How to Get Soldiers To Do PT Between Drill Weekends

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.

pt between drill weekendWe 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

Part-Time-Commander.com Response

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Thanks for Your Service,

Chuck Holmes

SKYPE: mrchuckholmes
(352) 503-4816 home office
Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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18 thoughts on “How to Get Soldiers To Do PT Between Drill Weekends

  1. Faye

    These are all good tips, but I really like the one about recognition the best. It would seem that the ability to do a good job (or just keep your job), and get promotions would be enough incentive to stay in shape, but apparently it is not. So then, additional recognition is usually more motivating than punishments or shame. Plus, the latter can lead to poor morale and worse.

    Reply
  2. Candace Ginestar

    It is so hard to motivate Soldiers to work out in between drill. I know a few NCOs that check on their joes in between drill and work out with them. Other than that, I am not sure how else to be more hands on. The Guard does place more burden on individual responsibility than the active force…

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      Good point, Candace! FLAGGING the PT failures is about the only thing you can do. It’s a unique situation that Active Duty Soldiers don’t normally have to deal with, since they do PT every day and are around their soldiers more.

      Reply
      1. Candace Ginestar

        If an active duty Soldier is failing, then I would seriously question their leadership. There are so many more options to deal with that issue, that I am almost jealous! I try to motivate and inspire, but who knows if I am actually reaching anyone.

        Reply
  3. Mara

    Holding your Soldiers accountable for their fitness and weight goals is crucial, although it might be difficult to motivate them. But I really like how you included incentives and motivational groups. Having realistic expectations and rewarding them for a job well done with PT is a great way to keep them going.

    Counseling and sticking it out with the Soldiers may be of the most advantage. When I have coached others on motivation and helped my family members to lose weight it was a collective effort and seemed to work best. These are all great ways of keeping the weight down and fitness up!

    Reply
    1. Candace Ginestar

      Collective efforts do seem to be the best way, peer pressure from other Soldiers is always effective! It is incumbent upon every team leader to be like a rabid dog about this issue. They, of course, need to exceed the standard themselves.

      Reply
  4. Tina

    I’ve found it’s really next to impossible to make this happen. Once soldiers leave the armory after drill weekend, they’re pretty much going to to do whatever it is they want to do on their own time. All you can really control is whether you flag them or not, hold them accountable, and reward good performance.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      This is a good point, Tina. Once people leave the unit after drill weekend there is very little you can do to make sure they exercise, eat healthy and stay in shape. As a leader, you can encourage them, provide a good example and try to make them WANT to exercise regularly, but that’s about all you can do.

      Reply
  5. Amy Skalicky

    I agree that physical fitness is an individual responsibility, but extra motivation never hurts either. We all know how tough it can be to get out there and do it sometimes. Information and training on topics such as nutrition and proper running techniqes can be helpful as well. Personally, I like a rewards-based mentality, as well as friendly competition. I don’t know too many soldiers who don’t have a competitive spirit, and you could easily capitalize on that, encouraging hard work and fun at the same time.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      I like the competitive spirit too. The only way to really “motivate” your troops to stay in shape is to reward them if they do and punish them if they don’t. Of course, it helps to lead by example and stay in shape yourself.

      Reply
  6. Derek

    The truth is you can’t get soldiers to do PT in between drill weekends. It is an INDIVIDUAL responsibility and until Soldiers accept responsibility for their own career and individual readiness, very little will happen. As a leader you should FLAG them, counsel them and hold them accountable.

    Reply
    1. Chuck Holmes Post author

      Good point, Derek. It is an individual responsibility. And in today’s world, very few people like to assume individual responsibility. It’s much easier to make an excuse or blame it on someone else.

      Reply
  7. WilliamTopKone

    We have found the following to be useful.
    First recognizing everyone who gets 270 or above after the PT test.

    Second, when someone passes for the first time in a long time, pulling them out front and congratulating them on the outstanding effort. Last month we had a Soldier who had not passed a PT test in three years pass with a 187, they had also lost 57 pounds and is less than 1/2 a % from making tape. Putting them out there as an example shows it can be done.

    Third, making sure your Officers and Senior NCOs pass the APFT and THEY TAKE IT WITH THE TROOPS! This “Ill take it mid-week” BS is not leading by example. You don’t have to max it. but pass.

    Fourth: Reductions for inefficiency
    AR350-1para 4-13(3) This is the Reg to reduce due to inefficiency.
    “Reduction for Inefficiency: Inefficiency is a demonstration of characteristics that shows that the person cannot perform duties and responsibilities of the grade and MOS. Inefficiency may also include any act or conduct that clearly shows that the Soldier lacks those abilities and qualities normally required and expected of an individual of that grade and experience. AR600-8-19 para 10-5

    We sent two NCOs to the promotion/reduction board (an E-6 and E-5) and reduced 3 E-4s and E-3s. Suddenly they started working between BAs and many others started making the effort.
    That is the last resort of course. Under E-4s is simple, a few counseling statements, the NCOs have to go before a board, most BNs have a quarterly board. If you get your CSM to sign off on the idea, you can shake up not just your company but the entire BN. But make sure your officers are passing or you have a plan to get them out of dealing with Soldiers.

    Reply
    1. Candace Ginestar

      These are awesome tips! Thank you for the suggestions. I don’t think we should be afraid to reduce rank if necessary. It really sends a strong message. We’ve taken corporals’ stripes from them, it hurts.

      Reply
  8. Justin Long

    Great tips. As a Part-Time Leader, the most difficult thing in the world is to ensure the physical readiness of your Soldiers, as your anonymous writer has indicated. Another tip I have is something I do personally… I have one of those doorway pull up bars in my house. I have placed it in the doorway to my bedroom. Inspired by Airborne School, I have made it a point to do 5 Pull Ups each time I walk into the room, and then 10 pushups on my way out… Sounds weird, but its those little things throughout the day that help. Try little simple ideas like this with your Soldiers! I have one of mine doing 5 pushups and 5 situps during every commercial break at home!

    Reply

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