If you've waited until the last minute, fitness experts offer some tips on how to cram for the PRT. Here, sailors assigned to carrier George Washington do sit-ups during the 2012 Physical Fitness Assessment. (MCSN Gregory A. Harden II / Navy)
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Maybe you're fresh off a sea tour that left you little time to sleep, let alone work out.
Maybe you're recovering from an injury that required rest but wasn't severe enough to score a medical waiver.
Maybe the demands of Navy life have made it impossible to hit the gym.
Or maybe you're a member of the so-called "three mile club" and haven't strapped on a pair of sneakers in six months.
Regardless, your physical readiness test is coming, and you're not ready for it. With the Navy making fitness more important than ever — and kicking out more sailors last year thanks to stricter PRT rules — you better get ready, fast. Navy Times asked fitness experts how sailors can cram for the PRT. They provided detailed workout routines that can be finished in two weeks, giving a final push that could mean the difference between a failure and satisfactory score — between at least another six months in the Navy or an early separation.
Along with that advice come the same guiding principles: Don't overdo it, and start a serious workout program for next time as soon as this PRT is over.
Run smarter, not longer
The 1.5-mile run is the biggest hurdle in the PRT, tripping more sailors than the pushups and situps, Navy officials said. But experts agree last-minute training should include just a few fast-paced miles — no long runs.
Overdoing it could lead to an overuse injury that will slow you down, or an annoying blister that will make any sort of training painful.
Retired Marine Maj. Jay Antonelli is responsible for physical training at the Naval Academy and has a 10-day plan he says will make sailors faster. It emphasizes foot speed, not mileage, and only involves five runs, none longer than 1.5 miles.
10 days before PRT: Twelve Þ-mile sprints — a half-lap on a standard track. Rest for however long it took you to run. "Breaking the 1½ mile into sprints will help increase speed and will also condition your body for a large influx of lactic acid during the PRT run," he said.
Days 9 and 8: Don't run, just stretch and walk.
Day 7: Same workout as Day 10, but eight sprints instead of 12.
Days 6 and 5: Walk 1.5 miles.
Day 4: Repeat Day 7. Make sure you stretch for 20 minutes per day.
Days 3 to PRT: Stretch and walk. Eat light — don't carbo-load.
Before the PRT: Drink some caffeine and take B vitamins for a boost of energy.
Former SEAL Lt. Stew Smith used to give midshipmen remedial PT to get them into regs. Now, he writes about fitness, develops physical tests for government organizations and trains potential employees how to pass those tests.
He says you can shave seconds off your run if you learn how to pace yourself. He recommends running six ¼-mile circuits with a minute rest between them. To calculate your pace, find your target PRT run time and divide it by six, then make it slightly faster. For example, if you want to run a 12:30, run six two-minute laps.
"If you can do six sets of your goal pace, that's a good indicator that your mile-and-a-half, you can obtain it," he said.
Wake up your arms
If you have just a few weeks to make your pushup push, start off slow, said Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. For the first two or three days, don't attempt to do the rapid-fire pushups that you see during the test; instead, exercise with a slow, controlled cadence to get the body used to the movement.
Thornton's plan: Take two seconds for the "up" part of the pushup, then four seconds to go back down. Hold yourself just over the floor for two more seconds before repeating the cycle. Do about three sets of as many as you can — don't expect to do as many as you would with a faster pushup — for three days.
After that, do three sets per day of as many pushups as possible using the normal pushup cadence.
Pace your situps
Like with the pushups, Thornton recommends you begin your situp regimen with two to three days of slow, controlled situps. The same rhythm for the pushups applies: two seconds up, four seconds down, hold your back above the floor for two seconds, repeat. After a few days of doing three sets where you max out, switch to regular situps.
Smith said that timing on the situps is everything, so like the run, practice your pace. Divide your target score by four and try to do that many situps in 30 seconds.