By lex, on June 27th, 2004
Ran the PRT (physical readiness test) last week. Didn’t care for it very much, never really have.
You only have to do it twice a year, but still.
There are three elements to the Navy PRT (four if you count a ludicrous flexibility drill – touch your toes: Good!). First you will do as many sit-ups as possible in two minutes, then as many push ups in the same time and finally you will run a mile and a half.
The scores required are age adjusted, say thankya. An ancient mariner like myself would have no problem merely passing, and thereby avoiding the humiliation of “mando” – mandatory, supervised recess under the sympathetic eye of some 22-year old petty officer who lifts pianos in his spare time, whenever he’s not jogging up to Los Angeles for a cup of starbucks.
There are people in the Navy who will say things like, “if the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.” I am most decidedly not one of those, and neither were any of my peers. As a lieutenant, it was often amusing to see the members of the “Three Mile Club” (in other words, those gents whose only running during the course of the year was the 1.5 mile PRTs they would do twice a year) elbowing past one another for the finish line, only to collapse in a gasping (and often heaving) pile at the end. Because what mattered was not whether or not your cheerios decorated your Nike’s at the end of the run, what mattered was beating that guy just ahead of you, and keeping that guy just behind you from catching up.
Oh, we are predictable brutes.
But to really max out in a PRT requires a relatively elevated level of fitness. How would you do? Find out here *. The chart will show you that for an “outstanding-high” level of performance in all three events, I’d have to run a mile in a half in 9:30, crank out 92 sit ups and 72 push ups. That level of performance would require a more dedicated fitness regime than I am currently embracing.
Unlike some of the other services, the emphasis in my part of the Navy had more to do with how you looked in a flight suit rather than how fast you could run, or how many pounds of gear you could carry in your ruck. The SEALs and EOD have a tremendous workout ethic – the rest of the fleet, less so.
To put it in perspective, the longest ship in the Navy is just over a thousand feet in length. Nothing in my job description included fighting my way up an opposed beach, open to raking fire, while carry 60 pounds of equipment. In a fighter cockpit, your freedom of motion is about six inches side to side (at shoulder height) and maybe bending over far enough while seated down to retrieve a dropped table napkin. So if you’re going to stay fit, it’s really all on your own personal level of dedication. That and the inability to accept a score less than outstanding while competing with your peers.
So, between living for workouts the whole year ’round on the one hand, and failing PRT on the other (or worse yet, keeling over in mid-run because you haven’t trained, and by the way, you are getting older) on the other, is there a middle ground?
There is. And it means working out for whatever the minimum interval is prior to the PRT to meet your personal standards of adequacy. Which for me, used to be about three weeks to ensure I’d at least have a shot at outstanding-low. Oh, I’ve never been able to run the mile and a half in 9:15, but for most of my time in the Navy, you were permitted to max out in push ups and sit ups, and the combined points from those two exercises made a rather average run acceptable in aggregation. For a few years, we had a CNO who changed the instruction to say that your lowest category score was what went on your fitness report, hoping to get more folks committed to cardio work outs. In a classic case of the intersection of the law of unintended consequences and the immutable law of human nature, this change actually served to dis-incentivize preparations in sit ups and push ups. People who were never going to max out a run determined exactly how many sit ups and push ups were required to get to their best run level of performance and stopped there. Why bother?
I’ve never been a particularly strong runner, although I do run a fair amount. When running, I turn my iPod volume up fairly loud to drown out the “why don’t we stop this madness?” chorus of complaints coming from my id, or ego, and superego. Or maybe it’s just my legs, but anyway.
And here’s the thing about the 1.5 mile run: It’s a bitterly cruel, deeply stupid distance. In my view, anyway. I mean, raise your hands, you in the audience: Those of you who intend to suit up, lace on and go on a ten minute run today? 1.5 miles is just a little too far to see how fast you can sprint without falling over and far too short a distance to get into any type of rhythm. So you run at an indeterminate pace – faster than really you’d like to on any worthwhile training run, slower than you could in a pinch. At least until the last quarter mile, where you try to kick it up, 90 seconds to go. And find with 80 seconds to go that you really didn’t have that much left.
So anyway, yeah, I crossed the finish line on Monday pretty much in misery. But I also learned something new – turns out three weeks is no longer sufficient preparation time.
** There was no link but Lex must have had one, or intended one, so here it is! – Ed.