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Two-part training reduces run times, improves scores

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Have you ever wondered how you can raise your total physical fitness score? Maybe you're unhappy with your run time and would like to know how to improve it.
Dedicating yourself to a steady running regimen can greatly improve your physical fitness level and your fitness scores too. 

As a certified personal trainer and an Air Force physical training leader, I have often been asked, "how do I improve my 1.5 mile run portion of the Air Force PT Test?" With the run counting for 50 percent of an Airman's overall score, a low run time is key to meeting or exceeding the PT test standard. There are several training methods one may use to lower their run time. 

Some people believe that by running 1.5 miles at testing speed three times per week they're doing a good job of preparing for the PT test. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. I recommend training for the run using a two part rotation six days a week. 

On days one, three, and five, part one of the rotation emphasizes improving an Airman's overall cardiovascular endurance. With this, Airmen should run for distance rather than speed. The ultimate goal is to gain the ability to run continuously for an hour. During this part of the rotation, start off by walking for five minutes then start running at a light pace. Continue running for as long as possible, but don't exceed one hour. 

In the beginning, some Airmen may be able to run for only 15 minutes while others may be able to run for the full hour because they're already in great cardiovascular shape. Regardless of your fitness level, try adding three to five minutes to the total time you run each week until you're running for a full hour. Once you can run an hour, try increasing the distance you run during your training sessions. 

To further increase endurance, long runs on a treadmill are recommended. Once someone can run for a solid hour at a particular speed with relative ease, he or she can then increase the speed on the treadmill by 0.1 mph and continue working towards a one hour goal. This cycle may be repeated indefinitely and allows people to constantly challenge themselves and increase their limits. This will increase their overall endurance and speed, making the PT test, where Airmen only have to run 1.5 miles, seem a lot shorter. 

On days two, four, and six, part two of the rotation emphasizes speed over a short distance. Airmen can train to run faster by utilizing only 0.1 miles of the Offutt Field House track. From the back corner of the track (by the soccer field) to the finish line on the same side is 0.1 miles. This is an excellent sprinting distance. Walk the track until you reach the back corner and then sprint as fast as you can to the finish line. Once you reach the finish line, resume walking until you reach the same back corner where you started sprinting previously and repeat for 5 - 10 laps. Training in this way will condition your body for this specific sprint and will help shave a few seconds off your run time. Also, by doing this type of training you should be able to increase your speed as well. 

Cardio training can be done daily, since the cardiovascular system is designed to be constantly active. Furthermore, it doesn't require the same recovery period that other muscles do after resistance training. While your heart and lungs don't need a significant recovery period, the muscles used for running do. Doing long runs or sprints every day can overtire the muscles and can actually decrease a person's ability to perform. By doing a long run on day one and sprints on day two, Airmen can avoid overworking their muscles. 

By staying dedicated to this two-part rotation Airmen will benefit from increased speed, endurance and decreased run times. Additionally, resting for one day a week ensures runner's muscles are fresh to start training each week.