The Marine Corps finest athletes will compete in the Second Annual High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) Athlete Championship in California this month. The championship, which will have Marines and Sailors testing their fitness with strength conditioning activities such as running, lifting, and jumping, will take place from Aug. 15-18, 2016, at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California. 

The road to the finals wasn’t easy. Each Marine and Sailor competed in preliminary events at their installation in order to be eligible for the Ultimate Tactical Athlete title. The top male and female winners from each installation will compete with each other at the main event. One male and one female Marine will be crowned the 2016 "Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”

Do you have what it takes to compete in next year’s championship? We asked this year’s competitors for their best nutrition and fitness tips. First up is last year’s champion SSgt Lauren Schoener from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “It is an absolute honor to be back competing this year,” said Schoener.

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

Remain consistent and never have an "end goal". Being healthy and physically fit should be ever evolving, as you meet and exceed your own perceived limitations... push further.  Also, surround yourself with like-minded, driven individuals to hold you accountable and pick up your slack if you're feeling lazy!

What is your training regimen?

I attend a CrossFit gym at 6 am and after work I complete a more "traditional" workout, typically isolating one muscle group.  Besides being in an actual gym I like to stay active and enjoy the beautiful things California has to offer!

Want more training tips? Read on for advice from some of the other finalists.

Marine Sgt Joseph Stoker, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

Nutrition is crucial to any fitness regimen. Calories consumed versus calories burned and what your calories come from are, to me, the most important things to consider. In regard to fitness, do not take any one thing you hear or read as gospel. Take in as much knowledge as you can, try it on yourself and see what works with your body type and fitness goals. There is so much to access in regard to studies, articles, and research on health and fitness and you need to incorporate as many modalities for strength, size, and endurance training as you can for optimal performance.

What is your training regimen?

I am currently training for endurance so I do my strength training (i.e. weight lifting) at 5 a.m., six days a week. My afternoon workouts are for endurance. Monday and Wednesday I do HITT training, which can consist of various technical/Olympic lifts with sprint/agility work and varying weight loadouts. On Tuesdays, I run about 4 miles with anywhere from 1,000 meter to 1 mile swim between the first and last two miles (run-swim-run). Thursday is a 4-5 mile run with a 30-40 pound vest on and Sunday is an un-weighted distance run of 6-10 miles. Saturday is a rest day/active rest day.

Marine LCpl Jonathan Goad, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

Put in hard work in the gym, eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of rest. If you do these things results will be inevitable.

What is your training regimen?

I train every muscle group once weekly and do cardiovascular training at least 4 days per week.

Marine 2ndLt Delaney Taylor Bourlakov, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

Nutrition: I love bread and chocolate so it’s difficult to completely avoid them. I try to have majority of my carbs in the morning before 12 to allow me to get my carb fix and not add on too many pounds!  Fitness: Staying positive really helps me stay motivated to keep pushing (and allows me to keep eating chocolate!)

What is your training regimen?

HITT Training: Monday/Wednesday/Friday
AMPIT Pool Training: Tuesday Morning
Long Run: Thursday Morning
Pick-Up Basketball: Tuesday/Thursday

Sgt Savannah Collier, Marine Corps Base Hawaii

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

My best fitness tip is to train your body in different environments and types of work outs such as doing an equal amount of cardio, weight lifting, and high intensity workouts. As far as nutrition the more simple the food the healthier it is. Stay clear of preservatives, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients then it’s probably not healthy for you. Keep a good balance of carbs, fats, and protein and listen to your body and what it needs.

What is your training regimen?

I do cardio lasting an hour 3 times a week, lift every day, and do CrossFit 4 times a week.

Sgt Jonathan Fuller, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

My best fitness tip is to be consistent. That doesn't always mean keeping the same training routine; rather, be consistent with the work you put in.  In the end nothing will beat dedication and hard work.  As for nutrition- think of a holistic, balanced approach instead of a "diet."  I don't worry much about calories- I simply eat natural and healthy foods (it helps being married to a dietitian).

What is your training regimen?

I lift weights 5-6 times per week, focused on strength rather than aesthetics, usually hitting each major muscle group twice a week.  I lift at 5am each morning and run Unit PT late mornings or early afternoons, which is usually interval training/circuit-based workouts. I also swim at least once or twice per week. When preparing for a competition, I alter my training regimen for about a month leading up to the event.  For example, I'm currently doing a lot more CrossFit style workouts and muscle endurance training to be ready for the TAC Finals.

SSgt Dennis Merritt, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

Consistency is always key. Finding a workout regimen that works for you because everyone is different and sticking to it. For nutrition as well. Eat real food, no fast food, soda or sweets. Eat lean meats, fruits vegetables and whole grains.

What is your training regimen?

I PT with my Marines twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings on mainly endurance and stamina. We utilize the pool, O-course, Stamina courses, and different runs. Then Monday, Wednesday and Friday at lunch we all do two hours with the Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, Performance and Resiliency (MARSOC PERRES) program trainers which train us in heavy weights, high intensity, and functional movements. On my own time I'm very active with the family including kayaking, biking, swimming and hiking. I do CrossFit and powerlift weekly and partake on Lejeune's fun/mud runs on base.

Sgt Justin P. Mears, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

My best fitness and nutrition tips would be to consistently push yourself to new limits both physically and mentally. Challenge your body and mind by getting out of your comfort zone. Amazing results will appear as long as you never get complacent. 

What is your training regimen?

My training regimen involves both HITT methodologies as well as Marine Corps Martial Arts.  I am an Instructor Trainer for my unit here at MCLB Barstow so I am constantly training Marines in all disciplines (physical, mental, and character). Throughout the week I usually train between 1-2 hours a day, focusing on HITT strength and conditioning/speed and agility or flexibility/reload as well as about 2 hours a day on Marine Corps Martial Arts Program when we are doing sustainment and integration training. 

SSgt Amanda C. Jenks, Marine Corps Base Quantico

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

The story of my journey to the HITT Tactical Athlete Competition is not a great tale of strictly regimented dieting and exercise. I am not extremely knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition, nor do I particularly try to be. Instead, my tale is one of a normal Marine who was trying to better herself and took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. I’m hoping that my story inspires other Marines because I didn’t have to make drastic changes to see an improvement in my physical fitness. I made small, easy changes and saw positive results. It was truly the Marines to my left and to my right that got me to the physical fitness level I am at today. All I had to do was show up, genuinely put forth effort, and work out.

What is your training regimen?

A few months ago, I enlisted the help of two Marines. They were more than supportive and eager to assist with helping me get back into shape after having a baby. Shortly after we started our Monday, Wednesday, and Friday lunch workout sessions, an opportunity arose to start training for my Marine Corps Martial Arts Program black belt every Tuesday and Thursday. I started my five times a week workout regimen. A typical workout for me last about an hour and a half and consists of a two to four mile run followed by a lifting routine.

Lcpl Bryan Wutt, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

I really love to eat natural whole or organic foods. For example, raw vegetables, fruits, and whole foods that are natural without all the artificial fillings, antibiotics, and/or processed foods. I really love to eat fish and lean meats such as salmon or chicken. The best advice I can give is to learn your body because everyone is different. What is working for others may not be good for you.

What is your training regimen?

I train for a purpose. I try to improve as an athlete and warrior. I start early Monday through Friday with one of the HITT instructors. Then, I attend HITT classes from 1130-1230 Monday through Friday and focus on technique, endurance, and improving my abilities as an athlete. We also focus on strength training to get stronger and more explosive.

Sgt Michael Eckert, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

The best fitness tips I can come up with are always work your weaknesses. If you neglect a certain area of your body because you are used to being strong in most areas and you feel weak and get discouraged, your weakness will grow like a plague and start spreading to the rest of your strong points. This will cause you to plateau or even cause injury. Take a small portion of each workout to strengthen a weak area or small muscle group. You will be surprised what comes of it. As for nutrition, I am not an expert.  Although, what I do for myself is eat an abundance of highly nutritious food. It's not about quantity it's about quality. Put down the cake and fill yourself up with some spinach or drink some chia seed. You'll feel much better if you do, physically and mentally.

What is your training regimen?

I tend to cater my training regime to a certain set of goals. For instance I was training to achieve a Guinness World Record for most pull-ups in 60 seconds. My training took months but I focused my time around the muscles involved in a pull-up. Then changed to stamina workouts while also maintaining muscle symmetry by doing medium intensity leg workouts. For the HITT Competition I have changed my regimen to involve heavy leg exercises combined with high heart rate stamina workouts. It is important to monitor your heart rate because that will give you a rough estimate of how much your body can endure and for how long it can withstand that intensity. I know catering your workouts to a goal works instead of just going through the motions because I was able to achieve the world record I was aiming for.

1stSgt Jennifer Tabisz, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

Fitness and nutrition work hand and hand. It's hard to optimize your physical fitness level without good nutrition. Once you get that balance, you need to set goals for fitness and continue to push to that goal. But it doesn't end there. You need to continue to make new goals and progress your fitness level in all aspects of physical fitness. Be consistent and get into a good training regimen, but then shock your body with non-routine things as well to prepare for the unknown. It's all about getting your body in the best shape to sustain through that combat environment. 

What is your training regimen?

I do CrossFit 5 days a week and my active rest day is usually swimming or running. I mix some barbell mobility in three times a week just with light weight, working on Olympic lifting techniques.

SSgt Daniel R. Kermeen, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

Challenge yourself daily, continue to try new exercises and never stop reaching for success. How well you fuel your body is how well your body will perform. Clean eating is over half the battle.

What is your training regimen?

As a Marine you need both strength, speed and stamina. I constantly switch up my workouts to allow time to focus on all these categories.  The biggest thing to remember is that you must remain active and do something each day to improve yourself.

Sgt Ashley N. Rowback, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

Always be willing to work outside of your comfort zone. If you are comfortable running three miles, why not make it four. Get comfortable with testing your limits. The best advice I can give on nutrition would be to stay away from sugar.

What is your training regimen?

I train at CrossFit anywhere from 5-7 days a week. Two days a week I devote to running, mainly intervals.

2ndLt Melissa M. Heisterberg, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips? 

I would suggest to train and eat for a purpose. There are no short cuts so have goals and train specifically for those. View food as fuel and eat for performance.

What is your training regimen?

My training regimen changes pretty frequently. Within the last few years I went from running marathons, to bikini competitions, to powerlifting and more strength-based workouts. My regimen is all about quality over quantity when it comes to training.

1stLt Margo I. Smutnick, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

I can't stress the importance of community enough.  Find a workout buddy and build a network of likeminded people to help you stay motivated. Tupperware and pre-portioned meals are your best friend. Have a tangible goal and commit to it - whether that be signing up for a race in a few months, or a competition next year - and break that goal up into small, attainable, quantifiable goals. Progress takes time - learn to be patient and enjoy the process as much as the results. 

What is your training regimen?

I work out twice a day, five days a week and focus on Olympic lifts, movement pattern efficiency and consistency, and cardiovascular endurance.  I love teaching and coaching; I volunteer coach at the local CrossFit box so I'm always revisiting the fundamentals.

Capt Jake Pryor, Marine Corp Recruit Depot Parris Island

What are your best fitness and nutrition tips?

Nutrition is the foundation of my fitness. I know that I can't outwork a bad diet. My guiding principle is to eat food without labels with the rationale being food doesn't need labels; products need labels. I balance my consumption of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. For fitness, my goal is to always push my physical limits while knowing that by doing so, I'm simultaneously expanding my mental capacity.

What is your training regimen?

I'm currently following the programming of a well-known CrossFit box as best my schedule allows.

To learn more about the HITT Tactical Athlete Championship and the High Intensity Tactical Training program, click here.