Monday, June 23, 2014

Should the Waist Measurement be Part of the USAF PT Test?

(This post was actually adapted from a paper I wrote for an English class that I thought would be an interesting topic for this blog. Just keep in mind that this my personal opinion and does not reflect the opinions of the USAF in any way, shape, or form.)

Every year, the US Air Force (USAF) spends billions of dollars both training and retaining its military members. (1) To make sure that these well-trained members are physically fit enough to accomplish their jobs, it also created a bi-annual physical fitness test. This test includes two strength components (the push-up and sit-up), an aerobic component (the 1.5-mile run), and a body fatness component (the waist measurement). 

If someone fails this PT test too many times, they are seen as unfit and are very likely to get kicked out of the military. So, obviously, if you want to stay in the Air Force, you must consistently pass your PT test.

But there's something strange in the USAF PT test: The waist measurement. The strength and aerobic components seem like a valid way to measure physical fitness, but the body fat component seems a bit out of place. What does the size of my waist have to do with my ability to be "fit-to-fight"?
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The PT Test: Improving Your 1.5-Mile Run Time

(This post was updated on 9 June 2014.)

The 1.5-mile run represents more than half of the points you can earn for the PT test. This means that for many of you, most of your efforts will be put towards improving your run times.

But how fast should you try to run?

Maxing out your run certainly does wonders for the ego, but this pace is usually too much for most non-athletes or running enthusiasts. A more achievable goal is to get enough points to earn you more than 90 points on the PT test. So this begs the question: How much is enough?
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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Passing the Walk Test

For those who have medical issues the Air Force uses a walk test. Initially, this walk test was a timed, 1-mile walk that also measured heart rate as you crossed the finish line. In 2013, the walk test was updated, removing the heart rate measurement, extending the walk to 1.25 miles (or 2 kilometers), and awarding no points for a person’s walk time. Instead, the test is either pass or fail.

The current passing times are listed below:

Based on these times, you will have to sustain an average speed of about 4.70 mph for men and 4.32 mph for women (which are pretty quick walking speeds). To give you some wiggle room during the test, I suggest that you should train to beat your maximum time by at least 30 seconds.

In this post, I'll help you prepare for your walk test by discussing basic race walking form.
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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Quick Running Tip: Natural Running Training

The idea of natural running is to go back to the way humans have run for thousands of years, which is largely to run barefoot. Of course, in our modern environment, running barefoot can be hazardous, so many people try to get back to the basics with minimalist running shoes on their feet. Running in minimalist running shoes is usually very helpful with improving running form and first.

As I eventually found out through my experimentation with natural running, minimalist running shoes helped me eliminate many of my bad habits (especially heel striking), but the thin rubber soles on these shoes still allowed a few of my bad habits to stubbornly remain (mostly braking and jumping), prolonging one very annoying injury: Shin splints. Eventually, I was forced to go back to actual barefoot running.

In this post I will outline the natural running training program I developed to improve my running form and decrease my running times, while also allowing my running injuries to heal.
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Quick Running Tip: Better Acceleration

I have a confession: I hate running. I really do. Although I've always been a decent sprinter, anything beyond 400-meters was just exhausting. And when I was done with my 1.5-mile runs, my legs were usually shot.

After a couple of years of enjoying spaghetti legs immediately following squadron PT, I decided to look into different ways to move forward more efficiently. As far as acceleration was concerned, I discovered that there are basically two ways to propel yourself forward when running: Active and passive.

Now I was presented with a dilemma: I wanted to give my poor legs a break, but which do I use? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so I had to do a little more research to find my answer.
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Quick Running Tip: Use a Shorter Stride and Faster Cadence

As an ex-heel striker, I've developed my fair share of bad running habits. Two of these bad habits were a long stride and a slow cadence. Unknown to me at the time, my stride and cadence were making my running so inefficient that I could barely finish the 1.5-mile run in a respectable time without feeling like I was going to pass out.

The solution to my problem turned out to be fairly simple: Shorten my running stride and speed up my running cadence.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quick Running Tip: Use Minimalist Running Shoes

Before the 1970s, athletic shoes had thin soles, no support, and zero heel drop. (1) Then, Nike popularized running shoes and an industry was born. (2) Dazzled by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, we've become convinced that our feet need lots of support and cushioning to run effectively. But the belief that the modern running shoe is superior to your own two feet is slowly changing with the popularity of minimalist running shoes.

What is a Minimalist Running Shoe?
What started as a weird fad has exploded into a movement now backed by solid science. (3) As a result of this growing popularity, minimalist running shoes have suddenly been embraced by many everyday runners.

To give you an idea of how popular minimalist running has become, Vibram (the company who created the modern minimalist running shoe) had to ramp up production of their FiveFingers “toe shoes” just to keep up with demand (from 2006 to 2009, their annual minimalist shoe revenue jumped from $430,000 to $11 million dollars!).

The Vibram FiveFingers is an example of a minimalist running shoe.

Because of its rising popularity, other shoe companies are marketing their own minimalist shoes that aren't quite minimalist. To identify a true minimalist shoe, look for the following qualities:
  • Minimal heel-to-toe drop (<=4mm). 
  • Thin sole (3-6mm).
  • Little to no support for the foot. 
  • Large toe box (or individual boxes for each toe). 
  • Typically light (<7.5 ounces) 
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