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Commentary | Aug. 3, 2009

Airmen should focus on new PT program

By Airman 1st Class Jason Brown 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The sweltering August sun loomed high in the sky, and the air was thick with moisture. Every time I inhaled, it felt almost like I was breathing in mist. The heat and humidity, a staple of Hampton Roads' summer climate, weighed down on me hard, wicking the sweat (and the energy) right out of me as I ran along the running trail that encircles the flightline. 

"Can't stop now," I said out loud, pushing myself along the trail, "... two miles to go." 

As much as I dislike running long distances, especially in summer heat, I need to get in better shape and stay that way. It's critical for all Airmen to remember the new Air Force fitness standards will be implemented in January of next year, sparing us a mere four months to prepare. 

The PT test has undergone several changes, including redistribution of points for different sections of the evaluation, test administration by health and wellness center staff rather than fellow Airmen, and the addition of a second test per year. 

Why the changes? 

"Airmen must present the proper military appearance and project to the American public our ability to defend our nation and its interests," said former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley. 

The best way to ensure Airmen are fit to fight and look the part is to lead healthier lifestyles. 

One way Airmen can improve their physical fitness is by going above and beyond the mandatory unit PT sessions. For example, even though my unit trains three times per week, I intend to work out five to six times per week. 

Monica Cohen, Langley HAWC exercise physiologist said Airmen should take their organized PT sessions seriously, and use that time to improve. 

Developing proper form is also essential to maximizing the efficiency of the workout as well as making sure each repetition counts toward the total. Failure to execute repetitions properly can lead to strain. 

"Go ahead and crunch numbers," Mrs. Cohen said. "It's not enough to say you want to improve; figure out how fast you need to run to meet your goals and work toward that." 

Since the updated and expanded tests apply to all Airmen, one of the best motivational tools is a wingman. Band together with fellow Airmen and take an evening run, or visit one of the fitness centers on base with friends and work on calisthenics. 

As always, becoming healthier doesn't stop at exercise. Healthy lifestyle practices, such as eating right, limiting (or eliminating) tobacco and alcohol use and managing stress are all as important as physical training to developing a healthier you. 

"The main thing Airmen should do is start now," Mrs. Cohen said. "It's important that everyone is ready for the new test." 

Fitness is an ongoing journey - not a destination. It's not about being fit to test, but rather, fit to fight.