Your adrenaline is rushing, your heart is pumping and your blood is flowing. No, you’re not on a battlefield or at war. Sometimes, all it takes is a really good workout. And the IDF (Zahal) knows that.

Hundreds of soldiers proved their physical ability, good spirit and sportsmanship in one of the IDF (Zahal)’s biggest ever sporting events. The event, run by the National Center for Ground Training, saw IDF (Zahal) soldiers compete in a variety of sports competitions, from swimming to running, through soccer, basketball, volleyball and even some unofficial sports like dodge-ball and ‘tug of war’.

One of the people who made this day happen is Col. Meir Bar-Meir, a senior commander in the National Center for Ground Training. Meir’s passion for sports and competition began in 1998 during his senior commanders course. “I realized what the human body is capable of. I started training, and within a year I ran half-marathons (21 kilometers). I learned that my body is capable of much more than what I had previously imagined,” he said.

Fitness & Spirit: The Secret Behind a Successful IDF SoldierFitness & Spirit: The Secret Behind a Successful IDF Soldier

At the same time as Col. Bar-Meir was making progress in his personal life and fitness, he was spreading his message within the army and to his soldiers. “Sports day gives the soldiers a chance to relax, the drive to win and the values we teach that express themselves not only in war but in also sports,” he says.

Two years ago, Bar-Meir decided to compete in the Tel-Aviv Marathon, and in order to train for it, he started his day at 4 a.m. with a morning run. Moreover, he made a decision that, due to the relatively close proximity between his house and his base (60 kilometers), to ride to work every day on his bicycle. “Eventually, I found myself taking part in a half “IronMan” triathlon in Eilat, which meant swimming 1.9 kilometers, bike riding for 90 kilometers (extra difficult due to Eilat’s mountainous terrain), and a final run of 21.1 kilometers. Just a few weeks ago, Col. Bar-Meir participated in the international Berlin Marathon. Moreover, last week, Meir participated in the swimming heat of the Ground Forces team in the IDF (Zahal)’s commanders fitness championship. The Ground Forces team won first place overall.

Fitness & Spirit: The Secret Behind a Successful IDF Soldier

Col. Meir Bar-Meir

“I see many connections between the spirit and the body. Sport really makes you aware of your capabilities. Making it to a marathon shows that you’ve reached a certain level where your body works on automatic mode,” he explains. “At some stage you run out of physical energy, and your mental ability shows your body that you can keep on going. I make a connection to battle modes, because when you’re in the middle of an operational event when you enter with your unit into battle, the feeling is similar. Your body is pumping with extra adrenaline, very much like in a sports activity. You need to be able to function under difficult conditions,” says Col. Bar-Meir.

“I think someone who is fit improves his functioning in battle. A person who, thanks to his physical ability, can deal with operational events can also make the right decision in the battlefield,” Bar-Meir says.

When the sports day came to an end and all the trophies were handed out, the organizer of the event, the fitness officer of the Nation Center for Ground Training, Lt. Nitzan Engelder, spoke. “This sports day is a continuous effort to encourage and raise awareness of sports and a healthy way of life in the IDF (Zahal). We decided to do it in southern Israel, where we are based, to make a connection between our base and its geographical location.” he said. The event catered to all types of people, he continued. “Special stations were positioned with instructors in sports like Pilates, Kick-box and Spinning, especially for the average soldier who is not that into sports,” he noted.

Fitness & Spirit: The Secret Behind a Successful IDF Soldier

“I think that everyone can express themselves in this sports day. You see a different side of a soldier, and discover new talents. It’s about connecting body and soul in a fun atmosphere,” Col. Bar-Meir said.