Prep School fitness program targets improvement

Prep School cadet candidates take to the stairs during a supplemental fitness program session at the Academy Prep School parade field April 2. The new program was set in motion earlier this year to assist them with improving their physical fitness test scores. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Heather Stanton)

Prep School cadet candidates take to the stairs during a supplemental fitness program session at the Academy Prep School parade field April 2. The new program was set in motion earlier this year to assist them with improving their physical fitness test scores. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Heather Stanton)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A new program was set in motion earlier this year to assist Prep School cadet candidates improve their physical fitness test score.

The supplemental fitness program is a three-day-per-week program designed to help cadet candidates struggling to pass the Academy's cadet PFT.

"The program has been designed to help our cadet candidates understand the importance of fitness, how to push themselves to the limits of their physical abilities, and to show them proper exercises and techniques while weight training, exercising and stretching in a motivational atmosphere that encourages them to adopt healthy fitness and nutrition habits for life," said Kellie Johnson, head women's basketball coach and instructor.

The program not only helps cadet candidates pass their PFT, but prepares them for life as an Academy cadet.

"We (at the Prep School) did this because we strongly felt we needed to do more to help our cadet candidates prepare for success on the Hill," said Col. Kabrena Rodda, Prep School commander. "Prior to this year, cadet candidates who failed to achieve at least a 200 out of 500 (on their PFT) were required to participate in our Reconditioning Program, which is structured similarly to that of USAFA's. However, once a cadet candidate broke the 200-point mark, they were left on their own to raise their PFT scores to 250 by the completion of the school year - a goal we hope every student achieves. We felt we could do better in guiding them toward success."

The Prep School's PFT is the same test the Academy gives to cadets, according to Sharon Hawkes, health program manager and exercise physiologist.

"It is a 15-minute exam consisting of five exercises: pull-ups, standing long jump, sit-ups, push-ups and 600-yard run," Hawkes said. "The areas cadet candidates struggle with most are the pull-ups and the 600 yard run."

Through the program, cadet candidates increase their muscular and cardiovascular strength and endurance. It also serves as a confidence boost and builds their motivation to meet the challenges they face at the Prep School and later at the Academy, Hawkes said.

"The program is similar to having a personal trainer," she said. "Ultimately, your fitness success is directly correlated to how hard and how often you exercise. The instructors who lead the exercise sessions are extremely motivated to ensure the cadet candidates meet their fitness goals. In order to do that, the exercise sessions take the workouts to higher levels of intensity than the cadet candidates may be accustomed to."

The first session of the supplemental fitness program began Jan. 7, and had 17 students enrolled, Johnson said.

"Of those 17 students, eight of them recently tested out of the class because they scored above a 250 on our last PFT held March 10," she said.