Getting in Shape and the Army Physical Fitness Test
I would like to take this time to "point you in the right direction" here. There have been many books and websites written on the subject, so I won't rehash anything here. I've provided some links that will get you started, especially if you've never exercised in earnest before. I've found that many new recruits have never participated in any type of organized sport or even physical activity, and that is sad to hear. If you are even thinking about joining the military, please do participate in organized sports while you are in school. Things will be so much easier for you when you do decide to enter the military!
If you have already visited the link on the weight charts and have determined that you are overweight, you still may be within the standards if your bodyfat is at a certain level. Use the links to the left to determine your bodyfat percentage, and then go from there.
There is one thing you have to remember about getting into shape before joining the Army. You can't start a program a few weeks out if you've never done anything before. These things take time. You'll only set yourself up for injury and hobbling around on crutches. I can't tell you the number of recruits (in particular females) who have hobbled around on crutches their first few weeks of basic training. They were miserable and most were treated as second class citizens. Many were sent home or recyled into companies graduating at a later date. Many would start exercising a few weeks before starting BT. This would give their body about 3 weeks to show signs of stress fractures, and there they were on crutches. If possible start earlier than three months out. Join a fitness program or get a work out buddy. The big thing when you start out is that you need motivation. It'll be easier if someone is "forcing" you to keep at it. See some of the links here to get started with running. Running properly is not something that comes naturally, as most folks think. There is a way to work your way up in speed and endurance. One point I want to leave you with, the best way to increase your speed and endurance is to alternate long distance running at a slow pace over a variety of terrain with Indian running or wind sprints. Wind sprints are just running as fast as you can for a designated distance and then jogging the next pre-set distance, sprinting, etc.. You can use light poles, roadsigns, etc as markers to tell you when to sprint or jog. Also, always stretch before AND after you run! I suggest running every day of the week but one. Alternate your days with the long slow jogs and the windsprints.
As for the push-ups and sit-ups, here are my thoughts. The only way to do push-ups correctly is to have the proper form. If you don't do them to the Army standard, they won't count in your PT test and you are just wasting your time! For those with very weak upper body strength, I recommend starting out doing them on your knees. Keep your upper body in a straight line and make sure your upper arms are parallel to the floor when you go down. Keep doing sets of these until you just can't possibly do any more. Once you feel comfortable doing this, you can get into the proper form (ie knees off the floor, body in a generally straight line). As for the sit-ups, yes you can do other abdominal strengthening exercises, but the only way you will improve in sit-ups is to do them just like the standard. Remember always to do them on a mat or softer surface. If you have no one to hold your feel while you practice, you can hook them under something. I suggest working push-ups every other day (day of rest between) and it's okay to work sit-ups everyday.
I suggest you also follow the links to see how the fitness test is run. The more you are familiar with the procedures, the less stressful it will be for you. In addition to the physical fitness assessment you take at the reception station, you will be taking three physical fitness tests at your basic training company. One every three weeks. You should be doing progressively better on each one. This is also how the drill sergeants determine your fitness level and put you in the appropriate running group. I recommend you try to do as well as you can on EACH test. There have been times where I had someone injured towards the end of basic training, and instead of holding them over (and missing their AIT date), I was able to use a previous passing score to graduate them from BT. But in most cases, the last PT test taken will be your final score. In basic, you will only have to achive 50 points in each event, which is why they call it the Basic Physical Fitness Test (BPFT), rather than the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) which requires 60 points in each event. You will be required to pass the APFT when you graduate AIT. To determine how many points you need for your age and gender, please follow the About.com link on this page.
What is the physical training like once you get to basic training?
Expect to do some kind of physical training everyday. The first training day for you will most likely be on a Friday. You will probably start off the morning with a company run, a great tool for morale and teamwork, also giving the drill sergeants an idea of the basic shape people are in. You will only run around the block, but if you are out of shape, it'll seem like 10 miles! A small handful of recruits always gets sent to the medical treatment facility for breathing problems (and most of those get discharged for asthma or other breathing conditions). The next day or Sunday will be your diagnostic PT test so the drills can assess your level of fitness.
Please do follow the links to learn more. If there's one last thing I can say, learn the correct form when doing your push-ups and sit-ups. Read the standard and understand the standard, and you'll be that much ahead:-))