Tag Archives: Fitness

Failure, muscle failure, good training

I failed a physical fitness test yesterday. Well, I’m pretty sure I failed. I haven’t got the results back yet. Not the standard physical fitness (PFT) test that we’re used to (push-ups, sit-ups, two-mile run) but one of these new pilot tests the Army’s looking at to either replace its current test or augment it.

It’s called the Soldier Readiness Test (SRT), and it seems to be prompted by what the Marine Corps adopted some years ago with its Combat Fitness Test to augment its PFT of pull-ups, crunches, and three-mile run.

When I left the Marine Corps in 2010, it was still gathering data to decide on pass/fail or grading criteria. The intent was to measure actual movements Marines may reasonably expect to perform as Marines, while deployed. Functional movements. Instead of replacing its semi-annual PFT, it changed its calendar for the PFT in one half of the year and the CFT for the other half.

Well, the Army’s now looking to measure more functional movements. This means also testing while wearing gear close to what one might wear while deployed – utilities, boots, patrol cap or beanie, vest, plates, gloves, eye protection. That’s less than what we’d normally wear but more than the PT uniform for the standard PFT. It’s what I wore yesterday for the SRT test.

So there I was…

Already 10 min late because I hadn’t anticipated the 30-min traffic wait going into Fort Bragg through Yadkin Road around 0830. I missed the brief explaining the initial exercises. It was freezing, around 35ºF. The instructors asked for 12 Soldiers to volunteer to go first.

I volunteered. I had a report to finish by yesterday morning.

The first phase (tire flips, shuttle sprint, and dummy drag) allowed for 2 mins max. I think I came in at 2 min 1 sec.

Fail.

Thought I was a stud. Guess I was wrong. I’ve scored over 300 (out of a possible 300) on the present standard PFT. Not today (…yesterday).

And man, was I hurting. The dummy was supposed to weigh about 240 lbs. It was on top of a skedco. That thing weighed a ton. I felt like I could barely budge it.

This NCO counted me down and at “3, 2, 1…”, I’m pretty sure at “1” that I still had about a foot left between the dummy’s head and the implied end-line, marked approximately by a small neon-green flag in the grass.

Then came this sandbag stacking exercise, to simulate loading and unloading the back of a Humvee.

Next, tossing a sandbag over a 6’6″ hurdle, ten times.

Lastly, a 1.5 mile movement in under 18 min, with a simple obstacle in the middle. The obstacle consisted of four wooden beams, for each Soldier to go over, under, over, under.

I weighed my vest with plates earlier. It’s only 15 lbs. So, I’m going to start running with it on or some other weighted vest. Shouldn’t be too bad once I get the hang of it.

Exercise machines as furniture

I was listening to author James Clear this morning on building small habits. That’s his theme. The one point that sticks out to me right now asks what to do with after writing down the goal (it’s pretty obvious): start.

Let’s back up a little bit. I have an elliptical machine (which I purchased after a doctor recommended I run less), two 30-lb weights, one 10-lb weight, a power wheel, and a yoga mat. I actually use them.

BUYING EXERCISE EQUIPMENT AND NEVER USING IT

Some years ago, I visited with someone who owned a treadmill. She had a tablecloth, potted plants, and other items placed on top of the treadmill. It seemed clear that she used it for furniture rather than exercise.

I don’t know the reason why. Maybe like me, her doctor suggested that she run less. Still, she wasn’t the only person I’ve known to do something similar.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes that at the beginning of a new year, he promises to, “I’m going to exercise everyday.” After a day, “Well, maybe not every day. I don’t want to get caught up in that whole beauty culture.” After a couple days, “I’m fine with the way I look.” Paraphrased. And, he mentions, he lives right in front of a gym.

I think he might be picking too big of a target (high activation cost), and one not specific enough.

I believe that just about any eating or training will work well enough. Whether better than other programs doesn’t matter so much in the beginning. All exercise equipment, and all diet programs aimed at weight loss, will (most likely) work if you choose to use it. They certainly won’t work for you if you never use them.

I watched once the story of a morbidly obese woman who lost hundreds of pounds by deciding one day to simply clap along to a TV workout led by Richard Simmons.

Clapping eventually turned into more (yet still small) movements, which in turn eventually led to walking. A couple years later, and several hundred pounds lighter, she said she felt happy with her progress – and presumably too happy that she’s still progressing, has inspired others to follow her lead, and is helping others along their journey.

If I could distill James Clear’s speech into three actionable steps:

(1) Ask the reason for the behavior

(2) Pick a small habit

(3) Setup the environment so that the lazy choice is the one that leads to the desired habit

AIR ASSAULT, CAPTAIN’S CAREER COURSE, ZEIGARNIK

On my YouTube channel (bdelrosa81), I saved a video I found about the Air Assault mobile training course at Fort Polk, Louisiana, March 2013. I’m in the video beginning at frame 0:12.

I received Distinguished Honor Graduate (DHG). The video identifies someone else as the DHG. You can tell by where we stood upon recognition. I’m standing on the far right, making me first to receive recognition as the distinguished guest moves first from left to right, as he’s facing us.

No, I don’t really care for the award. I just wanted to rappel out of a helicopter. Anyway, that other Soldier deserved it more. He was smarter, faster, and stronger. I didn’t come first in any of the academic or physical events.

The instructors likely selected me for DHG because I seemed to enjoy being there, which I did, and I appreciated them for taking weeks away from their families back at Fort Drum, New York to come train us. Their task to instruct us was more likely compulsory than voluntary.

I mention this course because I charted a workout routine for months building up to it. I made it a daily habit. I had a reason, a purpose. Once that reason completed (graduating the course), I stopped working out so much.

The same too with the Captain’s Career Course for me at Fort Lee, Virginia. I scored 345 (out of 300) on the physical fitness test (PFT) for a male age 34: 126 push-ups, 116 sit-ups, and 12:58 on the two-mile run. That was in October 2015. In March 2016, I only scored around 290. I stopped trying so hard.

I wasn’t getting anything for it. It’s just been my goal ever since I joined the military to score 300 or more. Mission accomplished. Didn’t care anymore. I scored 296 on my last PFT a couple months ago.

The 10-lb weight I have I purchased for a marksmanship competition. To train holding the weapon steady, I’d simply hold the weight in front of me while standing, while trying to beat yesterday’s time. Rounding up, an M16 weighs 9 lbs (loaded) and an M9 weighs 3 lbs. When I got the word that I was needed elsewhere other than away for a week at the competition, I stopped doing this. What was the point?

James Clear mentions the Zeigarnik effect. He shared the story of a waiter who remembered perfectly the intricate orders of a large group. When one of the members of the group forgot his wallet and came back just a few minutes later, the waiter didn’t remember the guest.

The guest was confused. The waiter had an outstanding memory with the group’s complicated orders. The waiter said, “Oh, I just remember long enough to serve the meal” – like cramming and then immediately brain dumping.

Therefore, step one, find a reason – a long-term reason.

One-Page Accomplish Anything Plan

I call it, the OPAAP. Short for the One-Page Accomplish Anything Plan. I shamelessly borrowed the idea from a book with a similar title, by Allan Dib, The 1-Page Marketing Plan (2016).

Great book, by the way. Easy-read. Insightful. And as he says, although nothing new in content, a breakthrough in implementation.

Soon as I figure out how to post the Excel file to Wix (my current web host), I’ll present that here on the blog, in a future article. Feel free to copy the general idea. No need to get fancy. Pencil and paper will do just fine.

In my fitness e-book, chapters 2 and 4, I mention a chart one may create to record progress. The book needs an illustration. Something you as the reader may easily walk away with and implement immediately.

Above is that illustration. The bold-and-blue represents the minimum needed for the chart. I chose push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run, but you may easily replace that with whatever exercises you want. The green represents some nice-to-haves.

One can easily recreate this with just pencil and paper. I chose the above exercises given my current job. Those are our three Army Physical Fitness Test (PFT) events.

The scoring makes it fun. Like a video game. It doesn’t seem to take much nudging to get someone to play a game. Enjoy. Hope this helps.

Again, I’ll post the Excel file soon. The formulas that do the automatic calculating did get pretty advanced – embedded functions, IF, VLOOKUP, TIMEVALUE, TEXT… Yes, I promise to make it super easy for you. Soon.

Happy New Year,

Brian M. Delrosario