How Air Force Physical Fitness program's evolution changed an Airman

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Christopher Lester
  • 65th Comptroller Squadron
As the old adage goes, it seems like just yesterday I was a young Airman arriving at my first duty station. It was 1995 and I had graduated Basic Military Training and a challenging security forces technical school--back then it was called Security Police-Long.

After completing all of this training, I felt I was mentally and physically prepared to serve my country. Then, following a rewarding deployment to Southwest Asia and returning to home station, I was scheduled for my first physical training test. I was told it was a cycle-ergometry test, and a piece of cake to pass. Some fellow Airmen in my squadron were what I would classify as "out of shape." They were avid smokers and a little on the heavy side. They told me they had never failed the cycle-ergometry test and, basically, this test was too easy.

A week later I took it and barely passed. I was confused and frustrated. How could I almost fail my PT test when some out of shape Airmen received a higher score than me? As a young Airman, I felt the Air Force didn't provide me with much motivation to stay fit and my drive slowly diminished.

Fast forward to 2003 and rumors of a new PT test came to light. Effective Jan. 1, 2004, the cycle ergometry test would be replaced with aerobic, body-composition, push-ups and crunches. To this date, I had gone almost a decade satisfying Air Force requirements by passing my PT test faithfully, without ever needing to visit the gym.

Luckily for me, the Air Force used 2003 as the "gauge where you're at" year. I received a loud wake-up call after my first unofficial PT test under these new standards. I ran the 1.5 miles in 15:15--and that was giving it my all. Even though I maxed out everything else and received a passing score of 80, it was not what I expected from myself. I was disappointed and again, confused and frustrated. But with these new standards, I had a choice...I could continue to follow the simple pass/fail principle and shoot for a minimal score of 75, or I could set targets and milestones for myself on every subsequent PT test. I chose the latter.

Now that I felt the Air Force was taking physical fitness seriously, I began to take it more seriously as well. In 2003 I started running one mile a day three days a week, along with 25 push-ups and sit-ups. I dwindled my run time down, reducing it by six minutes. I also began to notice a positive change in the dress and personal appearance of military personnel--either by members electing to retire, or through good old-fashioned exercise.

Over the last eight years I've grown to hate, and later love, running and physical activity. It has practically become an addiction. I average running ten miles a day seven days a week, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I do 300 push-ups, crunches and flutter kicks.

But the greatest thing about this lifestyle is the Air Force wants me to take advantage of it. I run every morning and on some days in the evenings if I get the time and the urge. I've averaged 2,500 miles a year since 2005. This year I'll log in more than 3,000 miles. I have to contribute the increase in mileage due to my Permanent Change of Station to Lajes. Terceira is a wonderful place to run, with attractive landscapes, perfect temperatures, no smog, no snow, and minimal traffic. And who can forget the ocean views? It just makes it that much more enjoyable.

Last year a new PT test once again came to light. Even though it's only a variation of the previous one, it proves the Air Force is still serious about physical fitness. Being physically fit is a high priority for the Air Force and should be for all of us as well. What lifestyle are you living every day you serve in the world's greatest Air Force?

Do you get home from work and turn on the T.V., or do you put on your running shoes and head out the door? Are you mentally and physically prepared to accomplish the mission at home or deployed, and can your fellow Airmen depend on you at all times?

I challenge you to get out, get fit and stay fit!