I’ve never been a runner. I’ve been an athlete since I could walk, and I never shied away from working hard at practices, games, or conditioning. However, I’ve never been a runner, and never been good at the things the Army likes its Soldiers to be good at. I sucked at bodyweight movements other than push-ups or sit-ups. Obstacle courses have always been hard for me. That led to me feeling like I was way behind the power curve every time I went to a school. Instead of letting it defeat me, I decided that I would take ownership of my weaknesses and find a way to make them into strengths. The opportunity came when I deployed. What better time to work on what those in CrossFit call our ‘goat’? I decided to tackle the problem of being a crappy runner, and here’s how I did it.
I did not start too fast. I know people have a tendency to overdo it. The first thing I did was send in my registration for the Army Ten Miler shadow race at Balad. I sent it in June, and the race was in October. After that, I said “Oh, sh** just got real”, and sat down to make a training plan. I took my knowledge of conditioning, fitness, and weightlifting and made what turned out to be a good plan for me.
Our compound was walled in and a half mile around the parking area. Since I wasn’t scared of incoming aircraft, I decided this would be a better place to train than running down the streets of the base (especially since I worked night shifts). With my goal of three run days, I planned the first day to be HIIT training over the course of 3 total miles (with warm up and cool down); the second day to be a tempo run (started at around 2 miles but increased with my long runs each week, where I topped out here around 7 or 8 miles); and the third day to be a long, slow run (started with 3 miles but ended up at half marathon distance). I added around 10% of my long run distance to itself each week, building slowly and not rushing my improvement.
My weightlifting plan was endurance-based. I did around 2 days per week and split my body parts worked between the two, doing legs and abs each time. The program I did was called 100s, and for each exercise you do, do one set of 100 reps. You are allowed to rest, but only 1 second per remaining rep. This led to me getting stronger and better for the APFT, and didn’t overwhelm my body since my goal was running, not powerlifting. I found it to suit my running goals and complement them very well.
Throughout the journey; I lost 30 pounds, didn’t have to get taped for the first time in my career, ran the Army Ten Miler and a half marathon before leaving Iraq, ran a half marathon on a treadmill (and will never do that again), got into races (including my 10k best of just under 44 minutes), and did well enough on the APFT to earn the Physical Fitness Excellence badge (which never officially got awarded to me, but I was still happy to score high enough to know I could have earned it).
Final Thoughts: Instead of letting a problem defeat me, I found a way to overcome it. It took a lot of time and sweat, however, I also know I am not at that level anymore. I do feel empowered knowing that I can implement that plan again and see success. What problems have you overcome? I would like to hear about it in the comments.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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