Ask Stew: Lose Weight, Prepare for Army PFT and Training

Athletes from Emmaus Fitness conduct pull-ups during The National High School Physical Fitness Championships aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (Photo by Jericho W. Crutcher).

Often, the first hurdle people face when joining the military is the physical fitness standards and the height / weight standards.  Typically, most recruits have to deal with both issues. In fact, the number one reason why the current population of recruits cannot join the military is they fail to meet the physical, body fat, and/or medical standards. 

In the history of our country other issues were the main culprit to preventing a young man or women from serving like education, test scores, criminal records, and medical issues.  Here is one of the most common questions asked and situations seen in recruiter offices:

Hi, I’m Val and I’m 17 years old. I plan on going into the Army National Guard and I need to not only lose weight, but work on my strength and running. I just need tips and how to run better. Currently I run a mile every other day and I average around 13:30 (I’ve been improving). Any advice you could give me would help immensely thank you! Val.

Val, I applaud you for wanting to serve your country and community in the National Guard. And it is smart to prepare yourself not just for the recruiting and MEPS standards upon entering, but the following training programs too. In fact, once you build a foundation of fitness and can pass the PFT, you should increase your training so that you incorporate training to prepare you for events like longer runs, rucking, and other load bearing exercises like equipment carries. We call this part of tactical fitness preparing to get TO and THROUGH the training – phase 1 and 2 of training. Right now, you need to get in basic shape to get TO the training, then build upon that in order to get THROUGH the training without struggle or injuries to hold you back or disqualify you.

Starters Plans – Right now, you need to focus on moving more, eating less, by doing basic calisthenics, weight training, and walking with running mixed.  Adding in some non-impact days in between running days will help you deal with the pains of walking/running while overweight.  See ideas in the non-impact cardio options.  The 45 Day Plan is a good place to start with basic strength of core and pushups as well as learn how to eat to lean down.  Consider these diet tips.  Basically – move more – eat less is your new mantra!

As you start to progress through the above phase which can take 2-3 months, as you get to acceptable military weight you can start to progress your running speed and distances to get faster at the timed runs and beyond. This Running plan and training method will take a basic foundation of running and help you advance into not just a barely passing PFT taker, but someone who is capable of being more competitive with your physical abilities. That is where you want to be before you enter into a military contract with a recruiter.

Good luck with this journey and remember you are not alone.  Please feel free to email me if you have questions at Also, do not be in a big hurry to join the military.  Go when you are ready to serve (see link for list). Take your time. Do it right and avoid the pains and potential injury of basic training if you attend under prepared.

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