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Fitting in fitness

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
Physical fitness has always been an integral part of military service, but in recent years, the Air Force has begun to focus on it even more. Passing a fitness test, also called the PT test, at least annually is a requirement for all Airmen. The consequences for failing PT tests can range from receiving a letter of counseling for one failure to getting discharged from the military for multiple failures. That should be some motivation to make fitness a priority!

The scores for the PT test, which includes one minute of pushups, one minute of sit-ups, a timed 1.5-mile run and a waist measurement, vary between genders and age groups. Thus, it's important for Airmen to know what they need for a passing score. To be prepared to pass the test, Airmen should integrate fitness into their daily lives. For some people, fitting fitness into everyday routines seems difficult. Do you fall into that category?

Common reasons people don't focus on fitness as much as they should include the perceptions that they don't have time to work out, they don't want to get injured during a workout, or they can't afford a gym membership or fancy exercise equipment. All these perceptions, however, are really misconceptions that are easy to dispel.

First, the idea that there's not enough time to work out, though most common, is a myth. There's always time to work out. Some people have an "all or nothing" mentality. But the reality is you don't need to go to the gym for an hour every day -- doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing. Even exercising as little as two minutes per day and 30 minutes per week can prepare Airmen for their PT tests.

"Being able to actively do one minute of pushups and one minute of sit-ups will greatly enhance your ability to get a high PT test score," said 1st Lt. Leslie Forshaw, physical training leader for the 920th Rescue Wing.

Forshaw would know -- she regularly gets excellent PT scores and has worked with Airmen to improve theirs as well. She said taking just two minutes to do pushups and sit-ups each morning -- perhaps making it a habit before your daily a shower -- can easily lead to PT score improvement.

Two minutes isn't a lot of time. It's less than the time it takes to pop a bag of microwave popcorn. It's shorter than the typical commercial break on network television. It's less time than is needed to snap a selfie, post it to Instagram, and hashtag your heart out, #seriously. If you have time to read this, you have time to work out! You should also dedicate a little more time for practicing the run, but it's still a very manageable amount of time.

"The more you run, the better you get," Forshaw said. "Running at least 1.5 miles two times a week conditions your body to expect that, so come time for the PT test, your body will be ready."

If you can manage a 10-minute mile pace, that's just 15 minutes for each run, or 30 minutes per week. To put this into perspective, there are 10,080 minutes in a week. The time dedicated to running, pushups and sit-ups on a weekly basis can take up less than 0.5 percent of your entire week. Tell me again why people don't have time to exercise?

Second, the fear of getting injured may keep some people from working out, but Forshaw said these fears are unfounded as long as people use proper form, stay hydrated, stretch, and listen to their bodies. People who are currently injured or have existing conditions should consult their doctor before beginning any physical fitness regimen. For everyone else, it's not only safe to work out, but the health benefits you gain far outweigh the very low possibility of injury from working out.

"Using proper form allows people to maximize their workout by going through the full range of motion while increasing efficiency with each exercise," Forshaw said. "If exercises are performed properly, the chance of getting injuries is very low."

In addition, working out enhances overall health for Airmen, which is good for the Air Force as a whole. According to the Air Force Personnel Center website, "Maintaining an active lifestyle increases productivity, optimizes health, and decreases absenteeism while maintaining a higher level of readiness."

Finally, some people have said they don't work out because they can't afford the equipment needed or can't get to the gym. We've all seen infomercials for the latest and greatest workout craze, whether it's a new dance class, DVD set, or some sort of Ab Blaster 5000 -- all for three easy payments of only $89.99! In reality, none of that is truly necessary.

Here's the great thing about the Air Force PT test: you don't need any equipment to train! Pushups and sit-ups can be done just about anywhere, and all you need for the run is a pair of sneakers. If you are fortunate enough to live in a climate where year-round running is possible (thank you, Florida!), take advantage of it! All Airmen have free access to the base gym, so if running outside isn't an option some days, there's usually a treadmill available at the fitness center.

Fitting fitness into your daily life can be easy, but it does require a commitment. Perhaps to help you stay on track, you and a wingman can help each other out. Motivate one another, make plans to work out together, and enjoy exercising with mutual moral support.

As shown above, you do have time to exercise, injuries are unlikely and fancy workout equipment is unnecessary. All you need is some motivation, dedication and perhaps a workout buddy. No more excuses -- get fit to fight, and be ready to pass your next PT test!

To learn more about the Air Force Fitness Program, check out the AFPC website at http://www.afpc.af.mil/affitnessprogram.