Tips for preparing and passing the new Air Force fitness test

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HI. -- I feel a calling to write this article to help prepare our Ohana for the new Air Force fitness test. I am scheduled to take my fitness test Oct. 3. For my age (47 years old), I need 44 pushups/55 sit-ups/and 9 minutes and 45 seconds on a mile and one-half to get a 100 percent score. Don't sell yourself short by not pushing for the best score that you potentially can reach. Remember our Air Force core value: Excellence In All We Do.

I'd like to share how I have prepared myself to pass this test. The first thing to realize is the Air Force is testing your physical fitness. We know we need to be physically fit to fight, do our Air Force job, and win. More importantly, we all have only one body, and we cannot exchange what we've been given; therefore, it is crucial that you take care of it.

A fit lifestyle will add to the ease for preparing yourself for success. Eating a well balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis is key.

I will share my fitness lifestyle and preparation. It is my hope that you adopt one of my tips and apply it to your lifestyle and preparation.

Ten months out of the year, I maintain my fitness level to about 70-80 percent of my fitness potential. Each year, I spend about 8-10 weeks ramping up for the fitness test and/or my track and field competitions. It takes at least that amount of time to earn that extra 20 percent performance level. When I am not preparing for the fitness test, I run two to three times a week and weight train twice a week. Intensity level is about 70 percent during these workouts.

As we get older and our physical activity is reduced, our muscles become weaker and our tendons contract tighter. That's where weight training allows you to maintain muscle strength to do just about any physical activity you want to do. Daily stretching is very important as it helps keep those muscles and tendons loose. This adds to your quality of life. Many of us have young children and want to keep ourselves fit to spend quality time with them.

My schedule is to run on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and weight train on Tuesday and Thursdays. My weight training objective is mainly focused on strength, not body building. All of my workouts are 30-40 minutes a day whether running or lifting. Why so short? That's all the time I have with doing my job and raising five boys. And don't forget PME. Do I miss workouts occasionally? Absolutely. I am human.

Monday - Run (Interval Training)
Tuesday - Weights (Chest/Back/Arms)
Wednesday - Run (3 to 4 miles)
Thursday - Weights (Legs/Shoulders)
Friday - Run (Interval Training)
Saturday/Sunday - Rest Day/Weekend Activities with the Family. (Weekends are for family time and relaxation)
I select from one of my five interval training workouts:
1. 8 x 100 meters with 30 seconds to one minute rest
2. 8 x 200 meters with 30 seconds to 2 minutes rest
3. 6 x 400 meters with 1 - 2 minutes rest
4. 3 x 800 meters with 2 - 3 minutes rest
5. 6 x hills 50 to 200 meters long

The only difference in the final ten weeks of preparation is my level of intensity. I'll push harder on my intervals, and I will lift heavier and harder on my repetitions (10-20 percent harder than normal).

Pushups and Sit ups: In my ten weeks of training leading up to the fitness test, I start to do pushups and sit ups daily Monday thru Friday. My goal is to do 75 to 100 total repetitions, one to three sets until I hit this total number. It might start out with 30, 30, 30, etc.; but, by the fifth week, you should be hitting 40 to 50 repetitions on the first set. My goal has always been to hit 60 repetitions on the first set. This is the point, when I feel I am ready to take the fitness test.

Some key tips in peaking your performance prior to your Fitness Test.

1. Know your goal prior to taking your test. You should know what your minimum and maximums are for your age. Make sure you go five to ten repetitions past your goal because some of your repetitions may not be counted due to a technical flaw. And sometimes, they notify you after the time has already expired.
2. Cut your workouts in half 10 days prior to test day, but maintain intensity. This will prevent injury and allow your body to start some healing.
3. Stop all weight training 10 days prior to test day. This will allow your muscles and tendons to start healing and get to 100 percent. It will also allow your muscles/legs to start retrieving some spring back in them.
4. Nutrition and weight loss is critical in your final ten weeks of preparation as your goal will be to have as little extra weight on your body as possible. You run faster when you are lighter. Basically, I try to cut out all sugar and fat from my diet.
5. Eat at least 1.5 to 2 hours prior to your test. Do not eat a heavy breakfast that morning. It will affect your waist measurement.
6. A very important tip for your run and one that could take 30 seconds off your time. Buy yourself a pair of cross country racing shoes from any of the specialty running stores. I recently purchased a pair, and I paid $54 for them. These shoes are designed for 1.5 to 3.0 mile races. They weigh five to six ounces (light as a feather). Your normal running shoes weight about 13 to 20 ounces. You will run faster with five ounces on your feet, and you will conserve more energy for a better performance. Most athletes say equipment is everything. Most places give a 10 percent military discount or a 20 percent discount if you belong to a running club. They retail from $65 to $100.
7. Two to three days out, rest completely. No running. It works for me.
8. Get a good night's sleep the night before the test.
9. If you don't pass the first time, it's not the end of the world. It just means you need more time in preparing your body. You can get there. Believe in yourself. I do.

I hope this article has given you some insight on preparing for your fitness test. A good score does not happen by accident. It happens by making a commitment and putting in the hard work.