Good, bad news in early USAFE fitness returns

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- After a month of testing under the new USAF Fitness Tables, there is both bad news and good news in U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The bad news is that in more than 2,000 tests administered in the month of July, our failure rate is approximately 23 percent. The good news is that a significant number of Airmen failing the test are falling short in areas that can easily be fixed.

I must admit I was surprised to find that more Airmen are failing in the categories of pushups and situps than in running and waist measurement. But as I have suggested, those areas are relatively easy to fix. During my fitness test in 2009, my Physical Training Leader did not give me credit for all my pushups and situps.

Before my most recent test in June 2010, I asked one of our trained professionals in the newly established Fitness Assessment Cell to watch me do some pushups and situps to ensure I was doing them correctly. He told me where and how my "form" was breaking down as fatigue set in. We also talked about the typical mistakes people make that leads to pushups and situps that are "non-counters." In the pushups, either individuals position their hands too close or too far away from their bodies, neither of which allows optimal use of arm strength and reduces the number of pushups an individual can complete during the specified time. Other tendencies are not aligning the back, allowing the hips to be too high in an effort to relieve stress on the arms. But perhaps the most frequent cause of non-counters in pushups is simply not lowering the body enough to get the elbows at the 90 degree angle required to count the pushup. In situps, tendencies include not touching the shoulder blades to the floor as fatigue sets in, or attempting to gain momentum by bouncing the shoulders off the mat. Both will result in a "non-counter."

Obviously, good performance in all categories of the test is important for success, but I believe improvement can be achieved in less time in the pushup and situp categories than in either running or waist circumference. We wear our utility uniforms to work four days per week, and we can knock out a few situps or pushups almost anywhere, including in our work areas and office locations.

Before you take your next fitness test, I strongly encourage you to drop by the fitness center or HAWC and get feedback from our fitness professionals on your form doing situps and pushups. Then, ensure you practice them correctly. As an old coach is quoted as saying, "practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect."

Our fitness and health are important. Continue to make running, a good diet, situps, pushups and other physical activity part of your normal routine. And, make your workouts a "wingman event" whenever possible, particularly if you are having difficulty achieving the Air Force standard. During my last fitness test, I took a young officer who works with me as my "pace car" on the run. That is not just admissible, it is good advice and an appropriate way for Airmen to assist each other. Let's pledge to be more fit, individually and as an Air Force, and let's do it together.