If you’ve ever served in the ARNG or USAR for even one day you probably realize the HUGE physical fitness challenges. Many units have upwards of 50% of their Soldiers that cannot pass HT/WT and/or the APFT. This causes huge problems with readiness, training, and morale.
One website visitor recently asked me this question about physical fitness:
“A question that comes to mind is related to Guard/Reserve PT performance issues that have plagued us for years. What type of physical fitness programs have proven successful between monthly battle assemblies? We are finding it difficult to get all Soldiers motivated to do PT on their own between drill periods.
We have a PTX program for APFT failures on drill weekends, but even this is not motivating enough Soldiers to pass an APFT. It’s viewed more as a negative, so I can see how it will not reach everyone. I am currently working on putting together PT/running groups for our Soldiers who live in areas where we have at least a handful of Soldiers to participate. I believe this will help to a degree as camaraderie and peer pressure should help attendance. In the same program, we are coming up with ideas as how to motivate and reward those who participate between battle assemblies. This has yet to play out, however, I’m curious to learn other ideas that may work.”
~ Name withheld for privacy
This is really a great question. As a former Company Commander myself, one of my biggest challenges was to get Soldiers to do PT on their own, outside of drill weekend. Ultimately, there isn’t a lot you can do, but here are a few things to consider.
1) Conduct PT during Drill Weekend As a Unit: The first and best thing to do is to incorporate a unit physical fitness program into your training calendar. Start doing PT during drill weekend, before drill weekend or after drill weekend. Let your Soldiers know that it is a priority in your unit.
2) FLAG All Soldiers Who Fail HT/WT and/or the APFT: The next important thing to do is to FLAG everyone who fails the APFT or HT/WT. This lets your Soldiers know you are serious about physical fitness.
3) Reward Soldiers Who Score a 250 or Higher: Another great thing to do is to reward people who surpass the Army standards with physical fitness. Put them in for an AAM, a unit coin, a Certificate of Achievement, or something else. Let people know you will reward good behavior.
4) Give a Class on Physical Fitness and Nutrition: Furthermore, you could bring in a personal trainer or nutritionist during a drill weekend to give a class about these subjects. This might help “open your Soldiers’ eyes” about these issues.
5) Talk to Local Gyms to Get a Group Discount on Memberships: Another fantastic idea is to visit a gym near the armory and see if you can get a group discount if you can get 10-50 people to sign up as members. If you can help your Soldiers get a discounted gym membership, there’s a good chance many of them will enroll.
6) Encourage Squad Leaders and Platoon Sergeants to Have Their Own Fitness Group Once a Week: You shouldn’t force your NCOs to do this, but you could at least bring up the idea with them. If they are already fitness buffs, this shouldn’t be a very big deal.
7) Counsel Your Soldiers: Counsel all your Soldiers who fail either the HT/WT or APFT. Put it in writing. Make sure they know what you expect of them and what will happen if they don’t meet the standard.
8) Start a Running Club: Another simple thing to do is start a running club at the unit armory. Have it meet a few days a week and have different people lead the group. Make it voluntary, but make it fun so Soldiers want to participate.
9) Start a Weight Loss Challenge: Another great idea is to start a unit weight loss challenge. Make a competition that whoever loses the most weight wins a prize. Take everyone’s measurements at the start and have a chart to track the progress. Make it a 90 to 120 competition. Keep doing this throughout the year.
10) Have Realistic Expectations: As a part-time military leader, you have to have realistic expectations. At the end of the day, we ARE NOT Active Duty Soldiers. Most people are busy, have a set routine and are simply lazy. You have to worry about what you can control and stop worrying about what you can’t control. You have to realize that most Soldiers will not do PT on their own, regardless of what programs you create for them. All you can do is hold them accountable if they fail to meet the standards.
At the end of the day, physical fitness is an individual responsibility. It is really up to each individual Soldier to stay in shape and act/look like a Soldier. I know you don’t want to hear that, but as part-time Soldiers, we are at a major disadvantage with our Active Duty counterparts (in that respect). They have control over their Soldiers 24/7 whereas we might get our Soldiers two to three days each month.
More importantly, it’s the small unit leader’s job to enforce the Army Standards and hold Soldiers accountable. Without a doubt, this is the REAL issue at hand. Most units do not even flag APFT failures and HT/WT Failures. When you let Soldiers fail to meet the standards and don’t do anything about it, you are just as guilty.
In summary, I hope the tips in this post give you some concrete ideas about how to get Soldiers to do PT between drill weekends. I know it’s tough to do, but if you can come up with a game-plan and follow some of the ideas I mentioned above you will be well on your way.
Do you have any questions, or any added tips? Please post them below.