Commentary: Running is for fitness, not a test
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Let me start by saying this isn’t a commentary on getting better at a test.
Your Air Force fitness test is simply a check-up. If you are training for your test, you are doomed to fail eventually. The Air Force Fitness Program isn’t a test. The program is what you do day in and day out to improve and maintain a high level of cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
That being said, I’ve got one word for you: consistency. This is really the bottom line on all components of fitness. The key isn’t to exercise for a month or two so you can be average on your test day. The key is to be consistent and make exercise a part of your lifestyle, your daily schedule, so you can excel at any time.
Now, because I know you are doing more running because of the test, here are some general tips to help you stay consistent and improve your running fitness.
• Don’t do too much too soon. The biggest mistake you can make is not being consistent with your exercise and then deciding you are going to run five days a week. Running is a very high impact exercise. If you haven’t been running consistently for the past eight to 12 weeks, then start off running twice a week and two other days with non-impact exercises like cycling, swimming or elliptical training. After you have been consistently running for at least eight weeks you should increase to three times per week. I wouldn’t advise anyone to exceed running three times per week. That’s right, you shouldn’t run five days per week. Your body really needs to have adequate recovery time from the impact of running.
• Due to the impact of running on the joints, proper shoes and running surfaces are crucial to avoid injury. All running shoes aren’t the same. I cannot stress the importance of having the proper shoes for your feet and replacing shoes often. Contact your squadron physical training leader for more guidance on finding the right shoes.
• Once you have the right shoes, running on the right surface can have a big influence on the success of your program. Because of it’s cushion, the track is a great place to run, but for some folks it’s quite boring. Running on the streets can be more exciting, but the surface is harder on your joints. I would vary your training surfaces each time you run. Spice it up a little, sometimes at the track, sometimes around base, sometimes on the running paths and sometimes on a treadmill. This will help your body avoid excessive impact and it’ll help break the monotony of your program.
• Don’t stop at 1.5 miles. If you never run more than 1.5 miles, you’ll never get faster. You must improve your lactate threshold. That is a fancy way to say that you must push your body past what its used to. You must overload it in order for it to improve. You need to work up to running at least 30 minutes or three miles without stopping. Once you get there, then you can work on speed.
• Intervals anyone? I don’t mind saying that running sprints can really stink. They tend to kick your butt. However, they’re the best way to improve your speed. Once you can run for 30 minutes or three miles without stopping, work intervals into your running program once a week.
So remember, don’t focus on 1.5 miles as a distance, make that your minimum goal. Also, don’t do too much too soon. If you have to work up to 1.5 miles, then give your body time to do that. Make sure you have the right shoes and that you are aware of the surfaces that you run on. Once you are ready, do some intervals. Most importantly, consistency, consistency, consistency!