BLUF – Optimize your training plan for your military fitness running test by prioritizing Technique, then Intensity, then Volume.
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 (pr 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 here a more efficient model to increase running performance. In priority order, here are the three areas of running performance needed for an effective training program:
Technique – 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 their running 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. You need to find a Pose Technique Specialist (like me!) that help you learn to improve your running technique before you move to the next priority.
Intensity – 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”. In addition, 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. 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.
Volume – “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 never surpass 2 miles (in total from intervals or during a 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.
Now I can’t cover these areas and not give you an example, right? Of course not! 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!