"Vomitin' when runnin' means yer winnin'!!"
October 21, 2010 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Better late than never? I just finished my bi-annual Personal Fitness Assessment for the military and really need a "game plan" for getting a better passing score next spring.

While I certainly didn't do horribly, I also wasn't able to gain the best possible score either. This time, I achieved 106 sit-ups, 30 push-ups, and 14:10 (shameful) on the 1.5 mile run.

I'm female, 22, and 118 lbs - while I'm pretty damn skinny, I do not have much upper body muscle (arms, chest, back) in that I'm shaking when I work out those last push-ups. I have a fairly muscled core (abdomen, lower back), but as a personal goal I would like to attain the seemingly elusive 6-pack. My legs better than the rest, but in regards to something like the run (or any sort of group sport) I have almost no endurance.

I definitely used to have a better run time; I remember at one point I had a 12:45. During this run, on my 3rd lap, I was a little over 5 minutes and if I hadn't intermittently started walking, I think I could have reached 11:30 at least.

I don't want to be like one of "those" female weightlifters, but I do want (and need) more muscle, more endurance, and like many women, would of course like some tone/definition.

I subscribe to Runner's magazine, but I'm really wanting to find a magazine and other resources online for what to do during my workouts, when I'm not pushing through another run. I have access to quite a few kinds of exercise equipment, iPod, both cushioned and Vibram running shoes (though I've been using cushioned), etc so it's not about what I have, or really even getting bored during. I just really need advice on what to do.

Are there any magazines, for women, that are similar to those men's magazines (the kind with advertisements for this or that equipment, Muscle Milk and protein shakes, articles on everything from "our exercise heroes" to how taking such n such vitamins might be beneficial)?
posted by DisreputableDog to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is not actually an answer to the "are there any magazines..." question, but you might try the One Hundred Pushups program to increase the number of pushups you can do. I know a few people who've done it will success.
posted by brainmouse at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2010

As someone who has also taken many PT tests, I'd say start with the things that are going to have the most payoff first:
1. Improve your technique. If you concentrate on doing as many pushups as you can in the first minute, it's a lot easier to coast in on the last ten or twenty to max your score. Your situps sound good. The best advice I've gotten on the run is to start by sprinting the straights and jogging the curves, then work your way up to running one lap as fast as you can.

2. I find lifting weights and doing lunges help my pushups and run, respectively. As a woman I think you have to do an enormous amount of exercise before it starts making you look unusual. Until then, you just look toned.

Hope that helps.
posted by atchafalaya at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2010

I don't want to be like one of "those" female weightlifters, but I do want (and need) more muscle, more endurance, and like many women, would of course like some tone/definition.

The vast majority of women who lift weights do not look like female bodybuilders. Female bodybuilders get their physiques from a combination of steroids, genetics, a very high-protein diet, and an insane amount of weightlifting.

The musculature required for you to do more pushups is not the same as that required to be a bodybuilder, and weight lifting can help you.

exrx.net is a great resource.
posted by dfriedman at 11:20 AM on October 21, 2010

Done the PFA many, many times here. More than I'd like to admit.

If you don't want to start a running and lifting program (and btw, you wouldn't become one of 'those' female weightlifters just by doing solid cardio and resistance training) start out by fixing what almost every person who takes the PFA says: "I'm gonna do better next time and be better prepared". Cause that's as far as most people get.

The time to start training for the next PFA is now. Not a month prior.

What to do? Welllll, do the PFA! Do it until you can do more than the minimums, and do the 1.5 run - striving to beat your time by a few seconds every week.

Personally, I think you'd be better served by doing some weight training and cardio, then taking the PFA yourself once a month as a way of monitoring your progress.
posted by matty at 11:21 AM on October 21, 2010

I used to go to this gym (many years ago, but they're still thriving and expanding), where the emphasis is on functional fitness. Lots of medicine balls, resistance cables (many developed and sold by the owner and his dad, who run this company), using your own body weight for "rowing" or assisted pullups, etc.

One of our early instructors joined the military right after we'd been there, and I recall finding out that she had had the best scores of her whole platoon in basic training.

The best part is that it's suitable for whatever level you're at. If you're a beginning looking to lose weight, or if you've got some injury rehab, or if you're a professional athlete looking to maintain and even improve (the owner is a world jiujitsu champion who trained pro basketball/baseball players; his dad was a pro boxer/jumprope guy), there are ways to do it with very little equipment.

They have online training, too, so you might poke around on the site and see what they have to offer. Jon is kind of a big doofy guy, but he's really earnest and loves to work with people. He's big on fun and play, too, which is an added bonus given the vomitin' you're getting elsewhere :)

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2010

Find out if your post or duty station has a group doing CrossFit. You'll get in really good shape, won't get bored, will have workouts scaled to your capabilities, and will see results in your PT tests very quickly.
posted by phoebus at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2010

You might try taking something like Recon Ron's pull-up progression (designed to max the pull-up portion of the Marine PFT) and adapting it to push-ups. That way you'll be doing several do-able sets of push-ups each night, upping the number of push-ups slightly each week until you've progressed through to being able to do a set of whatever the max score is for your PFT. There's more about this program here, including ways to scale the program to fit your current ability. You might give the pull-up program a try, too, as pull-ups are an excellent way to build upper-body strength!

Other than that, I'd suggest weight training. As others have pointed out, you're not going to look like "those" female weightlifters, anyway -- more muscle, more strength, and more endurance is exactly what weight training does for us women. Rest assured that lifting heavy weights a few times a week is not going to turn you into a mini-hulk. Stumptuous is a great blog about women's lifting, with lots of pictures which should dispel your concern.

I'd suggest working through a program like Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5x5 -- if you stick with either of these, you should be much stronger come spring. The squats will help with your run, and the benching, pressing, and powercleans/pull-ups/rows should make a huge difference in your push-up score.
posted by vorfeed at 1:21 PM on October 21, 2010

Unless you're taking steroids, you're unlikely to wind up looking like one of the (excuse me for getting judgmental here) grotesquely over-muscled bodybuilders.

I started doing the "New Blood" routine in Convict Conditioning about a month ago and have been very pleased with the results I'm getting. It's definitely improved both my strength and my stamina.
posted by Lexica at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2010

Nth-ing weight training + cardio.

dfriedman mentioned exrx.net -- that's a good website, and you also might want to take a look at Stumptuous.
posted by kataclysm at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2010

Self magazine sometime has some of the things you're looking for for women. But bootcamp fitness classes have taught me that there are lot of exercises that could help with your goals that don't require fancy equipment: burpees and pushups and triceps dips and crunches, etc., will all help with your general toning goal. None of our female instructors get crazy ripped, they just get wonderfully toned.
posted by ldthomps at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2010

Echoing others recommendations to do some weight training, you won't look like "those" women (whoever they are). Check out Stumptuous.

Also, Men's Health and those fitness magazines are basically crap on a stick. Any similar female-oriented magazines are also crap-on-a-stick. 75% of vitamin and whatnot recommendations are whatever's the flavor-of-the-month or which vitamin or equipment manufacturer is paying them money, and the exercise programs they promote are 90% shit.
posted by schroedinger at 6:59 PM on October 21, 2010

Seconding crossfit!
posted by slateyness at 7:50 PM on October 21, 2010

Figure Athlete may interest you. Beyond that I think your turning a simple question into something a bit more complex. You're asking different things:
- Getting a six pack means tightening up your diet.
- If you're looking to get better, by way of a metric of increasing time or repetition, at something than you need to "practice" it. The practice you'll need should be centered around your end goal.
- More muscle, and more "toned" means instituting a weightlifting plan to go along with your training. Something to be aware of though, you can easily de-train muscles by using a weight training routine that is not inline with your goals.

Good luck!
posted by P.o.B. at 8:25 PM on October 21, 2010

Thirding CrossFit. Here's an article specifically on how CrossFit is better at improving PT scores than conventional PT programs: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/28_04_crossfit_pt.pdf.
posted by zanni at 10:28 PM on October 21, 2010

To improve your run time you need to improve your aerobic fitness and the best way I know of to do that is fartlek training. Sprint, jog, sprint, jog. Rinse, repeat and see time drop off your run.
A good way of measuring your progress is to get on a treadmill with no incline and start at a comfortable jogging pace. I suggest between 8 and 10km/h. Every minute add a half kilometre per hour to the speed, and every other minute add a half degree incline. There will come a time when it's too much and you have to stop. You want to see that time improving.
posted by Biru at 5:23 AM on October 22, 2010

Stronglifts is great, but if you are looking for a bodyweight-only routine from someone who has actually conducted training sessions for the military, there's this workout from TrainForStrength.com.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:03 AM on October 22, 2010

You folks are -awesome-, thank you. That are are commonly agreed upon possibilities as well as singularly recommended methods pleases me much. Of course, I'll look to this thread for any more posts, but I think I've just about got it.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:11 PM on October 22, 2010

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