Interval Training for the PFT Run

Interval Training for the PFT Run

Improving Your PFT Run Time

I received an email asking if interval training was a good way to improve speed in your military PFT run. The answer is absolutely.

"But what exactly is interval training and how do I determine what speed I should train?" the question continued.

There are some general formulas that can help you determine where you should be, but I personally like to use the following method of determining interval workout components that include: Distance, Run and Rest Interval, Repetitions, and Time. Each of these components of interval training effect the other as noted below.

I do not use a general calculating formula but a more specific running approach, since we all are different types of runners. For example, a runner runs the USMC 3 mile in a 21:00 - that is a 7:00 mile pace. To get a perfect score on the USMC run, one has to run an 18:00 time - that is a 6:00 mile pace. How do you get to be a better runner so you can drop three minutes off your run time?

Follow the steps outlined below and you will have an idea of how to integrate interval training into your regime:

1) Time yourself in your PFT run.

- Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force use the 1.5-mile distance. - Army uses the 2-mile distance. - Marines use the 3-mile distance

2) Determine a reasonable goal for your PFT run.

3) Find your GOAL time for the PFT run. Divide your goal to figure out the mile pace.

4) Divide your mile goal pace into 1/8-mile, 1/4-mile, 1/2-mile distances.

The following distances are great for any of the military PFT run interval training and the times listed below will help our sample runner decrease his run time to a 6:00 mile.

For instance the USMC runner should train at:

- 1/2-mile times should be run in 3:00 - 1/4-mile times should be run 90 seconds, and - 1/8-mile times should be run 45 seconds

It is recommended to either walk or slowly jog as a recovery method in between the timed runs above. The interval of rest depends on your fitness level. Walk to rest if you are a beginner or average runner and jog to catch your breath if you are more advanced. Usually the walking distance is equal to or 1/2 the distance you just ran. So, if you ran a 3:00 1/2-mile, walk or slow jog a 1/4-mile. NOW you know your pace at each distance...time for the workout!

Putting all the components of interval training together creates a challenging workout that will help you decrease your PFT run time:

- Repeat 3-4 times - Run 1/2-mile at goal pace - Walk or jog 1/4-mile - Repeat 4-6 times - Run 1/4-mile at goal pace - Walk or jog 1/8 of a mile - Repeat 4-6 times - Run 1/8-mile at goal pace - Walk or jog 100 yds

Do this workout two times a week combined with two longer runs of three to five miles during the week. In a few weeks, you will see your running pace increase and your mile times begin to drop while making your pace easier to maintain. Here are a few more tips to help you pick up your pace and stay injury free:

1) Breathing

Take big, deep inhalations and exhalations similar to the way you yawn. This will help you receive the oxygen your body needs. Slow down the running pace if you need to, but concentrate on your breathing.

2) Stride and Heel / Toe Contact

When jogging, open your stride but lean slightly forward to a point where you will land NEAR your heel (closer to the ball of your foot - not the bottom of your heel) and roll across your foot, pushing off the ground with your toes. Many people run flat footed, back heel, or on their toes causing stress on their lower back, hips, knees and ankles. You can eliminate this by following the simple Audio Test. If you can hear your feet hitting the ground when you run, then you are running wrong. It should sound like your shoes are rolling on the ground quietly. Comfortable running shoes will also aid in prevention of injuries.

3) Arm Swing

You should have a relaxed arm swing but very pronounced. Swing your hands from about chest high to just past your hips in a straight line. The term "hip to lip" is a good way to remember this when you are running. Your arms should be slightly bent but not flexed.

4) Relaxed Upper Body

You should relax your fists, arms, shoulders, and face. This causes the oxygenated blood that you need to go to your legs to also go to your upper body. The only things that need to be working when you are running are your "lungs and your legs."

5) Start Slowly and Warm up

Do not stretch your legs until you have warmed up your body by jogging or biking slowly for about 5-10 minutes. Run every other day if you are just beginning and only add mileage to your run as you feel comfortable.

Good luck with your running program and I hope you see improvement soon.

Related Video:

Decker demonstrates the proper form for sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups for boot camp requirements.


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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 Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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