Training, Recovery and Fitness Testing

June 3, 2002 11:09 AM

My thoughts on the Army Physical Fitness Test (i.e. APFT). APFT standards are designed to measure various areas of the body. The two mile run measures aerobic and leg muscle endurance. The push-up measures strength/endurance of the chest shoulders and triceps. The sit-up supposedly measures the strength/endurance in the abdominal muscles and the hip flexors. This is all fine and well. Soldiers need strength and endurance and a way to measure it, but one important factor has been left out - Recovery. How long does it take to recover from the effects of maximal physical exertion (i.e. stiffness and soreness of all areas tested)?

Coming from a special operations unit, our team stayed in good condition. We had PT five days a week, including running, rucksack marches, swimming and lots of other exercises promoting competition among team members. For example, a 6-10 mile ruckmarch at a 12-15 minute pace on Wednesday would not negatively effect our performance for PT for the following day. However, I could take this same team and conduct the PT test (i.e. easiest PT day of the week) and each team member would always score a 290 or above (300 is the max.) but the following day everyone would be sore. So, what I started doing is running back to back PT tests. Everyone would put forth a maximum effort on Monday's PT test then again on Tuesday. Every mans scores would drop 10 points on the average, especially in the push ups and sit ups. I feel that this can be linked to a recovery problem. After a soldier pushes his body to the max. On the first day of the test, then is forced to repeat this max. effort again the following with less desirable results, possibly his body is not prepared or used to this new level of exertion.

This is a very important aspect of training because in combat, soldiers will be required to perform at high levels, for varying times, under all adverse conditions. Training the body to recover faster is important. Occasionally, push yourself to the maximum and do it again the next day. Record your results, then continue your normal training program. Repeat the process once every month or couple of months and see your recovery rate is any better.

Any suggestions?

Bill Cullen, Retired Master Sergeant, with 15 years in the United States Special Forces, currently employed as a instructor with Wackenhut Services Inc. under contract to a federal agency. Master Fitness Instructor and recent graduate of Pavel's Kettle Bell certification course.