Many military candidates have issues with the cardio endurance section of fitness tests. Regardless of the branch of service or level of difficulty, timed runs and swims can be some of the more difficult skills to improve during training.
Whether you are regular military seeking to pass the 1.5-mile timed run of 1.5 miles in the Navy, Coast Guard or Air Force; the Army 2-mile run; Marine Corps 3-mile run; or special ops-level tests that also include swimming, you need to learn your pace and practice it, no matter what the distance on land or on water.
Technique, Pacing and Conditioning are the three skills you truly need to crush any event in a PT test. Running and swimming require a special focus, but pacing is critical. If you only practice running at a slow pace, you may not meet the time standards you need to pass or be competitive. It is possible to be a 40-mile a week runner and still fail a timed run of 1.5 miles if you only do long distance at a slow pace.
The following workouts are all about learning the pace you need. You have to practice it often, put that pace to memory and learn to "feel" what pace you are running or swimming by understanding the arm swing, stride and breathing rhythm you create for yourself at that pace.
The Two-Week Workout Challenge
You still need to be doing the calisthenics and strength training sections in preparation for your upcoming test, but add these cardio workouts to your training week and replace any running or swimming with the following:
The Running Workout (Goal Pace)
The goal is to do the distance of your timed run event or go 25% further if you have the ability and later feel no aches or pains from the additional running. Even if you do significant running miles per week but only do long, slow distance, you need to do this workout to build your timed run speed.
You have three choices of running distances five days a week: Sets of 400 meters, 800 meters or 1,600 meters
1. Repeat 6-8 times (up to 12 times if USMC)
Run 1/4 mile (400 meters) at goal timed run pace.
Rest by walking 100 meters or mix in another PT test exercise for a 1-minute "rest set."
2. Repeat 3-4 times (up to 6 times if USMC)
Run 1/2 mile (800 meters) at goal timed run pace.
Rest by walking 200 meters or mix in two PT test exercises for a 1-minute "rest set" each.
3. Repeat 2-3 times (up to 3-4 times if USMC)
Run 1 mile (1600 meters) at goal timed run pace.
Rest by walking 400 meters or mix in 2-3 PT test exercises for a 1-minute "rest set" each.
If you are not used to running this total weekly distance, consider starting with the lower end, even instead doing a bike workout on days in between running days if you need a break from the impact of running to prevent shin, knee or hip pain.
*Goal mile pace is what you need to pass and be competitive in your unit or selection screening test.
A 6-minute mile equals a 1:30 1/4 mile, a 3:00 1/2 mile and a 6:00 mile run.
A 7-minute mile equals a 1:45 1/4 mile, a 3:30 1/2 mile and a 7:00 mile run.
An 8-minute mile equals a 2:00 1/4 mile, a 4:00 1/2 mile and a 8:00 mile run.
Note: If you need a break from the pace workout or running period, replace it with an easy run or sprint day or with another cardio activity like biking, rowing, elliptical or the swimming workout below. Conditioning is conditioning, but you still need to practice running to see large improvement with running tests.
The Swim Workout (50-50)
This is a new favorite of people seeking to pass special ops or diving selection tests that require swimming. The goal is to warm up with the distance you are being tested. If you have a 500-meter test, use a 500-meter swim as your warmup. Getting used to swimming this distance is key. Learning perfect form and technique will help you do this more efficiently. Take lessons or watch swimming videos to help perfect this skill and then get in shape for the test by doing the following workout:
Warm up with a 500-meter or 500-yard swim (depending on your branch of service). Navy swims yards and the Air Force swims meters.
Repeat 10 times
Swim 50 meters fast (freestyle)
Swim 50 meters at the goal pace of the stroke you will be using (CSS, side stroke, breaststroke or freestyle)
Take a minimal rest (10-15 seconds) but work to be able to do this with no rest.
You can also take 1 minute and practice treading water with no hands after each set as a "rest."
Obviously, if you do not need to swim for a test in your future, only add the run to your training week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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