How to Prepare for the 2-Mile Army Run

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ROTC cadets run two miles for their Army physical fitness test at Clemson University
U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets run two miles for their Army physical fitness test at Clemson University, Jan. 14, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Ken Scar/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

Any soldier has these four important words in his vocabulary: Army Physical Fitness Test (or APFT). This test is mandatory, and each soldier must pass it at least twice a year. In the Fitness Center articles, you can find extremely useful information to prepare for any part of the test. In this article, you will find useful information to train yourself for the running test, using the treadmill as training equipment.

Before I list a sequence of preset treadmill workouts that can be useful during your preparation, I want to focus a little on what the Army fitness running test requirements are.

The running test is a two-mile run that is meant to test your leg muscles' endurance and your cardiorespiratory fitness. The basic rules are pretty simple:

  • The faster you run, the better you score.
  • You are not allowed to walk.
  • If you score at least 60 points, the minimum, you pass. One hundred points is the maximum.

The scores depend on gender and age. The treadmill workouts recommended in this article can be done easily by men or women between the ages of 17-31. So I will list the Army standards only for these age groups, which will help when comparing your goals with the treadmill workouts settings. 

For men, the standards for the minimum and maximum time scores are:

  • Age (17-21) -- Minimum (15:54 minutes), maximum (13:00 minutes)
  • Age (22-26) -- Minimum (16:36 minutes), maximum (13:00 minutes)
  • Age (27-31) -- Minimum (17:00 minutes), maximum (13.18 minutes)

For women, the following time standards apply:

  • Age (17-21) -- Minimum (18:54 minutes), maximum (15:36 minutes)
  • Age (22-26) -- Minimum (19:36 minutes), maximum (15:36 minutes)
  • Age (27-31) -- Minimum (20:30 minutes), maximum (15:48 minutes)

If you consider that you can run at a constant pace for two miles, the Army standards can be translated into these speed goals:

For men:

  • Age (17-21) -- Minimum pace: 7.73 mph, max pace: 9.24 mph
  • Age (22-26) -- Minimum pace: 7.34 mph, max pace: 9.24 mph
  • Age (27-31) -- Minimum pace: 7.1 mph; max pace: 9.15 mph

For women:

  • Age (17-21) -- Minimum pace: 6.48 mph, max pace: 7.82 mph
  • Age (22-26) -- Minimum pace: 6.2 mph, max pace: 7.82 mph
  • Age (27-31) -- Minimum pace: 6 mph, max pace: 7.76 mph

Once you have your goals set and you know how fast you want to run, you can begin the preparation.

Now, no matter what goals you have set for yourself, the beginning is always hard. As a beginner, you have to start with a simple exercise: Run at your own pace and, in the process, learn to understand your body.

You can use the treadmill manual mode to test how long you can resist, and at what pace. Pay attention to your pains and learn how to prevent them in time so you don't hurt yourself. Learn how to breathe rhythmically and lift your knees.

And very important, alternate test runs with rest. Any beginner needs 5-6 weeks to get his body accustomed to this sport. And during this time, you don't have to overdo it.

From the seventh week, you can start preparing for the two-mile test seriously.

At this step, this is what you need to know. The most efficient running workouts are those based on Intervals. Interval workouts (or speed-based exercises) have all the ingredients needed to improve your muscles' endurance and your cardiovascular performance. And this is exactly what the Army physical fitness exam tests you for.

All treadmills have preset interval workouts included, with different difficulty levels. The speed value usually is preset in the consoles memory, and the workout settings are different from one treadmill to another.

Below, you will find a series of interval workouts that can prepare you for this test so you can pass it. The workouts' speed values are based on the preset interval workouts included in my treadmill console.

If your treadmill doesn't have the same speed values for preset interval workouts, you can create your own custom workout very easily. (This is another option most treadmills come with.)

Level 1 interval workout (for beginners):

Warmup: 1 mph for two minutes and 1.5 mph for another two minutes

Workout:

Segment 1: 2 mph for 90 seconds

Segment 2: 4 mph for 30 seconds

Repeat segment 1-2 for 24 times (48 minutes) to finish the two-mile run.

Cooldown: 1.5 mph for two minutes, then 1 mph for another two minutes

Yes, this is a terrible result, but it's very useful for beginners. You don't need to get injured from your first week of hard training. If you feel you can do it, increase the speed values slowly.

After a few weeks, you can start following this workouts routine:

Level 6 interval workout (for intermediate runners):

Warmup: 1.5 mph for two minutes and 2.3 mph for another two minutes.

Workout:

Segment 1: 3 mph for 90 seconds

Segment 2: 6.5 mph for 30 seconds

Repeat segment 1-2 for 16 times (32 minutes) to finish the two-mile run.

Cooldown: 2.3 mph for two minutes, then 1.5 mph for another two minutes.

When you finish this exercise and you feel you can take more, it means you are ready to increase the interval difficulty until you can finish the two-mile run in less than 20 minutes. After a consistent training routine, you will be able to do this exercise:

Level 10 interval workout (for advanced runners):

Warmup: 2 mph for two minutes and 3 mph for another two minutes.

Workout:

Segment 1: 6.2 mph for 90 seconds

Segment 2: 7.6 mph for 30 seconds

Repeat segment 1-2 for 10 times (20 minutes) to finish the two-mile run.

Cooldown: 3 mph for two minutes, then 2 mph for another two minutes.

For men, the Level 10 interval workout speed intensity is different:

Warmup: 2 mph for two minutes, 3 mph for another two minutes.

Workout:

Segment 1: 7.1 mph for 90 seconds

Segment 2: 9 mph for 30 seconds

Repeat segment 1-2 for eight times (16 minutes) to finish the two-mile run.

Cooldown: 3 mph for two minutes, then 2 mph for another two minutes.

Ideally try to control your heart rate during the interval workouts. This way, you can make sure you don't overstress your body by working out at an intensity level for which you are not yet prepared.

Another advice is not to skip the warmup and cooldown steps, no matter how well-conditioned you are. This helps to prevent injuries.

In the end, I would like to point out that this article is meant simply to provide inspiration for those who want to prepare for the running test. They just don't know where to begin. The treadmill is not a 100% replacement for outdoor running, and you still need to go on the track to test yourself in an environment similar to the Army Physical Fitness Test requirements. But it's good to know that the treadmill can be a convenient training companion, if needed.

Treadmills with Preset Military Workouts

Related Video:

Anna Ursu, a treadmill user and runner, wrote this article. Find more useful treadmill workouts and tips on her website, RunReviews.

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