The Physical Fitness and Physical Readniness Tests are designed to test cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. In this three-part series, the Human Performance Research Center takes a closer look at each component, offers tips on training optimization, and suggests how to prevent common training-related injuries.
Preparation for the PFT and PRT takes time and discipline. Training for the test isn’t something Soldiers should start the month before the test, and the fitness habits they develop leading up to the test should continue year-round.
Weekend warriors and procrastinators are at greater risk of injury, and it’s likely that their performance will be less than optimal when it comes time for the test.
HPRC provides a series of articles with guidelines to help prepare for the PFT/PRT, beginning with this one on cardiovascular fitness.
FITT for aerobic conditioning
One of the most commonly failed parts of the PFT/PRT is the initial 1.5 to 2 mile run.
With the right preparation, Soldiers can avoid this. Well in advance of the PFT/PRT, map out a fitness program based on the FITT principle. FITT stands for “frequency” (how often someone trains); “intensity” (how hard someone trains); “type” (the kinds of training activities performed); and “time” (how long someone trains). Progression, an additional component, is also an essential part of any exercise plan.
The American College of Sports Medicine) and U.S. Surgeon General recommend at least 3 to 5 days a week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Training intensity calls for a combination of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity that increases breathing and heart rate. Calculate the target heart rate to determine the ideal range to aim for during exercise, depending on age and fitness level.
The “Talk Test” is another way to gauge intensity. Other than high-intensity exercise, exercisers should generally be able to carry on a conversation (but not sing) while exercising.
If Soldiers feel that they won’t be able to sustain the exercise for at least 30 minutes, they should lower the intensity and gradually build it up.
To build aerobic conditioning, Soldiers need to perform aerobic exercises. Interval training and other speed work is a great way to improve run time. Cross training — training with a variety of aerobic exercises — can help avoid overuse injuries.
That’s any kind of exercise that is continuous and rhythmic and uses large muscle groups such as running, dancing, swimming, biking, walking, rowing, jumping rope, etc.
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise should last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes a day for a total of about 150 minutes per week to maintain cardiovascular fitness (and help prevent chronic disease).
Soldiers can achieve the same goal with vigorous-intensity exercise for 20 to 60 minutes a day for a total of about 75 minutes per week, or meet the goal with a combination of the two types of exercises.
If a Soldier is just getting back into shape, they should gradually and safely get back into running. Once they’ve resumed a regular exercise routine, Soldiers might notice some aches and pains. Listen to the body.
Watch out for symptoms of common athletic injuries such as overuse injuries (such as stress fractures) and knee pain. It’s important to address these issues early to minimize any damage and get back in action as soon as possible.
However Soldiers train, they should remember to start early enough that they’ll be ready when test time comes around, and maintain a training schedule so they’re prepared for the next time.
Look for part two of this series in next week’s Sports section.