Hard Work Pays Off (Looking Past the Scale)

A photo of me the evening after I got back from pre-WOCS this past weekend.

This should go without saying, but sometimes, you need a reminder that with all the work you put in, there’s a payoff. For me, that came in the form of my pre-WOCS (Warrant Officer Candidate School) drill this past weekend. I had to perform the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and the next morning, a 5km/3.1 mile road march with a rucksack weighing a minimum of 48 lbs while wearing the helmet and carrying a rifle. I was also subject to a weigh-in to ensure I was within the Army’s height and weight regulations.

I have to admit that I was nervous about the ACFT. It’s brand new, and reputedly pretty tough, with roughly 80% of all people taking it failing at the leg-tuck exercise, and a large percentage failing the test overall. I have never failed a physical fitness test either in the Marines or in the National Guard, so I’ve been working hard on my running and with doing the StrongLifts 5×5 program every day before I run to ensure that my body was ready. As I started the first exercise in the ACFT, the deadlift, I gained a lot of confidence. I do deadlifts every other workout, and I know what my max is. I kept my max down on the test and kept it just over the minimum required because the rest of the ACFT was an unknown to me.

The next test I worried about was the sprint/drag/pull. We had 3 minutes to do it in, and I completed it in 2:30. The one test that got me was the leg tuck. I couldn’t do it properly due to bad form and still being weak in my upper body. Fortunately, there is an alternate event right now that I am good at: a 2-minute plank. After the first 5 exercises, it’s onto the two-mile run, which I also knew I was ready for. In the end, I passed the test on my first try, and it built a lot of confidence in me for the next event the following morning; the road march.

Before getting out of the barracks, we all weighed our packs to ensure we met the minimum weight requirement of 48 lbs. My pack ended up weighing 54 lbs, but we were short on time, and I didn’t have an opportunity to remove the excess weight. I decided to just go with it and see how it went. I figured it would be good training.

It turned out that it wasn’t too much for me, and that all the weightlifting and running together I’ve been doing prepared me well for this road march. I ran the first 1/4 mile and then settled into a fast-paced walk. Intermittently, I would run for 50-100 yards when I caught my breath, and this allowed me to beat the 53 minute goal by 6 minutes. The best part for me personally was that out of the five candidates there, I came in 2nd. I am the oldest by far, and on top of that, we found out that one of the candidates underpacked his rucksack by 14 lbs, so I performed better than someone younger than me and also carrying a lot less weight than me. Talk about an ego boost.

I didn’t feel sore or tired after the ACFT which was a great feeling, and I wasn’t as nearly wiped out after the road march as I have been in the past after such events. These two things tell me that I’m on the right track with my fitness, and that I just need to keep doing what I’m doing to improve and make more progress.

Finally, we did our weigh-in, and this is where it got interesting. For my height, my weight is over the limit. However, the Army knows people who do a lot of weightlifting will tend to weigh more, so they allow for calculating body fat percentage based on measurments. I was measured and found to have 21% body fat, which at my age, is pretty darned good and well within the standards. This is a vindication of my careful eating habits and sticking with Paleo and coming off a successful Whole30.

All in all, what I’m doing is working well for me. Running and weightlifting every other day coupled with Paleo is giving me the results I’m looking for in a way that isn’t taxing on my body or keeping me hungry between meals. I learned a new exercise hack from one of my TAC Officers this weekend; I will be eating half a banana before my run and the other half afterward. I usually have enough energy in the gym during my weightlifting but then my energy levels drop when I go out for my run. Today, I will add the banana to the regimen and see how it goes. I want to extend my runs out a bit, too, to help prep me for the longer road marches I’ll have to do later at WOCS.

I have always said to look past the scale for signs of success and feedback. If I used the scale only, I’d still be disappointed and likely demotivated to be doing all the work I’m doing. But with this incredible weekend of feedback, I know that my diet is good and that my fitness plan is working. Feels good, man. Feels good.

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