How to Improve Your Running with Little Time Before a Military PT Test

Paratrooper competes in Army Combat Fitness Test.
A U.S. Army medic paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade participates in an Army Combat Fitness Test during a Best Medic Competition on Caserma Del Din, Italy, June 4-5, 2020. (Spc. Ryan Lucas/U.S. Army photo)


I have 50 days until basic training, and I can only do 40 push-ups and 60 sit-ups max and haven't started running. Any advice or anything? Thanks!


Well, 50 days is plenty of time to build your calisthenics toward average to above-average levels. Mix in more PT pyramids, supersets and max-rep sets to build your push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and other calisthenics.

But the fact that you have not started running is concerning. You should start running yesterday, but you have to be smart about it. If you overdo training, you easily can injure yourself with shin splints, knee tendinitis or stress fractures.

See the Ramp Up Your Running article for more information.  As an assessment, see whether you can complete the Army two-mile run without stopping. Stop if you're in any pain, but you have to start somewhere. If you can run two miles with little effort and you want to build your speed, try working on your pace. Aim for a seven-minute mile, or 14 minutes for two miles. 

This can be done with running quarter-mile and half-mile intervals at 1:45 and 3:30, respectively. Mix in some non-impact cardio (bike, elliptical, row or swim), so you can give your legs a rest day a few times a week, but still work your lungs.

Ideal plan: Give yourself 4-6 months to start a running program to prepare for the running, rucking and long days on your feet at any military basic training. It is good to have a minimum running base of 15-20 miles a week before training.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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