Love it or hate it, running is a part of military life. All of us have the responsibility to meet the physical standards of serving in the military. However, injuries due to emphasizing volume over technique and poorly designed training programs result in lowered readiness. Instead of just putting in mindless mileage, this episode shares my strategy on how to train smarter for your military running test.
Military Fitness Tests
- All military fitness tests contain a running portions to measure the aerobic capacity of individuals. With distances ranging from 1.5 miles (Air Force) to 3 miles (Marines), service members must (or at least they should be) continuously train throughout the year to maintain the ability to pass their fitness test in order to meet readiness standards.
- While each service contains physical training leaders to lead unit PT, rarely are they trained using proven best practices to not only improve performance but reduce injuries along the way.
- The old adage of “Just run double the test once a week and you’ll pass” may work for some, but I’ll present to you a more efficient model to increase running performance.
Running Training Priorities (in order)
- Similar to weightlifting and gymnastics, dedication to learning and practicing efficient technique is critical to increasing performance and minimizing risk to injury
- I train/coach using the Pose Method. The Pose Method is a system for teaching human movement and sport specific techniques developed by a 2-time Olympic Coach Dr. Nicholas S. Romanov in 1977 in the former Soviet Union. The Pose Method focuses on the general principles and concepts of using gravity, key pose, body weight, falling and change of support. By focusing on these concepts, service members can boost the efficiency of their run training programs.
- One of the reasons technique is important in any sport is to avoid injuries. As a service member, you have a responsibility to avoid injuries to that you perform your job in garrison or downrange. If you continue to train using poor technique, injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and “runner’s knee” issues will arise. These are all signs that something is wrong with your technique and training! The Pose Method has over 30 scientific studies backing up their position on proper running form.
- A Pose Technique Specialist (like me!) can help you learn to improve your running technique before you move to the next priority. I offer in-person and remote running analysis services, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today
- The definition of high intensity is relative to each athlete, so an effective training program must take that into consideration. While having a static, 6 week training plan can give you a foundation, the service member must have the capability to adjust the plan yet still meet the intended stimulus (or you can rely on a trainer/coach to make the decision for you). Anaerobic training will yield the most bang for your buck when preparing for your running test.
- While the running portion of your fitness test states it is designed to measure aerobic capacity, you should have a heavy dose of anaerobic training within your training plan to perform at your best. The combinations of high intensity sprints and targeted time trials will boost your performance much more effectively than using undefined/moderate jogging paces or “just putting the mileage in”.
- Smartly managing rest times between intervals is another method to keep intensity high. For example, imagine a service member runs 6 x 400m with :90 seconds rest between rounds with a range of 1:55-2:00 for each round. Later in the program, if the service member can run 6 x 400m with only :60 seconds rest between rounds yet keep the same range of 1:55-2:00, that’s measurable improvement! If they can’t keep that same range, the training plan must be re-evaluated to ensure positive training occurs.
- “Quality over Quantity” pretty much sums up this section. By spending more of your time on technique under a soundly built program with high intensity, the overall volume of running should be reduced. Again, if one of the aims of an effective training program is to reduce injury, the less time you are out there on the pavement/grass/trail, the less likely you are to suffer an injury.
- When I prepare for my 1.5 mile test, I rarely surpass running 2 miles (in total from intervals or during a specified time trial) during a training run. The idea of reducing volume is hard habit to break since most military basic training schools focus on distance. That method is used to make the school day more efficient, not necessarily prepare the individual for performance. If you have control over the hour of your training, think Quality over Quantity.
Here is a 6 week program I used on myself to prepare for the Army 2 mile running test while I attended Marine Corps Command and Staff College (yep, read that again). The result of the plan that was that I was able to reduce my time by a WHOLE MINUTE! Use this plan and let me know your results!