Taper Before Testing
An Army soldier asked me about the week prior to taking the PFT.
Here is his question:
"What is it that you recommend to do one week out from your PFT? Is it similar to preparing for a running race like a marathon and tapering a few weeks before it?"
A week before the physical fitness test is an easier week than your normal workouts should be. If you are on a fitness program similar to the Six Week Physical Fitness Testing plans on the Military.com Fitness eBook store, it is best to take the last week prior to the PFT and rest the following methods:
1) PFT Strategy: Practice the Way You Test
Do not try anything you have not done before the week of or the day of the test that you have not done over the time of your workouts. The PFT should be accomplished by dividing the events into smaller sub-goals. Take the Army PFT for instance:
Push-ups - 2:00 of pushups is challenging. It is recommended to do the pushups as fast as possible while adhering to proper form of course. Try to let gravity push you in the down position so you do not waste muscle stamina by controlling the movement in the down position. When you move slow in the down position, you will waste energy and reduce your pushup score. Only use your muscles to push in the up position. This is a sprinting style exercise. Resting may help you catch your breath, but it will reduce your pushups when resting in the "up" position.
Sit-ups - 2:00 of situps should be paced. Many people err in testing by starting off too fast. Usually people will get 30-35 situps in 30 seconds but they will not be able to match the 30-35 reps in the next 1:30. This happens because you burn out too fast. Just as with running, the goal is to start slower at a pace that will help you attain your goal. For instance, if your goal is 80 situps in 2:00, your pace should be 20 situps in 30 seconds. You will have a much easier time reaching your goal if you pace the situps.
Two Mile Run - The run is a pacing drill as well. During your daily workouts you should know what your pace is to run a 2 mile run. For instance, if your goal is to run a 14:00 two mile run, you should pace your 1/4 mile at 1:45 or your 1/2 mile at 3:30. This will insure a 7:00 mile pace.
2) Four Days From the PFT, Your Workouts Should Start Tapering
This means you should take it easy and do not push yourself to failure. Easier runs at 7-8:00 mile pace if your goal is 14:00 run, pushups and situps should be limited to 30-60 seconds of timed events so you do not hit muscle failure. Do knee pushups or crunches just to keep the joints lose and stretch well to remain limber.
3) Three Days From the PFT Should be a Day Off of Exercise
Eat foods that are low in fat, higher in protein, and high in complex carbohydrates. Personally, green leafy salad or spinach with lean chicken or tuna fish are great examples of the types of food to help you have more energy. Of course, these foods should be part of your normal weekly diet anyway for best physical results. Consult my diet plan for more ideas. Drinking water to stay super-hydrated will help you regulate your body temperature during the PFT as well as other muscular-skeletal benefits.
4) Two Days From the PFT Should be a Light 1-2 Mile Run
This should be followed by twenty minutes of stretching from head to toe. Pushups and situps should be performed at goal pace for 1-2 sets of 30-60 seconds. Learn your pace and know it for the test. Knowing your pace will help you get rid of the anxiety prior to PFT. (Read the "Physical Fitness Test Anxiety" article for more ideas).
5) One Day Prior to the PFT Should be a Day Off
Take a light walk, run or bike for 15-20 minutes with an equal amount of time spent of stretching. The night prior to the test should be spent relaxing and eating foods high in protein and carbohydrates such as pastas, green leafy lettuce, spinach, fish, chicken, lean meats. Lay off high fat foods. Drink water all day long.
6) Have a Normal Breakfast (Water, Cereals, Yogurt, Fruit, and Juice)
Foods higher in carbohydrates like apples, bananas, and carrots are great snacks to add glycogen to your muscles and give you that extra kick in the PFT. When you push yourself to muscle failure and maximum effort you will expend the glucose you consumed, so make sure you eat these one hour prior to the PFT.
These tips will help you but they will not be fully beneficial if you do not practice these pre-workout methods during the weeks prior to your PFT. You will be better off however if you were unable to prepare for the PFT if you follow the above tips. Good luck in your next PFT!
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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