T Nation

Marine PFT Conditioning


I am a Marine in the IRR. I have gone from 5 mile a day death runs for 4 years to a relatively sedentary lifestyle for the past 1 and a half years.
They say that you must be ready when opportunity comes knocking, well I am not but I answered the door anyways.
A spot opened up and Force Recon needed one person to fill a Sgt Billet for my MOS 0621 (Radio Operator).
I report in May 14th and run a PFT the same day. I have always ran first class PFT's but even my best run time has never been below 22 minutes.

I have 21 days to basically go from zero to fitness all star. I am willing to take drastic measures. I am blessed with virtually all the free time I could want during this time period, so advice can be given with little regard to the demands of a normal work schedule. I am currently working on bringing my running, weight lifting, and diet regime down to a science. I want to run a 300 pft in 21 days. All advice or programs appreciated.



Correct me if I’m wrong, but a 300 PFT requires an 18-minute 3-mile run, correct?

If your best time ever was 22 minutes, you can forget about running an 18 in three weeks. It just won’t happen.

The advice I’ll give with only three weeks to prep is rather different from what I’d tell someone with three months, which is long enough to see some progress from a traditional running 5K program. But in three weeks, if starting from sedentary, you’re honestly more likely to hurt yourself than make significant CV fitness gains

Run 1.5 miles every other day between now and the test. If you like, run some strides (near-sprints) afterwards, maybe 2-4 strides of 50-100 yards. That’s it. Maybe some generalized conditioning like push-ups, pull-ups, and abs on the non-running days to prep for the other parts of the PFT. Same advice there: don’t go too crazy on the volume, it’s really too late to make great gains. You just need to prime the body a little to make use of whatever residual fitness you have.

As I said, with more time to train I wold give different advice. But if you’ve been most sedentary for the last year-plus, there is a much greater chance of injuring yourself by trying to cram a year’s worth of exercise into three weeks than there is of radically improving your CV fitness.

I don’t think I’d recommend a crash diet, either, but if you’ve gained some extra weight in this time, losing some of it between now and PFT day would probably be a good idea.


High frequency, low volume! You’ve got to " mini-peak" , rest, them go all out on test day.

Drop and do 20 or so pushups 3-4 times a day. Do like 4 chins, some situps. Really easy, really frequent. Gradually increase your numbers, really slowly over the next 19 days. Rest the day before the test. Max out on test day!

Do like 60% of your current capacity, a lot. Add a rep here and there, slowly, not coming anywhere near failure. The idea is to keep the “realtive” workload low. Keep the work easy, but expand how much you can do easily. Peak on test day and go for broke! “Super compensate” then crush the test!

For running, find some steps or a hill. Something harder than the course you will run on. Do short, easy runs that you can recover from, but that are " harder" than a regular run. You want to work your lungs and calves/ankles without really stressing your recovery. Ideally, you’ll get like the benefit of 20 minutes of running flat ground, by running 12 minutes of incline. If that makes any sense at all.

Don’t get sore, don’t get super tired. Above all do not get hurt! Ice your joints daily wether you need it or not.
Take fish oil.

Caffeine and ibuprophen on test day so you feel no pain.


In 1983 Aleksey Voropayev did a study. Some dudes did only kettlebells. Some dudes did “a standard military regimine of pushups, chinups, sprints and distance runs.” At the end of the study the kettlebell only group scored higher on all events in which they were tested.

I don’t know anymore specifics. Maybe the kettlebell comrades have some info?


Have a Guiness tonight to carbo-load. Sleep good! Go with 8 Mile Soundtrack intensity and focus tomorrow. Don’t forget the Caffine and ibuprophen stack!