Overcoming a PT test failure

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Throughout my 15 years in the military, I have always struggled with passing my physical fitness test. I'm not a huge person, and I am very active in sports. I run three to five times a week and coach youth sports as well. But no matter what I did, I always came very close to failing my PT test, often passing by a mere 0.55 pts.

In October 2009, I had a surgical procedure which limited the types of exercises I could do. I was limited to biking on a stationary bike, no push-ups, sit-ups or running. I don't have a bike and used it as an excuse to not exercise; as a result, I gained weight and lost my cardiovascular endurance. I took my PT test and, naturally, failed it.

I was devastated! I thought to myself, "What am I going to do?" I don't have a bike, I am still on a profile and limited to the types of exercises I could do.

My commander stepped in. She invited me to attend spin classes at the base gym with her at 5 a.m. Five a.m.! This meant I had to get up at 3:50 a.m. and leave my house no later than 4:20 a.m. I struggled with the idea, but I knew I had to do something. I attended the classes regularly and, slowly but surely, lost the weight. Additionally, I made great friends and even encouraged some of my other co-workers to attend. It wasn't as bad as I had thought.

As my next PT test approached, I got stronger, and my profile changed from not doing anything to doing the bike and crunches. I passed that PT test but still had to worry about retaking the test six months later the regular way, under the new standards. As the time approached, I transitioned from the bike to running. I went on the dreaded blue track every day, starting off slow and barely able to run three laps. I practiced and became stronger every day and eventually I was able to run all seven and a half laps without stopping but realized my run time was still slow. I consulted the gym experts and practiced all their suggestions to increase speed but nothing seemed to work.

A week away from my PT test, I was terrified that I would not pass. Since my surgery, I had lost 20 pounds with proper eating and exercise, but it still didn't seem to be enough. I knew I needed help.

I had heard rumors about a captain in our facility who was a great runner. She was so physically fit that she got a 100 on her PT test. I figured, what the heck, why not ask her to pace me on my PT test. I was embarrassed and shy at first about asking her, but I mustered up some courage, knowing that I had to pass, and walked down to her office and asked her. She was honored to be asked and agreed without hesitation.

We talked about my strengths and weaknesses; she gave me hints about things to do prior to my PT test and gave me a run time goal. I told her that her goal was doubtful but any help I could get from her was greatly appreciated. I followed the captain's suggestions, and the big day came. I was so nervous! I arrived early with butterflies in my stomach but with a good attitude. Time went by and the captain still was not there. My nervousness increased. All the testers lined up for the first portion of the test: push-ups. Still no captain.

Then, all of a sudden, she arrived with her hair frazzled, water bottle in tow and sweaty from a 5k she just finished running. I thought to myself, "Wow! She just ran a 5k and is still willing and able to run with me, that is an amazing woman!" While we did our push-ups and sit-ups, she not only encouraged me but the other testers as well. Finally, the time came for the run and we walked out onto the track. I looked at this big blue circle and told myself over and over, "I can do this!"

I began running with Capt. Tess Marcial encouraging me every step of the way, prodding me harder when I slowed down. What made this run even more eventful is that, to my surprise, my officer in charge, Capt. Michelle Fronzaglia, and my NCO in charge were also out there cheering me on. When I was close to finished and neared the last bend, Captain Fronzaglia started to yell at me, "Where's that New York attitude you give me at work? Run it out!"

I finished the test in exactly the time Captain Marcial suggested earlier that week. I was exhausted but exhilarated! When I caught my breath, I looked at my cheerleading team and asked them, "Did I pass?" The score was tallied up, and I was amazed: I got 88.4 points, my best run time and PT test score ever! I was so excited that I told everyone who crossed my path. Even people who didn't know me! I overcame a PT test failure, not with a barely passing score but with a score I could be proud of.

If it weren't for such great wingmen in my life -- my commander, OIC, NCOIC and a person with absolutely no connection to me other than a hello and goodbye, I would not have done as well. These people were there for me every step of the way encouraging me to do better. I hope to one day do the same for someone in my position. Even though my PT test is over, I still continue to strive for bigger and better things, including finishing my first biathlon with a good wingman. I may not be the fastest or strongest person in the world, but I know with wingmen like these, I don't need to be.