JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command, recently expressed his intent to emphasize a “ready now” mentality among Airmen across the command.
To meet this intent, Holmes is encouraging Airmen to understand how physical fitness directly relates to agile squadrons and combat readiness.
The standard outlined in Air Force Instruction 36-2618, Enlisted Force Structure, applies to all Airmen. All service members are required to be physically ready to accomplish the mission and actively participate in the Air Force fitness program and always meet Air Force fitness standards by maintaining a year-round physical conditioning program that emphasizes total fitness, to include: aerobic conditioning, muscular fitness training and healthy eating.
Tony Arroyo, 633rd Force Support Squadron Fitness Center director, and Monica Richardson, 633rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotion coordinator, provided ACC senior leaders with four tips to ensure Airmen are able to pass their fitness assessments at any given moment.
Simply put, move, nourish, refresh, and connect.
1. Move and train smart. There’s no magic pill.
If Airmen engage in rigorous physical activity five to six days a week, they will be far better off than being sedentary until the months, weeks, or days before their fitness assessments.
Arroyo advises that Airmen always be prepared to avoid last-minute prep, which is sometimes caused from being overweight.
“It’s all about being consistent with your physical activity,” Arroyo said. “Starting to train for your PT test a little bit too late forces you to run on consecutive days, which increases your injury risk.”
In addition to last minute prep, Airmen who aren’t able to manage their weight well can inadvertently add pressure on their joints and cause injuries such as shin splints and runner’s knee.
Airmen are encouraged to be specific with their training regimen when they are training for their timed 1.5 mile run.
“A lot of people don’t realize that you don’t have to run all the time to be physically fit and pass your PT test,” Arroyo said. “But you should get more specific, at about three months prior to that assessment and start to sprinkle some of that running in.”
Throughout the rest of the year, Airmen can do aerobic exercises they enjoy if they don’t prefer to run, Arroyo said.
“There is so much variety out there,” Arroyo said. “The best approach is to be a jack of all trades and be able to do a little bit of everything.”
The diversity also takes away some of the monotony of physical fitness and helps Airmen continue to see results, Arroyo said.
Arroyo also advised that Airmen practice using proper form when strength training for the muscular components of the fitness assessment.
“Focus on getting the proper form for your exercise and then gradually increase the resistance,” Arroyo said. “When you do have good technique, the results will be better.”
2. Nourish your body, hydrate, and eat to train
If Airmen nourish their bodies with whole, unprocessed foods instead of fast-food, sodas, energy drinks, sugary juices and junk food, they will have more strength, energy and endurance to perform well in their fitness assessments.
“Dehydration is a very real thing,” Richardson said. “Our bodies need water. If you’re dehydrated before your fitness test and you go out for your run, we can get into a very serious emergency situation very quickly.”
Richardson advises against Airmen participating in activities that can cause dehydration right before a PT test or during their physical training.
“All of your body’s processes need water,” Richardson said. “People restrict their water and calories for their abdominal circumference test and they don’t realize how it impacts the other areas of their assessment.”
Richardson recommends Airmen to avoid diets that cause extreme calorie restrictions.
“A lot of Airmen say, ‘Oh I’m just not going to eat the whole day before my test,’” Richardson said. “You need to fill your body for what your about to do. Would you get in your car and fill your tank with only a quarter tank of gas for a long-distance drive? Why would you think you would ask your body to perform physically, at the highest level you need it to without adequate fuel?”
Richardson said Airmen should put the proper nutrition in their bodies (in addition to hydrating) on the days, weeks, and months before their fitness test.
3. Refresh and recover
If Airmen allow their minds and bodies to take a break, they will not only perform better, but also feel better.
“Recovery is a big part of fitness,” Arroyo said. “Some individuals rest too much and don’t get enough activity throughout the week. Others over train a little bit.”
Arroyo recommends that even the fittest Airmen add active recovery cycles and at least one full day of rest into each week of their personal fitness plans.
“Our active recovery concept means that you’re not going as intense or maybe you’re backing off of the impact,” Arroyo said. “Full out rest is also extremely important.”
As Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a key component of Holmes’ plan, the general emphasizes that Airmen take time to connect with their families and friends.
“It has four pillars: mental, physical, social and spiritual,” Holmes said. “We try to work through and provide tools in each one of those areas.”
Demonstrating and supporting a healthy work-life balance helps build and support healthy families, Holmes said.
Other information avenues
Stay tuned to https://www.acc.af.mil for more information on this year’s focus on fitness.