Not everyone enlists in the military with a background in running or a passion for running. I know I didn’t. I couldn’t run a solid mile when I first started. The reality is, running is 60% of your PT score. If that freaks you out and/or you have testing anxiety, this post is aimed at you and how to better prepare yourself mentally and physically for the running portion of your fitness assessment. Please keep in mind that I am not an athletic trainer/coach and/or a doctor. These are some things that have worked for me and may just work for you!
Find a track. Ideally, find a standard, artificial turf track in your local area, like at your nearest high school. One lap is a quarter mile, and six laps will give you that 1.5 mile distance that you’re required to do for your PT test. Start practicing on that track. I find that when I hit a track after not being on one for a while, I get really anxious. I like to train for my PT test on an actual track to help reduce the anxiety on testing day.
Start easy. It’s really easy when you’re nervous to take off way faster than you’re comfortable with. Start off at a comfortable pace. Most running sources recommend that you be able to talk while running to determine if you’re pushing yourself at an appropriate level. If you can’t talk, you’re overexerting yourself. Heads up, the MTIs will try to tell you differently.
Focus on form. If it’s a day where I’m exhausted and not running at my normal/fastest pace, I slow it down and think about my form versus thinking about how slow/fast I’m running. Practice working on your form so that it becomes natural for you.
Hydrate. This goes without saying and you’ll get it hammered into you at BMT. You need to hydrate. Not the day of your run either, the day prior. The hydration you do the day before affects your performance the next day. Keep that in mind if you’re training heavily.
Pace yourself. See if you can make it around the track in 2:15. If you can keep up that pace, you’re in good shape. That’s the time of the timed run down at BMT. If you have a hard time of gauging this, go ahead and grab a buddy to run with you. During a PT test in the operational AF, it is permissible to have a pacing buddy to keep you motivated and to help you keep time. If you can’t do it just yet, go as slow as you need to, just don’tstoprunning. That’s the biggest thing, since once you start walking down at BMT, the MTIs are all over you. It’s easier to pick up the pace from a slow jog than it is to start running again after you’ve been walking.
Mind over music. While MP3 players are allowed in the operational AF while testing, you will not be allowed to listen to any music while at BMT. That may be an adjustment for you if you typically use music to relax or motivate yourself while running. I used the time while running at BMT to think about my goals, envision myself running races back home, or to “race” the person just ahead of me and see if I could get past them. Keep your mind busy, it’s some of the only time you have to think.
Countdown to finish. Being a mathematician, I like to spend my time on the track calculating just how much more I have left. Rather than thinking of each lap as “I just finished my 3rd,” I mentally say to myself, “I’m on my 4th!” It’s the little things for me, mentally. Here’s how I break it down while on the track:
1.5 Laps – 25% down!
2 Laps – 1/3 of the way done!
3 Laps – Halfway done!
4 Laps – 2/3 of the way done!
4.5 Laps – 75% done!
Treat your feet. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating. If you can afford to purchase a new pair of shoes before you leave, do it. Go to a local running shop and get properly fitted for running shoes based upon your gait and foot strike. Break them in before you go down to BMT. Your feet will thank you.
Need more help with your running? Try the Couch-to-5K program if you’re a brand new runner. Best of luck to you – you can do this!
I’m a 31 year old Navy sister, Army wife - Air Force wife to a prior service Marine/Soldier, and an Air Force Reservist. I am a happy wife and mother. My husband switched branches and joined me in the Air Force Reserve. We look forward to a future of dual military service!