4 Tips To Help The Military Improve Run Times And Score Higher

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high performance nutritionImprove run times

What is the best way for Soldiers to improve run times on their APFT?

Let me discuss a bit of my background to before I answer that question. This post is dedicated all military members here in the states and world-wide.

The two mile run was my main event when I was in high school. I began running the event as a freshman running 11.30 the first time I attempted it as a teenager who knew no better.

I had no idea what I was doing. How to run, break the race up or if I was even able to finish the distance.

My brother was a shot put and discus thrower and talked me into trying out for the track and field team and 20 years later I still credit him for guiding me into the sport.

I was able to lower the time down to 9.46 with not a lot of mileage but a great deal of speed and trial and error along the way.

I didn’t know how to pace myself in high school. I hit the first mile in 4.44 when I ran 9.46 so had a major slow down the second mile.

What I see with a lot of military runners is that they make the same mistake I made years ago. Totally normal, but dial down your pacing and your second mile will be run much faster and your finish time where you want it.

We call this ‘negative splitting’ in the marathon world.

It is normal to want to get out fast, measure up to your colleagues but remember, the first to get to the finish line, not the first to run too hard off the PT test line, will get the cake and eat it to.

Proper pacing is essential to this event.

Now, at 37 and many hard lessons along the way, I can provide a few key tips I have learned that will help you in getting that two-mile down as you prepare for your PT test.

# 1 – Pace Yourself.

Soldiers and Servicemen and women are highly motivated as it is. It is very easy to get carried away during an all-out effort.

I have read a great deal on race strategies and probably the most important of these is relaxing.

The key to running faster is running relaxed. Don’t get running soley relaxed confused with dropping 2 or 3 minutes off your two mile time.

What it will do, granted you have trained well, is keep your body as ‘economical’ as it can be during maximal efforts.

Economical meaning functioning at it’s highest efficiency.

corporate wellness plans#2 Forget What Your Colleagues are Doing and Focus on Your Effort.

It is you against the clock. Focusing on how someone else is going out is a total distraction and not worth your energy.

Remember, it is your overall finish time you want..who cares if they go out too fast for their own good, not your problem.

Run smarter and you’ll, more then likely, get to the finish ahead and with a much faster time had you went out at someone else’s pace.

Holding back the reins is the hardest thing to do as a runner, failing to do so is the quickest route to the hurt locker.

Don’t do that!

#3 Take Some Initiative

Hard thing to do when all your buddies are out living it up.

Guess what, want to drop significant time off that run time..invest more time in actual doing, rather then talking about it.

I wanted to break 2 hours 22 minutes for the marathon and got drilled to the ground by runners FAR better then me before I did.

It was only a dream, a long-term goal I set and had to get humbled by members of the army’s world class athlete program when I was still at my first duty assignment at Fort Carson.

I saw the differences between the guys wanting to run at the world level real quick, fast and in a hurry. I took the constructive criticism I received from my fellow brothers in Arms to heart.

I’ll tell you what I was told, “You want to improve, you had better seriously make the initiative to make it happen”. Enough said.

The military work week is sometimes far too busy. Go out for a run, distress and let off some steam.

Trade a beer for a run. Improvements in running come from sustained, boring and repetitive work.

It isn’t fun but I can guarantee you it is fun to run fast and drop time off your previous best.

#4 Gear Your Workouts 

A few examples:

Goal Time: 15.00

Average Pace: 7.30 per mile

Suggested workouts:

1 mile warmup, 8x400m running each 400m rep in 1.52 with a 3 minute recovery between each rep (dropping your recovery time and maintaining the same goal pace effort as you gain fitness), 1 mile cool down

1 mile warmup, 3 mile run on the track sprinting the straight aways jogging the corners, 1 mile cool down. It is a simple fartlek workout that works. You are running a total of 1.5 miles far ahead of goal pace.

Think of how easy a two mile effort is going to feel when you have already adapted to sprinting nearly the entire distance. What does it translate to?

An enormous improvement on your run time.

That being said, these are just two very simple workouts, but it takes time to build into fitness. The first workout is very similar to the one I have used training for the marathon (only greater volume used).

Obviously, early on, your pace is going to be slower and your rest is going to be longer.

As you gain fitness and your body adapts, the idea is to increase the pace of your speed sessions and decrease the recovery time needed between each rep.

An example of a workout I use to prepare for marathons would look like this:

Goal Marathon Pace: 5.10 per mile

10x1000m (2 and half laps) in 3.12 (5.10 mile pace) with a 600m recovery at 7.00 mile pace.

3 weeks (21 day adaptation period) down the road I would do the same workout only run the 600m recovery jogs at 6.30 mile pace. 30 seconds faster.

No changes are made in the goal pace.

Recovery will lessen

The hard reps are still hit in 3.12 but the recovery time drops.

This is key.

In preparing to drop your two mile time you want to do workouts where you are not only maintaining and practicing the pace you want to run the entire distance at, but also teaching your body to handle less rest.

Keep in mind you don’t get rest breaks in the middle of the PT test so train in such a way where you have handled paces at or above your goal pace with little rest and you will destroy your two-mile time, guaranteed.

Your running will become more automatic, your easy runs will be run at a much faster clip, without you even realizing it.

As you gain anaerobic fitness you run further distance at a much lower heart rate.

Your heart doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as it did when you were first starting out.

The more workouts you do at above your goal race time the easier your recovery and easy run efforts are going to be and the more efficient you are going to run.

You go out and run a 5 mile morning run in 40 minutes and 6 weeks down the road your running at the same perceived effort in 34 minutes.

rundreamachieveThe beauty of training.

Yes, it is boring at times but you forget all that when you run a huge personal best. The work has payed off and your buddies are stoked about what you have done.

It isn’t rocket science, but there is more to running then just putting one foot in front of the other.

Take a few of these tips to heart and I can assure you of some dramatic drops in time off your two-mile run time. Learn to gradually lengthen the distance of your easy runs and, without question, relax on your recovery days.

Some of the world’s fastest Kenyans run as slow as 12 to 14 minute per mile pace on their easy days. These are men who are running well under 5.00 per mile during their marathons. Take that to heart.

If they are humble enough to back off in order to recover from their hard sessions why can’t you?

You can’t run hard every day and there is nothing wrong with running as slow as your grandma on your easy days. Remember, run smarter, not necessarily harder and you will be well on your way to running far faster then you ever thought you could. Plan well, take your time and watch the results fall in your lap.

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5 thoughts on “4 Tips To Help The Military Improve Run Times And Score Higher

  1. Thanks for this very good info…I’m prior service Army and I am doing some research for my son who is a Track and XC runner….he currently has a 9:20 in the 3200m and in 3 weeks we are hoping to not only win the 1A Wash State title…but break the 1A 3200 record of 9:17. Right now he also has a time of 4:22 in the 1600m, (currently #2 in State 1A)…but he has the best chance of winning State in the 3200m….what should he be doing the next 3 weeks to cut a few more seconds off his time….I was a master fitness trainer in the Army at one point and I have him working pretty hard besides his H/S track practices….lots of fast first miles followed immediately by miles of hill training, lots of good nutrition, and lots of sleep…..any input from a World class Runner such as yourself would be greatly appreciated. 

    Thanks You,
    Jim Bottoms

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for serving and please tell your son I wish him the very best. He is a VERY strong high school runner and times like that he is going to have some big offers form schools. I ran 4.24 for 1600m in high school and only 9.46 (compared to your sons ‘current’ best of 9.20)…he will continue to improve.

    I can’t speak on behalf of his coach and am unsure of what type of workouts he is doing but I would emphasize tapering down his mileage. The last 3 weeks, at this point the brunt of his anaerobic training has been doing based on the track season. You don’t run 4.22 for 1600m/9.20 for 3200m without a great deal of anaerobic work as you know.

    The toughest thing for him, more than likely, will be easing up his training leading into these crucial last 3 weeks and forcing himself to not race as hard as he probably can in the district and regional meets.  

    If I were in his position I would run just hard enough to win in the district championship in both events. He shouldn’t have an issue (depending if he has any real competition at the district level, based on his fitness level, probably unlikely). He may even be in the same position at the regional meet but key is to have him conserve just enough so when he gets to the state meet he will be totally rested and didn’t spin his wheels going into the meet. Save the best for last!

    I ran my best mile (4.24) in a duel meet where second place was 5.01..I was trying to break a stadium record that I ended up getting but in the big picture, who cares about a stadium record..a state championship is what counts so I send that message to your son. Crank the engine when it counts! I had to fight hard to win my district championships with a 4.26 (second was 4.26 also..outsprinted the kid by 2 hundredths of a second) but by that time I had run so many hard miles/2 miles that I didn’t really need to run I was fried. I ran 4.26 again in my regional (top 4 went to the Ohio State Meet)..finishing 6th so looking back I really stress this on your son…run just hard enough (if you can and don’t have anyone around you) to win and race as hard as possible to win and break the state record

    Workout wise, gradually drop mileage and increase intensity slightly (drop reps though!). For example, if he was doing 8x400m 5 weeks ago at 65 seconds with 200m jog recovery, 2 weeks out have him do 6x400m at 61 seconds with 200 meter recovery but lesson the focus on mileage.

    3 Weeks out should be more maintenance than anything. Fine tuning his leg speed with shorter intense workouts like 8x200m in 30 seconds with a faster 200m at 5.30 mile pace..approx 40sec for the float, than shut it down…maybe 1 mile warmup and cool down and thats it.

    PLEASE keep me posted on how he does in the district/regional/state meets. 

    Hope this helps and good luck to your son!

  3. Thanks for such a prompt, detailed response…just having him read your reply will cut time from his 3200m….His name is Stephen Bottoms, and athletic.net has his times….we are kind of playing a little “rope-a-dope” with his 3200m posted time…he has been holding back at the local Meets to keep his posted 1A time slower, (9:34)…which was posted back in the middle of Mar. I have Steve running every event he can during his Meets for training purposes…he runs the 800m, the 1600m, the 4×400 relay THEN he runs the 3200m, he normally wins them all hands down. We are hoping this iron man training during the Meets will help…but they also have kept his 3200m best time under raps from his possible State completion. I totally agree with your suggestion on holding back during League and Districts…which his closet completion are easily 30-40 seconds back. Steve actually can consistently pull under  9:15’s….which for a H/S Junior is pretty damn good…as long as he keeps his head straight, and does not get hurt before State, he should break the 1A 3200m record, he could also win the 1600m, but is worried that with it being the day prior to the 3200m, that it would keep him from the State record for the 3200m. He currently celebrates his wins by jumping rope in the garage for an hour after his Meets….kids an animal. We Will keep you posted …his League meet is 11 May…..and let me also thank you for Your ongoing Serves Nate.

    Thanks again for taking the time, your going to make Stevens day!http://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/Athlete.aspx?AID=1421967Jim Bottoms

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