Preparing for the APFT

 

Preparing for the APFT is both a mental and physical effort. If you want to reach optimal performance, it is important to take a whole-body approach, including engaging in cardiovascular exercise and strength training; eating a healthy diet; and getting adequate and quality sleep. 

 

EXERCISE

When beginning your exercise program it is important to pace yourself and slowly increase your activity. This will help you avoid injury, achieve optimal benefits, and reach Army standards. Your standardized physical training program will always include the following elements: a warm-up, the main physical training, and a cool-down. This is the safest and most effective way to train and condition your heart for exercises and progression.

 

Warm- up

The warm-up should last approximately 15 minutes, and occur just before the activities of your physical training session. Performing consistent dynamic (moving) warm-ups can ultimately help improve performance on the APFT.  Dynamic warm-ups like walking prior to jogging and jogging prior to running, prepares the body for more vigorous conditioning activities and can decrease the risk of injury.  Soldiers should also refer to the Army Physical Readiness Training Manual FM 7-22 for the preparation drill that is a dynamic warm-up consisting of ten exercises that appropriately prepare Soldiers for physical readiness activities. 

 

Cardiorespiratory and Strength Training

Cardiorespiratory endurance refers to the body’s ability to utilize oxygen in the working muscles. The standard Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) involves running, so activities like Ability Group Runs (AGR), speed running, foot marching, and conditioning drills per the FM 7-22, will help you prepare for this event.  Cycling and swimming are also good choices when working on cardiorespiratory fitness.  Strength training at least twice per week is important to prepare for the push-up and sit-up portion of the test.  If your APFT goal is to improve the number of repetitions of push-ups and sit-ups, it is recommended that you perform a variety of upper body and core exercises.

 Ø  Upper Body Exercises:  There are three major muscles groups involved in a push-up: Pectorals, Triceps, and Deltoids.  Maximize your workouts by varying muscles worked and super-setting exercises so that you can combine rest time for one muscle group with work time for another muscle group.  

Ø  Core Exercises: A true core strength training program not only uses your abdominals, but also activates all the muscles stabilizing the spine, hips and pelvis.  Refer back to Army HEALTH’s fitness tool for specific exercises and instructional videos for these specific areas.  Practice will help you increase your APFT scores, but remember that rest is also important.  Incorporating upper body and core exercises into your weekly workout routine will help you reach your goals. 

 

Cool down

The cool down should last approximately 10-15 minutes and should occur immediately after the activities of your standardized physical training session. You should begin the cool down by walking until your heart rate returns to less than 100 beats per minute and heavy sweating stops.  

 

NUTRITION

In addition to exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in attaining and maintaining total fitness. Good dietary habits on the days leading up to, and including the day of your APFT can greatly enhance your ability to perform at your maximum potential. According to the Department of the Army Fitness Training manual, "Because foods eaten one to three days before an activity provide part of the fuel for that activity, it is important to eat foods every day that are rich in complex carbohydrates." 

 

The night before the test, you can benefit from drinking water and eating fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. On the day of your test, it's a good idea to eat just one light meal before the test begins. Having a light meal will help keep your energy up without feeling sluggish. Here are some ideas for staying energized and hydrated:

  • Half whole-grain bagel with light cream cheese and a cheese stick or slice of turkey breast.
  •  A piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
  •  Apples, bananas or carrots with hummus or peanut butter.
  • Keep water with you at all times.
  • Several hours before your scheduled cardiovascular event, drink at least 16 ounces of water.
  • Avoid rehydrating with sports drinks (if exercising for < 1 hour).
  • Drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost through sweating.

*Remember: It is possible to drink too much water. Listen to your body.   

SLEEP

Sleep is a vital component for peak physical performance, yet it is often overlooked or not prioritized. In addition to increasing energy and endurance, getting enough sleep also aids in muscle recovery, stress reduction, and increased accuracy and reaction time. Research has shown that sleep so strongly affects physical performance, such that your body declines in physical performance by 25% for every 24 hours that your body is deprived of sleep. It is important to get enough sleep all the time, not just the day before your APFT.  Here are some tips for getting more sleep:

  •  Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime (including soft drinks, tea, and chocolate)
  •  Avoid eating 2-3 hours prior to bedtime
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Block noise and light
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as taking a hot shower. 

The Bottom Line

Train the way you test. This is the best way to ensure that you will do well on your next APFT. Focusing on a whole body approach that includes diet, exercise, and sleep will also aid in preparation. Finally, here are some tips for the day of the test. Good luck! 

  • The night before the test, drink water and eat fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Runners also prefer the carbohydrate-boosting energy of pasta the night before a race. 
  • On the day of the test, eat a small snack that consists of a complex carbohydrate and a protein (i.e. whole grain toast with peanut butter).
  • Drink at least 16 oz. of water prior to the test. During the breaks between the tests, drink small amounts of water slowly to replenish fluids lost during sweating.
  • Wear proper running shoes with your PT uniform (i.e. no minimalist “barefoot” shoes).  Additionally, choose a running shoe that is suitable for your particular type of foot .
  • Always warm up and cool down. The warm-up should include a lighter version of your exercise activity, such as jogging before running. The cool down process allows your heart rate and breathing to return to their resting rates. 

 

References: www.active.com, www.miltary.com, http://www.militaryonesource.mil/, http://armyhealth.pbrc.edu/, and FM 7-22.   

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. and the Performance Triad

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As introduced in a previous Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog post, the fundamental components of the Performance Triad are nutrition, activity, and sleep. Emphasis has been placed on these three elements due to their ability to impact mental and physical performance. Interested Soldiers and their family members can utilize the tools on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile app to aide in the practical application of these three essential elements to their lifestyle.

How? Army H.E.A.L.T.H. works in conjunction with the Triad to offer custom nutrition and fitness plans in addition to sleep material specifically designed for military personnel. Whether looking for a new exciting fitness routine, or ideas for healthy, energizing meals, Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is the bridge that connects the Performance Triad to Soldiers and their family members.

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Eating a healthy diet is imperative for maintaining peak physical and mental performance. Soldiers face their own unique set of environmental factors that may either help or discourage healthy eating practices. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers make the right dietary choices. The custom meal planner provides a detailed list of foods tailored for an individual’s specific requirements. For those with specific food preferences or needs, foods can easily be removed or modified.

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Most Soldiers share the common goal of maintaining a high level of physical fitness. However, no two Soldiers have the exact same fitness needs, routines, equipment, etc. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers achieve their fitness goals by providing a custom made fitness plan according to each person’s individual goals. The fitness plan provides a detailed exercise routine that is made specifically for each individual. Exercises are easily removed or modified to accommodate for injury or lack of equipment. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Fitness planner even takes each Soldier’s next scheduled APFT into consideration when creating a new plan.

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Most service members know that it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night…a recommendation that is often easier said than done. In the Army, lack of sleep often results from operational requirements or high-operations tempo training. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. provides information regarding how to improve sleep quality and quantity under the most difficult, military specific situations. Resources are also provided for working with commanders and peers to ensure that Soldiers are enabled to get enough sleep and, therefore, function optimally.

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. has Arrived!

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Army H.E.A.L.T.H. (Army Healthy Eating Activity Lifestyle Training Headquarters) has arrived!  And we’re here to help Soldiers, veterans, and their family members lose weight and/or prevent unnecessary weight gain, become more mentally and physically fit, and develop better sleep habits.  Here’s a little bit more about who we are and what we do.

Information at Your Fingertips

The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile application offers custom nutrition and fitness plans based off of the user’s individual characteristics and needs.  This custom feature is especially helpful for Soldiers who wish to improve their APFT scores, reduce/maintain body fat, or achieve a higher level of fitness, but do not have access to traditional resources that are available in Garrison.  The portability of Army H.E.A.L.T.H. ensures that the tools you need are available 24/7, wherever you are in the world.

Backed by Science

The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. program is based off of more than 20 years of research examining the dynamic factors affecting nutrition and fitness in the military.  Our team consists of civilian and military professionals with backgrounds in psychology, neuroscience, nutrition, biology, business, communication, and computer science.  We are former collegiate athletes, military spouses, registered dietitians, Soldiers, software developers, and clinical psychologists.  What do we all have in common? A passion for helping Soldiers and their families live healthier, more physically active lives.  Check us out here.

Army Strong

We understand the unique demands of military life, and it is our mission to guide you on your path to be the best version of yourself!  Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is Army Strong!