Stressed About the Upcoming Physical Fitness Test

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well but I mostly hope you’re staying DRY, especially if you’re in TN.

For some reason, it rains cats and dogs in TN over the winter.  It’s almost unreal because I now have two rivers in my yard where there used to be only a small creek. 

My dog, Maui, however, is all about the water – sometimes.  If you follow me on FB or IG, you’ll notice that I am seriously in love with how sweet and beautiful my puppy is.  He’s now a year old, so he’s a rather large puppy, but he’s my baby and I still notice those puppy tendencies that I hope stay with him forever.  Anyway, he has a love-hate relationship with the rain, just like me, and part of me thinks he’s part cat because he HATES being in the rain.  He’s an outdoor dog, which is great because we have an acre of yard and he can run and sniff and dig to his heart’s content.  But when it rains, he just sits on our porch and looks at us through the glass doors with such disdain and misery; like his look is worse than any look a cat would give you if it’s outside in the rain.  I’ll post a picture of it later because you can feel just how much he hates being wet and in the rain, it literally oozes out of his eyes.  But then he gets over it and runs over to the puddles and raging creek we now have in our yard and he starts to dig in them.  Like, he’s digging a hole in them.  He’s so strange sometimes, but always cute.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about how many women in the military who are overweight will probably be feeling stressed and anxious about something here in the next few weeks, if you aren’t feeling this way already. 

The Physical Fitness Tests are coming up.

In the past, one of my greatest moments of relief were when I finished my 1.5 mile run in the fall, which meant I didn’t have to think about the PFA, or the Navy’s Physical Fitness Assessment, for many more months.  I was free from that stress and pressure to get a score above “Good.”

But then I’d get an email in the spring titled, “PFA 10 Week Notice” and my heart would sink.  And then it would jump high into my throat as my thoughts would start pouring in about whether or not I would make weight,

that I wanted this to finally be my best PFA ever,

that I would train for it, but how was I going to find the time to train,

I haven’t trained all winter AND I gained weight,

so now I have to eat better to lose the weight,

which is going to make training and running harder on less calories, ugh! 

These next 10 weeks area going to suck so much and I’m just going to be miserable… I hate feeling this way about the PFA…

So, in the past, I started eating less, working out more, I lost enough weight to pass the weigh-ins without getting “roped and choked,” or having our waist, chest, neck, and thighs measured to see if we were above the calculated body weight standards.  It was always so embarrassing for me to have to stand in that second line… the one for the people who were overweight and had to pass the last and final piece of the weigh ins, which meant being measured.  Emotions were all over the place for me in that line because if I didn’t pass the estimated measurements I was supposed to be at, it meant I technically “failed” a portion of my PFA, which would lead to reprimand and a negative mark on my FITREP, or Fitness Report or our evaluation report. 

It would also mean that I was a negligent officer, one who lacked discipline and self-control, a failure to her subordinates and an ugly stain on the readiness of her command. 

Worse yet, I made it mean that I was a failure as a person.  That I couldn’t control myself around food, which was the only reason I was standing in that line anyway. 

So, I told myself that if food had been so hard to control, then the only thing I could control was my score on the test.  So I trained and trained and did sit ups before going to bed at night but I would still eat more because I was actually hungrier and I justified needing the extra energy.  I did get stronger and faster, so I was able to pass the PRT, but my weight stayed the same.  But I never cared about my weight while I doing the actual test.  I just wanted to prove that, even if I was overweight and had to be measured, that I could pass the actual test with a favorable score.  I always killed myself during the test through sheer will power and fear.  That’s why I felt so relieved at the end of it – because I no longer had that enormous pressure on my back.

I have completed DOZENS of PFAs with this method: fear, denial, sabotage with food and overtraining, and then will power.  I always got a good enough score, so in my mind, this method worked.  But I hated it.  I hated it, really, because it made me think that I always needed to prove myself because I was inadequate.  So I would overtrain and overeat, resulting in pushing myself to unrealistic and unsustainable expectations just to prove myself to others.  I did this twice a year for nearly a decade.  Over time, this way of thinking and approach to the PFA spilled into other areas of my job and I resented the Navy, I resented nearly everything about the Navy.  By the time I changed my way of thinking to where I truly enjoyed being a Naval Officer and saw all that the Navy had to offer, it was too late because I had already submitted my separation paperwork.  But now I’m in the Reserves and I’m charging forward with my mindset because it feels so much better and fulfilling than the way I felt before.

Ok, so I just went on a little tangent there, but I want you to see how much our beliefs can permeate other areas of our life, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  And it can start with how you want to think and feel about your upcoming fitness test.

I remember taking a PFA one day with such ease and comfort that one of my coworkers told me later that he just looked at me and thought, “Man, I wish it was that effortless for me, too.  This doesn’t even bother her.”

He was saying that he wished he didn’t feel stressed or nervous about the PFA.  Men go through the same emotions we women do if they have certain thoughts about insecurities or inadequacies when it comes to their performance and their weight, same as we do.  When he told me that, I smiled such a wide smile of pride for myself because I had reached a place I had always wanted to be when it comes to the PFA: stress-free.

How did I get here?

Is it really possible to take the PFA stress-free when there seems to be so much on the line if we fail?  Our evaluations, our reputation, our self-esteem?  What’s going to happen to all of that if we fail?

But if you think about it, the worst that can happen is literally a feeling.  That’s always the case with any problem.  So if we fail weigh-ins, we’ll think that’s horrible and we’ll feel embarrassed and ashamed.

If your FITREP is unfavorable, then you might think you’re not good enough and you’ll feel defeated or dumb.

If you fail the sit-ups on the PFA, then you might think they’re impossible to do, so you’ll feel like a loser, unprepared or inadequate.

If you fail the run portion, then you’ll think about how you let yourself get so out of shape, so you’ll feel irresponsible and guilty.

These feelings don’t feel good because when we’re experiencing them, we find more and more evidence around us throughout our day and our history to prove our inadequacies and our failures.  Then, the more we do this, the more we believe we’re not good enough.  So, we turn to food to feel better, or we beat ourselves up or overtrain at the gym and go on harsh and unrealistic diets in order to punish ourselves.  No pain, no gain, right?  The outcome of actions like these will always prove what we’re thinking in a way…. I’ll only be good enough if I do things that are deemed good enough, like overtraining or undereating to pass a fitness test.

Now, I’m not saying that this is always the case with our fitness tests.  But if this is how you find yourself approaching this spring’s upcoming fitness test, then let this be an opportunity to think differently about it and try an approach that will feel better and stress-free.  Because you have that ability and that control.

Ask yourself this: What does a stress-free physical fitness test actually mean?

It might mean that you reach a certain score, like Good or Excellent, or that you complete a minimum of 32 pushups, 76 situps, and a 13 min 1.5mi run.  All you have to do is get stronger at three things: 32 pushups, 76 situps, and running a mile and a half in 13 min.  Knowing that by completing these three things, you know without a doubt that you will score either a Good or Excellent on your test.  That feels pretty good.  That feels pretty doable.  In fact, more than doable.  You now have a plan and a guaranteed result. You know that those exact numbers of pushpups, situps and run time will create a Good or Excellent score for you, which means you’ll end up with a favorable evaluation report, and more importantly, confidence and self-respect.  And as a bonus, some head nods and smiles from your peers because they saw that you reached your goal. 

Our feelings will always drive us to act in certain ways.  Remember when you felt panicked and stressed from that email stating you’re “10 weeks away from the PFA?”  What did you do after you read that and felt that panic?  You probably started overthinking and then distracted yourself from your current work, whatever you were doing, and starting planning on how you were going to force your way through the next 10 weeks just to survive and be done with the PFA. 

But now, knowing that all you have to do is complete 32 pushups, 76 sit-ups and a 13 mile run to get a Good or Excellent in your PFA – you KNOW this will be your desired result – what feeling do you think gets you to plan for and train to complete only 32 pushups, 76 sit-ups and a 13 mile run?  For me, “assured” is how I feel when I start planning for how many days a week I’ll train for 32 pushups, 76 sit-ups and a 13 minute mile and a half run.  I feel so assured, so secure in my plan, like “it’s in the bag, it’s going to happen, this is all I have to do and I can do it.” 

Then, I plan to run a PFA three times a week: mon, wed, fri.  I do this for 10 weeks so that my muscles get used to the movements and gain strength, and come time for the PFA, I’ve already completed my winning formula with confidence and assurance, that I complete the 32 pushups, 76 sit-ups and a 13 min run WITHOUT STRESS.  I’ve already done it, so why stress?  I know what the results is going to be, so I just do it. 

So if feeling assured and confident got me to take action and plan out my training, which resulted in a Good or Excellent PFA, what was I thinking that got me to do all of this? 

As I’ve taught before in previous FB lives, every single feeling we have is created by a single thought.  Every time.  So when I was feeling assured, I was thinking this:

“This is all I have to do and I can do it because it will result in what I want.”

When you think that and pay attention to the feeling that comes up for you, it most likely isn’t stress, it isn’t overwhelm, nor is it fear…  That single thought will produce a feeling that will inspire you to take action and plan for completing 32 pushups, 76 sit-ups and a 13 min run.

Your thoughts hold all of your power.  You can choose to think about your upcoming fitness test however you want.  The more inspiring and creative you feel, trace that feeling back to the thought that’s creating it.  When you find it, hold on to it and repeat it every day.  Stick to the plan you’ve designed for yourself and you’ll notice yourself not only getting physically stronger over the next several weeks, but you’ll also notice your confidence growing.  Your respect for your abilities and your willingness to stick to something to get a result that you care about will build on itself. 

You CAN do this.  You CAN have a stress-free fitness test.  Use an approach that serve you best to get the outcome that you want, and it all starts with what you choose to think about your fitness test.

If you want to talk more about this, then please email me because I would LOVE to know what will inspire you to train for the PFA, PFT, AFPT, whichever branch of service you’re in.  We all have fitness tests coming up, so start thinking about how you want to feel and behave when it comes to the results you want for yourself.  Good luck and let me know how you did!   You might actually enjoy this fitness test – wouldn’t that be something?”