Servicemembers are already athletes as it is. Running is one of the best activities you can do for your body. You can keep your heart rate up and burn roughly 100–115 calories per mile. The greatest benefit is it keeps your body burning a higher calorie number for a few hours even after you are done with your workout. What I don’t see enough of, at least in the Army, as it pertains to preparing for the PT test, is enough running. Running does become easier and you can learn to enjoy it, if it is part of the PT test you dread. I see many Soldiers who, obviously, have the ability to drop a great deal of time off their 2-mile run time but the majority of their time is spent lifting weights and running far too slow to gain any real benefit to prepare for an all-out 2-mile run. I am a huge advocate for weight lifting and the benefits that come from it. Weights should be incorporated into your exercise plan to maintain a balanced training regiment but lifting for an hour and jogging for a mile and a half every morning is not going to bring your run time down. Here are a few tips I suggest you try.
This is a no-brainer but the more time you spend on your feet, the easier running a mere 2-mile run on your PT test is going to be. Soldiers, as I am sure all other members of our Armed Forces, are already accustomed to stress. Think about all you have already accomplished as a member of our Armed Forces. How many times have you been challenged to do a task that you thought you were not capable of? Have you experienced dealing with unending tasks at work? Running, especially if it is not one of your stronger sections of the PT test, is a challenge but it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as we make it. How many of your co-workers are running 5 times a week? 7 days a week?
FIND SOMEONE WITHIN YOUR UNIT WHO IS A GOOD RUNNER AND ASK THEM QUESTIONS
This is very important. There is more information on the internet that you can imagine on pretty much any subject but life experiences from an individual who excels at something you are weak at can arm you to surpass what you think are capable of. Why? It is not fluff, if you can find someone who is strong at running you can find out what they do to overcome fatigue. How do they eat? How much sleep do they get? How do they compartmentalize their day to fit in all of their training in an already stressful military work day? Finding the how’s and why’s of what makes those around you succeed can motivate you to follow in their path, adjust it to fit your own workout plan, and in the end, drastically improve.
PRACTICE RUNNING AT GOAL RACE PACE
Ever see the Kenyans run? I am sure most of you have. What makes them so good? Is it genetics alone? I can tell you from living and training with them that the reason they are so good is, like many of you, they spend the majority of their day working at what they are good at. They are good because they spend a lot of their time running at paces that are at or exceed their goal race pace. They have taught their bodies to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in their blood stream as they begin to fatigue. This is universal, regardless of what your ability level is. What slows you down is the build up of toxins and lactic acid within your blood stream as you workout and the harder you run the faster it builds ups. The quicker it builds up the quicker your muscle function begins to deteriorate and you slow down. Now, if we practice running at goal pace more often perceived effort drops and your body super-compensates and the next thing you know your running below your goal race pace during your PT test. Have you ever approached the first mile of your PT test feeling great than hit the so-called ‘wall’? We all have right. I say ‘so-called’ because I have always believed it is a psychological wall we build for ourselves. How come many runners never experience this ‘wall’? They have trained properly. They have practiced running at goal pace and have taught their bodies to use more fat as their fuel source and conserve more carbohydrates and sugars in the process. If your goal is to run your 2-mile in 15.00 to get your PT score up. How will running a mile or two in the morning at 9 minute pace help you achieve that goal? Think about it.
I get asked all the time, ‘how can I run my 2-mile faster’. If you are strong at push ups or sit ups, I am sure you can relate to this and understand. Why can you do so many push ups and why do others want to know how you got so strong at sit ups? Your good for a reason! You spend a great deal of your time practicing endless sets. Running, like doing pull-ups (something I am extremely weak at), push-ups or sit-ups, involves commitment to doing the same thing, over and over again until it becomes automatic. So, if you are weak at running, committing to running farther and more often during the week is going to make you much stronger on your running performances. I have run some of my fastest races on mileage alone. You can build up so much strength from running 5–7 days a week. The great distance running coach and one of my mentors, Dr. Joe Vigil, puts it this way. “If you are going to eat today, you run today, ‘you don’t miss’”. If you are accustomed to running a couple miles in the morning on two of the five workdays try extending it to 5–6 miles. You have to learn to run longer! Why? How much easier is a 2-mile PT test going to be for you if you can extend your runs out longer and more often. If you are strong at push ups and sit ups and are weak at running, implement what makes you succeed in those sections of the PT test and do the same with your running. You may hate to run but I guarantee the same strength can be gained in your running if you follow the same regiment as you with your weight lifting sessions.
IMPLEMENT A LONG RUN ONCE PER WEEK
This is probably the best advice I can possibly give you to make your 2-mile PT test time drop. Think of how much stronger you can be, how much easier running all-out for 2 miles would be if you can commit to running one long run per week, on the weekend (yes, the weekend) at a longer distance? The long run is the most dangerous part of my training arsenal in preparing for my races and they are not easy. Nothing challenging truly is, but it is the bread and butter workout that will bring you results. Unless you are around experienced distance runners you will not always hear this but doing that long run is going to make you a much better runner. Your 2-mile or 1.5 mile PT test time is going to drop fast. Your body creates more capillary beds and red blood cells during sustained long runs. What does this mean for your 2-mile? 1) It is going to make your all-out 2-mile feel not so ‘all-out’ 2) Because you have taught yourself to run father, say 8–12 miles at a time once a week, your perceived effort is going to drop and so will your time. Think this cannot work, you are not that good of a runner? I beg to differ with you and can guarantee if you are willing to try this for 8 weeks you will prove yourself wrong. How many of your fellow co-workers are doing this? I would suspect it is a lower percentage so find what the others are not willing to do, and do that! The more time you spend running the greater benefit will come from your dedication.
I hope these 5 tips can assist you in running faster on your PT tests. I am in the Army so we focus on a 2-mile run time. If you are in the Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard take the same principles and try to apply it to your fitness regiment. The key is running longer, more often (if you run 2 times a week, gradually build up until you are running 4–5 days a week and up to 7 days a week) and running a good portion of your weekly mileage at or around 70–80% of max effort. My best marathon time (2.19.35) is 5.19 per mile pace for 26.2 miles. What I have mentioned above is what I have used to bring my time down. For me, prior to running 2.19, 5.19 pace was the goal so what did I have to learn to do? Practice running at that pace! The same holds true regardless of your ability level. if your goal is to run your 2-mile PT test time in 14.00 you have to learn to run at 7.00 mile pace. This can be done in many ways i.e. track intervals, fartlek runs etc.
If you want to learn a bit more about how to create a huge personal best time on your next PT test read my post The House Building Guide to Running A Faster Marathon or join my newsletter at my website www.rundreamachieve.com. It is not that you are bad at running, think of whatever strength you have and ask yourself, why am I good at this? What have I done with myself to stand out? More than likely, it is because you do that one activity far more often than your counterparts. If you want to be a better runner, do the very same thing and I can guarantee the one thing you use to hate will now be the very thing that changes your life!