The Necessity of Teaching Remedial PT Groups How to Work Out

Chief petty officers and chief petty officer selects stretch after a workout.
Chief petty officers and chief petty officer selects do post-workout stretches in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eric M. Butler/U.S. Navy photo)

An Army reservist of 20-plus years emailed me for some help. This question, and the need for a basic program, is universal throughout the military ranks, both active and reserve. There is a growing trend in remedial fitness.

Here is the question:

"I have corresponded with you in the past, and a while back, you sent me an intermediate-level fitness program that I was using to augment my fitness training program to some of the reserve unit individuals. I am in need of a basic-level training program, and I will explain why ...

A fitness program only during the battle assembly weekend or once a month does not cut it, and some individuals lack the self-discipline and motivation to maintain a consistent fitness program between battle assemblies. Therefore, I had a good percentage of individuals that failed their last APFT. 

Unfortunately, because the command does not want to get rid of some of these PFT failures, I have to continue in providing as much help to these individuals as I can. Therefore, an advanced or intermediate program for them to follow is way out of their league. Do you have a beginning program that you can send me? The active soldiers of now are not the active soldiers of yesterday ..."

Signed, Frustrated old soldier....

I understand completely. If you can, make people access the "45-Day Beginner Program" (PDF). It is a basic-level PT and will help people to build the habit of fitness. Tell them to do it on their own, and when you drill, you will be following this plan or at least an Army physical fitness test (PFT), depending on the week.

I, too, was in your shoes when I dealt with PFT failures, and I realized that these remedial PT groups needed to be taught how to work out. Too many US citizens and service members (I'm afraid) do not know how to PT or run. Now, in times of war, it pays to be lighter, smaller and quicker in order to be a smaller, more elusive target. So try to motivate them in that fashion as well.

However, focus on teaching a basic level of fitness, building good habits and adding basic fitness, such as stretching, walking/running, light PT and drinking more water. The frustration will be less on you if you expect less out of them during the first few months. Let them see progress, and if they do not progress well with the plan in 6-8 weeks, drop the hammer on them with a fairly difficult PT session. You can say that if you kept up with the daily beginner program, you should not have any trouble with this workout. Take them as they advance and PT them harder, but you have to give them a plan that works.

The plan I have here works. It will help people lose up to 25 pounds if they just following these simple directions:

1. Stretch daily

The importance of stretching is key, especially when beginning a fitness plan.

2. Drink more water

Drink up to a gallon a day, depending upon your body weight. But roughly take your body weight and divide by half; that is the number of ounces you should be drinking.

3. Do something every day

Even if that involves just walking after dinner, this plan has that for 45 days straight. It is easy, too.

4. Repeat the above

Do not worry about food intake yet, but if no positive results are seen in 3-4 weeks, then focus on a food plan, as mentioned in the "Lean Down Plan."

Enjoy. I know it is difficult dealing with people half your age and half as fit as you, but remember many of them just do not know how to PT. Good luck. Keep sending the emails.

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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