGen Jarosław Gromadziński, the commander of the 18th Mechanized Division. It is true that martial arts are now very popular in the army. There are fans of boxing, kick-boxing, judo, karate, and a lot of soldiers try their strength in the octagon, facing opponents in MMA (mixed martial arts). They also have successes in CrossFit, mountain and sport climbing, they are champions in triathlon and duathlon, swimming, weight-lifting, diving, or short and long distance running. Regardless of the chosen sport, they have one thing in common: strength of character.

Asana for a Commando

LtCol Paweł Probierz, until recently the director of training at JW AGAT, and now an officer at the Special Operations Component Command, has been running long distance for many years. He has taken part in seven marathons, 18 half marathons, many mountain runs, as well as duathlons (running and cycling) and triathlons (running, cycling and swimming). For several years now, he has also been engaging in a very different form of activity. “I took up yoga, without knowing that was the name for it,” he admits with a smile. Twenty years ago, after a serious spine injury, his doctor suggested doing some exercises strengthening abdominal and back muscles as rehabilitation. It helped. “Later, due to intensive running training, I started suffering from knee pain. I was put under the care of orthopedists and physiotherapists. I also started exercising according to the guidelines offered by Kelly Starrett, the author of the book Ready to Run. I then discovered that the exercises I’ve been doing come from yoga,” recalls the officer.

He began going to yoga classes at fitness centers, later he started postgraduate studies, specializing in yoga in prevention and therapy. “These are practical studies for people who want to conduct yoga-based exercise and breathing classes. During practical sessions, we did asanas [yoga body postures], relaxation and concentration exercises,” enumerates the officer. He explains yoga is also a breathing practice. “I need peace and focus, so every day I arrive at the unit before 6:00 a.m. and I devote an hour to a mental and breathing practice. Thanks to yoga I’ve been able to raise my oxygen uptake, lower my blood pressure and my heart rate during training,” admits LtCol Probierz.

He has already ‘infected’ several of his friends from the unit with yoga. Once, he even conducted a class for commandos during their training camp in the mountains. “They loved it and asked for more,” says the officer. The soldiers who have tried yoga admit that at the beginning it can be harder than gym training. “When you are unable to stand correctly in a posture, your breath is short and you quickly get tired. Yoga requires patience and perseverance,” they say. This form of exercise strengthens all muscle parts and accelerates their regeneration. “It’s particularly important for soldiers whose daily training is exhausting and can cause injuries,” adds the officer. He dreams for yoga to be introduced into the physical education training program in the Polish Armed Forces. Soldiers from other special operations forces units have also already learned the benefits of yoga.

Yoga is practiced by soldiers from the USA, the Netherlands, Germany or India. Over ten years ago, military units in Kashmir introduced such exercises into regular training of soldiers executing particularly stressful tasks. In the USA, soldiers in active service and foreign mission veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), are sent to free yoga courses. Weekly yoga classes are also organized by the soldiers of, for example, the 101st Airborne Division.

Reaching Mountain Tops

Many soldiers test their capabilities by training, for example, mountain climbing. Hati, a medic who serves at JW NIL, began his mountain adventure in the Beskids. Later, he hiked across the Tatras, and when he was still unsatisfied, he headed for the Alps, where he repeatedly climbed the highest peaks, and with time, also started running. He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Island Peak and Ama Dablam in the Himalayas, Lenin Peak and Ismoil Somoni Peak [earlier Communism Peak] in the Pamir Range, and last year – the highest mountain in Peru – Huascarán. “Mountains are beautiful, and each of them is different. We reach higher and higher peaks to cross our own limitations. Of course, it comes with a fair share of risk and adrenaline,” says Hati, who is a participant of the Polski Himalaizm Sportowy (PHS – Polish Himalayan Sport Mountaineering) program.

SSWO Grzegorz “Paris” Pasuto of JW AGAT shares Hati’s passion. He is a climbing and skiing instructor, the first special operations forces soldier to reach (in 2013) the peak of Nun

(23,409 ft) in Kashmir. He has also repeatedly climbed the highest mountains in the Alps. My adventure with climbing started when I was still in SPAP [Samodzielny Pododdział Antyterrorystyczny Policji – Independent Counter-terrorism Police Subdivision] in Katowice. Later, already at the unit in Gliwice, I became a »góral« [highlander], i.e. a soldier who is mainly prepared to operate in high mountains,” he says. “Today, I can’t imagine my life without mountains. I spend over seven months a year there. I am an instructor during the selection process, I teach soldiers to climb, I train myself and I organize courses for civilians.”

In mid-June, Paris and Hati set off as members of a seven-person group on an expedition to Pakistan. Their goal is to climb Broad Peak (26,414 ft) and several other, smaller mountains. Why are they doing this? They admit it is a challenge they have been preparing for all their lives. “Reaching mountain peaks is a great lesson of humility and an enormous effort. Mountains make you tough, build your character and mental resilience, they teach you to listen closely to yourself, your body,” emphasizes Paris, adding that all these traits are sought after in soldiers, especially commandos. The expedition to Pakistan is not only about fulfilling personal ambitions. The experience gained on one of the highest mountains in the world is to be used in the process of creating a new alpine training program for special operations forces.

Soul of a Fighter

MMA has been very popular among soldiers for many years. One of them is Pvt Błażej Majdan of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, who has been training MMA for a decade. “I’ve always been drawn to sports. I’ve tried my strength in football, swimming, later wrestling and boxing, to finally focus on MMA. I am cut out for this discipline: you fight on your feet and on the ground, all moves are allowed: throws, punches, kicks and joint locks,” enumerates Pvt Majdan. He is a multiple amateur champion of Poland in MMA, he has won medals during the championships of the Polish uniformed services in kick-boxing, and in full contact championships. To date, he has fought eight professional fights, four of which he has won. His fourth win took place on June 18, during the MMA Armia Fight Night gala. Pvt Majdan defeated Dawit Chuciszwili from Georgia in the octagon.

Majdan admits it is hard to combine service (he has been a soldier for three years) with sport. “Especially now, as we have a lot of trainings and group exercises on training grounds, and we are being deployed on the Polish-Belarusian border,” he says. “However, you must be able to train in any conditions. In the Lublin area, for example, I trained in between duties. We had a gym at our disposal, I also did running practice.”

Combat sports, although of very different character, are also the specialty of the 21-year-old Pvt 1st Class Weronika Krzywicka. She has served in the 5th Territorial Defense Brigade for three years, and has trained Kyokushin karate for 13 years. “I started training when I was 8. I liked the first training, so I stayed,” she says. Systematic training paid off and brought successes. In 2015, as a junior, she became the champion of Poland and won a bronze medal at the European Championships.

Currently, already as a senior, she fights opponents who are over 18. In June, at the 35th European Kyokushin Karate Championships in Bulgaria she won second place. “This has been my greatest achievement so far. I am very happy, as the preparations for the competition had cost me quite a lot of effort,” says Krzywicka. She adds that sport strengthened her character, taught her humility, orderliness and discipline. “Many of these traits now prove useful in service,” she admits. She also passes on her knowledge and skills to other soldiers. During rotational trainings she teaches hand-to-hand fighting to the soldiers of the 51st Light Infantry Battalion.

Train Everywhere

CrossFit has recently become very popular among active people. The fashion for CrossFit is also visible in the army ranks. According to the rules of the sport, training sessions of various intensity are organized every day, and CrossFitters are to simultaneously develop strength, performance, coordination and endurance. “Another advantage of CrossFit is that such training doesn’t require any specialist equipment, which can be found, for example, at the gym. All you need are bags with sand, tires, sometimes a weighted vest. That’s why CrossFit is so popular on missions or during extended stays on training grounds,” says Pvt 1st Class Karol Twardosz of the 16th Airborne Battalion. “CrossFit was popular among soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, as well as those deployed on the Polish-Belarusian border. You can train anywhere if you have the will to do it,” he adds. The scout has been doing CrossFit for several years, and at the same time sharing his passion with others. He is a co-creator of CrossFit trainings that are to commemorate paratroops killed during missions.

“CrossFit is a perfect form of activity for soldiers. In a short time, it enables them to develop all motor skills. It significantly increases the range of motion and flexibility of the body. There is one condition to be met, just as in any other discipline: the trainings must be regular,” says Pvt Damian Bieniek of the 18th Command Battalion of the 18th Mechanized Division. He has taken up CrossFit only recently. Earlier, he was training calisthenics. “It is a very difficult discipline, a type of strength training where you use your own body weight as resistance,” explains Bieniek. He adds that an advantage of calisthenics is that it requires no special equipment and very little space. “I exercise every day, usually for two and a half hours. I like very challenging trainings, until the so-called cut-off. Recently, I’ve added circuit training based on CrossFit to my typical calisthenics routine. I recommend it to everyone,” he says. “People who work out at gyms usually do it in comfort: warm bars, nice music. However, sports like CrossFit and calisthenics like sand, dirt, cold and rain. They pull sportspeople out of their comfort zones. I conduct my trainings even if it is -4°F outside,” he adds, admitting that for the last nine years he has only had one longer break in training, when he had COVID. The trainings are not only a pleasure for him – they increase his strength, stamina, flexibility, agility, coordination, and shape his silhouette. He persuaded many of his fellows at the unit to take up calisthenics and CrossFit. The 18th division’s staff and command officers also train with him.

Regardless of the chosen discipline and type of training, soldiers admit that sports create fighters, strengthen their mind, psychophysical resistance, make soldiers strong-willed, hard and relentless. “The army, just like sport, requires people with strong character, motivated, determined and willing to fight. No wonder we have so many great athletes in the army ranks,” adds Pvt Majdan.

Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek

autor zdjęć: Paweł Sobkowicz, Paris Adventure, arch. prywatne, DWOT

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