I failed my PT test. I fucking failed my PT test. I’ve never failed a PT test. Not even my very first PT test in basic training when the drill sergeants smoked the bejeezus out of us the day and night before the test in order to make us fail. Okay, calm down, breathe, it’s not the end of the world. Yes it is, shit shit SHIT, how could I have failed a PT test? I’m a worthless piece of dung. I’m an embarrassment to women everywhere and for that matter the entire damn human race. How the hell did this happen?
Let’s go back a few days. I officially signed up for the GoRuck Light challenge, corralling some friends to do it with me. What did I need to do next? Oh, right. Training. Those push-ups that I never actually do and all. And sit-ups! When was the last time I did a true, blue sit-up and not some kind of crunch or sidebend or something? For that matter, when was the last time I did some kind of crunch or sidebend or something? I suck. What was I thinking? I’m going to get crushed.
Okay, mini-meltdown aside, I do need to get my sort-of-toned-but-could-be-better butt in gear and get to work. Not to mention my insipid upper body strength. One of the biggest challenges I find in training of any kind is that I don’t push myself hard enough. Not because I’m lazy but because I often don’t give myself enough credit, especially when I’m attempting something new and I don’t know how capable I really am. The kind of things that take place in a GoRuck Light challenge aren’t exactly new to me (although I’ve tried very hard to erase bear crawls from my memory) but it’s been a long time since I’ve done stuff like that.
Fortunately, since I’ve been obsessed with the GoRuck site since I first learned about the challenges, I know they have a six week training plan that is just the thing I need to get my training jump started. It sure doesn’t look easy but easy is not what I’ve signed up for anyway.
The very first part of the training plan is giving yourself a PT test. Officially it’s the Army Physical Fitness Test (or APFT) but it’s generally known as the plain old PT test. According to the plan, if you pass the test you are in good enough shape to start with the training program. Now, I know that I’m in decent shape (right? right?) so I thought I’d just skip the test and go ahead and start with the training. But I started to feel a bit guilty, like I was cheating by not taking the test. And I must admit that I didn’t want to take the test because I wasn’t sure I could pass. I had no idea what the standards even were anymore, the last time I took a PT test was over six years ago. I was always pretty good at them, I never quite maxed (achieved a perfect score in each event for a total score of 300) but I was always close and would sometimes get a perfect score in an individual portion like push-ups. But I also did push-ups and sit-ups back then. At least I’ve been running lately so I should be okay on that event.
So I thought, okay, you know you need to work on the push-ups and sit-ups so start doing those again and after a week or two take the test. But then I felt like I wasn’t being quite honest. The point was to take the test to establish a baseline and then take the test again later and gauge your improvement. Fine, I’ll take the stupid thing, dammit conscience, stop nagging already.
The APFT consists of three events: push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run. For the first two, you have two minutes to do as many push-ups and sit-ups as you can. But there are rules. For the push-ups, once you start you cannot touch the ground again (besides of course your feet and hands) or the event ends. If you need to rest you can only do so by either arching or swaying your back. No knees, no lying on the ground and gasping for air. For the sit-ups, the only acceptable rest position once you start is in the “up” portion, no resting on the ground or the event is concluded. The run is simple, you run for two miles and your points are calculated from your time. You have to get a minimum score of 60 (out of 100) on each event or you fail the entire test.
As I got ready to take the test, I started to feel a bit nervous. Not sure why, nothing would happen if I either failed or passed the test. The only damage or boost would be to my pride. I found myself stalling as my self-appointed time grew near but I chastised myself for being a slacker and finally got down to business.
First event: push-ups. Push-ups were historically my best event and certainly not as loathed as sit-ups. I had been wavering between being sure I would fail this portion because of my lack of training and being sure I would pass because hey, push-ups and I had a history, they had my back even if I had horribly neglected them for years. Turns out push-ups didn’t like being neglected and they kicked me to curb, they dropped me like a bad habit, they told me “Hasta la vista, baby.” I failed this portion of the PT test by one push-up. I was desperately trying to complete that last, fateful push-up when my muscles caved and I hit the ground. Test over. What. The. Fuck. I still had a shameful amount of time left and for a moment I considered just getting back up and trying to keep going. But that was cheating, I knew the rules. I was done.
So. First event and I had already failed the test. I considered just quitting then and trying to take the test again the next day. Start fresh and pretend this hadn’t happened. No one would know. But it did happen and I knew. If it had been a real PT test I wouldn’t have been able to just quit and try again the next day. Disheartening as it was to continue with the test knowing that I had already failed, that’s what I had to do. Besides, one point of these posts is to relate how a normal, not super athletically gifted, everyday type person gets ready for a challenge. If everything was easy, what’s the point?
Second event: sit-ups. I was kind of worried now. I’ve neglected sit-ups at least as thoroughly as I have push-ups and sit-ups were always my weakest event anyway. I hated them and would only start doing them as PT test time neared so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I wasn’t horrible at them, usually scoring somewhere in the 80s but never maxed them either. Turns out that while push-ups had forgotten my phone number, sit-ups were more forgiving and gave me another chance. I felt bad about trash talking them, sit-ups were my boo. The swimming and biking had kept my core in good enough shape so I could at least fake my way through. I passed. Not a spectacular score but a passing one nonetheless.
Now for the run. I was pretty sure I had this but my knees could still make it a tricky event. I had done the push-ups and sit-ups in my house and as I headed out the door to the park for the run portion it started to rain. I started laughing. Of course it was raining, “if it ain’t raining, it ain’t training” was a saying I had heard way too much in my time in the army. If I hadn’t stalled earlier I might have gotten done before the rain hit. Just punishment for my slacker ways I thought. I haven’t been back into running for long, maybe two months. I had finally hit upon a decent workaround for my chronic and extremely painful IT band problem (taping my thigh an inch or two above the knee to almost tourniquet tightness) while I worked on trying to address the root problem through physical therapy. I was never a true runner’s runner but I had been decent enough and my failures in the PT test had only been failing to max, never failing to pass. I was pretty sure I had the run but then again, I had been pretty sure I had the push-ups too.
My route in the park was fairly flat but did have some very gentle rises and drops. The park itself is very hilly and usually when I run I make sure to include these to keep me honest but not for this test, no way. The easier course and the shorter distance resulted in the best time I’ve had since I started running again. Not only did I pass this portion, I scored in a respectable range. And my knees didn’t even make a peep. If I started the test on a horribly discouraging note, at least I ended it in a positive way.
In the mental AAR (after action review) that I performed on my walk home from the park, I tried to honestly assess my performance. My push-ups were abysmal, no getting around that fact. One reason I had pretty much given up on this exercise was that my right wrist (from prior injury and perhaps some encroaching arthritis) could get very painful from certain exercises, including push-ups. It felt fine after the test so that was a good omen. I need to latch onto the positive instead of wallowing in my failure. I also know that push-ups aren’t that hard to improve upon if one simply does them so I’m encouraged by that fact. Same with sit-ups. I had passed this portion, not with any score I’d brag about, but if I simply added them to my routine I’d be sure to show a lot of improvement next time I took the test. I had to remember too that doing well on the PT test wasn’t the end goal. Getting ready for the GoRuck Light challenge was. By working toward the latter I would improve on the former.
Even though I failed the test (I still can’t type that without shuddering) I’m going to go ahead with the six week program. I have enough time before the challenge that I can do it twice. Or maybe I’ll be so hardcore after finishing it once I’ll move on to the daily PT program on GoRuck’s site. As for right now, I’m writing this while performing some ACRT (Advanced Cellular Repair Technology, or beer) at my local pub, GoRuck style. Cheers.