Ask Stew: Vets Preparing for Other Ways to Serve (Police / Fire / EMT / Special Ops)

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First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs candidates participate in log physical training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, July 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)
First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs candidates participate in log physical training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, July 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)

After years of serving their country, many veterans still seek to serve in some other meaningful way. Some choose the National Guard. Some select to become police officers. Some elect to go with the fire service. This email is concerning a veteran in transition from one service to another as he prepares for the physical fitness test of his next journey in life.

Dear Stew,    

First, thanks for all the great articles, videos, and products, I've passed the CPAT (with the help of your book), and am now gearing up for our PST prior to the Academy. The test consists of pushups/sit-ups in a minute, pull-ups and 1.5-mile run – similar to the Air Force PAST you also teach. I've exceeded the standard quite significantly in the strength exercises however my run was clocked at a 13:46 during the test. It's just peculiar to me for my recent test I conducted at the track was sub 11 minutes.

NOTE:  I'm just getting over an upper respiratory infection, but I was so shocked when I literally ran my worst run.  The question is – “Have you ever had a student crush his run times at practice but mess up on PFT day? Can you point me in the right direction to fix this? Any help would be great. Anthony.

Anthony –There are many reasons why that happens. Usually, if you consider doing a 4-6 week PFT Prep cycle, you should be good to go with your current fitness levels and experience.  

1 - PST anxiety – Often the anxiety can cause a poor night sleep, upset stomach (butterflies) and forces you not to eat as you do normally. This causes you to not only waste a lot of energy on nerves, but not allow you to have some of the needed fuel for optimal performance. The most effective way to handing the moment of butterflies and extra adrenalin getting you pumped up too early is to breathe.  Focus on your breathing – Walk and breathe deeply (in nose – out mouth). Learn more about “box breathing” method of 4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds exhale, 4 seconds hold. But you can use various methods of breathing to relax you as well as help you perform (see related post).

2 - Recovering from a cold or flu or respiratory infection. These things will crush performance as it is difficult to keep training and too easy to lose ground especially on cardiovascular events like running.  Give yourself some time to recover. Make sure your lungs are clear before starting running again.

3 - Lacking a general PFT strategy. You should take this test enough fully so you know where to push where to pull back and still score optimally for your goals and capabilities. If you only do your runs fresh and not after other events you may see a big difference in the test day run. You have to get used to taking the test by making it a workout.  Plus doing this more often as your workout of the day – maybe even advancing your workout to doing a Double PFT - will help you with the number one – PFT Anxiety.

4 - Too much time off. Sometimes whether it's from being too busy with work or travel, illness, and focusing on other athletic events (sports, bodybuilding, powerlifting, other) that take away from focusing on your fitness test can cause you to lose ground on fitness testing. If running is your weakness, you cannot skip many cardio days. You can replace running with tough non-impact options if you are feeling pain during running.  See ideas for running workouts to help you run faster during tactical fitness tests.

The goal is to work out year-round. But cycle your tactical fitness programming throughout the year on such events tested in PT tests during testing cycles, then do the workouts / sports you enjoy during the rest of the year. It is a form of tactical periodization that allows you to prepare for the rigors of your profession, the health and wellness/fitness semi-annual tests, as well as what you enjoy athletically or aesthetically. 

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